By Rev. Mark Creech
Christian Action League
March 14, 2019
Although North Carolina lawmakers are not currently debating a bill to privatize liquor sales, the issue is expected to come up this session, prompting some local governments to pass resolutions denouncing the idea.
Boone Manager John Ward said his town receives $525,000 annually from its ABC store and that losing that revenue would lead to a property tax increase of 3 to 5 cents. Nearby, Blowing Rock ABC Board member Susie Greene reminded officials that ABC sales have brought $6 million to Blowing Rock over the last 15 years.
Both the boards passed resolutions last week supporting the state’s current ABC system, as did the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners.
“North Carolina is unique as it allows communities to vote to establish local ABC boards for the sale of liquor in their communities, with liquor profits distributed back to those communities, thereby reducing the need to increase local property taxes,” the Boone resolution states. Both it and the Blowing Rock resolution point out that privatization will result in a “marked increase in the number of outlets, longer hours of sale, greater advertising and more promotion and significantly more consumption.”
They also highlight North Carolina’s current position — ranking 44th lowest in consumption per capita and seventh highest in revenue per capita — as evidence that the state’s ABC system meets both revenue objectives as well as those related to public health, welfare and safety.
Mount Airy’s resolution, adopted unanimously on March 7, reminds state lawmakers that when city residents cast their ballots for a Mount Airy ABC Store in the late 1970s, they did not approve liquor sales at private stores or retail outlets where wine and beer are sold. The statement opposing privatization also warns of potential adverse affects such as increased incidents of impaired driving and accidents.
ABC Store Manager Betty Hamm, who addressed the Mount Airy City Council to advocate for keeping ABC, told officials that privatization is a growing topic of news articles across the state.
The Kinston Daily Free Press published an op-ed from the general manager of the Lenoir County ABC Board. “Citizens will suffer the consequences for going private by having higher property taxes, less resources for alcohol education and rehabilitation, and less law enforcement with regards to alcohol,” Brantley Uzzell wrote in the March 10 issue of the paper.
Meanwhile, a recent editorial in the Carolina Journal incorrectly labeled Christian Action League Executive Director Mark Creech a prohibitionist.
“Such statements over the years have often been made about me. It’s so much easier to dismiss the arguments against privatization by smearing the messenger as an outdated, irrelevant, religious leader, who is a prohibitionist,” the Rev. Creech responded. “No one who knows me or anything about my advocacy on alcohol issues believes that I want to restore prohibition or that I’m some kind of male version of Carry Nation determined to keep people from getting a drink.”
Although as a minister he has encouraged his parishioners to abstain, he said privatization and other alcohol-related issues are not about whether to drink or not to drink.
“It’s about alcohol policy and whether the policies we adopt work to minimize alcohol-related harms. We know people will drink, and this can’t and will not be stopped. But we also know that people are going to get hurt from alcohol abuse, and society is derelict in its duty to God and its citizenry if we don’t work to curtail alcohol-related problems,” Creech added. “My advocacy on behalf of the Christian Action League has always been about the scientific research concerning the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of our state’s alcohol policies. My arguments are driven religiously by the principle that I am to love my neighbor as myself.”
Creech stood shoulder-to-shoulder with health and safety experts and other advocacy groups at a Feb. 27 press conference warning of the irreversible harms that privatization would bring. Among the many organizations that support keeping the state’s control system in place are the NC Family Policy Council, NC Association of Chiefs of Police, NC Police Benevolent Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), NC Association of Local Health Directors, NC Public Health Association, National Association of Social Workers North Carolina Chapter, NC Society for Clinical Social Work, NC Substance Use Disorder Federation, Addiction Professionals of NC, NC Alcohol Policy Alliance, Alcohol/Drug Council of NC, Recovery Communities of North Carolina, NC Association of ABC Boards, and NC ABC Law Enforcement Officers Association.