CAL Executive Director urges residents not to give up without a fight
By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
February 19, 2014
CLINTON — Sampson County Commissioners who voted unanimously earlier this month to put an alcohol referendum on the May primary ballot are singing what the Rev. Mark Creech calls the “Booze Merchant Blues” — an oft-repeated chorus extolling the power of alcohol sales to jumpstart a stalled economy without a refrain to consider the cost.
“They’ll tell you that you need alcohol sales to generate more tax revenue,” said Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “But the truth is, my friends, for every $1 generated in tax revenue from alcohol sales in North Carolina, there is a corresponding expenditure of $21.42 for the cost of alcohol related problems.”
Sampson County leaders voted to put seven questions regarding alcohol on the May 6 ballot after hearing a presentation from county attorney Joel Starling. According to the resolution being sent to the Board of Elections, voters would get to choose for or against the following malt beverage issues: “on-premises” and “off-premises” sale; “on-premises” sale only; “off-premises” sale only; and “on-premises” sale by Class A hotels, motels and restaurants only and to permit “off-premises sales by other permitees.” With regard to unfortified wine, options would include: “on-premises” and “off-premises” sale; “on-premises” sale only; and “off-premises” sale only.
Most commissioners cited economic reasons for their decision to put the questions on the ballot, according to the Sampson Independent.
“This is going to help business in the areas that are not developed. Ultimately, it will probably help the county,” Commissioner Albert Kirby said. Commissioner Harry Parker and Chairman Billy Lockamy made similar comments at the meeting.
“I think it’s going to be income. I’ve seen restaurants in the county fail because they couldn’t sell beer or wine. If we act on this, I would be looking forward to hotels, motels and restaurants in these areas of the county that would bring in business,” he said.
But Dr. Creech pointed out that studies show companies are more concerned with infrastructure like adequate roads, water and utilities, than they are alcohol sales. “Business and industry leaders are more interested in available labor force, strong schools, nearby medical facilities, friendly tax laws, and the availability and nature of a certain clientele than whether someone can order a glass of wine over lunch, he said. “The assertion has always been absurd.”
“Don’t listen to those who advocate alcohol as a panacea for economic growth,” Dr. Creech added. “When all the facts are considered we find that alcohol is always a drain on the economy.”
Further, he said referenda like the one coming up in Sampson County are detrimental to municipalities which may not want to entertain a change in their status. Alcohol sales are already a reality in Clinton, Roseboro, Garland and Newton Grove, but Salemburg, Harrells, Turkey and Autryville have remained “dry.”
“As Starling explained to commissioners, should the county voters approve alcohol sales, individual municipalities within the county cannot prohibit them,” Dr. Creech said. “So, in essence, the residents of those towns lose their ‘local option’ to control alcohol sales.”
He urged opponents of alcohol sales in Sampson County to get busy organizing a campaign to get out the vote.
“Too often folks hear about these types of things and assume that there is nothing they can do to stop them. The truth is, there is plenty, beginning with a push to educate voters about the high social costs of increased alcohol consumption,” Dr. Creech added. “Studies show that the more alcohol outlets there are the more consumption increases, so spreading sales throughout Sampson County will only increase drinking, which will in turn bring more DWIs and other alcohol related crime.”
“Our message to residents who don’t want to see more alcohol problems in their community is; quite simply, don’t give up without a fight.”
To read the resolution by the Sampson County Commissioners for the beer and wine referendum, click here.