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MY WORD: New casino is a bad bet; better education is a sure thing.
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MY WORD

MY WORD: New casino is a bad bet; better education is a sure thing.

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I write today because, as my son’s generation says: I owe the people of Danville and Southside a “solid.” They helped me in 1985. Now it is my turn.

Based on my knowledge of state finances and government, I know this to be true: The economic development and related promises being made by those behind the Danville casino project are simply “pie in the sky.” Indeed, a 2019 state government report few have likely read proves it.

A casino is a sucker’s losing bet. Education is the winning bet for the future of the area and your children.

But you may be saying: Paul Goldman is from Richmond, not Southside, once called a Yankee interloper on the front page of the Richmond newspaper. Why trust him?

Here is why. Back in 1985, I was the only white person in Virginia willing to run the campaign for an African-American state senator named Doug Wilder. Virginia Democratic Party leaders called both of us crazy for believing citizens in places like Danville would give Wilder even a few votes. We knew political elites were wrong. We not only won: Wilder got more votes in Danville than the previous Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Therefore, my son is right.

Casino for Danville has paid the local Democratic chair nearly $6,000 in August alone to spin their economic fairy tales. But here is the truth from the state report: “There are currently 14 casinos in operation that would compete with the Virginia market” (Page 4). Adding those planned for Bristol, Danville, Richmond, Norfolk and Portsmouth makes 19. Very few Virginians not living in the Southside area will therefore ever visit the Danville casino. Yet Danville is being promised a megamillion casino complex rivalling Norfolk and Richmond, two hugely bigger and wealthier regions. Does this seem realistic?

Casino backers answer: Danville could “generate a substantial portion of their gaming revenue … from out-of-state customers” in North Carolina (Page 14). But as the report points out, “Danville (is) most vulnerable to future out-of-state competition” once North Carolina and other states open casinos, as seems inevitable. (Page 15).

Even if North Carolina does not open any more casinos, the “projected wage ... for a casino employee would be below the median wage” in Danville and the surrounding area (Page i). Upwards of half the jobs will pay “about $25,000” (Page 21). The “Virginia casinos” will not open until 2024 (Page vii).

Why back a bad bet when a sure bet is available?

Fact: A poison pill put into the Education Clause of the Virginia Constitution by the last segregationist governor of Virginia has discriminated against Southside’s children. It has worked to deny all of them the educational opportunities the state helps fund for other regions. Republican Sen. Bill Stanley (R-Salem) and I have worked to fix it without any help. If all of us work together, we can get it done by 2022.

Fact: As Virginia Tech experts have shown, the dilapidated conditions of school buildings throughout Southside significantly hurt learning potential. Modernizing such facilities are being blocked in part because of a federal law effectively raising local school renovation costs by nearly 40%. Democratic Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine have introduced legislation to fix it. If we work together, it can pass in 2021.

Bottom line: The politicians in Richmond keep looking for the easy way out. State government has shortchanged your kids for too long. If they put half the energy into fixing education as they did into promoting a phony casino solution, we can by 2024 fix education and have a sure bet to a better future for all our kids.

Paul Goldman is a former chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, credited with helping Virginia keep its AAA financial rating and a recognized leader in improving K-12 education for all regions of the Commonwealth. He is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

Paul Goldman is a former chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, credited with helping Virginia keep its AAA financial rating and a recognized leader in improving K-12 education for all regions of the Commonwealth. He is running for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor.

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