Now the real journey begins

Now that the first step in this journey is over and, though I would have liked to have seen a few more people vote (actually a couple of thousand more), I’m pleased with the primary election results.

I want to congratulate all the candidates on their hard work and I look forward to joining them in the race to the finish this November.

I also want to thank all the people who have helped me with donations, guidance, hard work, creativity and encouragement. It has truly been an inspiration.

I feel good about what we have accomplished thus far and I look forward to getting out and working, and learning, as we take the next step.

One thing I truly believe is ahead of all of us. We need to energize the electorate, to listen to them, to find out their hopes and dreams for our community and to inform them about what we believe and hope to accomplish.

Starting today and for the next six months, we need to make sure they join us on this journey.

A leader for a generation

Richard Lugar

The nation has lost a statesman and visionary leader with the death of Richard Lugar.

I met Senator Lugar three times in my career at the Palladium-Item, including once in 2004 when I accompanied a group of Hoosiers on a trip to visit Indiana National Guard men and women, many from the Wayne County area, on a peace-keeping mission in Bosnia, in the former Yugoslavia.

Those running the trip organized a 15-minute sit-down with Senator Lugar, who, we found, was traveling in Eastern Europe, pleading with countries like Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia to make a concerted effort to find and dismantle the thousands of land mines still hidden in the countryside.

Lugar was aware of the story we reporters had heard when we arrived that two weeks earlier a Bosnian farmer and his son were working a field near Tusla (that’s where our Guard troops were stationed) and decided to clear out a hedgerow bordering their property.

Both were blown to bits by a landmine from the Bosnia War of the 1990s. Landmines, still sitting there in the weeds waiting for someone to come along.

I can’t remember all the details of that interview (in fact I remember few) and my notes, if they still exist, are buried somewhere in my basement. But I do remember Senator Lugar as kind and patient, avuncular, eyes gleaming, a little tired but expansive and committed to his mission.

I remember him talking about disarmament and the fact that countries, including the U.S. and Russia, have a responsibility to work together to clear landmines from the countrysides of Europe and continue the work toward global nuclear disarmament.

I was impressed that Lugar cared about Bosnian farmers and innocents, those in present day Europe and babies being born throughout the world that day.

He had a vision of the future in which people lived, not in fear of nuclear annihilation, but in harmony, trying to solve their differences through communication, not warfare.

As a senator he practiced civility and compassion, freely willing to listen to opponents, to build consensus and work for the greater good. Eventually, that cost him his job and the nation lost a valuable leader.

His greatest achievement was passage of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program that resulted in deactivation of thousands of nuclear warheads, intercontinental ballistic missiles and metric tons of chemical weapons in the former Soviet Union.

During his career, Lugar also started a training ground for Republican female leaders, organized a series of health festivals in Indiana and founded a scholarship program for minority students.

We, as a nation, clearly miss him today. I suggest that everyone, especially young people, mark his passing by reading about his beliefs, his work and his accomplishments. Perhaps then his legacy will include inspiring future leaders to follow in his footsteps and work to make the world a safer and more sensible place.

 

Photo credit: nuvo.net.

Our investment, their future.

As you may have seen recently, the Richmond Parks and Recreation board approved a resolution to move forward with spending $1 million on much-needed equipment, vehicles and projects in Richmond parks.

It is a lot of money but, as a member of the park board, I agreed with the decision. There is a need for replacing equipment and vehicles, ones that have been in use for 10 years or more. And there are other maintenance, compliance and beautification projects that will keep our parks in the best shape possible for years to come.

In my view, this is the type of foresight and planning that is necessary for dealing with the upkeep of our parks. Investments like these will ensure that your kids and grandkids will enjoy the same quality of parks that my kids did. Listen some time to the peals of laughter at the Cordell Pool, the fascination of JUKO field trips, the screams of enjoyment at playgrounds from Glenn Miller to Middlefork, Springwood Lake to Clear Creek. It’s obvious. Our kids are worth the investment.

But the process is not done. The park board has only approved a resolution to move forward with the plan. A public hearing will be held on the issue at its April 11 meeting and the final decision will, of course, will come from the Richmond Common Council. Council will also hold a public hearing on the question, presumably at its April 15 meeting.

The plan, as you may have read, is to secure a $750,000 four-year bond to purchase mowers, a skid loader and trailers for the parks, air conditioners for the senior center, dock floats at Middlefork Reservoir, a new slide and other work at Cordell Pool, along with a retaining wall in Starr Park and tree removal along Glen Miller Park.

That bond will replace a bond that expires later this year and the plan is to keep the tax rate the same — 1.5 to 2 cents per $100 of assessed value.

Another $178,000 will be spent on equipment for Highland Lake Golf Course from a cash balance in the park fund. Again, park officials will be replacing equipment that has been in use for more than 10 years. It includes a variety of mowers, vehicles and other equipment.

We in Richmond have a park system that is a point of pride for our community and a parks department that labors throughout the year to provide facilities and programming for every citizen.

If we are going to have parks we have to take care of them. Same with a pool, golf course, senior center and baseball stadium. We will have ongoing maintenance, beautification and compliance needs. They are our parks and we must protect them.

That’s why we have to plan critically and think strategically about the parks and every other department in the city. What do our parks need? How can we afford it? How can we make it the best park system it can be and keep it that way?

Park staff is beginning work on a five-year master plan, which is essential to the ongoing operation of our park system. Community partnerships, as in the past, are vital, as is an effort to find funding and support on a state and national level.

Mayor Snow has been a strong supporter of the parks department over the last three years and I hope that mayoral support continues in the years to come. I encourage all of you to join in our ongoing effort to make the Richmond park system a thing of community pride.

As always, if you have thoughts, suggestions or ideas please let me know.

Where is District 3?

The Number One question I’ve gotten since announcing my candidacy in District 3 is: “Where is District 3?”

It’s confusing. A lot of people don’t know which district they live in, let alone which precinct. It’s especially complicated now that we vote in Vote Centers around the city. But District 3 is in the heart of the city. Slightly east and slightly south of downtown.

The easiest way to figure it out, of course, is if Bruce Wissel was on your Common Council ballot in any of the elections over the past 23 years, you’re in District 3. If Clay Miller (or Karl Sharp before Clay) was on your ballot, you’re in District 4.

If Doug Goss was on the ballot, you’re in District 1, Kelley Cruse-Nicholson, you’re in 2, Gary Turner (or Larry Parker before him) you’re in 6 and Jeff Locke (Don Winget or Bing Welch in years past) you’re in District 5.

But if you really want to know, District 3 is the squarest of districts in the city. District 4 encompasses the city’s east side. District 1 snakes around the city’s southern expanse from Wernle Children’s Home past Elks Country Club, all the way to Earlham College.

District 2 snakes through the heart of the city, including the downtown district, running along the Whitewater Gorge from South Q and Eighth streets north to Spring Grove.

District 6 covers the city’s west side, from Sim Hodgin and North West G west to the city limits, skipping Earlham College and Richmond High School, picking up at Clear Creek and including Hidden Valley.

District 5 sprawls across the city’s northwest side, including the Saddlebrook and Oak Park neighborhoods, up to the Reid, IU East and Ivy Tech campuses, west to the Midwest Industrial Park and south to the Wayne County Fairgrounds and the Richmond State Hospital.

But District 3 is a little easier to define. It includes one precinct north of East Main, running to Railroad Street on the north from North 12th to 20th.

District 3 also extends south of Main Street from South 17th to 30th. It is bordered on the south by South L Street and includes the Reeveston and Meadow Park neighborhoods and the area around Charles School.

It also includes the Genesis apartments and the city’s Southview Geier Apartments.

Anyway, here is the link for the Common Council District map and here is the map for District 3. You can also zoom in on this image:

I hope this helps. Wherever you live in the city please consider getting out to register and vote in the May 7 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me on my web page or on Facebook.

‘Political’ consideration(s)

Hello friends. The race for Richmond Common Council has begun. In District 3 where I am running, the primary is over. I won. As of this writing I am running unopposed in the General Election in November, but I may have Republican challenger.

That said, I am savoring my first election win and getting ready for the fall campaign. With or without an opponent, I plan to campaign for the council seat and try my best to let people know what or who they are voting for.

After I filed to run, an old friend asked me why I decided to “get into politics.”

I didn’t know how to answer that because I guess I’d never really thought of it that way. When I worked at the Palladium-Item I covered 15 years of city council meetings, county council meetings, county commissioners, park board, sanitation board, plan commission (city and county), board of works…

Well, you get the idea.

I also covered 12 to 15 political campaigns for mayor, for state rep and senate, city and county council and other various county offices.

But I never really considered myself political. I was never much of a Democrat, nor a much of a Republican. Actually, the newspaper forbade it. My role as a journalist was remain apart from any political fray. Instead, it was to listen, to learn, to decipher and to translate.

Ultimately, it was to report as fairly and accurately as possible. Thus, politics for me was trying to understand the political landscape and those who inhabited it.

So to say I’m entering politics is a bit of a stretch. Instead, I hope to bring to council that same training, that same approach I employed as a journalist. If elected to council, my role, as I see it, will be to listen, learn and represent my constituents by making educated, fair and sensible decisions, and to make sure the public understands what we’re doing and why.

Included in that is making sure to protect the public’s right to know what their elected officials are doing. Since retiring, I’ve enjoyed my time on the park board, plan commission and plat committee of the plan commission. I’ve gained a reputation for being thorough — just ask park superintendent Denise Retz.

I ask a lot of questions. I cannot make good decisions without asking questions. I ask questions until I truly understand what I am being ask to vote on. If it turns a 30-minute meeting into a 60-minute meeting then so be it.

That’s what I will bring, if elected, to council. Not that I like long meetings. Not that I like being annoying. Not that I want to be “political.” I just want to make sure I know what I’m doing.

Let me know what you think and feel free to ask me your questions.

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.

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.