Dobson, N.C. says ‘yes’ to liquor-by-the-drink
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
TRINITY — This Randolph County community calls itself a “City of Vision.” Residents there made it clear late last month that they don’t want that outlook clouded by alcohol sales. Despite a push from the city manager and a 5-3 vote from City Council to hold an alcohol referendum in July, Trinity will remain dry.
“Praise the Lord for this victory, the result of much prayer and an organized effort by opponents of the sales,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, which supplied the opposition with a range of data about alcohol use and abuse and other information needed to counter the typical arguments from alcohol backers.
Evelyn Hill, who contacted the Christian Action League for help with the issue, said she and others put the information to use as they passed the word among churches and began a phone campaign to ask voters to cast their ballots against the sale of beer, the sale of wine, mixed drinks and the opening of an ABC store. All four ballot items were defeated with an average of 54 to 57 percent voting no.
Only 28 percent, some 1,265 of the town’s 4,577 voters, went to the polls. Trinity has a population of roughly 7,000.
Hill said even though alcohol proponents tried to convince the people that the vote was about economic issues, the voters weren’t fooled.
“That was what infuriated me; it was so deceptive,” said Hill, a former Trinity resident who now lives outside the town limits. ” They had big signs up saying ‘Vote for Trinity,’ ‘Vote for Jobs,’ ‘Vote for low taxes,’ as if selling alcohol is going to do all this. And, of course no mention of the costs.”
Lifelong Trinity resident Lorene Brown was one of more than 15 people speaking out against the July referendum at the City Council’s April 19 meeting. She said the day before the meeting, students at the local high school had been shown a mangled car that had been involved in a drunken driving accident and heard from an array of emergency services workers about the dangers of driving while impaired.
“All our school staff and administrators are trying to direct students in the right way on Monday. Then on Tuesday, City Hall is pushing alcohol sales,” she said.
Councilman Kelly Grooms, who called for the July vote rather than wait to put the matter on November’s ballot, told the media that city officials had been trying to “educate the residents about why the referendum was needed.” But Brown said a memorial cross on the roadside near Trinity High School, where a teenage girl died in an alcohol related accident, “should be education enough.”
Both Hill and Brown say the work to defeat the referendum, led by Eddie Lohr and Mount Calvary Baptist Pastor Rick Callahan among others, is not the end of the effort to keep alcohol at bay. They said they believe many voters are looking to replace those on the council who were pushing the sales. If they do so, they may prevent another alcohol referendum from coming up in three years.
The city’s Mayor, Carlton Boyles, has said Trinity can grow and prosper without alcohol sales. Council members Karen Bridges, Linda Gantt and Barry Lambeth voted against the motion for the July referendum, which was supported by the remaining five.
“I think Trinity citizens are realizing that their elected officials are not representing them,” Hill said. The council has come under fire for spending an estimated $4,500 to $6,000 for the special election rather than waiting for voters to go to the polls in November.
Nestled in Randolph County’s northwest corner, Trinity had already said no to alcohol in 2007, with some 62 percent of voters opposed. In fact, July’s referendum was the third time since the 1990s that the issue has come to a vote.
Hill said she hopes the result in Trinity will serve as a reminder to other communities that they don’t have to sit back and let alcohol proponents win the day.
“I just read about Henderson County and the alcohol referendum there; maybe our story will encourage them,” she said.
The Rev. Creech agreed, reminding communities that they can contact the Christian Action League for information and advice on organizing opposition to such referendums.
In other alcohol related news…
In other alcohol-related news, fewer than 250 voters went to the polls in Dobson on Tuesday with 58 percent voting in favor of mixed beverage sales. The Surry County town already had approved beer and wine sales and an ABC store. Tuesday’s vote was 144 to 104, according to unofficial results from the Board of Elections. Just under a third of eligible voters cast ballots.
“According to various news reports, there just wasn’t’ the same enthusiasm for preventing liquor-by-the-drink sales in Dobson as there was in 2008,” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “It’s hard to understand with the demographics the town has how mixed beverage sales could possibly bring prosperity. It’s not likely to bring in fine restaurants, industry, etc.. Instead it’s going to create little holes in the wall that can meet the low state requirements for qualifying as a restaurant and having a bar. Trouble spots – that’s all.”