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Public money for the public good

Fort Wayne’s quest to strengthen and diversify its downtown requires risks as well as creativity.

One could debate the decision to commit $3 million of Legacy Fort Wayne funds to the University of Saint Francis for renovation of the former Chamber of Commerce and Scottish Rite buildings. Not because the university’s plans aren’t worthy, but because the act of giving public funds to private entities always raises cautionary notes. Aid to private religiously affiliated institutions should always be given especially careful thought; there are good reasons our system of government specifies separation of church and state.

But to thrive and grow, downtown Fort Wayne needs to nurture a mix of people and pursuits. This project will bring educational programs and as many as 500 students downtown. Moreover, Saint Francis has a long history of programs that reach beyond its own students, staff and faculty. The whole downtown community could benefit from its presence.

There are instances when the public good is enhanced by aiding private efforts. This appears to be one of those moments.