- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne. Sept. 22, 2014.

Lincoln legacy lives

More than six years after its Lincoln Museum closed, Fort Wayne’s interest in the 16th president shows no signs of waning. The continuing fascination with a giant in American history aside, credit for the city’s continuing devotion to Abraham Lincoln belongs to a handful of civic leaders.

The Berry Street museum’s closing in 2008 left hanging the fate of the largest privately held collection of artifacts and documents related to Lincoln. Ian Rolland, former CEO of Lincoln National Corp., led the Indiana coalition to keep the $20 million collection in the state, successfully convincing the Lincoln Financial Foundation, Lincoln Financial’s charitable arm, that Indiana was where it belonged. The Indiana State Museum was awarded the three-dimensional museum pieces; the Allen County Public Library received the collection’s manuscripts, newspapers, photos and 18,000 books.

That’s where the Friends of the Lincoln Collection stepped up. The local nonprofit set out to raise $11?million to display and preserve the collection. In addition to Rolland, U.S. District Magistrate Roger Cosbey, real estate broker Al Zacher and Lincoln scholar Sara Gabbard tirelessly worked with the organization to ensure a strong Lincoln collection presence in Fort Wayne.

Gabbard is executive director of the Friends of the Lincoln Collection, working out of the downtown library - another partner in the city’s Lincoln initiative. The library’s collection of artifacts includes valuable documents signed by the president. Only researchers can access the documents and texts, but the materials are increasingly available online.

“As promised in the initial proposal, a program was initiated at the library which would digitize the collection to make it available for worldwide access,” Gabbard said.

As of August, the collection’s digitized materials have been downloaded more than 1.7 million times. The salaries of two full-time Lincoln librarians, as well as part-time assistants, are supported by the Friends group.

In Indianapolis, a Lincoln Financial Foundation Gallery was created to house the former museum’s artifacts - again, with the organization’s support.

“The (state museum) recently completed a complex conservation project for our two most valuable documents, a Leland-Boker copy of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Senate resolution for the 13th Amendment,” Gabbard said.

This week’s events reinforce the value of the Friends’ contributions to preserving Lincoln history here. The group is among the financial supporters for Tuesday’s Omnibus Lecture at IPFW, where Doris Kearns Goodwin will speak to a capacity crowd on presidential leadership. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Team of Rivals” was among the historians interviewed in Ken Burns’ documentary on Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Another Pulitzer winner, author Eric Foner, will speak at a Lincoln Collection event on Friday. Gabbard said Foner’s work stands out among historians studying the Civil War era for its focus on the Reconstruction period.

On Saturday, the Friends of the Library and the Abraham Lincoln Association will host the Lincoln Colloquium, featuring several speakers and panel discussions.

For a city in which Abraham Lincoln never lived, three major events marking his contributions represent quite a feat. Rolland, Gabbard and other members of Friends of the Lincoln Collection deserve the credit.

___

The Herald-Times, Bloomington. Sept. 21, 2014.

Victims of domestic violence need help, not new barriers

In a strange, somewhat sick way, the huge scandal that’s engulfed the National Football League with release of a graphic video of one of the league’s stars knocking out his girlfriend (now wife) in an elevator may be saving others from similar abuse.

Toby Strout, executive director of Middle Way House, the Bloomington shelter for abused women and their children, said calls seeking help increased by 77 percent the week after release of the video.

In all likelihood, that’s not because abuse suddenly jumped. Rather, it nudged victims to the phone to seek help they probably wouldn’t have sought without the swirl of scandal.

Strout has seen it all before. “When a celebrity commits domestic violence or sexual assault, it makes the front page for a while, people pay attention,” she told reporter Lauren Slavin. State agencies report a similar increase in calls for help. And of course, there are no additional resources to deal with the suddenly bigger need, points out Laura Berry with the Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

It’s very hard to tell these women that unless they’re in immediate serious danger, they’ll have to wait until they are before help can be found, she adds.

Despite such need, it appears the state is now threatening a significant chunk of this year’s $3.5 million allocation to victim abuse agencies - money that already has been appropriated by the Indiana General Assembly. Abuse prevention advocates point out that it would not only be a travesty to cut funding when need is suddenly spiking, but with the issue now front and center for voters, it’s bad politics.

Gov. Mike Pence denies he’s ordered any such funding cuts. Still, the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, through which the money must flow, announced Friday it will have new rules in place Monday that require agencies to fully account for how the money will be spent before any is released.

What prompted the sudden concern is unclear. Surely, such accounting is already in place where state money is involved. Pence already has ordered an almost across-the-board spending reduction for state agencies in response to the recent and unexpected shortfall in state tax collections. Are all agencies getting similar new marching orders?

Or is it something else? This is not the first year funds already allocated to the cause have been denied. In 2013, the administration cut or failed to release almost $800,000 to victim abuse agencies despite legislative approval of an additional $1 million to support victims of domestic violence.

If the governor really is committed to the cause - and surely he is - he will explicitly order that no cuts in this particular substratum of the governmental hierarchy be made.

If that does not happen, Pence’s administration may be taking a few hits itself, which, unlike the blows domestic violence victims must absorb, will be well-deserved.

___

The Republic, Columbus. Sept. 20, 2014.

Message of unity defines city, not vandalism

Columbus believes in ethnic and religious diversity. It values being a welcoming community.

If any question existed about what message the city wants to send, it surely was answered Sept. 8 on the steps of City Hall, where more than 200 people gathered in a show of support and to take a stand after three Columbus churches were defaced Aug. 30.

Vandals spray-painted Quran chapter-and-verse references and the word “infidels” on the outside of East Columbus Christian Church, St. Bartholomew Catholic Church and Lakeview Church of Christ.

For a community that prides itself on diversity through events and organizations such as Ethnic Expo, Columbus Area Multi-Ethnic Organization and Interfaith Forum Columbus, the vandalism was upsetting. But it wasn’t divisive.

Instead of fingers being pointed or an uprising against the local Islamic population, residents showed great compassion, understanding and support. Most importantly, they showed unity.

Support for the victimized churches and condemnation of the vandalism came from all corners - including Christians and Muslims.

Rather than the community being torn apart, residents gathered shoulder to shoulder on the City Hall steps to listen to 15 faith-based and community leaders speak. That show of unity resounded with the same importance as the messages spoken.

Unity and understanding can be demonstrated on a daily basis, too. Tim Orr and Nassim Khaled are an example.

Orr, an ordained evangelical Christian minister and adjunct lecturer in religious studies at IUPUC, and Khaled, a member of the Islamic Society of Columbus, have a friendship that dates back 18 months and was forged from simple gatherings and fishing trips. They have taken time to know each other and their faiths.

In a community that has a significant international flavor such as Columbus does, having an understanding of other faiths and cultures is crucial for living together.

The rally at City Hall demonstrated that importance through a simple but powerful act: joining together.

___

The Times, Munster. Sept. 18, 2014.

Lake County blowing through surplus

Let’s get this straight. The Lake County Council approved a big 1.5 percent local income tax and the county still says it doesn’t have enough money to meet current needs?

This is a county government with a total budget in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The council began with a potential 2015 budget surplus of $10 million and - no offense, drunken sailors - blew more than $9 million of it in a wild spending spree.

The council plans to lavish 3 percent pay raises on about 1,200 full-time civilian employees and officeholders. That increase accounts for more than $1.6 million a year.

And there are hundreds of other employees who aren’t included in that deal for various reasons.

Then there’s a $1 million boost for drainage ditches and $2 million for repairing bridges. And with a few hundred thousand here, a few hundred thousand there, it adds up quickly.

At the same time, the Lake County commissioners are planning to borrow up to $12 million to finance repairs and improvements to the Lake County Jail and other buildings.

That will bring the county’s total debt to nearly $200 million. Paying off principal and interest will cost the county’s taxpayers $26 million in 2015.

It is difficult to justify large pay raises while the county borrows even more money to meet basic needs.

This shows how out of whack the county’s priorities are.

We understand the county has shed hundreds of jobs from its payroll in recent years. But we also understand the hiring “freeze” was more like early April than early February.

Borrowing money costs taxpayers more than just paying cash. Being more frugal with the new money is smarter than squandering it all.

Instead of giving big raises, start setting aside money for future needs. It’s not impossible. There are other units of local government who have proven this can be done.

It is reprehensible to blow through that surplus so quickly.

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