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What began as an effort to get rid of alcohol permits granted in conjunction with a 2015 state law ended with the Cherokee Tribal Council’s vote to put out a referendum question that will either keep alcohol access the same on the Qualla Boundary — or significantly increase it. 

Cherokee inched closer to holding a referendum vote asking how widely available alcohol should be on tribal land with a vote during December’s Tribal Council meeting, but exactly what the implications of such a referendum might be is still unclear.

An already-tight timeline to get a referendum question about funding an indoor pool on Jackson County’s November 2018 ballot just got tighter when county commissioners opted during a Monday, Dec. 18, meeting to table a vote on the next step in the process.

About 100 people piled into the exhibit hall at the Cherokee Indian Fair Grounds the evening of Monday, Nov. 6, to tell Tribal Council members what they think about expanding alcohol sales on the Qualla Boundary. The consensus was clear: the tribal members filling the room wanted a referendum, and they wanted to see alcohol sales stay siloed on casino property.

Five years ago, Cherokee voters gave a decisive response on a referendum question asking whether they’d like to see the historical ban on alcohol sales outside casino property lifted on the Qualla Boundary, with 60 percent voting to keep Cherokee dry.

The Jackson County Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Sept. 18 that will limit referendum votes on sales tax increases and bonds to elections when turnout is highest.

The rift between Haywood County commissioners and the last remaining elected tax collector in North Carolina — Mike Matthews — got a little deeper Feb. 20 when commissioners passed a resolution calling for an end to the practice of electing the position.

The State of North Carolina has long had a conflicted relationship with alcohol; although largely unregulated during colonial times, it became an irritant to the agrarian, conservative majority of 19th-century voters who, like much of the nation, watched the ultimate administration thereof descend from federal to state to, finally, local authorities in the early 20th century. 

SEE ALSO:
• The alcohol permitting process
• A Spiritual Affair: The history of alcohol in Haywood County

Since then, cities and counties in North Carolina have come full circle, but continue to wrestle with a complex issue that includes social, economic, judicial and religious viewpoints overlaid by ever-present concerns about individualism, collectivism, traditionalism and progressivism.

Just after the secular American Revolution, many Americans also experienced a theological revolution; from the 1790s through the 1830s, a religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening saw Protestant denominations — especially Baptists and Methodists — rise to new levels of popularity.

Swain County residents will be asked whether they support an additional quarter-cent sales tax when they vote during the Nov. 8 general election.

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