Support free legal aid

The Whitewater Valley Pro Bono Commission office on the third floor of the Richmond Municipal Building continues to click along with a steady flow of people coming through their doors seeking free legal help.

The office and executive director Shane Edington received over 650 applications for assistance in 2018 and are on pace to match that this year.

This week alone, Edington said, his office and its 12-or-so volunteer lawyers have helped a tenant whose landlord literally cleaned him out of every bit of personal property he owned; a young mother fighting to get her twin one-year-olds back from a father who refuses to return them; and has advised a mentally disabled man not to send money to unscrupulous collection agents while working to get those agents to leave him alone.

Why do I tell you this?

Well, the pro bono group, of which I am a board member, is once again trying to raise funds to keep their office and their work alive. They operate on a $65,000-a-year budget that comes entirely from donations, fund-raising and grants.

The group is holding its fifth annual “Race for Justice” fund-raiser Aug. 3 at Glen Miller Park. The event features a 5-mile competitive race and a 5K fun run/walk. The run is for runners, of which I am not a member, but the run/walk is ideal for joggers, trotters and walkers (I am one of those) and is ideal for the whole family.

By the way, the pro bono commission is a non-profit agency that offers free legal help for Wayne County residents in Wayne County civil cases. The agency started in November 2007 and has assisted over 2,000 clients in the past 12 years. The majority of agency cases involve families with young children, single parents and often domestic violence.

It remains the only full-time pro bono service in east central Indiana.

Registration for the event begins at 7:30 a.m. with the race to step off at 8. Runners and walkers can sign up the day of the race or can do so at

Cost to participate is $10 for those 20 years of age and younger and $15 for 21 and older. It is the third fundraiser of the year for pro bono and is the most family-friendly.

Sponsorships range from $50 to $500 and donations of items like bottled water, Gatorade, bagels and fruit are also welcome.

For more information, call (765) 983-7353 or send an email to

Shakespeare returns!

Macbeth (2018). Photo supplied.

O wonder how many goodly creatures come to Richmond each summer (o’er the last five years) to create a stage, a production, and ultimately, their own brave new world.

They entertain, they inspire, they challenge, they mystify, they outrage.

Legions of their kind transform the hollowed-out former piano factory in the Whitewater Gorge into an ancient setting for the annual tribute to William Shakespeare.

How appropriate that this troupe of actors, designers, directors and volunteers perform their magic in this temple of industry past!

It is the Richmond Shakespeare Festival, in its fifth year of creating all forms of life, drama, comedy, battling the wind and rain and heat of summer in Indiana.

But this creation, this life is thriving. In a fortnight they stage “Hamlet” and “The Tempest,” the former perhaps Shakespeare’s most famous work, the latter the true starting point of this festival.

Professional actors, designers and directors descend upon our Midwest community to explore and create, to make merry and sad, to show us love, loss, grief, lust, anguish and the desire for revenge.

The seed for this creation was a byproduct of a 2013 Richmond Civic Theatre production of “The Tempest,” the brainchild of Joshua Robinson, a Richmond man set on a path to professional theater by support and encouragement of many in his hometown.

That production, successful as a fundraiser for local theater, fueled speculation, which fueled exploration.

Why not a festival? Why not in Richmond?

A two-play festival with performances over a four-week period each summer? Was that possible?

That began a gargantuan effort to find financial support, players, technicians, stage and artistic directors and then stage the plays in Richmond.


“We wanted to be out in the community as much as possible,” said Ray Ontko, the festival board’s president.

“We decided that we have a community that is very supportive of the arts…” Ontko said. “So we gathered up some folks from RCT, from Earlham and IU East. We added some people from the business community and said ‘Let’s see if we can do this.’”

And so began what turned into hundreds of hours of work by hundreds of people, finding sponsors, recruiting actors, designers, technicians and volunteers with business and stage acumen.

Organizers also joined the Shakespeare Theatre Association, a national member service organization that provides support, membership and share best practices for productions throughout the U.S. and the world.

Soon people came from Ball State and Indiana University, from Oxford and Cincinnati, and others from around the country. The Shakespeare Theatre Association connection brought Patrick Flick, the association’s executive director, to Richmond to serve as festival artistic director.

That, too, has been a key to their success since Flick brings the kind of pluck, energy and savvy needed to mount and sustain such an effort.

“No, I’m not surprised by the festival’s success,” Flick said. “Richmond is a smart, sophisticated community, and we have had lots and lots of support.”

Each year, 50 to 75 people gather to stage two plays over six weeks. Over 1,000 people from a five-hour radius of Richmond come to see the shows.

“Things have evolved quite a bit,” Ontko said. “We’ve learned to deal with wind and rain and heat, got a sense of the size of the audience and how much intimacy we would need.”

Organizers have also learned how to maintain relationships with the many donors and patrons, the theater programs at area colleges and universities, how to collaborate with other theater companies in the region and how to apply for arts grant funding.

They have also met four initial goals of artistic achievement, educational outreach, community engagement and economic development.

“We would like to say we are up and running but we have to admit that there’s lots of runway ahead of us,” Ontko said. “My vision is that 50 years from now somebody will be looking back and saying ‘We’re glad this got started, and it’s had a huge impact on the community.’”

Five years up and running and the future is ahead. The community can be proud, even those not a fan of Shakespeare. It’s live theater. It is, as Ontko says, “Shakespeare done well.”

The Festival runs June 21 through July 6 in the Starr-Gennett Pavilion. More information is available at

A tribute to all who served

Something new is coming to Richmond this month that will continue a project started 29 years ago by a group of military veterans, their families and friends.

It is the newest addition to Veterans Memorial Park, a place built by a remarkable, and ongoing, grassroots effort to memorialize the military service and human sacrifice of people of our community through the decades.

I am a veteran of the U.S. Army and the Vietnam War, but that designation as a veteran didn’t mean much to me until I came to Richmond in 1987. It was here that I found a group of mostly Vietnam veterans, their spouses and friends who were truly engaged.

My first friend here was Palladium-Item photo chief Steve Koger, a decorated Vietnam veteran. We were kindred spirits from the start and remain close friends today.

Koger introduced me to the veterans community when, in 1990, they began work on a monument to the 40 Wayne County servicemen who died in the Vietnam War. Part of that remembrance was their bringing to Richmond the Moving Wall, a replica of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC.

Soon that effort blossomed into plans for monuments to those who served in Korea and World Wars I and II. Work has continued year after year and today a solemn and impressive veterans park stands in the Whitewater Gorge, a stones throw from the Wayne County Jail and Clinic. This month the newest addition — a UH-1 Huey helicopter — will arrive.

Just like the rest of the park, the Huey will pay tribute to men and women who went to war, those killed, wounded or missing in action and those who served in peace time. The park also includes the first monument in Indiana dedicated to women who served.

All are memorialized there.

The most amazing thing about the park is the dedication and constant hard work that has gone into its creation. Local folks, regular folks, have all pitched in to help, to donate, to come down to the park and build things, pull weeds and, when the time came, to stand in tribute.

There is no one person responsible for building the park. It was a community effort from the start and stands as a reminder that all things are possible when people work together. Its reach touches all parts of Wayne County.

The park is all-encompassing and includes tributes to soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine who served in places like the Persian Gulf, Lebanon, Kosovo, the South Pacific, Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, Haiti and Somalia.

It contains touching messages from first responders, graduating classes at Richmond and Centerville high schools, local businesses and the Richmond Catholic Community.

Bricks surround all the monuments containing moving remembrances to and from moms and dads, grandfathers and grandmothers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, reflecting the community’s love and loss.

The park pays tribute to people who all had one thing in common, other than being Hoosiers. They all wore the uniform.

The Huey comes in May 18 and will be dedicated on Memorial Day, May 27.

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:

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.