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Village Vision News

Lincoln sculpture idea comes before Board

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The concept of placing a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Forsyth found favor with trustees but fell short of their approval. Trustees were unwilling to contribute funds from hotel/motel taxes to match private donations projected to come from businesses, schoolchildren and interested individuals.

On Sept. 17, noted local sculptor John McClarey presented trustees with an overview of Lincoln as well as his own work and suggested a possible theme of planting time to portray a young Lincoln dropping corn as “...a metaphor to transform what we are and what we can become.” Also present at the meeting was resident Kent Johnson, who said Forsyth is the hub for visitors seeking Lincoln lore and that McClarey’s sculpture would be a “…great opportunity to put a nice cultural stamp on our community” and to help the Village fill its hotels/motels.

Mayor Hap Gilbert said the Village averages a 70 percent occupancy rate, showing that there is “…always room for more visitors in our hotels.” He noted that an ad hoc committee with no staff involvement would ensure that the project could move forward with success and showcase the Village in a manner described by Mc- Clarey in recognition of the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s presidency. The Board’s monetary endorsement would signal general interest and encourage participation from others, he said.

Trustee Bob Rasho said he could support the project if it were limited to the private sector but stated his opposition to involving municipal government in an issue that uses taxpayer money “…which we shouldn’t have collected in the first place.” He labeled the project as “…more of a sideshow that will distract the Village administrator and his staff” and said the mayor and Kent Johnson already had an ad hoc committee with themselves and others who have expressed previous interest. The mayor disputed Rasho’s observation and said no official committee exists.

Other trustees distanced themselves from use of hotel/motel taxes for the project, including trustee Kerstin Trachtenberg who said she was willing to work on the project as a private citizen to secure funding “... then pitch the idea [to the Board].”

Trustee Eric Morr said he could not commit $50,000 of Village funds toward the reported $100,000 statue cost. What he could commit to was using taxpayer money at a $10,000 level to provide infrastructure with a concrete pad, lighting and a plaque.

“You’re asking for too much buy-in,” he told the mayor, who said he couldn’t raise $100,000. When the mayor concluded the Board was not supportive of the project, Morr asked for a show of hands from trustees who were interested. All trustees expressed their support, except trustee Marilyn Johnson, who abstained from participation due to her husband’s involvement (see right). “There’s interest,” Morr concluded.

Should the Village have a Lincoln statue? If so, how should it be funded? Voice your opinion on this online survey: Results published in the next issue.

Resident originates statue idea

The idea for a Forsyth statue of America’s 16th president began with resident Kent Johnson. His dream is to involve the community in a tribute that could inspire schoolchildren, create excitement among residents and bring visitors to the Village to view a bronze statue of President Abraham Lincoln.

It is said that Lincoln spent some time in the Decatur area in 1830 and, according to popular local tradition, was entertained in the Robert Forsyth home located on Elwood Street. Johnson envisions Lincoln walking along the banks of Stevens Creek. With such documentation lacking other than Lincoln’s known agricultural and educational pursuits, Mayor Hap Gilbert said both he and Johnson advocate recognizing Lincoln foremost as an Illinois citizen and honoring the 150th anniversary of his presidency.

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