10/08/05 — First chance: At lottery’s outset, N.C. must ensure honesty

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First chance: At lottery’s outset, N.C. must ensure honesty

One of the most tiresome parts of listening to politicians is trying to figure out who really has a commitment to one position over the other and who is simply trying to tell you what you want to hear.

In the recent debates over the North Carolina lottery, legislators from all over the state have offered their opinions on why the lottery would or wouldn’t be a good choice for funding North Carolina’s education system.

Some seemed pretty adamant about it.

Now, one of the strongest critics of the measure is leading the formation of the state’s new lottery commission and vowing that there will be no funny business on his watch.

And there is no reason right now to think there will be anything but honest dealings and decisions made that are in the best interest of North Carolina’s children.

In fact, it is kind of nice to have one of the opponents in charge of making sure the proponents keep their promises.

The most important goal of the new lottery commission should be to make sure that the state’s new game is run honestly, efficiently and with an eye to providing real solutions to the state’s education funding concerns, not just simply juggling money around from fund to fund.

If the purpose of the lottery is to provide scholarships or to build more schools, that should be in the initial framework set up to guide commission members.

There should also be strict rules for those who will manage the games for the state to make sure the project stays on task. This is no place for political appointees or favor-granting. This lottery commission needs to be run by people who understand how to operate it properly and who will keep the end in mind.

And while it might make some members of the committee feel better to advise that advertisements should include a warning that the chances of winning the lottery are millions to 1, the fact is no such admonishment will stop anyone who is bent on buying a ticket. Telling someone they shouldn’t buy a lottery ticket with the money they should be using to buy milk for their children is not going to make them think twice about the purchase. And we as a state have to deal with the fact that we cannot stop anyone from making bad decisions. Freedom means having the choice to make your own decisions — no matter how off-base they are.

In fact, a better education system in North Carolina, with adult education programs possibly as well, just might make more savvy children and adults, thus eliminating the need to tell them they need to spend their lottery money on what is really important. That would be a win-win for everyone involved.

Managed properly, the lottery could be a positive for this state. Keeping our eye on the ball — and the people who will carry it — is the first step to making sure that goal becomes a reality.

Published in Editorials on October 8, 2005 11:20 PM