By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Over the past 24 hours, I have received criticism and “atta boys” for my article “Greene County’s Burden.” Perhaps, I deserve both or neither, but at least people are talking.
Before we published the first page on Alabama Political Reporter, we determined our mission would be to inform, educate and alert our readers to the hard truth about State politics. While I am certain we have fallen short, we have worked hard, and continue to work with great purpose to fulfill that promise.
I am not an advocate for gambling, gaming, or whatever it’s called. I question the ethics of a zero-sum game played for money. However, as a freedom-loving American, I believe the people have a right to decide. The votes on the amendments in Greene and Macon County’s highlight the problems as I see it.
I am not a lawyer and I don’t pretend to be one, but to me, it appears the constitutional amendments passed by the voters in Greene and Macon Counties legally allow those counties to offer electronic bingo. Attorney General Luther Strange and his team see it differently. While I may disagree as a layman; as someone who believes in the rule of law across the board, I must except General Strange and the court’s opinion.
The lower court’s recent ruling in the cases involving VictoryLand and Greenetrack are inconsistent with each other. The State Supreme Court overruled the findings of Montgomery Circuit Court, in the VictoryLand case and the ruling by Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Houston Brown will soon go before the State Supreme Court for adjudication.
I, like many of our citizens, do not fully trust the courts, because they are often political, meting out justice in ways that seem to favor the well-connected and wealthy or the ideology of the jurist.
It has been said that I have criticized General Strange unfairly in articles I have written on the bingo wars and related matters. In my opinion, Luther Strange has performed his duties with honor. He has faced down the most powerful political machine in recent history in the form of Mike Hubbard and the Riley’s. He has paid a significant price for holding fast against public corruption. So, let me be clear: he has done what few men have had the courage to do. What’s more, he had the wisdom to assemble a team of untouchables, who work with integrity to root out public corruption at the highest levels of our government.
To me, the bingo wars were born out of the shady politics of former Gov. Bob Riley, which has given me cause to hold suspect every action that was taken concerning closing VictoryLand and Greenetrack. The lead prosecutor in both Greenetrack and VictoryLand was Henry T. “Sonny” Reagan, a Riley acolyte, who was allowed to resign his position as Deputy Attorney General after it was revealed he was complicit in an attempt to undermine the grand jury investigating Hubbard. The chief investigator in those cases was Howard “Gene” Sisson, who was dismissed from his post because he also worked against those who were investigating Hubbard.
The actions of these two men have given many people cause to question their other efforts in law enforcement. Could it be they acted right in one case and not in another? Yes, but it does give one pause, because even the Attorney General himself called their character into question.
For those who have found my reporting on bingo to be consistent with our mission, and those who have thought otherwise, I have reported the facts, as I understood them, at every turn.
Am I always right? Heavens, no, I shouldn’t think so. But, as a news organization, I believe that we can confidently say we strive diligently every day to be accurate on the facts.
There are those on either side of the bingo issue who make valid arguments. This fight over gambling will go on unabated, unless brave lawmakers act for the best interest of the State. There is a simple solution, a very Alabama solution: “Let the people vote.”
I am a journalist and my job is to report the facts. I am also a columnist, and often offer my opinions, and should be held accountable for both. But, we, as a publication, editorially, are beholden to none, not frightened by any, and work only for the people of our State.
Criticism is welcome and an “atta boy” every once in a while doesn’t hurt either.
But, know this: no matter what may come, we will honor our mission.