This spring, Lincoln City Councilwoman Robin Eschliman mistakenly released her recommendations to cut the city budget by targeting popular services such as libraries, parks, and swimming pools, being far too open and honest about the Republican Party's goal of eliminating public resources in favor of cutting taxes and privatization.
In national politics, voters have become accustomed to such rhetoric and remain susceptible to its simple appeal so long as the cuts don't affect them personally and remain in the abstract. At the local level, though, the same ideas are far less effective because the direct benefits these public services provide to a community are so essential to its identity and to the well-being of its families.
One figured at the time that Eschliman might learn to better hide her extremist tendencies and right-wing agenda, but her recent vote to deny a miniscule grant with the simple purpose of developing a community-based approach for addressing the alarming incidence of suicide amongst gay teenagers demonstrates that Eschliman remains just as radical and out-of-touch as she's ever been. And, sadly, this time she's got company in a Republican cohort on the County Board.
The Lincoln Journal-Star reports:
A minor $1,500 suicide prevention grant caused some major controversy during City Council and County Board meetings this week.
The reason: The focus of the grant was gay and lesbian teenagers, and the original grant funding would have been funneled through a gay-rights advocacy group.
Both the council and County Board approved the grant, but not before some vigorous debate and amendments aimed at de-emphasizing the gay and lesbian focus....
Originally, the ... money was designated toward Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays [PFLAG] to identify and assist gay and lesbian youths.
But both the council and County Board amended their resolutions to award the contract directly to the University ... Health Center to find or develop the education program and to broaden the scope to include other high-risk groups....
[For] Councilwoman Robin Eschliman and County Commissioner Bob Workman ... even removing PFLAG as the grant recipient was not enough to garner their support.
Eschliman voted against the resolution Monday, saying it was controversial and “causes grief” to use tax dollars to fund gay and lesbian issues.
She said she’d rather give the money to something less controversial because people with “deeply held traditional family values” don’t want their tax dollars used for such causes....
Workman, who was the lone County Board member to vote against the amended resolution Tuesday, took a similar view.
“I believe this type of government funding can undermine traditional family values,” he said....
[Human Services Administrator Kit] Boesch defended the grant, saying the money would be used to create an “education module” for area professionals to help high-risk homosexual kids who are depressed and suicidal.
Studies suggest that as many as 33% of gay teens attempt suicide and that they do so at a rate four times greater than heterosexual youth. Those numbers should be cause for concern in any community and for any public official with any claim whatsoever to compassion.
The inhumanity displayed by Eschliman and Workman above borders on the outright monstrous. Preventing teen suicide by targeting those most at-risk could not possibly be controversial in the minds of decent and reasonable people. Regardless of an individual's stance on homosexuality's moral character, there is no justification for Eschliman and Workman hatefully turning their backs on those area children who are most desperate and in need.
Honestly, what sort of traditional family value would continue to sacrifice young people - no matter their orientation - to hopelessness, depression, and the ultimate tragedy of taking ones own life? What grief is their in preventing the grief of parents, friends, and families who lose their loved ones to suicide? How is suicide prevention a gay and lesbian issue? Finally, how is suicide prevention a cause for which those with deeply held "traditional family values" wouldn't want their tax dollars used?
Eschliman and Workman owe answers to the above questions. More than that, they owe an apology to anyone who has ever lost someone they love to suicide for making a political and ideological issue of the pain and suffering that leads to children committing this heart-breaking act.
Eschliman and Workman would rather young people die by their own hand than contribute $1,500 in public funds to help those whose lifestyle their religion views with disapproval. That choice is the true perversion - showing no respect for life and no understanding of the Christian doctrines to which these reactionaries would claim to adhere.
Shame on them. Shame on us for ever allowing their sort into public office. I'm just sorry that Eschliman and Workman reflect so poorly on Republicans, on the Christian faith, and on the city of Lincoln. Too many good people are associated with all three and deserve better than their revealed agenda of hate, intolerance, and ignorance.