Rocky Ridge Baptist Church pastor Bob McIntosh was one of several individuals who decided to organize an effort in opposition to the movement to end prohibition initiated by local group Grow Trigg. Last week, McIntosh sat down for an interview at The Cadiz Record to discuss Trigg Citizens Against Alcohol, the Sept. 29 referendum and more.
Q: Describe the initial formation of Trigg Citizens Against Alcohol.
McIntosh: “We were in a Monday morning prayer meeting at Little River Baptist Church Association when it was brought to our attention that [Grow Trigg] was seeking signatures for a petition to do away with prohibition county-wide. We decided the best thing for us to do was to organize and be ready to ... combat is not the right word ... to keep those that were in opposition of doing away with prohibition, to keep them informed of the issues and what this might mean to us if it did pass. Those of us in that meeting were all in opposotion to it, so we wanted to encourage a ‘No’ vote for alcohol.”
Q: TCAA was very public in its opposition to Grow Trigg’s petition for prohibition repeal. A similar effort last year was halted in court before a vote could be held. What made TCAA decide not to make a legal challenge to the petition once it was certified?
McIntosh: “We know the other time this came up, many people said, ‘We wish they’d just go ahead and let us vote on it.’ They were upset because they felt like we had taken away one of their rights, even though we were just trying to save the money. People take their right to vote very seriously, and I think we should. They felt like we had cheated them out of their chance to vote ‘No’ on it, so this time, we decided in respect to the citizens of Trigg county, we would not pursue it as a legal matter. If they wanted it in their hands, that’s where we wanted to leave it.”
Q: How much does TCAA believe alcohol consumption and contumption-related arrests will increase if the referendum passes?
McIntosh: “You and I both know that alcohol is already an issue in Trigg County. Whether prohibition exists or doesn’t exist, it’s a problem. We all feel like [crime] will grow to some degree, and any growth in that concept, we’re against. If it disrupts one family and the ‘No’ vote can keep that one family together and keep one wife and child safe, it’s worth every effort we can make to keep [alcohol] out of our county. I’ve read what’s been in the paper that a lot of counties have said there really hasn’t been any increase in DUIs. Murray said their big issue has been an increase in rape. I am confident that no matter what the statistics say, there will be an increase in domestic violence and there will be an increase of those on the highway drinking and driving, whether they’re caught or not.”
Q: TCAA publicity chairman Ronnie Sadler recently quoted stats from the city of Murray showing an increase in poverty in the city after a by-the-drink referendum passed there in 2001. What kind of impact on poverty does TCAA expect alcohol sales would have in Trigg County?
McIntosh: “I don’t know why it is, but it seems like those in poverty are the first to reach out and take something that is degrading. I guess they look at it as an escape. I think the reason he was making that point is that in Murray, for [poverty] to have increased, it must mean the alcohol issue hasn’t been sufficient for their economy. Of course, their damp issue began back before the decline in our economics. The economy is down and unemployment is high in Trigg County and worldwide.”
Q: One of TCAA’s initial advertisements in The Cadiz Record quoted a national source that claimed there were over 32,000 alcohol-related car accidents in Kentucky in 2000. According to “Kentucky Traffic Collision Facts: 2000 Report” – a report available on the Kentucky State Police web site and a number of other state-operated sites – there were 6,127 of those accidents. How does TCAA account for that discrepancy?
McIntosh: “I have no idea, but 6,000 across Kentucky doesn’t seem like very many for a year, especially when you read just in our local papers, you figure three or four a week just in Trigg County. All the statistics we’ve used, and I’ve got page after page of them, if we were just wrong in one area, we’ve done pretty good. Very little of our information came from religious sources. We tried to deal strictly with public polls and information gathered from political leaders and departments like state, city and county police. You’ll never see something that’s our opinion. I’m thankful for what Bro. Ronnie did in that department, because he gathered a lot of information. And not to leave out Clarence Thomas, because he did a lot, too. They were really good about keeping their sources listed.”
Q: A concern raised by some in the community is that TCAA has been very critical of Grow Trigg’s efforts without providing an alternative plan to boost the local economy. Has TCAA discussed a seperate plan?
McIntosh: Trigg County, the way I understand it, is one of the fastest growing counties in all of Kentucky as far as population goes. As we grow, this doesn’t seem to be a place where industry wants to come, but we’ve been very fortunate to have some companies. The big issue is, we lost Johnson Control. How devastating would it be to Murray if they lost Murray State University. How big would it be to Hopkinsville if they lost Fort Campbell? Johnson Control was our bread and butter, and we got used to having them here. Whatever needs to be done, the citizens of Trigg County need to come together and decide how we can be more attractive to industry. We’re rolling out the red carpet and practically giving them a good place to set up. I don’t know what else we can do, but right now, it’s a tough time because industries aren’t expanding or sending the money to relocate. There are thoes that have talked about coming to that very vacant plant building we have.”
“Right now, you may be wanting to move to a bigger home, but people aren’t doing that. What I think we ought to do is what we’ve always done, and that is try to model our community to where people can look at the community and its people and see we have good, wonderful people, whether or not they were born here. We’ve been blessed to have good people move here, and they are just as Trigg County as the rest because they want what’s best for Trigg County. That’s what we have to do. We want the same thing Grow Trigg wants, we’re just not seeing eye-to-eye on how to do it. I’ve been at Kentucky Machine and Engineering since 1976. I’ve pastored a church since 1982. I stay busy in Trigg County, but as far as giving a direct answer on how we can grow Trigg County, I don’t know. I don’t think anyone else does, either.”
Q: Some have applied the “outsider” label to Grow Trigg members. How does TCAA feel about this?
McIntosh: “I’m an outsider. I can’t control people’s feelings, but I was talking to someone recently about that issue, and she said she’s as Trigg County as Trigg County can be. I asked her where she’s from, and she said ‘Alabama.’ Because Trigg County has grown so tremendously, there are a lot of outsiders, and a lot of them have come in and taken the Trigg County concept of life to heart and made themselves right at home. We did that because we loved it. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I know what living next to honky-tonks is all about. I know what it is to see people in the streets fighting and to hear your neighbors screaming and throwing things at each other. I love Trigg County the way it is. We’ve got something very dear here that we need to protect. There are some things that are worth more than the money issue. I feel like protecting what we have here is worth more than a few dollars.”
“I don’t like name-calling anytime. If you’ve got an address here in Trigg County, you’re one of us.”
Q: TCAA has utilized the phrase “Alcohol Destroys Families” in many of its ads and signs placed throughout the county. The group was organized spefically in opposition to alcohol sales, but how would its members approach other products – cigarettes, prescription drugs, etc. – that are legally sold in Trigg County and could threaten families if abused?
McIntosh: “It’s going to be difficult to approach something that’s as legal as selling cigarettes. I see kids that have no business smoking walking by my house, but I don’t run out there and yank it out of their mouth. A friend of mine at church asked if Trigg Citizens Against Alcohol are going to quit come Sept. 29, or are we going to try to do something about the other issues destroying families. And when you talk about destroying families, a lot of this destruction starts with the children and works its way up. A lot of times, the product is brought in by parents.”
“We need to continue to be outspoken about illegal drugs. I had a man come to me and say he’d reported about a place where drugs were being sold and nothing was being done about it. We need to start working closer with the police departments and our judicial system. I feel like a lot of times, their hands are tied as to how much they can punish somebody. For crying out loud, we tore down our jail because it wasn’t nice enough. That doesn’t make sense to me. I’m not cruel, but put up some wire and a metal roof. They are criminals against society. Don’t treat them as high-rank, privileged citizens. But, we’ve got laws to go by. We need to work to get laws changed. I don’t know if it would do us good to have a sit-down meeting once a month with our county judge-executive and fiscal court and tell them our viewpoints. It couldn’t hurt anything. We’ve talked about attending the Chamber of Commerce meetings.”
“If we’re going to be leaders in the community and promote good in our community, we’ve got to get involved in community activities. We can’t overrule Stan, and we can’t jump up in court and say, ‘That’s not hard enough. That’s not stiff enough.’ We would make a mockery of our law enforcement if we were to run up and down the streets as a vigilante committee, but it’s going to take us recognizing what laws are, get laws changed and let law enforcement know that we’re behind them and encourage them to do what’s right for our community. Our policemen, I don’t know if I’d want to walk up on a car the way they have to for the money they make. Any time you’ve got to carry a gun to work, you need to be making pretty good money.”
Q: If the referendum passes, precincts in Trigg County would have the option of petitioning to return to dry status. Is this something TCAA might support?
“Until that was in the paper, I had no idea it was an option. There’s been no discussion about how we’d respond. I don’t know if there are any prectincts that would. All of them may, I have no idea. Right now, I’m just thinking, come the 29th, win or lose, let’s put this issue behind us and get back in the business of serving people.”
“It would be up to the precincts. There may be leaders in the precincts that want to overturn it. As far as TCAA, there’s been no discussion. Something may be brought up about it, but I don’t know.”
Q: In general, how has the public responded to TCAA’s efforts?
McIntosh: “Very well. We’ve maintained a high sense of integrity. Your stance on wet/dry status, that’s your opinion. We’re just trying to be an informative group. Of course, we’re encouraging a ‘No’ vote, but whether you vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ we’re going to love you anyway. You’ll still be my neighbor. I talked to Mrs. Culwell recently about the fact that we could petition specific people to work the polls. Ken had tried to get in touch with me, but during that time, my wife had an illness. I’d come in at night and get a message, and once she got better I called and discussed it and other things with them. I think they were involved in the Willy Wonka play, and my son and two grandsons were involved in it. When we meet on the street Sept. 30, I hope we can stop and chat about Willy Wonka. We want to get back to being a community.”
Q: What will TCAA do if the referendum passes, and what will the group do if it fails?
McIntosh: “I want to go back to giving all my attention to Rocky Ridge Baptist Church, loving people, ministering to people. If something in the community deserves our attention, I want us to give it. If we’re asked to do something where we can be of service, I want to do it. This hasn’t been good for Trigg County. Maybe we made too big an issue out of something. Then again, are we supposed to just let things slide by? We’ve done that in the past. Right now, in order to have prayer in school, you’ve got to do it on Sunday. I’ve been a big advocate, and I try to be there every third Sunday afternoon just to walk the school halls and pray. That’s having prayer back in school, and it’s not the way I had it when I was a kid, but it’s more than what some remember from their childhood. I just want to serve the community and get back to being Bobby McIntosh.”
McIntosh: “I didn’t do a lot of preparation for this. I just thought I’d come in and talk. My best answers don’t come from my head, they come from my heart. If I’ve done anything, I’ve shared from the heart how I feel about this. Some issues during this have shattered my heart, but God is a healer, and we’re not destitute in the wilderness. Whatever comes, He’s going to heal.”