I note that the city of Batavia has a real “hot-potato” game going on over the new apartment complex located on Ellicott Street, called Ellicott Station. All the game participants, many with not a face, instead just acronyms, are tossing that hot potato around and trying to make sure that they’re not the ones holding the hot potato at the conclusion of the contest: Savarino Development; the GCEDC(Genesee County); the BDC (city of Batavia); the N.Y. State HCR agency; the U.S. HUD department; the Batavia City Council;the Batavia City Manager; community interests for and against the project ;and the eventual actual residents of the actual apartment building. (

Whew,yep,I think I got all the players. Incidentally,the only ones so far, I believe, who have not fingered the hot potato or made any proclamations concerning it, are the potential residents of the housing. Interesting!).

So, kind of like the practice, or different game,” passing the buck.”

Anyway, after all of the above words,those game are not what I want to address here: What I want to examine here is the recent announcement that a “lottery” will be used to create a pool of resident-applicants from which “finalists” will be chosen,and whom will then eventually move into the Ellicott Station apartments.

Now,I’ve always considered a “lottery” to traditionally be a haphazard game of chance; of luck; of “whammy” more than reason; of a roll of the dice and “snake-eyes” more than the scientific method. As in,the mega-millions “lottery” to win a billion dollars; or the “lottery” used for the military “draft,” late 1960s and early 1970s, based on the month and day of your birth, and then to be shipped off to a war zone,there to survive or not! Do you think, likewise, or not?

Conversely,and also traditionally,we have selected individuals in all fields of U.S. life, education, jobs, politics, even marriages, by using very objective criteria, and then introducing a subjective element, the human one, to evaluate the factual objective criteria, and then make a selection based on judgement, experience ,expertise, intuition,call it the “secret sauce” if you wish, etc.

This means of selection appears to be almost diametrically opposite to a “lottery.” Don’t you agree? After all, do you want your children’s school teachers selected by a “lottery”; your personal family MD appointed by a “lottery”; your automobile manufacturer workers picked by a “lottery”; your spouse chosen by a “lottery”?

No,we want the best applicant, the most capable, for all these societal functions selected, within the clear and concise parameters of the objective criteria leavened with a finishing dose of the subjective,the selecting official who makes the final selection decision. Don’t we? I don’t think we want a “lottery,” arbitrary and unpredictable,capricious and whimsical,as a “lottery” invariably is. Do we?

Consider an individual who passes all the factual tests of capability and expertise, but who is,incidentally,a psychopath. Supposedly and ideally and hopefully, the subjective element,the human one, would espy that psychopathy!

I don’t intend to be overly alarmist,but be careful, respected adults, when dabbling in “lotteries”, which always and only result in winners and losers. Is that how we should choose apartment-dwellers? Then “heaven help us” all!

Any questions,readers? If so,I suggest you read Shirley Jackson’s fictional short-story,”The Lottery”. It was first published in 1948, but is still applicable today,maybe more so! A “spoiler” alert though,the narrative is in the horror/science fiction genre of literature. (Your local library can help you obtain it).

Donald Weyer


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