In a Holland Sentinel article last week, I said the following about the Michigan Lottery giving $40,000 to Grand Rapids for a fireworks display: "This expenditure is motivated by politics, not maximizing lottery sales." Given the context of the article, I appeared to be referring to the personal motivations of a particular individual, the Lottery director. That was wrong, and I apologize for the remark.
The underlying issue here involves a legitimate public policy debate: Should the Michigan Lottery's advertising budget be used to pay for activities that generate "good will" in a particular community, rather than just buying ads?
I think not. One reason (among others) is the risk and appearance this creates of the expenditures being exploited for overtly political purposes. In fact, I believe that such expenditures are inherently political on an institutional level because the Lottery is a government entity whose existence and operations are the product of political decisions. Using government resources to indirectly influence those decisions is problematic at best.
Besides, the Lottery already exists for just one reason: To augment the resources available for public schools. If that isn't sufficient to generate "good will" in the community, then perhaps policymakers should examine another institution — the public school establishment that benefits from Lottery money.
Reasonable people may disagree with my position, and fair enough. But I should not ascribe their personal motivations to anything other than good will, and was wrong to say something that sounded like I was doing so.