Editorial: Voters spoke, so let’s move on
And so, the matter is settled. Finally. The voters got the last say. And the sale of liquor by the drink has been approved in Pigeon Forge, bringing all three cities united in offering this option to visitors and locals.
Perhaps no issue before voters can generate the raw emotion and, in some cases, downright hatred that a liquor vote can. While the vote resolves the issue, it doesn’t heal the lingering wounds. The city has been through four liquor votes in four years. One of them got tossed out because of irregularities by election workers. That’s a lot to absorb for any city. And the municipal election is two months away.
Yet through it all our democracy emerged unscathed. Hurt, maybe, but intact. It’s good that voters get to decide this issue, but unfortunate that it is perhaps the one matter of contention that brings out the most division among the electorate. There is not a lot of middle ground, not a lot of indifference whern it comes to sales of liquor by the drink.
Interestingly, the voters were not being asked to take the city from nothing to everything. This is a stepped approach. The City Commission already had approved sales of wine and beer by the glass years ago, a process set forth by the state’s prevailing laws and, it appears, a decision that didn’t spark much public outcry. However, it’s a little like a marathon runner making it the first 26 miles, but struggling to get over the finish line for the final .2 miles. The end is in sight, but it seems so far away.
Whether you approved of liquor sales or not, you should respect the decision of the voters. Jess Davis, who co-chairs the opposition, hints at contesting the election. He and others have long complained about the city charter allowing property owners to vote even if they don’t live in Pigeon Forge, and the rules under which they can vote.
It is, to be sure, a controversial part of the election process, but it is not unique to Pigeon Forge. Considering what happened last November, this may have been the best run election in the county’s history. It brought over Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Commissioner of Elections Mark Goins, who spent the day in Pigeon Forge making sure everything was done right. By all accounts it was. It got a little nutty on the outside among supporters for both sides, but inside all went well.
Davis, of course, has every right to contest the election. Here’s hoping he doesn’t. You don’t have to like the outcome of an election to accept it. Nearly half the country opposed President Obama in the last election, but he won. The most popular politician will have 30 percent or more of voters choose somebody else. There will never be unanimity on an issue as emotional as liquor by the drink. But the voters decided on Thursday they wanted it. Elections are decided by those who show up. Absent voter irregularities, it should be accepted.
The November referendum results needed to be rejected. There is no indication that Thursday any procedures were not followed, any mistakes were made, anybody got to vote who shouldn’t have. If Davis contests this election, he comes across as a sore loser who didn’t like the outcome, rather than someone seeking clarity of a controversial law.
The pro-liquor sales side worked harder, used the property law to their advantage and spent a lot of money to get their message out. The anti-liquor faction wanted to win. The pro-liquor faction treated this referendum as if they had to win. Therein lies the difference.
Time to move on, to make an orderly transition. The debate is over, or should be. The voters decided. Nobody has to switch sides and embrace this change in the law, but all should accept it.