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LETTERS / Voting Beer, Wine Out of Newland Will Move Us 55 Years Back in Time

Dear Editor,

Issues voters of the Town of Newland need to consider before they vote:

Voting Beer and wine out of Newland will move us back 55 years in time, if this vote passes we will watch our town regress back in time like when we lost several businesses from fires in 1960, some say the town has never recovered. I have done an extensive amount of research that backs up everything I am writing here.

My Name is Greg Seiz. I have lived in Avery County for eighteen years, and in the Town of Newland for nine of them. I have become very fond of the life my family and I have here in the Town of Newland, the beautiful scenery, the walks, the streams and rivers, the bike rides, the relationships with people. I could go on and on but I don’t have to tell you, you all live here. My wife and I have contributed numerous investments of time and money for local charities, schools, and community projects to encourage our community to grow and progress.

This past February, I was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. I was scheduled to go through chemotherapy and radiation treatments for seven weeks over the spring. Hoping I would beat cancer, during treatment I had a lot of time to reflect on my life and what I would do different, how I would use my God given talents in the future for bettering my relationships, my community, and my spiritual growth. I also would strive to take the time to be more patient and understanding of people’s intentions. I made a commitment to God and myself to no longer sit on the sidelines and do any complaining about something if I was not willing to try and do something about. It is funny how God uses us, and had I not been diagnosed with cancer, I would never be involved in writing this letter or maybe cared as much about my community as I do today. However, I did; and I do care immensely.

I am very conservative financially, not that I don’t take risk in regards to business opportunities, or a splurge for something that catches our fancy, but I move slowly and evaluate situations very carefully. I am a planner, evaluator, and a meticulous decision maker. I am grateful this approach has served me very well over the years. We have started and built four thriving businesses that employ 12 people here in Newland. We own property in the town and on the borders of town. Our home sits right in the heart of town. One could say our whole life exists in the Town of Newland.

Our town is in serious financial trouble. Some members of our Town council are not taking this seriously when it comes to solving our financial deficits and taking the necessary actions to develop the town, grow jobs, and keep taxes as low as possible. I have approached members of the council on multiple occasions as to what their plan is to grow our revenues, create jobs, and progress the town to help offset accumulating expenses. How are they going to offset the crisis the town will see in the next few years without a strategic plan to implement of the before mentioned issues? You see folks; we are not the federal government that can just print money. Over the last two years, the town has had a large budget deficit, just last year it was -$101,000.00. We only have $435,000.00 in our general fund account- that’s total! We are running out of money quickly.

I was at the August town council meeting recently in which the board voted, in five minutes with no opposition, to place a referendum to removing the sales of beer and wine in the town on the November 2015 ballot. I listened intently to the complainant’s reason for this referendum to go on the ballet. I understood the points he made for his position to be:

  • That the Lord wants alcohol out of here, and that he had close to every pastor and minister in the county behind him on this.
  • That the sale of beer and wine in Newland is causing people to drink, and if they don’t have access here in town, that will stop them from getting drunk.
  • That it cost the complaintive almost as much in cleaning up beer and wine bottles on his property, which sits on the edge of town, as the town received in taxes from the sale of beer and wine.

As I stated before, I do research before I speak, and here is what I have been able to find out.

  • I am going to just touch on the complainant’s number one reason. I have spoken to five local pastors, which I have personal relationships with. None of them agree with his statements or take on the position to eliminate the sales of beer and wine.
  • The idea of forcing someone to go five miles in any direction to buy beer and wine is the solution to stopping someone from over indulgence is the equivalent of saying “let’s get rid of all the guns because it’s the guns that are the problem not the person.” (That is the NRA’s argument for common sense gun control) Access to alcohol is and never has been the problem for alcoholics. They will drive across two states if need be to get it. In fact, on September 25th  2015, the Washington Post published a study done on dry towns in the United States. The study actually showed an increase in meth use and meth labs by 25% in those dry towns. The Post found illegal use of alcohol became a gateway to illegal drug use, primarily meth.
  • As to the third reason, the complainant stated the taxes the town received from beer and wine sales were $3,000.00 dollars. That is incredibly inaccurate because that just accounts for the excise taxes of 5 cents per can of beer and .50 cents per liter of wine. The sales tax revenue, in addition to the excise tax, is estimated to be anywhere from $18,000.00 to $23,000.00. That does not take into consideration that both grocery stores stated people are now shopping out of convenience and that the additional overall sales in the store over the first year selling beer and wine was $600,000.00. That is why we have the beautiful updated grocery stores we have today.

I have asked the question about removing beer and wine to several old timers, Town elders, ministers, and retired business owners here in Newland. Each of them agreed it would be a very bad idea. One said, they are not thinking about the town’s needs, or the business owner’s interest. Another said, “this would be as catastrophic as the Newland fires of 1960”, where half the businesses burned down. He recalls asking his dad “when are the businesses going to rebuild”? Most never did.

The voters of The Town of Newland are going to make two very important decisions this November in regards to the direction of this awesome small town with lots of wonderful heritage and potential.

  • To keep beer and wine in the town or vote it out?
  • Who are they going to vote for to represent us on the Town Council?

I really hope the residents will consider with much more vigor then our town council did in regards to the ramifications of this vote. If you vote Beer and Wine out of Newland, this is what I see happening:

  • We will lose grocery shopping, retail shopping, and dining options.
  • We will lose quality consistent jobs that we have too little of.
  • We will lose sales tax revenues, which will add to the town’s budget deficit by at least $20,000.00 to $30,000.00 dollars annually.
  • Town taxes will rise to cover the budget deficits, increased cost of services, and loss of tax revenues.
  • We will be sending people and their money out of our town for goods and services to neighboring towns. This will have a terrible effect on our local businesses and economy.
  • We will create an anti-business culture for any new business development for years to come.
  • Empty buildings with little prospect for new tenants.
  • NC Highway Patrol Studies show, we will increase DUIs do to people driving further to buy beer and wine and encourage the use of illegal drugs.
  • More of our children will move away because of the lack of employment opportunities our town has to offer.
  • How has beer and wine sales in Newland negatively affected you in the last 6 years?

Please get out and vote!

Greg Seiz