My friend Andy

Editor’s note: This is a piece I wrote this year for and is published here with permission from The Earlhamite.

One of Richmond’s most influential citizens of the past hundred years began his days in the city at Earlham. 

But, though Andy Cecere spent only one year at Earlham before serving his country in World War II, the school’s influence has lasted a lifetime.

Hence, at a mid-September (2017) Earlham convocation, President Alan Price ’88 beckoned Cecere to the stage of Goddard Auditorium. Cecere, 95, walked carefully, cane in hand, to Price’s side.  

Price praised Cecere, who came to Earlham as a student in 1942 but left to serve as U.S. Marine Corps officer in the South Pacific, for a career in law and service to the city, leading Richmond through a period of change and growth.

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Andy Cecere (left) and Alan Price on the Earlham campus.

It was that lifetime of accomplishment that Price honored as he placed a Presidential Medal of Merit in Cecere’s hands. 

“Andy Cecere represents the leadership, courage and forward thinking that helped transform Richmond into a more just and inclusive community,” Price said. “We honor him for a lifetime of commitment, struggle and achievement.”

Cecere’s path to Earlham and Richmond was unlikely. The son of immigrants, he grew up poor in an Italian enclave of Pittsburgh, Pa.

“People in our neighborhood did not go to college. We were different,” said Cecere. “People in other neighborhoods made it clear that we were not welcome. They called us names. I made the decision that I wanted to do something about changing that.”

His family was his rock. His father worked on the railroad. Two older brothers quit high school to work and support the family. But his parents insisted on education for Andy and his younger siblings.

Growing up, he spent time at a neighborhood settlement house, the Kingsley House, where he learned to swim and box, played football and basketball. There he met staff member George Badgley, a Quaker from Poughkeepsie, New York.

“Here I was this Italian kid from the neighborhood, and he was this college-educated man. He was my first mentor. He loaned me books and stressed the importance of learning. That’s where I first learned about college.”

Badgley, who spent one year at Earlham in 1932-33, pointed Cecere to the neighborhood Carnegie Library.

“It was an age when they purposely planted a settlement house and a Carnegie Library in these neighborhoods that had recent immigrants to give the kids something to do and the residents a chance to have books,” Cecere said. “We didn’t have any books in my house.”

He was determined to learn. Through high school he sold the city’s two newspapers on the street and, every day, he read both papers. He became a student of the U.S. Constitution, the document he believed was the source of all citizen rights.

“By the time I was in high school, I had memorized the Constitution and I knew the rights and opportunities it offered all citizens,” he said. “Right then I knew what I wanted to do.”

Cecere would be the first in his family to attend college, but first he had to work. A job in a Pittsburgh steel mill earned him enough money to enroll at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he studied history and political science in the hope of one day entering the foreign service.

That ended after one year when he learned that first-generation immigrants were not allowed in the foreign service.

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘I could enlist and go fight and die for my country, but I could not serve as a diplomat.’ I was dumbfounded,” he said.

Fighting and dying were a real possibility. In 1942 the world was in flames as Axis powers surged across Europe, Russia and the South Pacific.

He told Badgley of the incident at George Washington U. and Badgley suggested Earlham.

“He said there were good people there and it was a very good school,” Cecere said. “It was a place, he said, I could continue my studies and ponder my future. He also found me a job there, which was a big thing for me.”

Earlham greeted him with friendship.

“The Earlham experience showed me that I can be accepted despite the fact that I’m an Italian,” Cecere said. “It confirmed that equality was worth fighting for. That carried through the rest of my life.”

His roommate was Bob Heywood, a Quaker from Wellsville, New York, and conscientious objector.

The two men seemed an improbable pair. Cecere entered Earlham in September and enlisted in the Marine Corps in October while remaining in school.  But they forged a lasting friendship. 

“He never once questioned my decision to join the Marine Corps,” said Cecere. “Nor did I question him. It was just understood. He was a conscientious objector at a time when it was not accepted at all. I respected that conviction. We remained close friends ’til the day he died.”

During Cecere’s lone year at Earlham, he studied history, economics and government and washed dishes in Bundy Hall. Once activated, he spent a year at Dennison University in a delayed enlistment program before joining combat troops on the final push to take the island of Okinawa. At the war’s end he served with the occupation force in China.

Returning to the States, Cecere received an honorary undergraduate degree from Denison, entered law school at the University of Michigan in 1949 and studied under Paul Kauper, a Richmond native and a nationally recognized authority on constitutional law.

Kauper convinced Cecere to return to Richmond where he built a law practice that lasted 50 years.

During that time, he served 12 years as city attorney under two mayors and wrote local legislation and lobbied to establish public housing in Richmond. But, instead of placing it in one neighborhood, he fashioned the law to create housing in all four sections of the city.

In doing so he helped desegregate Richmond schools.

“Most people thought we should just build it in the north end, mainly the African American section. But I wanted to have public housing throughout the city,” he said. “I believed that would open up the city for all citizens, especially black citizens.

“When we did that we integrated all those schools without busing,” he said.

“Andy was the engine, the initial force that got funding for public housing,” said Derek White, executive director of the Richmond Housing Authority. “He went to Washington and made the case for affordable housing because there was a need. He was a catalyst and key player in this important part of our history.”

As head of the city’s Board of Public Works, Cecere hired the first black man on the Richmond Fire Department and helped rebuild downtown Richmond after a 1968 explosion killed 40 citizens and destroyed a huge section of the district.

“Andy Cecere was never given the credit he deserves for the rebuilding of the downtown,” said Wayne Stidham during a 2013 cable television interview. In 1968, Stidham was president of Second National Bank and of the city’s Chamber of Commerce.

“Andy did all the legal work and did a remarkable job,” Stidham said. “It was really a great team effort by a lot of people, but Andy was at the forefront of that. I will always be grateful to him.”

Cecere also joined civic leaders who raised money and bought land to keep one of the city’s largest employers, and its 1,200 jobs, in Richmond. He also was part of the effort that raised money to bring Ivy Tech Community College and Indiana University East to Richmond.

Politically, he helped rebuild the city’s Democratic party, registering voters and finding candidates for local and state office.

“There wasn’t a two-party system here. You have to have a two-party system,” Cecere said. “I recruited volunteers, including from Earlham, and we went into the neighborhoods. Within five years we had a Democratic majority on city council and elected a Democratic mayor, city judge and city clerk.

“However, I would propose that my greatest achievement was bringing the people of the north end into the community as a whole, especially African Americans,” Cecere said. “They could go out in the community and get homes, get jobs.”

Cecere was born into a Catholic family but left the church at age 16. He and his wife Betty, to whom he was married for 50 years, attended Presbyterian church in Richmond. When Betty died in 2007 he became a Quaker and has been an active member for the last 10 years.

“I never became a Quaker while at Earlham but I loved their ideals,” he said. “I never knew people like that; people dedicated to helping others; people who would stand up for those who were denied rights. That’s what I dedicated my life to.

“In the end, I suppose some of that George Badgley Quakerism rubbed off on me. Similarly, some of that Earlham Quakerism also rubbed off on me,” he said.

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Poor People’s rally Saturday

More than 50 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a new generation of organizers along with some veterans of the sixties are reviving the movement that King started to fight for economic and human rights for the nation’s poor.

That movement, the Poor People’s Campaign, A National Call for Moral Revival, will host an informational and old fashioned mass meeting at 2 p.m. Saturday at the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 200 S. Sixth St. in Richmond. The theme is “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Us Around.”

The goal is to change the moral narrative about this nation’s systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and environmental degradation.

“We are picking up on Dr. King’s focus,” said Bob Hunter, former Earlham College adjunct professor and former chairman of the defunded Richmond Human Rights Commission. “Today, it’s a national call for a moral revival. We are saying that these are a moral issues; that poverty and the way people are treated in this country is a moral issue.”

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Bob Hunter (at podium) is one of three co-chairpersons for the Poor People’s Campaign, which is planning a rally in Richmond Saturday.

Hunter is one of three campaign co-chairpersons in Indiana. The plan, Hunter said, is to mobilize hundreds of people in the state to challenge the status quo and change the narrative.

“We will be making a series of actions at the state capitol that will challenge the way this country has dealt with these issues,” Hunter said. “Our first actions will focus on challenging the state to protect women and children since poverty strikes particularly hard on women and children.”

The Poor People’s Campaign was started by Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967 and culminated with an encampment in Washington in June 1968. Unfortunately, Dr. King was assassinated in April 1968 and, coupled with the assassination of Robert Kennedy, a key proponent of the campaign and presidential candidate, that movement never reached its goals of better housing, better education, better jobs and better lives for all peoples living in poverty.

So why the re-emergence today?

“Poverty is clearly growing and inequality is of particular concern,” Hunter said. “You have over half of the resources in the nation concentrated in the hands of about eight families. When you have that as a nation something has gone terribly wrong in an economic system that has built that much inequality.

“Couple that with the increases in racism and especially the increase in racist acts under this (national) administration, more and more we are seeing the degeneration of 50 years of work that the civil rights movement and other justice groups brought to the country,” he said.

Hunter said the national effort is being organized in approximately 41 states with a goal of activating hundreds of thousand citizens.

“We will have direct action singing and various messages of challenge to the way our country and this state are treating many of its neighbors and citizens. The actions are designed to bring people together in moral challenge.

“Our movement is committed to non-violence, but we are actually going to challenge the power of our country’s distorted moral narrative,” he said.

The protests will begin in May. The movement is led by faith leaders and leaders from the affected communities.

Hunter said Saturday’s rally will also address gun violence in solidarity with recent student protests and in keeping with the Poor Peoples Campaign’s original challenge to militarism and the war economy.

The need for change is real in Indiana, he said, pointing to the resignation letter of Mary Beth Bonatentura, former executive director of the Indiana Department of Child Services.

Bonatentura resigned in December 2017 with a scathing letter to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in which she said that Hoosier children were being systematically placed at risk without her office’s ability to help them.

“I feel I am unable to protect children because of the position taken by your staff to cut funding and services to children in the midst of the opioid crisis. I choose to resign rather than be complicit in decreasing the safety, permanency and well being of children who have nowhere else to turn,” Bonaventura wrote.

“What’s wrong with our state and our country when they will not designate money to protect our children and protect our citizens,” Hunter said.

Hunter said Saturday’s rally will mark the beginning for Richmond in the effort to raise awareness and challenge the legislatures in multiple states, including Indiana.

“I’m an optimist and I believe we can make a difference,” Hunter said. “We want justice for poor people. We are not trying to be nasty and shut things down. We are just trying to demand that our government take care of its citizens, especially its children.”

Where’s Huey?

Wayne County veterans are at it again, looking to add to Veterans Memorial Park in Richmond.
This time they’re bringing a UH-1 “Huey” helicopter for display in the gorge park. And it’s been a long time coming. For more than 10 years, Wayne County veterans have called, inquired, priced, bargained and petitioned to get a Huey in the park just west of downtown Richmond.
This time it’s going to happen. But the vets are going to need the community’s help. Members of the veterans park committee have located a decommissioned Huey in Florida. Cost of the bird, as they were known in Vietnam, is $43,000 and to transport it, paint it and mount it on a stand in the park will cost another $7,000.
That means organizers will be trying to raise a little better than $50,000 for the project.
Park committee president Joe Goebel said the Huey will greatly enhance the park’s features, which include monuments to the men and women who served our country in the Civil War, both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, both Gulf Wars and Afghanistan. The park also features the first monument in Indiana to women veterans and memorials to Purple Heart recipients and those who serve in peace time.
“Our vision for growing and improving the park comes from our passionate belief that those who fought for our freedom, many paying the ultimate price, deserve to be honored and remembered,” said Goebel, a veteran of the Vietnam War. “We are asking for your support to bring the Huey to Richmond to make it a permanent part of our park.
“No contribution is too small,” he said.
The UH-1, first introduced in Vietnam in 1963, was the most widely used helicopter in the war. More than 5,000 were used from 1963 to ’75 as gunships and for medical evacuation, air assault and observation, and for transporting personnel and materials.
Donations may be sent to the Wayne County Veterans Memorial Park, P.O. Box 2401, Richmond, IN 47374. Donations can also be dropped off at VFW Post 1108, 213 S. Eighth St.
Checks should be made payable to the Wayne County Veterans Memorial Park. For more information contact Barb Goebel at (765) 967-0330. The campaign is called “Bring the Bird” and a GoFundMe page has also been established in that name.
Veterans park was started in 1991 and has hosted the Vietnam Moving Wall on six occasions and remembrances for the 911 terrorist attack, to fallen police officers and fire fighters along with military personnel killed and missing in action.

Year in movies

Another year of movies is in the books and it’s time (for me at least) to look back and admit my love of film.

In fact, this year more than any in recent memory was an important one for trying to find solace at the movies, especially in light of the grim, ridiculous circus that is our modern day Washington.

Anyway, 2017 was a strange year for movies. I didn’t see as many as a year ago and most that I really enjoyed came late in the year.

Still, I did love a lot about the movies I saw in 2017 so here is my attempt to list them  in the order that they provided viewing pleasure.

Again, I don’t claim to be an expert, just a lover of movies and I’m writing this in advance of the Oscars (really I am) just to get my list on the record. These movies moved me, they entertained, made me laugh, made me think.

Is one better than another? Not really. They just reflect my tastes and my penchant for putting things in lists. So here, with apologies to “Phantom Thread,” which I did not see, is my Top 20 films of the year.

Wait, a quick note. Other films I did not see included the movies of the “Thor,” “Captain America,” “Fantastic Four” and “Batman vs. Anybody With Super Powers,” genre. I didn’t see any of them except “Wonder Woman” because, for the most part, they give me a headache and, following my doctor’s orders, I steered clear of them.

Oh yeah, and I didn’t see “It” either. Maybe next time. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the list and let me know what you think.

  1. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Zany, violent and disturbing, yet hilarious and thoroughly entertaining. Great performances by all in a somewhat ensemble cast, performances that left me wanting more, or certainly a resolution to the story.)
  2. “Dunkirk” (I don’t care if the film was historically inaccurate in places, it was just terrific entertainment. Fast-paced and breath-taking, I was thoroughly swept up in the vignettes surrounding the near horrific catastrophe that happened on the French coast in 1940. Sure, they could have done a better job of representing the flotilla of ships, boats, schooners and skiffs that made it across the English Channel to rescue the trapped soldiers, but that’s okay. I can live with that. I loved the movie.)
  3. “Call Me By Your Name” (Beautiful and steamy. Elegant and smart. I liked it more than I thought I would, especially the story, the backdrop and the great performances by Timothee Chalamet and Armie Hammer. Poignant and powerful.)
  4. “Wind River” (A haunting film that was as powerful as it was sad. One that stayed with me for days. Terrific performances by Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen).
  5. “Thank You For Your Service” (Gritty and raw. And yes sad. Great performances. Nothing like the book by David Finkel (which is also terrific) but that doesn’t matter. What matters is a staggering look at what life is like for many who fight our wars and then return home to try to resume their lives. Hurrah for Miles Teller and Beulah Koale!)
  6. “Victoria and Abdul” (You can’t go wrong with Judi Dench, who is superb in this British biographical comedy-drama. Ali Fazal is also terrific. Entertaining, funny and, in the end, heart-breaking. Another side of the history of those crazy Brits)
  7. “The Darkest Hour” (Powerful and amazing performance by Gary Oldman, who portrays Winston Churchill. Slow in spots but an incredibly fascinating look at a British hero who arose in his country’s time of need.)
  8. “I, Tonya” (Oh so hilarious look at the whole Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan debacle as told through the eyes of Tonya, her goofy-scary boyfriend, Tonya’s loving mom and police and court records. Margot Robbie and Allison Janney steal the show.
  9. “Molly’s Game” (Yes, I loved this one and will go to my grave believing that Jessica Chastain was robbed by not getting an Academy Award nomination as Best Actress. Chastain steals the show (in her best Jessica Rabbit imitation) with her beauty, her narration and her insight.)
  10. “Lady Bird” (Could have been ranked higher but I felt like I’d seen this story before. Still, fabulous performances by Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metalf. Great movie, great direction by Greta Gerwig.)
  11. “The Greatest Showman” (Big and bold, great music and great performances. Never dull. Thoroughly entertaining. I found myself smiling throughout.)
  12. “The Shape of Water” (I liked it but I didn’t love it. Magical and beautiful, a great story and terrific direction by Guillermo del Toro. Still, a bit far-fetched (for me). An entertaining and enchanting fish story.)
  13. “Get Out” (Great little bizarre horror story that left me wondering if it was comedy, horror or drama. Still a very good movie.)
  14.  “The Post” (I liked this one but, again, didn’t love it. “Spotlight” is a much better film. Still, you can’t go wrong with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Important story told well.)
  15. “All the Money in the World” (Surprisingly good film when considering the 11th-hour changes made to rid the movie of Kevin Spacey. Great performance by stand-in Christopher Plummer. Does not answer the question: When is enough enough?)
  16. “The Florida Project” (Gritty and unhappy tale of life in the “projects” in Florida following a scamming mom and her daughter, who doesn’t have a chance in the world. Sad and disturbing. Willem Dafoe is up for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. He’s the only person I like in the film.)
  17. “The Big Sick” (Thoroughly entertaining, quirky and hilarious. Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan are superb. Cultures clash in a major way.)
  18. “Logan Lucky” (Also could have been ranked higher. A surprisingly fun and entertaining romp that inhabits the NASCAR culture without being too condescending. Still, hilarious and wonderful performances.)
  19. “Columbus” (A quiet little film about architecture and conflicted emotions. Still, captivating and intriguing. Set in Columbus, Ind., a city known for its significant modernist buildings. I did not know that.)
  20. “The Man Who Invented Christmas” (A story about Charles Dickens and his struggles to find the voice and inspiration to create “A Christmas Carol.” Fascinating and fun.

Vets buy slide

The Cordell Pool will get another slide this spring thanks to the generosity of local veterans.

 

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1108 of Richmond wrote a check recently for $9,800 to buy a drop slide for the Richmond Parks and Recreation Department. A drop slide, as I understand it, is one that is short and squat, compared to its hulking, twisty-turny cousin, but is able to shoot users out into the water for a short but more hair-raising thrill ride.

It has been on park officials’ wish list for some time.

 

“It’s just a small slide but will bring a little more excitement for teens and tweens at the pool,” said parks superintendent Denise Retz. “We could not be more thrilled by the VFW’s investment not only in the municipal pool but in the children and families of our community.

 

“This donation is a clear indication that Post 1108 wants to help make our city great. This is a great group of leaders in our community,” she said.

 

VFW commander Ron Weadick said community support “is one of our core objectives.”

 

“Community service and community support, those are both important concepts to us,” Weadick said. “That’s what we remain committed to.”

 

VFW service officer Steve Brassfield helped guide the donation through the VFW membership.

 

“It’s about youth and it always will be,” Brassfield said. “We like what Denise is doing in the parks and we support that. We need these improvements at the pool. With this donation, we’re putting money into the community. That’s our goal. That’s what we do.”

 

Park staff will install the new slide before opening day, scheduled for May 27, in the pool’s deep end.

 

“This slide has been a dream for our department for several years and without the VFW it would not be a reality,” Retz said.

 

But the pool is in need of additional support. The big slide needs re-coating and the pool needs new life guard chairs and umbrellas. Additional painting projects abound.

 

“If anyone is looking to help us with our additional improvements, please contact me at the park office,” Retz said. Call her at (765) 983-7276.

 

Retz said the pool averaged about 350 daily users in 2016.

Folks you can depend on

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Jerry Maule, left, and Thomas Brockway bring in containers of food to the Salvation Army’s food pantry this week.

Veterans caring for veterans has always been veterans helping their community.

Three years ago, when members of Kirk-Little Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1108 learned that the local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) office in Richmond could no longer operate a food pantry for veterans at its local medical office, they quickly stepped in.

Volunteers at the post on South Eighth Street in Richmond set up a fund to donate $400 worth of food each month to Richmond’s Salvation Army, earmarked for veterans and their families, but also available for anyone in need.

Jerry Maule, a VFW member who serves on the Salvation Army Advisory Board, hoisted the project on his shoulders and became buyer and supplier.

“It’s a community support type project,” said Maule. “We do it for veterans but we know that others can also use it as well.”

Maule and his wife Norma buy with an eye on protein. Last week, Maule learned that jars of peanut butter were on sale at a local supermarket and swooped in to buy a couple of boxes.

“I make that money stretch as far as I can,” he said.

Each month over the last three years, he has brought a pickup load of food to the Salvation Army food pantry.

“It allows us to help. If someone is in need they can come and get food,” Maule said.

Captain Thomas Brockway and his wife Cynthia are pastors and co-administrators at the Salvation Army. Thomas Brockway said the VFW donation has allowed his agency to stretch dollars to meet a need that has continued to grow in the community.

“Donations like this are always very important and are appreciated,” Brockway said. “It helps us with our mission to support families and help them get stabilized so they can live a normal life.”

“When people come to us for help we want to be ready. Donations like this help make that happen,” Brockway said. “We also hope that donations like this will encourage other groups and individuals to step up and help us.”

The Salvation Army, at 707 S. A St. in Richmond, hosts a food pantry from 9 to 11:30 a.m. every Tuesday and offers a hot meal every Friday from 11 to 11:50 a.m. The agency also gives out personal care items from its soap pantry.

A dozen community agencies, including the VA, refer those in need, including veterans, to the Salvation Army.

“The VFW has been very generous and supportive and that, for us, is huge,” Brockway said.

“People need a hand up,” said Steve Brassfield, VFW veterans service officer. “Maybe the electric bill is higher than normal this month or the car has broken down. It’s just simple humanity that all.”

The VFW supports multiple community groups and projects with a heavy emphasis on youth.

“We try to help where we can. That’s what we do,” Brassfield said. “But we are definitely focused on youth.”

Challenges ahead for Richmond parks

When asked the question, what’s ahead for the Richmond Parks and Recreation Department, superintendent Denise Retz shakes here head and smiles.

“We’re gonna do it. We’re going to make this happen. We’re rocking and rollin,’” she said.

But future is cloudy, filled with twists and turns. Lots of issues and challenges await and money is short. Still the public, those for whom the parks are created and maintained, are standing at the ready to use a park system they expect to shine. They know what the parks could be, what they should be.

Many wonder, Can we get there?

Full disclosure here, I am finishing my first year on the park board and in January I was elected president.

Now, I am a pretty smart guy and I use the parks just like everybody else. But I don’t have all the answers, just a willingness to serve and a concern about my community.

I have seen positive things during my first year on the board. Retz continually talks of projects accomplished in 2016 (75 if memory serves), a sterling staff, partnerships with street and sanitation workers and partnerships throughout the community.

More is needed.

I did a quick (totally unscientific) survey of 10 Richmondites about what the parks need and the No. 1 response was “keep the parks mowed, playground and other park facilities repaired and keep them free of trash.”

“Keep them safe.”

I think that can happen.

But bigger projects, at McBride Stadium, Cordell Pool, the senior center, may take time.

Mayor Dave Snow is on board. He knows what he wants and also knows the realities.

“Our parks are there, as I look into 2017, to serve a function and that is to provide a communal space for our city, and to provide an outlet for recreation, to stage events and to be a meeting space,” he said.

“So they need to be in a condition and to be programmed and kept up. There needs to be a maintenance plan in place so they are always ready for the community to use them as they see fit.”

That’s pretty simple. Accomplishing it will be the challenge.

The Richmond Common Council has done its part, approving $249,000 additionally in this year’s $2.43 million budget for things like equipment, contractual services, better pay for seasonal workers, utility payments and eliminating dead trees.

So where do we go from here?

Retz recently asked park board members to list their goals for the coming year.

Former board president, Mike Foley, who is the longest serving board member, wants a review of all the parks “to learn the positives and negatives about each. If a negative (exists) then what is needed to make it into a positive.”

“We spend a lot of time on Glen Miller, which is correct, but with a total of 19 parks… I think we need to know what we get from all of them,” he said.

Clay Miller, who serves as the non-voting member representing common council, said “all playground equipment should be repaired in good condition.”

“Broken equipment or equipment in disarray or that looks bad is disinviting to the customers we desire…” he said.

Board member Tiauna Washington also wants a review of all parks and is organizing her Hibberd students to do a year-long survey of all city parks.

“They didn’t know we had so many parks,” Washington said.

Board member Cathryn Dickman called for “increasing the public’s sense of safety and park accessibility.”

“Driving through the park in the evening, the area is especially dark, particularly the north portion of the park,” she said.

Dickman also recommended a community survey to identify what the community feels is attractive about the parks and what would increase usage.

Foley also wants to “develop a plan to get the (Middlefork) Reservoir into a positive cash flow.

“We have put up with it being a (drain on city finances) for too long. If we can’t reverse that then we need to look at what decisions need to be made,” he said.

For me, I’d like to see a survey of work needed at McBride Stadium so we can begin to tackle the small repairs and improvements and also put in place a plan for future (read larger) repairs. I’d also like to see us develop a plan to expand the use of McBride as a way to create additional revenue flow.

We also need to develop a larger volunteer and donor base to help with projects at the ballpark. Spring is just around the corner and small projects remain for willing hands. Also pockets, deep and not-so-deep, are needed to support the park.

We also need a tree plan in place to remove the dead trees from all parks, especially Glen Miller.

I believe 2016 was a good year. Projects were tackled and completed. Glen Miller received some needed attention as did Springwood and Clear Creek. The Dream Court in Clear Creek remains one of the biggest pluses in a year of catch up.

The senior center has a new gym floor and hot water in the bathrooms, something absent for at least five years. The Glen Miller tennis courts have a fresh surface and the hulking white barn near the courts, long a home to stray cats and raccoons (gee, they’re cute, as long as you can stand the stench and don’t want to use the space) is no more.

Springwood is looking better yet with a long way to go to be the safe, usable space it needs to be.

Freeman Park now has new lighting, a shelter, grill area and swing set, thanks to a partnership with the city’s Latino community.

In fact, it’s that partnership and ones like it, that give us encouragement moving ahead.

The Dream Court would not be the dream it is without a partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Wayne County and the citizens that brought that national program here.

Last year when citizens saw the condition of McBride Stadium (some angered by what they considered neglect and disdain), they also saw a chance to help. They painted, fixed up, cleaned up. They made a difference.

Others, like the Republican Women of Wayne, Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Richmond Lions Club, neighborhood groups, RHS, Earlham and Seton, stepped forward to do what they could. The Wayne County Foundation and local donors helped. They always help.

We need that grassroots effort to grow.

Did they solve all our parks’ problems? Of course not. But they made the effort. Any solution can only be found in a community effort.

Snow is also exploring a plan to limit through vehicular traffic in Glen Miller Park.

“I love Glen Miller Park and Glen Miller was created to be vehicular friendly. Now I think it’s time to transition to be more pedestrian friendly,” he said.

What that means should become apparent in the months ahead.

But nothing will be easy.

Retz envisions:

— Work at McBride renovating the locker rooms, work on the field and fixing a light tower that fell earlier this year;

— Making the greenhouse more sustainable, partnering with groups like Sprout of Control, Cope Environmental Center and Reid Hospital;

— Work with Richmond Power & Light on construction of the solar canopy atop the new structure to be built at Elstro Plaza;

— Construction of a pocket park between Joy Ann Bakery and Chase Bank to tie into Elstro Plaza.

But bigger projects remain, like anticipated work at Cordell Pool, increasing programming at Glen Miller and all other parks, improvements to the Clear Creek horseshoe courts and assisting the Society for Preservation and Use of Resources with the planning and paving of Riverside Trail.

One project that Retz has begun is a partnership with Earlham College sustainability seniors to build a “sensory park” for toddlers and children with autism and developmental delays in Clear Creek Park.

“It’s an exciting project,” she says. “Their goal is to have the project substantially completed by their graduation in May.”

All the work lies ahead.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the past year,” says Retz, who is just now completing her first year as parks superintendent. “But we obviously have a lot to do. We have concentrated on beautification and safety and I think we are seeing the benefits.

“People are doing more in the parks. We’re seeing that. And people are asking how they can help. We’ll need that,” she says. “There are a lot of exciting things to come.

“But remember, I’m only as good as the people around me,” she said. “I can’t do it all by myself but I can lead and try to find ways to get things done.”

We’ll need all of that and more.

What are your thoughts? What else needs to be done to improve Richmond parks?