Rushed "Brunch Bill" vote troubling
The Jackson County Board of Commissioners’ choosing Cashiers as the location for its second public hearing on the “Brunch Bill” was a good call. Cashiers is the main part of unincorporated Jackson County that stands to benefit from earlier Sunday alcohol sales and a trek to sound off in Sylva -- the usual commissioners’ meeting location -- would have been burdensome to many. Few from Cashiers attended the first public hearing in Sylva.
With its attractive seasonal tourist offerings, Cashiers and southern Jackson County have a big economic stake in keeping tourists here happy. Many are likely to just go to Sylva, Highlands and Franklin if they, say, want a mimosa with their Sunday morning brunch. That’s because those communities, along with dozens of others in western North Carolina, have already OK’d 10 a.m. Sunday alcohol sales since new state legislation made the earlier sales possible.
Interest in the issue runs strong -- about 150 people packed the gym in the Cashiers-Glenville Recreation Center for the hearing Monday night -- though some of these folks were there for other issues besides the Brunch Bill.
But while having a Brunch Bill public hearing in Cashiers was a sensible decision, having a vote the same evening as the hearing was not. The two commissioners who represent southern Jackson County districts -- Ron Mau and Mickey Luker -- each voted in favor of passing the Brunch Bill, but each also said they felt unduly rushed. Why was it necessary to vote before they had a chance to digest what folks had just said during the one hour-plus public hearing -- the only hearing easy for Cashiers folks to attend? Mau also said he wanted more time to explore the possibility of putting the matter up for a public referendum in November -- in letting the people directly decide the issue.
It is troubling to think that the rushed vote occurred because the three northern Jackson County commissioners who voted against the Brunch Bill -- Boyce Deitz, Charles Elders and Brian McMahan -- may have believed the Brunch Bill would have passed had it been put to voters in a referendum. Let’s hope the rushed vote wasn’t a cloaked effort to circumvent the will of the majority of folks in southern Jackson County. Without a referendum though, we won’t know.
Be sure to pick up a copy of the Wednesday print edition of the Crossroads Chronicle -- the ONLY opinion source hyper-focused on southern Jackson County issues.