Senator Lincoln comes a-callin' Makes appearances in Green Forest and Eureka Springs

Monday, March 27, 2006

Calls 'Grandma's House' a tremendous resource for abused children

By Virginia Wietecha, Carroll County News

GREEN FOREST -- Senator Blanche Lincoln was welcomed with applause Wednesday at Green Forest City Hall after a short tour of "Grandma's House," a children's advocacy center set up by the Merlin Foundation.

While giving her dedication speech, Lincoln said she had become more involved with child abuse cases when she learned of a young victim who had to repeat her story "16 times" to different authority divisions. "It appeared to be more damaging to the child than helping her," said Lincoln.

"Having the center here is a tremendous resource for those who have been abused," she added.

Lincoln commended the efforts made by Merlin Leach and the community for providing a "warm, comfortable, and inviting" place for abused children. "You don't need a place that would accommodate the greater Chicago area," she said. "You've established just what this community needs."

Leach told attendees that when he would visit in Washington, Lincoln was the "only one always personally there to greet me," and Lincoln returned the compliment, reassuring the crowd that "whether Leach is in Washington or Little Rock, he always comes with great passion for the children of this community."

Leach began the dedication by saying he had been accused of being a one-man organization, and then immediately proved the theory wrong by naming the long list of local supporters. "This is not just a Merlin deal," he said.

"Without the multi-displinary team, we would not exist."

He said the center was now out of debt because of generous donors, and it has helped 1,100 Carroll County children since 1995, and "98 percent of those were child sexual abuse cases," said Leach.

After a brief dedication, the Senator took time to answer questions from the crowd.

Jasmine Berlanga, a senior at Green Forest High School, asked the Senator about the lack of opportunities for successful minority students who can't benefit from full citizenship status.

"When we've already invested our tax dollars in a child from kindergarten to 12th grade, and they come out with good grades, we should provide them the opportunity and allow them to go on to higher education," said Senator Lincoln, "not necessarily pay for it, but give them access.

"Immigration laws are outdated," she added, "legal approaches are lengthy and impossible."

She said it sometimes could take minorities six to seven years to go through the paperwork and technicalities.

"If we deport all four million, we would fall, and our economy would collapse. We need to put them onto a legal pathway."

Other issues discussed and questions answered involved making sure law enforcement had the resources to fight the methamphetamine epidemic and the finances to provide clean-up for abandoned labs, voting against national debt extensions to prevent a "greater challenge to our children," and providing preventative screenings covered by Medicare.

Before shaking hands with local authorities, hugging familiar faces and departing she said, "You are all doing a wonderful job in Carroll County and I'm behind you."

Decries budget cuts in rural healthcare, hospitals, education

By Kathryn Lucariello, Carroll County News

EUREKA SPRINGS -- In a whirlwind visit Wednesday, Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln made a "Lunch with Your Senator" stop at Main Stage Creative Community Center in Eureka Springs.

Noting she is the youngest woman ever to serve in the U.S. Senate, Lincoln updated the crowd with issues of concern from Washington, D.C. As only the third woman ever to sit on the Senate Finance Committee, she said that because that committee takes up critical issues, "a woman's perspective is important."

"The last three budgets this president has sent do not reflect the values of this country or the priorities of Arkansans," Lincoln opined. "There's been a 73-percent cut in rural healthcare and a 65-percent cut in children's hospitals.... The biggest cuts are in education -- where are we going to send our children?"

She said rural communities are "shouldering the burden" of Bush's fourth signed increase to the national debt, raising the ceiling to $9 trillion.

"Over 50 percent of our debt is held by just four countries," she said. "You can eliminate defense spending and not touch the national debt."

Lincoln said Medicare and Medicaid are becoming two-thirds of the budget and lauded the idea of private/public partnerships while also criticizing the president's cuts to veterans, calling them "unbelievable."

The senator only had time for three questions from the audience. On renewable energy, she said she is known in Congress as the "biodiesel queen" and spoke of a company in Stuttgart that will start selling biodiesel next month. A paper product company will also be using biomass as an energy source.

"The Democratic Caucus has a goal to be energy independent by 2020," Lincoln said.

She said the government is without checks and balances and there is not a lot Democrats can do "when the Congress is a rubber stamp of the administration."

In answer to a question about the growing loss of personal freedoms via wire-tapping, email intrusions and women's right to choose, Lincoln said, "People do need to realize that so many of our rights and freedoms did not come easily. People had to fight for those every step of the way. It took hundreds of years to win those, and it can take that long," she said, snapping her fingers, "to lose them."

She said she is a friend of Sen. Russ Feingold, who tried to have President Bush censured for illegal wire-tapping.

"We don't always agree, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for his depth," Lincoln said. She noted the censure can't go forward without hearings and evidence, which the administration refuses to provide.

Although the senator's press release stated she would be addressing the Beaver Dam fish hatchery and water flow, the city's parking lot at Planer Hill, Main Stage, and safety improvements to US Hwy. 62, she did not speak on those topics.

The senator toured the Main Stage facility, which is still under construction, before leaving to catch a plane.

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