Oh, Say Does That Green-Spangled Banner Yet Wave At The Watermelon Festival?Aug 13, 2008
It was a gorgeous weekend in Richmond and like 100,000 other Richmonders I brought my husband and two children to Carytown to attend the Watermelon Festival. Since many Richmonders are as proud to host this festival as the Chinese are to host the Olympics, I thought I ought to check it out — plus, Elizabeth Reagan loves watermelon. Upon my arrival the first thing I noticed was the Planned Parenthood booth and its array of volunteers gathering petition names. My first reaction was disappointment that they continue to have an innocuous presence at many major events but my second reaction was excitement over the paper we will release later in the year exposing that organization for all that it is. Anyway, as our family and some friends made our way to the Boulevard intersection where the festival ended and the main stage was featuring some cover band, we saw a banner over the music stage announcing the day's sponsor:
Mindful of the recent budget crunch, I was immediately consumed by the question of "How many taxpayer dollars were put towards sponsoring the Watermelon Fest — an event that in its beloved state needs no money to continue to exist and serves no state pupose?" Bothered by this thought, I determined that it didn't matter the amount. Not a single dollar should have been spent in this manner. Not just because we have a budget crunch but because it violates the Code of Virginia:
§ 58.1-4022. State Lottery Fund
E. As a function of the administration of this chapter, funds may be expended for the purposes of reasonably informing the public concerning (i) the facts embraced in the subjects contained in subdivisions 1 through 7 of subsection A of § 58.1-4007 and (ii) the fact that the net proceeds are paid into the Lottery Proceeds Fund of the Commonwealth; but no funds shall be expended for the primary purpose of inducing persons to participate in the lottery.
The Department of the Lottery has gone way off its mission. This banner does nothing to inform its viewers of the facts of the lottery and it is not alone as an example of advertising most reasonable minds would agree is intended to encourage or "induce" people into participating in the lottery (read this commentary by a litigant against the Virginia Lottery). In fact, not long ago, I met a really nice professional gentleman at a luncheon who, when asked his occupation, informed me that he does marketing for the lottery. Because I believe this man does not intend harm and probably does not feel his work runs afoul of Virginia law, I did not discuss it much further but the existence of such a position is disappointing to most Virginians. While most Virgnians support appropriate levels of funding for public education, in the name of "funding education" all things become acceptable.