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Opinion | An open letter to State House leaders on gambling

Glenn Henry

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Dear Lt. Gov Ainsworth, House Speaker Rep. Mac McCutcheon and Senate Pro Tempore Sen. Del Marsh,

Respectfully, I want to ask you to stop all pending gambling related bills moving through the House and the Senate. Further, to preclude our Great State of Alabama accepting wooden nickels, and having its clocks cleaned.

Gov. Kay Ivey recently signed Executive Order 719, forming a study group for gaming policy, led by former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, to gather facts. It is critical, and in the best interest of our state, for us to follow Gov. Kay Ivey and the study group. I hope that the study group will consider the following suggestions. Further, allow other recommendations submitted to the study group; from other citizens from both sides of the discussion, to arrive at the best decisions, and facts submitted to our Governor.

In 63 years on this earth, my only gambling experiences, have been while travelling, stopping in the casinos, having a nice meal, and getting a roll of quarters. My gambling limit is $10. I’ve only spent a total $50, in my life time in five different location, casino slot machines. Therefore, I won’t be supporting gambling, nor working against the right to vote for its passage.

First, let’s simulate a basic Single and Sole Ownership business model structure, with the State of Alabama as the gaming owner; and adhering to current accounting principles, and practices, along with present economic methodologies. A single owner- run business, in most instances, will garner the highest dollar profit return to its business, due to not having to share dollars with other partner owners.

Additionally, most critical are the owner has all decision- making authorities, responsibilities and power. All banking accounts are controlled by; and checks are written by the owner or designated representatives. Millions of dollars can be earned through the interest -bearing accounts. The power, control, authority, decision making, structure, rules, legislation, responsibility, accountability, gaming growth control and timed expansion; leadership, and funding would be on the side of the state of Alabama.

Next, a partnership, in which two or more persons own the company, reduces the amount of dollars each owner may individually earn. Remember, even family members have partnerships, in which they fight and argue, about poor decisions, made by the other owners. Some owners may be wrongly spending money, and withdrawing money for themselves from the company, which may not be in the company’s best interests. Good or poor decision making, are shared by the different owners. All owners are responsible, accountable financially and they are legally liable, for the decision making of all other owners.

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If the exclusive monopoly business model is awarded and granted to the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PBCI), this would present, a large problem for the state to verify total dollar amount due, and most difficult to actually receive, high payout monies and dollars in state coffers, from the PBC

The PBCI would have a huge competitive business advantage, over the State of Alabama, due to their years of highly outstanding financial performances, and their massive gaming knowledge. Their successful gaming secret business practices, and their intellectual properties, don’t have to be revealed to the state.

We Love our Native Americans, and the PBCI are awesome neighbors. However, this is business. The PBCI are in business, to maximize their profits for their entities, not provide Alabama with the highest payouts through their own efforts.

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The PBCI leadership are comprised of very outstanding businessmen, and excellent business women, and profits are determined by human- leadership decision making; not by non-human revenue, profit and loss statements.

Due to our current acceptable accounting business practices, principles, leadership decision making, and present economic methodologies, the PBCI can legally payout the least total dollar amounts to the State of Alabama. For instance, if the decisionmakers don’t want to show profits on the books; and they decide, they want to grow and expand, through purchasing more land. Additionally, buy more gambling machines, construct more buildings, purchase real estate, make financial investments through the stock market, show expenses with their parent, and subsidiary businesses within and outside the state.

In other words, on the financial ledgers, if the exclusive monopoly for the current year, breaks even, or show losses on the register and logs. Through expenses, higher wealth, larger economic gains, and higher financial growth, may be realized by the PBCI. Although, at break-even profit points and points of loss.

Further, when point of sale receipt money flows through PBCI interest bearing bank accounts those millions of dollars will remain in PBCI coffers.

The paramount point is, if Alabamians want to do what’s in the best interest of our state, and gain the maximum profits. In my view, the citizenry should also look at, what can we do on our own as the sole owners.

Further, it is critically important, the new gaming business models, and financial structures, are solely controlled by the state of Alabama. In which all dollars flow through interest bearing accounts, in which the state’s best interests are met. New legislation is needed, whereby the state will be successful in the gaming business, if the voters want it.

Entrepreneurship is when business owners take risks. Is the state willing to commit to a startup business in gaming? Does our state have the skills, knowledge, abilities and expertise to perform 100 percent of the form and type gaming tasks and duties? Will a small percentage of the gaming be contracted-out or handled through privatization?

Much conversation over the years have been about the huge amount of money that the PBCI have earned. We should be applauding them, on their outstanding business acumen and their highly successful financial accomplishments. The PBCI are not going to give us all of the money they have legally earned.

However, as a former business man, who had been involved in numerous ownerships and proprietorships, such as single, partnerships, and limited liability corporations. I have never seen any single ownership business model, such as potentially the State of Alabama being a gaming entity; using another commercial business entity, through exclusive monopoly agreement authorities; to provide higher payouts to the single owners, or state of Alabama, in which can earn higher revenue and profits on their own.

In my view, it would be very illogical, for the State of Alabama, to provide a commercial gaming entity such as the PBCI with exclusive monopoly authorities to provide a large payout to our state. When new legislation and authority can be provided to the State of Alabama, and voted on with the legal authority to begin some form of gaming. By dealing with, one form, and type of gaming, at a time. The state itself, would then be lawfully allowed, to purchase only the approved gaming machines, devices, cards; and run, control all aspects of gaming within the state.

Further, we must ask our legal scholars on Gov. Ivey’s study group, where does it state that we must only make agreements with the PBCI? What do the current laws state? There may be other better deals with other gaming companies outside Alabama. We can’t limit ourselves to gaming companies only within our state. All options should be on the table for what’s in the best interest of our great state. If we don’t have the authority, let’s all work to get the state and federal legislation changed. Surely, we can’t be locked in situations where we can only negotiate with the PBCI, although we love them. This is business.

This is why it is critical to have Gov. Ivey’s appointed gambling committee led by Todd Strange, conduct their research, and allow the committee provide the governor with the facts.

Many of our Alabamians appear to be overly concerned about what our great neighbors and our awesome Poarch Creek Indians are doing which is in their best interest. The real question should be, what can our state do on its own, concerning gambling to bring the greatest financial return; which is in the best interest of our great state?

In closing, to prove my aforementioned points and logic. Let’s ask the Poarch Creek Indians to provide the State or Alabama with an exclusive gaming monopoly, by allowing, the state to pay out to them, a portion of the profits. Based on the figures from the PBCI 2019 calendar year, revenue, earnings, profits, gaming industry growth, expansions, wealth, new real estate purchases, investments, financial holdings, market values, land, new construction and upgraded facilities.

Surely the state of Alabama, with exclusive monopoly designations, wouldn’t be able to closely provide total dollar payout amounts to PBCI, equal to, nor even close, to the PBCI previous calendar year revenue, earnings and profits. It works both ways.  The PBCI will not give Alabama the same offer of an exclusive monopoly. They are very much too smart, and they are too intelligent to do that. It would not be a good deal, for themselves either.


Glenn Henry is retired from the U.S. Air Force. He has been a high school teacher and university adjunct professor. He has earned numerous IT Cisco certifications. He is a Certified Professional Ethical Hacker. He lives in Montgomery with his wife Teresa.

 

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Opinion | On the Nov. 3 ballot, vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1

Chris Christie

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On Nov. 3, 2020, all Alabama voters should vote “no” on proposed Amendment 1. Vote no on Amendment 1 because it could allow state law changes to disenfranchise citizens whom the Legislature does not want to vote. Because Amendment 1 has no practical purpose and because it opens the door to mischief, all voters are urged to vote no.

Currently, the Alabama Constitution provides that “Every citizen of the United States…” has the right to vote in the county where the voter resides. Amendment 1 would delete the word “every” before citizen and replace it with “only a” citizen.

In Alabama, the only United States citizens who cannot vote today are most citizens who have been convicted of a felony of moral turpitude. These felonies are specifically identified in Ala. Code 17-3-30.1.

Without Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution now says who can vote: every citizen. If voters approve Amendment 1, the Alabama Constitution would only identify a group who cannot vote. With Amendment 1, we, the citizens of the United States in Alabama, thus would lose the state constitutional protection of our voting rights.

In Alabama, no individual who is not a United States citizens can vote in a governmental election. So, Amendment 1 has no impact on non-citizens in Alabama.

Perhaps the purpose of Amendment 1 could be to drive voter turnout of those who mistakenly fear non-citizens can vote. The only other purpose for Amendment 1 would be allowing future Alabama state legislation to disenfranchise groups of Alabama citizens whom a majority of the legislature does not want to vote.

In 2020, the ballots in Florida and Colorado have similar amendments on the ballots. As in Alabama, Citizens Voters, Inc., claims it is responsible for putting these amendments on the ballots in those states. While Citizens Voters’ name sounds like it is a good nonprofit, as a 501(c)(4), it has secret political donors. One cannot know who funds Citizen Voters and thus who is behind pushing these amendments with more than $8 million in dark money.

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According to Citizen Voter’s website, the stated reason for Amendment 1 is that some cities in several other states allow non-citizens to vote. My understanding is that such measures are rare and only apply to voting for local school boards.

And why would a local government’s deciding that non-citizens can vote for local school boards be a state constitutional problem? Isn’t the good government practice to allow local control of local issues? And again, this issue does not even exist in Alabama.

The bigger question, which makes Amendment 1’s danger plain to see, is why eliminate the language protectingevery citizen’s right to vote? For example, Amendment 1 could have proposed “Every citizen and only a citizen” instead of deleting “every” when adding “only a” citizen. Why not leave the every citizen language in the Alabama Constitution?

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Amendment 1 could allow Alabama new state legislation to disenfranchise some Alabama citizens. Such a change would probably violate federal law. But Alabama has often had voting laws that violated federal law until a lawsuit forced the state of Alabama not to enforce the illegal state voting law.  

The most recent similar law in Alabama might be 2011’s HB56, the anti-immigrant law. Both HB56 and Amendment 1 are Alabama state laws that out-of-state interests pushed on us. And HB56 has been largely blocked by federal courts after expensive lawsuits.

Alabama’s Nov. 3, 2020, ballot will have six constitutional amendments. On almost all ballots, Amendment 1 will be at the bottom right on the first page (front) of the ballot or will be at the top left on the second page (back) of the ballot.

Let’s keep in our state constitution our protection of every voters’ right to vote.

Based on Amendment 1’s having no practical benefit and its opening many opportunities for mischief, all Alabama voters are strongly urged to vote “no” on Amendment 1.

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Opinion | Amendment 4 is an opportunity to clean up the Alabama Constitution

Gerald Johnson and John Cochran

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The 1901 but current Alabama Constitution has been amended about 950 times, making it by far the world’s longest constitution. The amendments have riddled the Constitution with redundancies while maintaining language and provisions — for example, poll taxes — that reflect the racist intent of those who originally wrote it.

A recompilation will bring order to the amendments and remove obsolete language. While much of this language is no longer valid, the language is still in the document and has been noted and used by other states when competing with Alabama for economic growth opportunities.

The need for recompilation and cleaning of Alabama’s Constitution has been long recognized.

In 2019, the Legislature unanimously adopted legislation, Amendment 4, to provide for its recompilation. Amendment 4 on the Nov. 3 general election ballot will allow the non-partisan Legislative Reference Service to draft a recompiled and cleaned version of the Constitution for submission to the Legislature.

While Amendment 4 prohibits any substantive changes in the Constitution, the LRS will remove duplication, delete no longer legal provisions and racist language, thereby making our Constitution far more easily understood by all Alabama citizens.

Upon approval by the Legislature, the recompiled Constitution will be presented to Alabama voters in November 2022 for ratification.

Amendment 4 authorizes a non-partisan, broadly supported, non-controversial recompilation and much-needed, overdue cleaning up of our Constitution.

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On Nov. 3, 2020, vote “Yes” on Amendment 4 so the work can begin.

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Opinion | Auburn Student Center named for Harold Melton, first Auburn SGA president of color

Elizabeth Huntley and James Pratt

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Auburn University's Student Center (VIA AUBURN UNIVERSITY)

The year 1987 was a quiet one for elections across America but not at Auburn. That was the year Harold Melton, a student in international studies and Spanish, launched and won a campaign to become the first African American president of the Auburn Student Government Association, winning with more than 65 percent of the vote.

This was just the first of many important roles Harold Melton would play at Auburn and in an extraordinarily successful legal career in his home state of Georgia, where his colleagues on the Georgia Supreme Court elected him as chief justice.

Last week, the Auburn Board of Trustees unanimously named the Auburn student center for Justice Melton, the first building on campus that honors a person of color. The decision was reached as part of a larger effort to demonstrate Auburn’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.

In June, Auburn named two task forces to study diversity and inclusion issues. We co-chair the task force for the Auburn Board with our work taking place concurrently with that of a campus-based task force organized by President Jay Gogue. Other members of the Board task force are retired Army general Lloyd Austin, bank president Bob Dumas, former principal and educator Sarah B. Newton and Alabama Power executive Quentin P. Riggins.

These groups are embarking on a process that offers all Auburn stakeholders a voice, seeking input from students, faculty, staff, alumni, elected officials and more. It will include a fact-based review of Auburn’s past and present, and we will provide specific recommendations for the future.

We are committed to making real progress based on solid facts. Unlike other universities in the state, Auburn has a presence in all 67 counties through the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Our review has included not only our campuses in Auburn and Montgomery but all properties across our state. To date, we have found no monuments or statues recognizing the history that has divided our country. We will continue our fact-finding mission with input from the academic and research community.

Our university and leadership are committed to doing the right thing, for the right reasons, at the right time. We believe now is the right time, and we are already seeing results.

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In addition to naming the student center for the Honorable Harold Melton, we have taken steps to highlight the significant role played by Harold Franklin, the student who integrated Auburn. We are working to enhance the historical marker that pays tribute to Mr. Franklin, and we are raising its visibility in campus tours as we pay homage to his contributions as our first African American student. Last month, we awarded Mr. Franklin, now 86 and with a Ph.D., a long-overdue master’s degree for the studies he completed at Auburn so many years ago.

We likewise endorsed a student-led initiative creating the National Pan-Hellenic Council Legacy Plaza, which will recognize the contributions of Black Greek organizations and African American culture on our campus.

In the coming months, Auburn men and women will work together to promote inclusion to further enhance our student experience and build on our strength through diversity. The results of this work will be seen and felt throughout the institution in how we recruit our students, provide scholarships and other financial support and ensure a culture of inclusion in all walks of university life.

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Our goal is to identify and implement substantive steps that will make a real difference at Auburn, impact our communities and stand the test of time.

Naming the student center for Justice Melton is but one example. In response to this decision, he said, “Auburn University has already given me everything I ever could have hoped for in a university and more. This honor is beyond my furthest imagination.”

Our job as leaders at Auburn is more than honoring the Harold Meltons and Harold Franklins who played a significant role in the history of our university. It is also to create an inclusive environment that serves our student body and to establish a lasting legacy where all members of the Auburn Family reach their fullest potential in their careers and in life.

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Opinion | Alabama lags behind the nation in Census participation with deadline nearing

Paul DeMarco

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The United States Census is starting to wind down around the country with a Sept. 30 deadline for the national population to be completed. However, a United States District Court has recently ruled that the date may be extended another 30 days to allow more time for the census to take place.

Regardless of the deadline, Alabama has work to do when it comes to the census.

To date, the national average for participation around the country has been almost 65 percent for the census.

Unfortunately, Alabama residents are providing data to the census at a lower percentage, around some 61 percent of the state population.

There is already concern among state leaders that if that number does not reach above 70 percent, then the state will lose a seat in Congress, a vote in the electoral college and millions of federal dollars that come to the state every year.

The percentage of participation has varied widely around the state, from a high of 76 percent in Shelby County to a low of 36 percent in neighboring Coosa County.

State leaders are making a final push to request Alabama residents fill out the census in the last month before it is closed.

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We will find out later this fall if Alabama passes the national average of participation in the census compared to other states to retain both its future representation and share of federal dollars.

In the meantime, Alabamians need to fill out their census forms.

The state is depending on it.

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