Editorial: Forge leaders must find a way to work together with harmony, respect

Mar. 11, 2013 @ 12:05 AM


If you’re looking for advice or recommendations on how to vote in the Pigeon Forge liquor referendum, look elsewhere. You won’t find that here. This is an issue for voters in that city. If you missed early voting, which ended Saturday, make plans to vote on Thursday at Pigeon Forge City Hall.

Alcohol-related public votes are never easy. It is good that such decisions are left to voters instead of elected officials. People need to have a voice in the direction of their hometown, whether it’s Pigeon Forge, Sevierville or a municipality elsewhere in this state. Having a liquor referendum generally sparks a swing of emotions. There never seems to be a middle ground when it comes to alcohol sales.

This is Pigeon Forge’s fourth liquor referendum in four years. It was voted down twice and approved last November only to have the results tossed out because of poll worker errors. That decision by Chancellor Telford Forgety in January led us to the current referendum.

Those hoping Thursday’s vote ends the saga will be mistaken. If it is voted down, proponents will come back again. If it is voted in, you may see a petition drive to get packaged liquor stores on a future ballot. It’s also likely to be an issue in the May election. This is the story that, for Pigeon Forge, never seems to end.

Two months after the referendum, voters return to the polls to decide among six candidates for three seats on the City Commission. Incumbents Randal Robinson, Joyce Brackins and Kevin McClure face challenges from Don Denney, Jess Davis and Jay Ogle. Since so many contentious issues in Pigeon Forge are decided by the City Commission on 3-2 votes, the balance of power will be decided in the May election. The noise level may not abate no matter the results of Thursday’s vote.

However, at some point all issues will be decided and the city’s residents will have a choice: Come together in a spirit of respect and maturity even when there are disagreements, or remain divided and at odds.

It’s good to have dissent. Dissent is not a bad thing. It sparks debate and explanation. It makes elected officials justify their positions. It airs both sides of a debate.

However, Pigeon Forge government has been marked in recent years not by mere dissent, but by rancor, anger, discontent, name-calling and raised voices. Yes, there have been some critically important and divisive issues before city leaders, but the tone of discourse has been disappointing. Pigeon Forge is a small town in so many ways, but because it attracts and relies on millions of tourists, its leaders have to be grown up and professional and willing to tackle tough and serious issues with maturity and responsible behavior. That hasn’t always been true in the past several years.

Whatever happens Thursday, a majority of the residents and business owners of Pigeon Forge must find a way to work together, to listen better, to be good role models for young people who watch what they do and are affected by it. Not everyone will act responsibly, but if most do, they’ll drown out the ones who won’t or can’t. That will be a good start.