On Nov. 5, voters across the commonwealth will go to the polls to cast their votes for their choice of candidate for a variety of state offices, including governor. In Pike County, voters will also cast votes for their choice for the unexpired term of Family Court Judge Larry Thompson, who left office after being elected to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.
However, even more locally, in Elkhorn City, voters will be able to cast a vote for a ballot measure which could result in alcohol sales remaining illegal in the city limits or being allowed.
And the debate over that in the city has become heated, with several people and officials even arguing over the campaign in a special meeting last week of the Elkhorn City Council.
We get that. Whether it should be in this day and age, it’s an emotional issue for many people. For some, their faith, the very measure of where they get their worldview, dictates that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is wrong and immoral.
So, the fact that the debate and campaign over this matter has been heated is not surprising. Also not surprising is the level of division within Elkhorn City that it’s brought to the surface.
There’s a great deal of division underlying the city right now, especially in regards to its future. Some believe the city needs to be more open and progressive to attract business and have a more stable future. Others believe the exact opposite.
So, there’s a lot of room for disagreement when it comes to the community.
Where there should be no disagreement is that Nov. 6 needs to be a new day for Elkhorn City. That’s not an endorsement for or challenge against alcohol sales.
Regardless of how the vote goes, Nov. 6 needs to be a starting point, an entrance into a new way of thinking there.
Whether voters choose “wet” or “dry” on Nov. 5, on Nov. 6, the residents of Elkhorn City will still wake up residents of Elkhorn City. And Elkhorn City will still be facing the same challenges it faced on Nov. 5.
How do the people of Elkhorn City navigate in this new economic reality, where coal is no longer able to support an entire economy? How does Elkhorn City ensure that the community is prosperous and supportive of those living there, as well as open to potential new growth?
Sure, the result of Nov. 5’s vote will inform the answers to that question. But the underlying issue — the division which seems to come to the surface so quickly anytime there is a real issue at hand — has to be dealt with.
If the vote goes “wet,” then planning must occur and rules must be put in place to ensure that the sales occur under the letter of the law. The city must also ensure that the sales result in positive movement for the city, through planning and careful attention.
At that point, it will no longer be possible to simply be against alcohol sales. They will become a reality, but without the voices of all in the community involved, the possibility that the sales will occur in a manner which is unbearable to at least part of the populace, further deepening the divide.
If the vote goes “dry,” then it’s not going to be enough for those who were opposed to simply turn away from the issues. If alcohol sales remain illegal, then those who opposed the measure must contribute to having a say in the future of Elkhorn City. If the city cannot use alcohol as a tool to attract visitors and business, then how can it do so? What next?
These questions must be answered regardless of the outcome. A more stable and prosperous future has always been just within Elkhorn City’s grasp. But one of the most attractive aspects of the community, according to many visitors with whom we’ve spoken over the years, is the kindness and welcoming nature of the people there.
These are traits which are in short supply in the run-up to Nov. 5’s election, but we know they’re there. They’re the true nature of what Elkhorn City would be if the people there would put their differences aside and learn to live and work together, especially with those who hold different values and ideas.
We know it can be Elkhorn City’s future, if the people demand it, not only of others, but of themselves.