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EDITORIAL: Simon could score for city library

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IBJ Editorial

In the final years of his life, Mel Simon became a philanthropist of national repute. Headline gifts included $50 million for Indiana University and $17 million for Riley Hospital for Children.

Mel’s largesse came to mind as we began pondering the future of Indianapolis’ troubled library system. At the same time Mel’s brother Herb has come to the city hat in hand seeking help for the ailing Indiana Pacers, the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library board is contemplating closing six branches.

Mel, who died last year at age 82, isn’t around to make a game-changing donation to the library’s foundation that would put the system on solid, long-term financial footing. But perhaps it’s time for Herb—a billionaire like his brother—to burnish his own credentials as a philanthropist who makes the city a better place to live and work.

It’s not realistic to expect Herb, the 75-year-old co-founder of Simon Property Group, to run the Pacers without regard to the bottom line. He didn’t achieve what he has in business with that mind-set. And keeping the team here for decades to come necessitates that it operate under a viable business model.

But philanthropy is different. A donation into an endowment that helps cover library operating expenses would have an impact on quality of life in Indianapolis far beyond his lifetime. And it would create good will for Herb and the Pacers at one of the most critical junctures in the franchise’s history.

It’s easy to talk about how other people should spend their money, of course. And the Pacers’ and library’s financial woes aren’t really related. It’s not as if a rescue package for the team would come from the same pot of money as funds to keep the lights on and doors open at library branches.

Still, we have this nagging feeling that if the branches close but the Pacers get their money, this community has its priorities out of whack.

Some of the branches slated for closing sit in poor neighborhoods, providing a haven for young people who have ample opportunity to find trouble. It’s hard to rationalize shuttering those sites but bailing out a rich sports-team owner.

The Simon family already has demonstrated a commitment to helping the less fortunate. Its Simon Youth Foundation focuses on providing educational opportunities to at-risk youth, and the Pacers Foundation funds programs that help kids make good life choices.

Herb Simon himself is a voracious reader. He recently purchased Kirkus Reviews, a book-review magazine, saying his “love of books makes me want to be part of the solution for the [troubled] book publishing industry.”

So perhaps Herb’s making a generous gift for the library isn’t just wishful thinking. And it might make business sense as well. Indianapolis residents never are going to be wild about a Pacers bailout, especially at a time the economy is sputtering and many are struggling to feed their families and pay their bills. But it would go over better if the team owner made a donation demonstrating his deep concern for the broader community.•

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To comment on this editorial, write to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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  • iAgree.
    Very nicely thought out and executed editorial. I appreciate your not making claims, accusations, nor otherwise presenting unfounded information. This article speaks well to the optimism that we could look through as our lens to dealing with this seemingly troubled public financial system. There seems to be some research behind your statements and it reads with a hopeful tone. Thank you for being a great journalist.

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  1. A couple of issues need some clarification especially since my name was on the list. I am not sure how this information was obtained and from where. For me, the amount was incorrect to begin with and the money does not come to me personally. I am guessing that the names listed are the Principal Investigators (individual responsible for the conduct of the trail) for the different pharmaceutical trials and not the entity which receives the checks. In my case, I participate in Phase II and Phase III trials which are required for new drug development. Your article should differentiate the amount of money received for consulting, for speaking fees, and for conduct of a clinical trial for new drug development. The lumping of all of these categories may give the reader a false impression of physicians just trying to get rich. The Sunshine Law may help to differentiate these categories in the future. The public should be aware that the Clinical Trial Industry could be a real economic driver for Indiana since these revenues supports jobs and new job creation. Nationally, this account for 10-20 billion which our State is missing out on to a large degree. Yes, new drug and technology development has gotten most of the attention (e.g. CTSI, BioCrossroads, etc.) However, serious money is being left on the table by not participating in the clinical trials to get those new drugs and medical devices on the market!!!! I guess that this is not sexy enough for academia.

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  4. Hey smudge, You're opposed to arresting people for minor crimes? Sounds great! We should only focus on murders and such, right? Let's stand around and wait until someone shoots someone before we act. Whatever we do, we should never question anyone, frisk anyone, or arrest anyone unless they are actively engaged in shooting or stabbing. Very sound!

  5. You guys are being really rude to gays in the comments. (Not all of you, I presume). You need to stop it. Gays have just as much of a right to marry as straight people do. It's not fair how you guys are denying them equal rights. They're acting more human than you'll ever be. We obviously haven't matured since the bible was last updated. Hate the sin, not the sinner. You've all committed a sin at least once in your life. You've lied, you've stolen, etc. (Those are just possibilities). We should have a planet for people that support gay rights and a planet for people that don't. Then, gay people could get married without you bigots interfering with their love life. How would you feel if straights couldn't get married? How would you feel if teenagers were afraid to come out to their parents as straight? If straight people got hate everywhere they went? If straight people were afraid to go out in public, because they feared being judged? It's never going to happen at the rate society is going. You haven't seen the side of me where I act obscene. You're glad my inner demon hasn't been released. I would, but oh no, my comment would be removed because of my very strong emotions about this subject. I love gays, and love how they show their affection for each other. I just ADORE how a state is going to give same-sex couples a marriage license, then changes their mind. (I was obviously being sarcastic there). I just LOVE how society thinks gays are an abomination to our society. You're caring about marriage between two men or two women. That's a small thing. Just grow up, and let them marry. Let them live their lives. You can't make them change their sexuality. You can't make them change their lifestyle. In my opinion, gays are more than welcome to marry. Please, grow up and realize that people should be allowed to marry, even if it's same-sex marriage. You guys are saying that "the bible said gay marriage is wrong." Well, guess what else is wrong? Read Matthew:7 and you'll find out. (I am in no way breaking that. I am saying a fact). I'm stating that gays have just as much of a right to marry as straights do. (:

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