Our citizens are tired of politics as usual from the county level, to the state level, to Washington, DC. They are tired of backroom deals, with details hidden from the public. They are tired of the money influence ruling the day in politics and government.

As the sheriff of Rockingham County for almost 25 years, I wake up every day remembering my sworn oath to protect and to serve the public, to uphold the US Constitution, and to follow the law. Elected officials at all levels should be accountable to the public, and they should always act in the best interest of those they serve.

And they should be transparent in their actions. What we are seeing right now in this casino mess is the opposite of how things should be. It seems clear that our “leaders” are putting their own wishes ahead of the best interests of the public. The more we hear about the backroom deals and shenanigans in the legislature, the more disturbing this casino gamble appears to be.

This week, the General Assembly will (reportedly) meet and discuss the long-delayed budget, vote on it, and then take a separate vote on whether to allow casino gambling and possibly even allow video lottery terminals statewide. Some lawmakers have held the budget hostage, in what appears to be an attempt to legalize gambling outside of Native American reservations, without the benefit of public comment or even public awareness until it’s too late.

As a long time law enforcement officer, who is very aware of public safety problems that often accompany gambling, I’m simply asking the General Assembly to slow down and to pass a clean state budget. Allow for the citizens of the affected counties and the citizens of North Carolina to have their voices heard by legislatively sanctioned referenda on having Casinos in their communities and video lottery terminals across the state. That’s fair, and it follows our constitutional concept of a government “of, for and by the people.”

I understand that there may be arguments in favor of casinos — like massive tax revenues, investments in communities that need help, and creating entertainment venues in places that want it. But there are plenty of negatives too — particularly regarding crime and public safety. Additionally, many people feel the government shouldn’t be partnering with the gambling businesses at all. No matter where you stand on the casino question, surely we can all agree it should be discussed and voted on in public, with lots of sunshine in the process.

Too many questions arise from rushed maneuvers that took place outside the public arena by our elected officials locally and in the General Assembly. I urge everyone today to call their state representatives and demand that this week’s casino and video lottery terminal vote be delayed until the people of North Carolina have a chance to have their voices heard — and not just the voices of the special interest groups from the gambling industry, who appear to be the only ones that matter in the current legislative budget process.

Let’s stop the politics as usual and insider games that appear to be defining the casino process going on right now!