Rudy: Ramblings & Rumblings
— 2009 Reports on matters pertaining to Gary, Indiana Mayor Rudy Clay's running of the "Steel City"
— Go To: 2009 (Jul-Dec) Rudy Report
— Go To: Archived 2008 Rudy Report
— Go To: Jacko Jabber (Reporting on the death of Michael Jackson)
CHECK OUT THE RUDY CLAY GRAPHIC CONTRIBUTED BY A DAVE'S DEN USER — RUDY GRAPHIC
Jewell Harris Loses Appeal on Federal Fraud
Compiled from a Post-Trib Report By Andy Grimm
[26 Jun 2009]
CHICAGO -- A federal appeals court has denied Gary political power broker Jewell Harris Sr.'s appeal of his 6-year prison sentence for fraud. A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an error in calculating Harris' prison term on six counts of fraud and money laundering was balanced by a second, unrelated error. The court also found that federal corrections officials had correctly figured the amount Harris bilked from the city.
In 2001, prosecutors say Harris billed both a construction company and the city for hauling work for the U.S. Steel Yard baseball stadium in Gary. The final price for the stadium was double the $22 million proposal passed by the City Council, and Harris improperly collected $1.5 million from the double-billing.
Harris maintained his innocence, and claimed any double billing was inadvertent.
Harris, 69, is serving his sentence at a minimum-security prison in Oxford, Wis. His projected release date is in 2013.
Gary NOT Among Top 25 Most Dangerous 'Hoods
That's right, you read it correctly.
Although the Steel City's "murder capital of the nation" reputation often prefaces any discussions about its safety, Gary did not rank among the Top 25 Most Dangerous Neighborhoods, according to a recently released study of national FBI statistics.
Take that critics of Gary!
City Threatens Taking School Land for Airport
GARY -- A property battle between Gary/Chicago International Airport and Gary Community School Corp. escalated Wednesday when the city moved closer to taking the schools' land for the airport in court.
A resolution approved by Gary's Board of Public Works and Safety on Wednesday authorizes the city's law department to make one more offer to the schools based on the properties' appraised value. If the schools turn down the offer, Gary's attorneys are authorized to begin eminent domain proceedings.
Glenn I. Johnson, of Gary, Asks:
Post-Tib "Letter to Editor"
[7 Jun 2009]
Why is it that the Gary City Council has a budget of more than $1 million, almost double the combined council budgets of two cities with larger populations than Gary?
A council person stated, "We generate a lot of letters," to which I can only say, "Wow." Hundreds of thousands of dollars to generate letters? I think a good word processing program could help bring down the cost of generating letters.
People of Gary, it is time to wake up and hold our elected officials accountable. Government is supposed to be "of the people, by the people and for the people" -- not for the select nine councilmen.
Gary Gets $0 Dollars From Film Shoot?
GARY -- When movie producers asked if they could use a crumbling city-owned church to film the latest installment of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise, city officials said they asked for just two things in return. Gary told New Line Productions to pay the police and firefighters needed to secure the set, and they asked them to donate money to a local youth group, if possible.
Ben Clement, director of the Gary Office of Film and Television (Clement is employed with the federally funded Gary, East Chicago, Hammond Empowerment Zone. He runs the Office of Film and Television as a volunteer.), said New Line has already lived up to the main requirement, paying six police and two firefighters $35 an hour for helping with the movie shoot on May 22. New Line paid the public safety workers directly, Clement said. It's unclear, however, if a local youth group will see that optional donation.
Meanwhile, high schools in northwest suburban Cook County, Ill., have made thousands by lending their hallways to the slasher film. John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights and Elk Grove High School in Elk Grove Village each accepted about $20,000 for participating in the movie.
Even though the city is in desperate need of revenue Clement said he's trying to make Gary as "user-friendly" as possible for movie producers. That, he said, is why the city didn't seek further compensation from New Line. "It gives us a competitive advantage on the front end," Clement said.
City Issuing More Layoffs
GARY -- More city employees could lose their jobs in less than two weeks as Mayor Rudy Clay begins to tackle this year's $7 million cash shortfall.
Clay and Celita Green, the city controller, said Tuesday they plan to eliminate about 100 jobs from the city's budget by June 15. Green said some of the positions slated for elimination are already vacant, but she couldn't say how many.
Union and nonunion positions are set to be eliminated, Green said. Clay said neither police nor firefighters will lose their jobs.
"We need to have some more police," Clay said during a meeting with the Post-Tribune's editorial board.
Employees who will lose their jobs haven't been notified, Green said, though the unions know of the pending cuts.
This latest round of job cuts will bring the total number of layoffs this year to 350, Green said. "God only knows how we're going to survive," Clay said. "We've just got to keep cutting."
Broadway Needs Face Lift
GARY -- Mayor Rudy Clay, who said Monday he is "embarrassed" by the abandoned buildings in the 600 block of Broadway, is planning a friendly competition among contractors to give the strip a face-lift.
"We can do better," Clay said. "We're going to do better."
That begins next week, City Hall officials said, when 13 companies are expected to begin making free cosmetic improvements, such as a fresh coat of paint, to the structures west of Broadway.
New School Layoffs Cost 90 More Jobs
GARY -- Dozens of secretaries, custodians and other behind-the-scenes workers are next on the list of employees to be cut, as declining enrollment and funding drive the Gary schools downsizing program.
The numbers are still preliminary, but an administrator and union official said about 25 secretaries, 40 custodians and 25 food service workers will likely see their positions eliminated.
On May 26, the School Board approved a reduction in force proposal, eliminating 110 teachers and support staff.
Accused Gary Cop Agrees to Leave
GARY -- Sgt. Tim Somers hobbled into his disciplinary hearing Thursday and agreed he'd leave the Gary police department and never return.
He was scheduled for a police commission hearing on allegations he had sex while on duty with a woman who had called police for help early Feb. 7. The woman filed a complaint the next day, alleging Somers sexually assaulted her.
Chief Reggie Harris ordered an investigation and filed charges through the department, asking the Gary Police Civil Service Commission to discipline Somers "appropriately."
After a brief meeting with assistant city attorney Shana Levinson, Somers told hearing officer John Davis he would agree to a negotiated settlement. Davis said he will forward the agreement to the police commission which can accept, modify or reject the recommendation.
The saddest part of the downfall of Gary is the theft of federal funds over many years. You can blame white flight, crime or drug activity, but the truth is the truth. Gary would still be a thriving city if those millions were put to their intended use.
Bodies Found in Funeral Home Bought at Tax Sale
GARY -- Four bodies in a funeral home isn't unusual. Four unidentified bodies left behind in a vacant funeral home is "unbelievable."
"What in the world is a body still doing in this building?" Burrell asked when he saw a body bag on a table inside the former Serenity Gardens Funeral Home, 934 E. 21st Ave. That's what the Rev. Reginald Burrell thought Sunday when he and deacons from Northlake Church of Christ went to visit their newly purchased building. "We just wanted to see how much work we were going to have to do."
He notified Lake County Coroner David J. Pastrick, who arrived Tuesday morning with a crew to investigate the scene. They found four bodies, including one in the bag, one in a corrugated burial box and two in caskets. "They are unidentifiable," Pastrick said of the remains.
Pastrick believes they could have been there since 2006, when the Indiana State Board of Funeral and Cemetery Services revoked the business license for Serenity owner Darryl Cammack.
Cammack, who lost his funeral home license in Illinois in 2003, had been sanctioned by the Indiana board in 2005 after at least eight customers filed complaints against him. "That building has been vacant since I started coming over to that church in Gary in 2005," Burrell said.
Pastrick said he doesn't know the origin of the bodies, but believes if the deceased were local, he would have been contacted by relatives about a delay in burial. "I can't even imagine a funeral director doing something like this. This is my field. It's unbelievable," Pastrick said.
110 Gary Teachers/Staff Face Layoff
GARY -- The Gary School Board voted overwhelmingly to lay off 110 teachers and support staff, reversing its decision at its last meeting to reject a reduction in force. Board members and administrators agreed teachers and support staff, such as social workers and school workers, would have to be cut due to declining student enrollment and school closures. Those to be cut include 21 non-permanent teachers and staff who have three years or less, and 89 semi-permanent and permanent teachers and staff. Reducing staff has become a yearly activity for the schools, as fewer students have meant fewer state and federal dollars for public education in Gary.
"I'm disappointed at the board and administration," said Alicia Riley, a social worker at Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School. "I think there's probably so much waste and excessive positions in the administration. "They don't seem to care about the kids."
Marion Williams said there could be layoffs at the central office "freeing up dollars related to non-teaching positions to bring staff members at the school buildings back." Interim Superintendent Myrtle Campbell said her administration will work with board members on identifying more personnel changes, but she declined to offer specifics. "We certainly have to look at our enrollment," she said.
Ex-boxer Gets Life for Drug Trafficking
HAMMOND -- Gary boxing phenom Charles "Duke" Tanner was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison on federal drug trafficking charges. The concurrent terms of life in prison were the maximum on each of the two counts for which Tanner was convicted in 2006.
Prosecutors said Tanner, and his older brothers were head, of the Renegades, a Gary street gang that trafficked thousands of kilograms of cocaine, crack and marijuana in that city and as far away as Indianapolis.
Despite a videotape showing Tanner taking a duffel bag and cooler holding what he thought held bundles of cocaine in a 2004 sting operation, Tanner maintained, "Those guys, they lying on me." "I'm asking you to have mercy on me. I ain't told you everything that happened. I ain't no drug dealer."
At the time of his arrest, Tanner had a 19-0 record and was just a few months removed from a nationally televised bout. "A guy like Charles Tanner had no excuses," Prosecutor Nozick said. "He had this God-given talent to support his family."
GARY -- When Jacqueline Martin and her daughter drove to the 2600 block of Polk Street to check on her property in December, she said she thought for a moment she was on the wrong block. Instead of the one-story, red-brick house they believe Martin inherited years ago, they found a gaping hole in the ground and a bulldozer nearby. "I had to keep my composure," Martin said. "I could have had a heart attack."
The Martins filed a tort claim notice against the city last month, warning its law department of their plans to sue for illegal demolition. They say the city tore the house down at 2632 Polk St. with no cause and without warning.
Their lawsuit seems to have uncovered a glitch in local record keeping, though, as city officials insist they tore down a house on a neighboring property at 2636 Polk owned by CRWorks Inc. at the not-for-profit's request.
"A (property) record review indicates 2632 is vacant land," city spokeswoman LaLosa Burns said.
While that's true, property records at the Calumet Township Assessor's office also show a one-story, red-brick house stood at 2632 Polk as recently as 2006, and no record exists there or in the Gary Building Department to explain what happened to it.
"Something is not right," Building Commissioner Benjamin Robinson said.
[COMMENT -GDY]: Gee, what was his first clue? The city is able to tear down good housing stock, but lets condemned houses stand for 13 + years without taking action!
Garyites Tarnish Their Beat-up Public Image
Gary officials and residents,
How do you expect to receive any public support from outsiders - not to mention a financial bailout from the state - when you continually pound your public image with black eyes?
The most recently self-inflicted wounds were highlighted in Wednesday's Post-Trib:
*An audit by the Indiana Attorney General shows more than $20,000 missing on the Genesis Convention Center books.
*The mayor's son, Rudy Clay Jr., kept billing the GSD for video and editing services nearly two months after Dad said the contract would be rescinded.
*Gary P.D. Sgt. Brian Colbert single-handedly broke up an attack against a teenage girl last month,
while more than a dozen citizens either watched or joined in the melee; some with chains, knives and swords.
The 13-year veteran, shaking his head, was stunned to learn when it was over that not one person had called 911!
Sadly, shaking one's head in disgust and disbelief is about the only thing responsible residents of Gary/Lake Co. are able to do on learning about such situations.
DUAB Decision Gives City Help, But Not Enough
INDIANAPOLIS -- Gary taxpayers will be forced to fund a bailout for the city and other local taxing units under a state tax board decision reached Wednesday. The relief likely won't prevent further layoffs in Gary government.
The Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board's decision will cushion the blow of plummeting property tax collections in Gary by $22.8 million at City Hall, and $23.5 million total across all petitioning tax units from Gary. It also means tax caps for property owners within the Gary taxing districts will be higher than other parts of the state.
Additionally, the DUAB ruled the city must contract with a fiscal monitor, who will help it reduce future spending. The monitor will be hired and paid for by the city, Kitchell said, but must be approved by the Distressed Board. Kitchell said after the meeting that he would prefer that the monitor not have a prior business relationship with the city. No one is willing to estimate the cost of the monitor. Kitchell said the person would be hired as soon as possible through the city's normal contracting process. Once hired, the monitor will have 90 days to issue a report to the Distressed Board.
"We've been cut below the knees," said Mayor Rudy Clay. "I thought we would be cut above the knees."
Property owners in the Gary/Chicago International Airport, Gary Sanitary District, Gary Stormwater Management District and Gary Public Transportation Corp. taxing districts will see their taxes capped this year at 2% for homeowners, 3.27% for landlords and 4.55% for commercial properties. Tax caps for those properties in the rest of the state are set at 1.5%, 2.5% and 3.5%, respectively.
Ryan Kitchell, chairman of the Distressed Board and director of the state's Office of Management and Budget, pointed out that homeowners in Lake County have been capped at 2 % in previous years, leaving the bottom-line tax bill unchanged. The commercial property tax cap reflects a decrease from previous years as well, Kitchell said, though he acknowledged it won't be as deep as elsewhere in the state. "A lower tax is always better," Kitchell said.
Meanwhile, the Distressed Board's plan will reduce the total combined budgets of the petitioning tax districts from $80 million to $69 million. The cut could have been deeper, but the board is granting a combined $23.5 million in relief to the districts. Gary will receive the most, $22.8 million. The airport will see $259,632, the Gary Stormwater Management District will get $227,900 and the Gary Public Transportation Corp. will get $174,397.
The Gary Sanitary District will get no relief, as it has taken steps to increase revenue. User fees at the district, for instance, have risen 85%.
City Controller Celita Green said the relief for the city, combined with other cuts made at City Hall this year, leaves Gary with $7 million left to cut. "There will probably be some layoffs," Green said.
The governing body of each taxing district must vote to approve the Distressed Board's decision. Ronier Scott, president of the Gary City Council, stopped short of pledging support for the plan after Wednesday's meeting. He said he first wants to read the scope of services for the new fiscal monitor.
Gary became the only Indiana city to petition the Distressed Board after studies of the state's new property tax caps showed a possible $24 million cut in its budget this year. Next year, when the caps drop even lower, more cuts will be needed. As the Distressed Board's decision is for 2009 only, the fiscal monitor will be helping Gary prepare for a return visit in 2010. Kitchell said Gary would need to comply with the recommendations of the Distressed Board if it's to see continued relief.
'Elm Street' Movie to Film in Gary
"It's Freddy Krueger coming back," said Ben Clement, executive director of the Gary Office of Film and Television. That infamous invader of dreams from the movies will make his presence felt locally. Filming for "A Nightmare on Elm Street" takes place Friday in Gary at the abandoned City Methodist church. It will be an "all-night shoot."
"It's going to be a huge production; it's major," Clement said Wednesday. "One thing we've been working toward is attracting more of the big-budget type motion pictures, such as this. This is a indicator that we're moving in the right direction."
Clement noted film crews will return to Gary next month for more shooting on Tyler Street for this latest horror-franchise installment, which is a production of New Line Cinema. "We aren't the primary location for the film," Clement said. "They're only filming two scenes here."
Clement said the New Line filming won't provide a huge economic boost for Gary. "They'll be hiring public safety officers to provide security on-site," he said. "They might be hiring local residents to do some general cleanup on-site."
Clay Jr. Still Being Paid
GARY -- The son of Mayor Rudy Clay kept billing the Gary Sanitary District for video and editing services nearly two months after his father said the contract would be rescinded.
Records released Tuesday show Rudy Clay Jr. banked $13,132 of his $39,960 contract at GSD this year. That contract officially ended May 13, one month after Clay Jr. submitted a termination letter to GSD Director Luci Horton.
That was also seven weeks after Mayor Clay caved to criticism by Gov. Mitch Daniels and said his son's contract would be rescinded. "The people of Gary come first," Mayor Clay, who is also GSD's special administrator, said that day. "My son feels the same way." The mayor made his comments on March 25. By then, his son had already collected $7,250 in 2009 at the Sanitary District. Four weeks later, Clay Jr. billed GSD for $1,560 for 24 hours spent preparing opening and closing credits for videos of future board meetings.
On the last day of his contract, May 13, Clay Jr. submitted an invoice for $4,322 for 66.5 hours spent preparing an informational video about the waste-water treatment process in Gary. Had the GSD terminated the contract, instead of Clay Jr. being the one to terminate it, he would have had to cease all activity upon receipt of the GSD notice of termination.
City, Taxpayers Learn Budget Fate This Week
GARY -- Days ahead of a ruling that could drastically change local government, Mayor Rudy Clay said he is certain of one thing: His city will soon be forced to cut spending more than it already has. "No question about that," Clay said. "The decision of the Distressed Unit Board on the Gary city budget and other budgets," Clay said, "will impact what happens to the City of Gary and the character of Gary for years to come."
It's been more than five months since Gary filed a petition with the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board asking for relief from property tax caps that went into effect across the state this year.
Meanwhile, Gary residents have continued to send mostly critical letters to the Distressed Board asking it not to grant the request. More than 600 pages pointing to questionable spending by the city are available on the Distressed Board's Web site.
Daniels blasted Clay in March after the Post-Tribune reported on the approval of a $39,960 contract between his son, Rudy Clay Jr., and the Gary Sanitary District for video services. Clay Jr. has since terminated that contract.
Neighbors Cheer Arrest
GARY -- People cheered in the streets as officers raided a home in the 2200 block of Georgia Street on Thursday and arrested a woman accused of selling crack cocaine there. Inside the home, Jelks said, police found 8.4 grams of crack cocaine, worth $800, 216.65 grams of marijuana, $1,700 in cash and two handguns.
Sgt. John Jelks said Shante J. Blair, 22, who lives at 2201 Georgia St., dealt drugs to undercover officers before police obtained the search warrant. Living with Blair in the home were her two daughters, 2 and 5 years old.
Blair now faces several charges, including a Class A felony charge of dealing in crack cocaine, possession with intent to manufacture, a Class B felony charge of dealing in cocaine, a Class C felony charge of possession of cocaine and three Class D felony charges of possession of marijuana, dealing in marijuana and maintaining a common nuisance.
Neighbors Hope Fire-ravaged Home is Razed
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz
[11 May 2009]
GARY -- Neighbors say they hope a Sunday fire will mean that an abandoned house will finally come down.
The home, at 4036 Johnson St., caught fire around 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Michael Dillard, who lives next door, said he was cooking when he heard a loud explosion. When he came out outside, Dillard saw heavy smoke coming from the house, he said.
The home, which was condemned in 1996 and abandoned for several years, Dillard said, is surrounded by trash.
Gary has had a problem with abandoned houses, and a recent study by the Associated Press shows the city has eight of the 10 neighborhoods in Northwest Indiana with the most abandoned houses.
Dillard said the house has been a nuisance, infested with rats and roaches. Jeremy Foster, another neighbor, said the house smells in the summer. Foster said he was sad to see the fire but hopes it leads to the house being razed. "It should have been torn down already," he said.
[COMMENT: -GDY]: Nothing remarkable about this story - Unless one considers under what system of functioning government would it take 13+ years to tear down an abandoned, condemned home? "Friends, we have trouble in the 'Steel City," and it rhymes with 'G,' and that stands for GARY!"
The Pratt Solution to Empty Neighborhoods
GARY -- "All the way around, abandoned houses. My dad always says, this area, it was beautiful. Look at it now. It was top price. Michael Jackson stayed down the street," said Raquel Porter, who lives on West 23rd Street with her two kids.
A small grocery store nearby burned down. Across the street is a vacant two-story house whose roof has caved in and whose chimney looks like it would collapse if anyone set foot on the front steps. The house has been like that for more than a decade.
Roy Pratt, a Gary city councilman for 26 years, said he understand residents' concerns. He called vacant homes "a major problem" but is hopeful it can be solved with some careful planning.
"Some people don't like to admit things that are obvious. They say Gary is not that bad. Well, it's a bad problem, but I think we have a golden opportunity to use the stimulus funds," Pratt said. "We should just demolish whole sections of town."
America's Best - And Worst-Paying Jobs
According to the U.S. government's newly released Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, based on 2008 data, the typical surgeon makes an average of $206,770 a year. That puts surgeons above anesthesiologists to have the best-paying job in the country.
Want to push your pay up as high as possible? Land a job as a surgeon in Gary, Indiana. The average surgeon there makes almost $15,000 above the national average.
Dead Cities: Gary, Indiana
As I mentioned in my last post, my son and I watch "Life After People" on The History Channel. In the last episode, "Outbreak," the show used the abandoned buildings of the downtown of a major American city as real-world examples of how quickly abandoned buildings fall into decay.
No, the abandoned buildings were not in Detroit, they were in downtown Gary, Indiana.
What explains the fall of Gary? Steel.
Gary was founded in 1907 (GDY: Actually, it was 1906) by U.S. Steel as a company town. U.S. Steel built Gary because it was a great place to make steel in 1907. Gary grew because for the next 60 years it was a great place to make steel. Then suddenly Gary stopped being a competitive place to make steel. Why?
Part of the fall of Gary results from the natural and universal process of of technological evolution. Even if Gary still produced the same percentage of American steel that it did in its heyday, it would have seen an economic decline.
However, that’s not the main story. A lot of regions have faced the collapse of their primary industry and not only survived but thrived.
Texas not only recovered but created new industries and boomed. Why could the cities of Texas reinvent themselves while the cities of the Great Lakes still cannot?
I think the answer lies in the differences in political culture between the two regions. We Texans still think of ourselves as rugged, independent, frontier people even if we’re standing in line at Starbucks for a latte. This self-conception in turn leads to a political culture in which people do not default to government coercion to solve economic problems. We prefer to think of ourselves as people who individually create our own solutions.
The end of Gary began in 1959, with a six-month-long nationwide steel strike. The Union’s primary goal in the strike was to prevent the steel industry from modernizing plants built during the ’30s and WWII. Like all modernizations, the new steel-making technology would allow the companies to make more steel with less manpower. In order for the steel industry to adapt and remain competitive, it had to make do with a smaller workforce. The unions, interested in nothing but controlling the maximum number of workers, said no. In the end, they got new contracts blocking modernization.
The six-month-long strike caused all major consumers of steel to start buying steel outside America for the first time, even though foreign steel cost more and was of inferior quality. Steel consumers knew that expensive inferior steel was better than no steel at all, and the unions had made it very clear that they were willing to put everyone else out of job to keep their privileged economic position.
Most people who blame foreign competition for the decline of American steel blame the low labor cost of developing countries for foreign producers’ competitive advantage. But low labor costs were ultimately a minor component of the foreign advantage. The real advantage came from modern factories. While unions trapped American producers with 1940's-era plants, foreign competitors could build plants with 1960-1970's-era technology. Even if labor costs had been perfectly equal, the union-driven technological stasis doomed American steel.
Gary was ultimately destroyed by unions and the penumbra of political policies accompanying the political culture that creates unions. Worse, that same political culture kept Gary from attracting or generating new industries. In the Great Lakes region, business people are treated like criminals who steal from working people. Gary’s political culture prevented any adaptive change.
Frankly, I don’t see any hope for major change in Gary or similar communities in the Great Lakes region. Fish are not aware of water and the people of the Great Lakes region do not seem to be aware of destructive effects of the political culture they are immersed in. High taxes, invasive regulation and runaway unions are simply so common that people think of them as the natural, default condition and therefore not conceivably responsible for any negative change.
The eerie abandoned buildings of Gary are towering moments to statist political culture. Gary failed because people couldn’t accept the inevitability of change and embrace it for the opportunities it offered. The city and region will never recover until they do.
Gary Has Emptiest Neighborhoods
GARY -- MEET THE FORGOTTEN HOUSING CRISIS: Shattered pieces of glass hang from the windows. Doors are boarded up. Empty beer bottles and full trash bags litter front lawns, which are overgrown with knee-high grass.
Legislative attention has been focused mainly on the wave of foreclosures that's sweeping middle-class suburban neighborhoods. But in Gary, vacant homes have been sitting around for more than a decade.
Gary is home to Northwest Indiana's 10 most empty neighborhoods. Eight of them are located right off or near Broadway. As of March 31, a total of 3,500 residences in the 10 neighborhoods were vacant. That's between 18% and 33%, according to an Associated Press analysis.
In the neighborhood between Broadway and Grant Street and West 21st and West 25th, one of three houses is vacant. Most decayed after the owners abandoned them, others burned or were stripped for valuables inside and out. In some cases, animals like mice and raccoons have moved in. It's the "emptiest neighborhood" in Northwest Indiana, according to an analysis by the Associated Press.
The AP analysis concluded that the nation's emptiest neighborhoods have remained concentrated in the same place for nearly a generation -- the mostly poor, urban neighborhoods of the American Rust Belt. The analysis is based on data collected by the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Empty homes concern federal officials because empty housing feeds upon itself. As more houses stand vacant, property values and tax revenues drop. The drop in property values then leads to fewer buyers, which leads to more vacancies.
[COMMENT -GDY]: And, with Rudy at the helm, unfortunately, this parasitic circle shall remain unbroken.
Special Session Looms for Legislators
INDIANAPOLIS - An 11th hour state budget proposal of nearly $30 billion was defeated soundly late Wednesday. The budget failed by a vote of 71-27 in the House, meaning the General Assembly will need to return in a special session at a time to be chosen by Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Late Wednesday, Daniels issued a statement on the budget process. "It is far better that the legislature try again than to have an irresponsible budget that I would have been compelled to veto," he said. "It is critical that Indiana avoid the fiscal disaster and massive tax increases that would result from dramatically increasing spending while revenues are falling."
Several local Democratic lawmakers voted to block the package because the legislature failed to act on a bill to allow Gary to move one of its casino licenses from the lakefront to the Borman Expressway. Gary lawmakers felt the casino proposal was a good faith effort by the city to help itself out of its current financial crisis, but many legislators said the late session amendment received too little scrutiny for such a weighty proposition.
Clay in Indianpolis for Talks on City Cuts
INDIANAPOLIS -- Gary Mayor Rudy Clay continued negotiating with the state Distressed Unit Appeal Board in a closed-door meeting Tuesday at the Statehouse.
Board staff member Cris Johnston did not give Clay and City Controller Celita Green a firm date for when the board will rule on Gary's request for relief from state-imposed property tax caps, though both the mayor and Green said they impressed upon Johnston that the city needs an answer as quickly as possible.
"They want to get it done, and we want to get it done, too," Clay said after coming out of the meeting. "You have to make sure you have correct information."
Asked whether the state is seeking more financial cuts from the city, the mayor said he doesn't think Gary can stand more austerity. "The financial belt is so tight in Gary, we can hardly breathe," Clay said.
Gary officials first appeared before the board Jan. 5 and there was talk in the Statehouse that a decision on the plea for aid might come late this week. Clay said that now appears unlikely, as his administration and the state continue working toward a solution to the city's financial crisis. Gary could lose $24 million to the tax caps this year, according to state numbers. "The bottom line is, we're working toward an amicable agreement here," Clay said.
Post-Trib Letters to the Editor
Because I recycle, I produce little garbage, which, in a sane world, would be a good thing. Yet, I am penalized. I have watched trash collectors open my can, see a small amount of trash, then move on, as if it does not warrant their time or effort.
Periodically, I clean up behind my dog, and, having learned that the fecal matter contains huge amounts of E. coli that ultimately contaminate the water supply, I follow the directives to bag it and place it in the garbage can. One bag at the bottom has been there for over a month.
The workers reach in and take out one kitchen-size garbage bag, leaving behind litter I've picked up and deposited without contributing to our plastic addiction.
The problem that is the wheels are missing from my container due to the collectors' throwing instead of rolling them, even though the area is paved and smooth. I have called for, and been promised, a replacement can for over three years. Eventually I was told to bring the wheels to be reattached. Unfortunately, a "nice" worker had pitched them.
Some people need two monster cans. I've seen them, like status symbols. I can't get one for my little bit of garbage, or get the one without wheels emptied because of my little bit of garbage.
I've learned that for $65 I can purchase an appropriate container, which will be thrown and broken, leaving me in the same fix, and as broke as my can.
So could you explain again about the trash collection fee?
Dorothy Nevils, GaryNewspaper's Gary Office Closing
The Post-Tribune's Gary bureau at 1338 Broadway will no longer be in service, effective Friday. North Lake editor Carole Carlson and her staff will work from the Post-Tribune's Merrillville headquarters, 1433 E. 83rd Ave.
[COMMENT -GDY]: One knows that an era has ended, and that times indeed are changing, when the Gary Post-Tribune no longer even has an office in Gary, Indiana!
GSD Director on Clay Jr.: 'He has resigned'
Mayor Rudy Clay, who is also special administrator of the Gary Sanitary District, promised a month ago that his son's $39,960 contract at GSD will be rescinded. After two meetings, GSD's board of commissioners have taken no action on it.
Luci Horton, the director of the Gary Sanitary District, said after Tuesday night's meeting that Rudy Clay Jr. "has resigned," and that the contract will not formally be rescinded. Horton declined to immediately answer further questions about Clay Jr.'s work.
Another Furnace Down!
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michael Gonzalez
[26 Apr 2009]
GARY -- A fire Wednesday morning on the floor of U.S. Steel Gary Works caused no injuries. Jerry Littles, president of the United Steel Workers Local 1014, on Saturday said molten iron spilled from the No. 8 blast furnace onto the cast floor, causing a fire and smoke and a temporary shutdown of the furnace.
Littles said he expected the No. 8 blast furnace to be running by late Saturday and producing hot metal by this Wednesday. The furnace had been idle since last winter when it was closed for a winterization project, Littles said. Workers started bringing the unit back on line when the incident occurred.
Erin DiPietro, a company spokeswoman, said Saturday they "are working through the restart process and we did experience an operational problem earlier this week that has been corrected." DiPietro would not elaborate on the fire, but she confirmed there were no injuries.
Littles said the company wanted to bring the No. 8 blast furnace back on line to compensate "for problems with the No. 6 furnace, but a runner, or trough which carries liquid iron from the furnace, and a tap hole, which allows the product to flow into specially designed cars called 'submarines,' were 'frozen,' or crusted over with molten iron by-products." That caused molten iron to build up in the furnace. Workers continued to add material to the furnace. When a manager opened a "weep hole," similar to a release valve, on the furnace molten iron spilled onto the cast floor. That is what caused the fire and smoke. "They were still adding material to that furnace," Littles said. "That's when you start compounding problems."
The No. 8 furnace is one of four blast furnaces at Gary Works. The No. 14 furnace, which has more capacity than the other three combined, and the No. 6 were shut down due to serious equipment failures earlier this year. The No. 4 blast furnace is still operational.
[COMMENT -GDY]: One out of four still up and running, that can't be good for anyone?
From the Post-Trib "Quickly" Column
[27 Apr 2009] Gary Mayor Rudy Clay, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for taking taxpayers' money and letting them patch potholes on their own.
[26 Apr 2009] We can't get the road crews to salt the street when it's icy. They won't pick up the leaves. They won't fill the potholes. We got people filling their own potholes. What's next? Hauling our garbage to nearest county dump in our trunks?
Casino Shift Losing Steam in Final Days
INDIANAPOLIS -- Gov. Mitch Daniels would consider a plan to divert state casino tax revenue generated at a new land-based casino in Gary to local projects in Northwest Indiana, as long as strong standards were put in place to make sure Lake County uses the proceeds as intended. Those dollars would normally go to the state general fund, but Daniels said Friday he would be willing to make an exception in the interest of helping Northwest Indiana help itself. "I'm open to it," he said. " There would have to be all kinds of protections and safeguards. This is Lake County, after all."
But legislative leaders from both parties Friday came out against the late session proposal to move one casino from Buffington Harbor to land near Interstate 80/94, saying such a serious change in state gambling laws needs more than a few days consideration by lawmakers.
But with the session scheduled to end Wednesday, House Minority Leader Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said there isn't enough time to give the idea proper scrutiny. "This is the worst way for legislation to be enacted and it's a dangerous way for gaming legislation to be enacted," Bosma said.
Bauer suggested the plan's backers try again during a future session. "I think someday that might be something that can be properly addressed," he said.
The State of City
The steel industry built Gary, Indiana, and then died away. Now, the median value of a house in Gary is a third of the national average, the median family income is $26,000 below the national average and 22.7% of its housing units are vacant.
Teacher Accused of Illegal Liquor Buy
GARY -- Two undercover detectives parked near Beveridge Elementary School were waiting for a drug deal when they saw a different sort of illegal transaction. A teacher met a man at the back door and exchanged cash for bottles of liquor that she bagged up and took back into her classroom, Sgt. John Jelks said.
"This was totally unexpected," Detective Greg Tatum said Thursday after arresting special education teacher Daniele Purnell-Hopkins, 37. Police cleared her classroom before locating bottles of wine and vodka in the closet where she hangs her coat, Tatum said. She is charged with visiting a common nuisance.
Gary Community School Corp. spokeswoman Sarita Stevens said the school is conducting a separate investigation into any policy violations the teacher committed, including possession of alcohol on school property. "We are cooperating fully with the Gary police department," Stevens said. "We're not trying to protect a law-breaker."
Purnell-Hopkins teaches second, third and fourth grade learning disabled and mildly mentally handicapped students at Beveridge, located at 1234 Cleveland St.
New Plan for Gary Bailout
INDIANAPOLIS — Gary would be allowed the state's first land-based casino as part of a package unveiled in the state legislature Thursday to fund South Shore rail expansion and pay for a teaching hospital near the Borman Expressway by capturing tax revenue generated by the new gambling facility.
The City of Gary would also have unique authority to divert money from the lease of its airport to projects elsewhere in the city in one of several amendments added to a bill governing a proposed four-county regional transportation authority.
An amendment to House Bill 1607 would cap the wagering and admission taxes collected at the casino to be moved from Gary's lakefront to a location near Interstate 80/94.
Once a new facility was completed on the south side of the city, any taxes collected above that cap would go toward funding three projects: a teaching hospital in Gary; the West Lake portion of the South Shore rail extension, from Munster to Lowell; and the Marquette Plan to redevelop the region's lakeshore.
The conference committee will meet on the proposal again Monday morning. The legislative session is scheduled to end Wednesday.
Gary Gets Part of What It Sought to Ease Tax Shortfalls
GARY -- The city's appeal to a state tax board to make up for revenue shortfalls in 2007 was granted this month. Gary won't get quite as much as it hoped.
Timothy Rushenberg, commissioner of the state's Department of Local Government Finance, granted Gary a 2009 levy increase in the amount of $4.2 million to make up for a a shortfall in 2007. The city asked for $4.3 million.
Amanda Stanley, a spokeswoman for the department, said the news means local property tax bills paid in 2009 will be slightly higher than they otherwise would have been. "This will be a temporary addition to the tax rate for the city to pay for the shortfall," Stanley said.Ex-police Chief Gets 41 Months
HAMMOND -- During 42 years as a beat cop, shift supervisor and chief of police, Thomas Houston was known for a hard-charging attitude and stirring roll call speeches. On Thursday, Houston's voice broke several times as he asked U.S. District Judge James Moody for a lenient sentence for kicking a handcuffed man whom Houston believed had broken into his house.
Expresses remorse — "I stand before you today embarrassed and apologetic and remorseful for my conduct that led to my conviction," said Houston, who was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. "Having been diagnosed with prostate cancer was not as painful to me as bearing the badge of a convicted felon."
Moody, a former Lake County judge and prosecutor while Houston was a homicide detective, sentenced the 66-year-old to 41 months in prison. Houston reports to the federal prison in Oxford, Wis., on July 30.
From Eyesore to Empty Lot: Gary Downtown Redevelopment
GARY -- Demolition of Broadway's broken-down buildings could begin soon, city officials say, starting with a store once run by state Rep. Vernon Smith's not-for-profit IU Dons Inc. Gary's Board of Public Works and Safety awarded a $175,000 contract to Investment Recovery LLC on Wednesday for the demolition of 700-718 Broadway.
Redevelopment director Vaness Dabney said the demolition will be funded with Community Development Block Grants, and she said the structure should be torn down "pretty quickly." "The building is falling down daily," Dabney said, "especially with the rainy weather."
Earlier this year, Dabney said the city wanted to start demolishing several empty buildings on Broadway downtown to show developers it is serious about redevelopment. Smith and the IU Dons, however, have had a long-standing dispute with the city over the condition of 700-718 Broadway, where the demolition effort is set to begin.
When former Mayor Scott King was in office, Smith says, the city took down a security gate outside the building to repair sidewalks along Broadway. The security gates never went back up, he said, allowing looters and vandals to break into the building.
Smith said Thursday that he has asked the city to compensate the group for the damages, adding that the organization can't afford to pay an outstanding $143,882 tax bill. "I just think that the city is the cause of this and they've wronged us," Smith said.
EPA Settles on $66.5 Mil Cleanup at Ralston Street Lagoon in Gary
MERRILLVILLE —The U.S. EPA has settled on a $66.5 million plan to clean up the PCB-contaminated Ralston Street Lagoon in Gary. The 19-acre lagoon is located between the Gary-Chicago International Airport and the Indiana Toll Road and contains sludge and water contaminated by polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Exposure to PCBs can cause acne-like skin conditions in adults and neurobehavioral and immunological changes in children. PCBs have also been found to cause cancer in animals, according to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.
The lagoon will be drained and the surface water treated. About 553,000 cubic yards of sludge in the lagoon will be solidified with cement and capped. Residents in the area will be relocated, and some homes demolished, EPA said. The site has to be ready for construction by Sept. 30, 2010.
The city of Gary and the Gary Sanitary District own the lagoon, are responsible for the contamination and will pay for the cleanup. The sanitary district will also purchase 6 acres of residential property for use as a contractor’s staging area and for water pretreatment. The district is required to finish the job within five years of EPA approval.
[COMMENT -GDY]: And just where, pray tell, is either the GSD or city going to come up with the dollars to pay for this?
For Some in Gary, No Transparency on Stimulus
GARY -- Mayor Rudy Clay invited everyone in Gary to a meeting about his "transparent" pursuit of federal stimulus money Thursday, but anyone who couldn't fit into his City Hall conference room was shown the door.
As Nobel Prize winner and Gary native Joseph Stiglitz shared his thoughts by telephone on his hometown's best chances for landing precious dollars, about 40 people clamored outside demanding a chance to participate. "They will not have the support of the people of this community," Douglas Grimes, president of the Miller Citizens Corp., could be heard telling Gary press secretary LaLosa Burns as Stiglitz spoke.
A news release from City Hall described Thursday's event as an "inaugural public meeting" meant to gather feedback about Gary's plans. It turned out to be a meeting of the "stimulus transparency advisory committee," which adopted its mission statement and decided to form subcommittees that will pursue specific grants.
The state has about $182 million in discretionary stimulus funds, Clay said, some of which could potentially land in Gary. State and federal officials stressed that an open process is essential, Clay said. "All they're saying is, 'accountability, transparency,'" Clay said.
Some attendees, including members of the media, were escorted into the mayor's conference room just before the meeting began. Others were told to wait in the Gary Room, connected to the conference room by a small hallway, where larger gatherings such as news conferences are often held.
The group of disgruntled citizens in the Gary Room formed its own alliance, "Citizens for Gary," and complained to the mayor's staff about not being allowed into the conference room. When a city employee noticed a Post-Tribune reporter was taking notes on their complaints, he closed the door. A Gary police officer stood in the hallway for most of the meeting. When asked if the people in the Gary Room would be able to participate in the Stiglitz phone call, Burns said they'd be able to hear him through the hallway "if they're quiet."
How Can Mayor Hold Two Jobs?
I think this is a shame and a pity that Gary Mayor Rudy Clay is receiving $58,000 from the Sanitary District in addition to his salary as mayor. I have a few questions that demand answers.
1. Isn’t being mayor a full-time job?
2. Is the Sanitary District a part-time or full-time job?
3. People who work for 40 to 50 years don’t get a 70% pay increase. How is this possible? Most companies only give an increase of 1% to 5%.
4. How long has videotaping been going on at the Gary Sanitary District? Did it start when Clay became mayor?
5. So there is money in Gary; it’s just not for the hard-working people who put Clay in office. His son was making $40,000. Was this job ever posted in the
classifieds? I have checked the papers as far back as 2000 and didn’t see it posted. How can his daddy, the mayor, say he is the best person for the job when no
one else had a chance to apply?
6. How does the mayor have a second job at GSD when they close at 5 p.m.?
7. Does the mayor think he is going to get the money he asked President Obama to help get Gary back on its feet when he is double-dipping?
8. If the mayor gives up his second job he can hire at least nine people with that money.
Debora Jones, Gary
Dozier Allen, Aides Convicted of Fraud Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Andy Grimm
HAMMOND -- Dozier T. Allen and two of his top deputies were found guilty of two counts each of fraud Wednesday for pocketing a combined $140,000 in state grant money during the final years of Allen's 32-year tenure as Calumet Township Trustee. Allen, 78, stared blankly ahead from his seat the defense table after the verdict was read, but vowed to fight on as he walked out of the federal court house. "It is a disappointing verdict, and one that I was not prepared for," said Allen, who was indicted in 2007, five years after he left the office after losing his bid for an eighth term as trustee. "However, this is not the end of the story."
The verdict came after a trial that lasted seven days, followed by more than nine hours of deliberations. Allen, Joshua and Karras each were found guilty of mail and honest services fraud for collecting payments from a state contract to gather data on township poor relief clients. Judge Simon set sentencing for the trio for July 15.
Allen's attorney, Scott L. King, said a defense motion to dismiss the case against Allen and co-defendants Wanda Joshua and Ann Karras still was pending, and all three defendants would appeal the verdict if the motion failed.
James Meyer, attorney for Karras, who was the township's top financial officer under Allen, said the verdict was a reflection of public outrage over public corruption scandals. "In this day and age, woe be it to any public official or employee who gets indicted," he said. "In the current climate, an indictment is tantamount to conviction."
[COMMENT -GDY]: So, Dozier, et al. join an ever growing, and not so select, group in the Lake County Hall of Infamy. Is anyone surprised by this? Should they be?
Every time I listen to radio station WLTH in Gary, every problem that is brought up seems to be blamed on someone other than the people of Gary.
I was raised in Gary, been here 64 years, and I never have seen such conditions in the city -- barbecue grills in the front yard, recycle bins on the front steps of the porches. We never had that years ago; people took some pride in their city. I grew up on 26th Street on the far west side. The people now care less about their city.
Why are we not kept up to date on what is going on with the old Sheraton downtown; has it become the biggest pothole in Gary?
With Gary Mayor Rudy Clay's raise and his windfall from
his other job, he can drive around in a stretch Hummer.
If Mayor Rudy Clay loves Gary so much, why doesn't he
donate the extra money he received back to the city?
Just when I thought I'd seen it all, there is an old
abandoned plane at the Gary-Chicago International Airport up on blocks.
Junk cars in the yards aren't enough.
[COMMENT -GDY]: An " old, abandoned plane up on blocks" strikes me as a fitting welcoming image for the Gary-Chicago International Airport. Kind of says it all, don't you think?
Dozier Allen Corruption Trial Starts
HAMMOND -- The trial of former Calumet Township Trustee Dozier T. Allen Jr. begins today. Dozier's is the last of the pending cases in Operation Restore Public Integrity, the U.S. attorney's long-running federal probe of public corruption in Northwest Indiana.
During 32 years as head of the poor relief office serving Gary, Griffith and surrounding unincorporated areas, Allen's name became synonymous with trustee services. Gary residents in need of township aid often described "going to see Dozier" for help.
During his final years in office, federal prosecutors allege, Allen and three of his top deputies paid themselves $140,000 to administer $170,000 in government grants intended to pay for job training for the needy. [So, they took 82% of the money for themselves?]
Allen was indicted in 2007, less than a year after he made an unsuccessful run for Gary mayor in a special election following Scott L. King's resignation. King, one of the region's top criminal defense attorneys before becoming mayor, now represents Allen at trial.
Clay Gets Cash Windfall from "Other Job"
GARY -- A payroll error at the Gary Sanitary District last year (caught by state auditors) resulted in a $58,000 windfall for Mayor Rudy. Officials there now say he is in line for a pay raise of 70%.
An annual review of local spending by the State Board of Accounts found Rudy received $30,848.39 in 2007 as GSD's special administrator. His salary had actually been set at $54,075. Accordingly, poor Rudy was underpaid by $21,837 in 2007.
When the error was discovered in December, GSD officials said they adjusted the pay for Clay's entire GSD term, which began in April of 2006. The retroactive adjustment resulted in his receiving $57,980 in back pay. Rudy wound up grossing a total of $173,210 in 2008, city records show; including $82,605 at City Hall and $32,625 at GSD, in addition to the back payment. GSD's finance manager said the district plans to amend the 2009 budget to reflect a $52,500 GSD salary for Clay; giving him a 70% increase.
The mayor said the extra money was a surprise, and that he didn't pursue it. "I didn't ask anybody to look into it for me," he said. "I really didn't care. The State Board of Accounts stated that this should happen." However, Rudy defended his paycheck from GSD, explaining it is simply "supplemental" to his pay at City Hall. He pointed out that "other mayors get this money, too." "The reason I took the mayor's job was for the love of the city, not the money," Rudy said. "The people of Gary come first," Clay said.
The U.S. Attorney's Office asked Clay to resign as
special administrator one year ago, several months before federal investigators
raided the district. Rudy refused the request, and then proceeded to apply to
the Distressed Units Appeals Board for state aid.
[COMMENT -GDY]: So, now we can appreciate why, back in December, when challenged about his earnings, Clay's response was, "God had been good to me." There is no economic crisis for Rudy, only for the taxpaying citizens of Gary!
'People First,' Clay says: Son Loses Job
GARY -- Rudy Clay Jr.'s work at the Gary Sanitary District is done. Mayor Rudy Clay, his father, confirmed Wednesday that his son's contract for video and editing services at the district will be rescinded. "The people of Gary come first," Mayor Clay, who is also GSD's special administrator, said. "My son feels the same way."
The contract, worth $39,960 and lasting until the end of this year, was approved by the Gary Sanitary District board of commissioners earlier this month. That amount was an increase from last year's contract, worth $30,000. A $25,000 contract for Clay Jr. to provide video services to the city in 2008 was rescinded in August, after Mayor Clay announced a 20% pay cut for his employees.
Mayor Clay lamented the fact that he will have to cancel his son's contract again, adding that Clay Jr. is "extremely good" at his job. "All that equipment is his," Mayor Clay said.
Post-Trib Letters to Ed
Rich James, you have to be kidding me. Gov. Mitch Daniels does get it! He recently called the politicians in Lake County lousy, crummy and graft-ridden. He's correct.
Or did you forget all the corrupt Democratic politicians who have been indicted and convicted or are ready to be indicted?
This is what our county has become. It's a graft-infested lair of politicians who use the public to get votes and keep them in power so they and their friends can get rich off of their schemes.
If anyone thinks Tom McDermott Jr. is the voice of change, then you probably believe in the Easter Bunny. McDermott represents the same old tax-and-spend Democrats as did Rudy Clay.
If the region wants change, it needs to listen to those who believe in good government run by honest public servants who are willing to hire the best and the brightest, not those who are related by blood or friendship. If the region wants change, it will elect public servants who will not be influenced by special interests who make big donations to campaigns. If the region wants change, it's time to vote in public servants who will work for the people, not politicians who make a career out of working the people over.
Our Republican governor gets it. It's time now for the people of Northwest Indiana to get it.
The Democrats got you into this property tax mess. The Democrats are running businesses out of town and preventing good ones from locating here. The Democrats have dragged their feet on fixing the flooding problems throughout the region. And the Democrats will continue their pattern until you make a change.
Kim Krull, Crown Point
Vice Chairman, Lake County Republican Central Committee
[COMMENT -GDY]: This letter would seem to indicate that no spirit of bi-partisanship is extent in Lake Co., but that certainly should come as no suprise.
Rudy Clay Jr. Absent at GSD
Rudy Clay Jr., who received a new $39,960 contract two weeks ago to provide video services to the Gary Sanitary District, was noticeably absent from Tuesday's meeting of the GSD commissioners.
Gov. Mitch Daniels slammed his contract last week, criticizing Mayor Rudy Clay for giving the contract to his son while asking the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board for relief from new property tax caps.
GSD officials didn't comment on Clay Jr.'s absence. Mayor Clay is also special administrator of the district.
At the meeting, it was announced that Mayor Clay is planning a tour of the Gary Sanitary District.
Now that we have one of the best mayors and one of the best videographers in the country, perhaps they should team up and make a documentary on corruption in the city of Gary. They certainly won't have to look far to fill the leading roles.
The biggest problem with Gary is that those who run the government there think there is no problem.
School Board Denies Greed in Airport Deal
The Post-Tribune characterized the Gary School Board as being greedy for not selling two parcels of wetlands to Gary/Chicago International Airport for the appraised price of $368,000. The Post-Tribune concludes that we should accept that the hundred-plus acres of land needed by the airport cannot be worth anymore than $368,000. After all, three Valparaiso appraisers said so.
However, the board decided to carry out its due diligence in researching the truth. Should the School Board be characterized as greedy or fiscally responsible after taking the position to stand up for what is right?
Read the complete appraisers' report and you will notice glaring fallacies. Their research shows that there are parcels of wetlands in Gary that have been sold for as much as $37,500 an acre. There is a big difference between $3,750,000 (100 acres times $37,500 per acre) and $368,000.
We do not subscribe to the opinion that everything in Gary is on a fire sale.
A greedy or fiscally responsible school corporation? Citizens of Gary, you decide.
Nellie F. Moore, President, Gary School Board
Mayor's Son's Deal May Jeopardize Sate Aid
INDIANAPOLIS -- Gov. Daniels warned Friday that the $40K contract Gary Mayor Rudy Clay's son has with the Gary Sanitary District (Jr. received a $9,960 raise this year over the contract he had in 2008) could hurt the beleaguered city's case for state aid. When considering whether to grant Gary relief from property tax caps that will decimate its revenue base this year, the state Distressed Unit Appeal Board should look into the contract Rudy Clay Jr. has to videotape GSD meetings, Daniels said. The $39,960 contract for the mayor's son is emblematic of the wasteful use of public revenue in Lake County, the governor said.
He likened Gary to the major U.S. automakers, which have been forced to justify spending after accepting federal bailouts. "In the same sense the auto companies, who are now taxpayer wards of the state, ought to have to show they're going to really change their ways, fundamentally change their ways if they're going to justify what's going on, I would say the very same thing applies to anybody coming to the Distressed Unit Board," Daniels said. "If you put yourself in bankrupt condition through your past practices, you ought to show you're going to change those practices before you ask the taxpayers to bail you out."
Informed of Daniels' comments, Mayor Clay said he would tell his son to step down rather than jeopardize aid to the city. "I'm not going to debate my son with the governor, who I respect, and who has the favor of the Distressed Unit Board," Clay said. "I'll discuss it with the Distressed Unit Board, and if it means my son will have to step down, so be it."
As he has in the past, the mayor defended his son as an accomplished videographer, and said statute dictates the Sanitary District meetings be captured on film. But Clay said he would focus on the bigger picture. "We can't let the state use this to cause pain to the rest of the city. That isn't going to happen."
The contract for his son is all the more glaring given that the mayor has already instituted layoffs and deep pay cuts for city workers to deal with the shortfalls, making .
Daniels, striking a familiar stance when addressing
problems in Lake County, said it is ultimately up to the voters and taxpayers to
hold officials responsible. "If you weren't outraged a long, long time
ago, maybe you're numb to the misuse of taxpayer dollars and so
forth." "These are matters ultimately for the people of Lake County
to judge. They're entitled to all the lousy and sometimes corrupt
government they're willing to put up with and pay for," Daniels added.
[COMMENT -GDY]: Can't anyone hear the governor? Read his lips, "To show they're going to really change their ways" means dump Clay, his cronies and the rampant incompetence and corruption!
Gary (School Bd.) vs. Gary (Airport)
Nellie Moore and Gary School Board, you're wrong. The airport isn't the only stakeholder in this land sale transaction. Our region and its people need the wetland to be sold because a viable and thriving airport represents a great economic engine for our region. Please sell the land to the airport for the greater good. Your continued focus on fairness and the greater good is how you become a good steward.
Gary School Board, our children learn inside the
classroom and outside the classroom. Thanks for showing them the
definition of greed. Your stated reason for holding out on the sale of the
wetland is not based on a sound business concept like appraised value, but just
because the airport needs the land -- or in other words, just because you
can. How arrogant. Where is your integrity?_________________
[COMMENT -GDY]: A house divided against itself cannot stand, let alone thrive ....
Clay Fires City Attorney
GARY -- Mayor Rudy Clay fired Corporation Counsel Hamilton Carmouche on Wednesday, ending Carmouche's 16-year tenure as Gary's lead attorney. Former Mayor Thomas Barnes appointed Carmouche to the job of corporation counsel in 1993. Carmouche succeeded Gilbert King Jr., who continues to do legal work for the city.
Carmouche said he received a letter from Clay informing him of the decision Wednesday afternoon. The news came hours after Carmouche participated in the weekly Board of Public Works and Safety meeting, of which Carmouche is the secretary.
Clay declined to explain his decision and called the dismissal a "personnel matter." The mayor said an internal search for an interim corporation counsel will begin next week.
Carmouche also serves as an attorney for the Gary Sanitary District, and he said he hasn't been notified of any changes in that job. He said his law firm, Carmouche & Carmouche, holds a valid contract with GSD. Any termination of that contract requires a 30-day notice, he said. "I would imagine that's up to the board of the Sanitary District," Carmouche said.
Gary's corporation counsel is scheduled to make $60,520
this year, according to a copy of the city's 2009 budget.
[COMMENT -GDY]: There is more to this story than is being told here. As Paul Harvey would say, "Next, Page 2." It looks as though we shall have wait and see what shakes from the tree?
Clay Can't Call Himself
One of Greatest
A Post-Trib Letter to Editor
[18 Mar 2009]
I am a Hammond resident, but I was born in Gary. After scanning the March 8 article, "McDermott Ousts Clay," I was disgusted. Not with McDermott, but with Gary Mayor Rudy Clay. Is this guy serious? Does he live in the twilight zone?
He is quoted as saying that he and McDermott are "... two of the greatest mayors in the United States." With respect, why is Clay a greatest?
I grew up in Gary and drove through the city a few weeks ago. Aside from the RailCats park and surrounding construction, along with the Interstate 80-94 on-off ramps, where is major, positive improvement? Sad to say, I see very, very little, if any.
The new store at 25th Avenue and Grant Street has closed. Burger King went out of business in downtown Gary years ago, I think. Even Walgreens, a national drug chain, could not manage to stay in Glen Park at 43rd Avenue and Broadway.
Often, Mayor Clay seems to try to impress the public with verbose speech. But talk is cheap -- can someone inform him? Actions speak louder than words. Let city improvements speak for themselves. If any, they speak better on your behalf.
Mace Garvin - Hammond
Let the Sun Shine In, Let Public Know
The city of Gary shies away from sunshine.
The Post-Tribune has been waiting three months for copies of Mayor Rudy Clay's 2008 paychecks, and two months for credit card statements for Gary's elected officials.
If we wanted, the Post-Tribune could take the municipality to court. But the best we could hope for would be for a judge to order them to turn over the documents and pay court costs.
Guess where the costs would come from? City coffers, aka your tax money. That doesn't seem right?
2nd Annual NW Indiana Conference on Prisoner
Reentry On Monday May 18, 2009 ORCA will sponsor the 2nd Annual
NWI Conference on Prisoner Reentry: Re-Thinking Reentry - Confronting the
Challenges and Opportunities of Women and Youthful Offenders. The
conference will be held at the Genesis Center. ORCA is the acronym for Offender Reentry and Community
Assistance, Inc. Since 2003 ORCA has provided Reentry support and services
to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women in Lake, LaPorte and
Porter counties in Northwest Indiana. _________________
Something I just happened to stumble upon
[16 Mar 2009]
[COMMENT -GDY]: Kind of says it all about the Gary, Indiana of 2009, does it not?
On Monday May 18, 2009 ORCA will sponsor the 2nd Annual NWI Conference on Prisoner Reentry: Re-Thinking Reentry - Confronting the Challenges and Opportunities of Women and Youthful Offenders. The conference will be held at the Genesis Center.
ORCA is the acronym for Offender Reentry and Community
Assistance, Inc. Since 2003 ORCA has provided Reentry support and services
to incarcerated and formerly incarcerated men and women in Lake, LaPorte and
Porter counties in Northwest Indiana. _________________
Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church isn't closing its doors because of its own sins. By most accounts, its priests, deacons, lay volunteers and parishioners have been dedicated and faithful.
The church is a victim of its location. Were it in Valparaiso or Crown Point, it might be thriving. Blessed Sacrament, however, is at 41st Av. & Cleveland St., in unincorporated Calumet Township just west of Gary's city limits.
The church opened in 1947, with the onset of the baby boom. It catered to the region's Polish population in Glen Park and Calumet Township. At its peak, Blessed Sacrament was the spiritual home for 1,800 families. It was a lively congregation, bustling with weddings, parties and meetings. Blessed Sacrament supported its own elementary school, adjacent to the church.
As the decades wore on, more funerals than weddings dotted the church calendar. Membership shrank to 130. As parishioners grew older, younger members didn't arrive to take their place. Many already had moved to south Lake County, or to Porter County. It's a sign of the times for many churches, but in particular in changing urban areas like Gary.
Blessed Sacrament closed its school in 2003. April 19 will mark the final Mass at the church. Since the 1970s, 13 churches have closed in the Diocese of Gary. A new church hasn't opened since 1998.
Blessed Sacrament is a victim of a changing times and a
changing Roman Catholic Church. Only eight men have been ordained as
priests in the diocese since 1999. Closing a storied church isn't just a
loss for the congregation. It's a loss for us all. _________________
[COMMENT -GDY]: I remember many a Sunday going to mass at Blessed Sacrament (when it was on the corner of 45th & Cleveland), and then stopping at a butcher shop on the corner of 45th & Grant after, to pick up some fresh polska keilbasa to make for brunch (though no one ever heard of brunch in those days).
Citizen Commentary Fellow Garyites, we are so blessed to have not only one
of the best mayors in America in Rudy Clay Sr., but also one of the best
video-recording and graphics editors in his son, Rudy Jr. At least, that's
what Rudy Sr. proclaims. Of course, both of those positions were filled
without cost-saving competitive bidding. And now, the Sanitary District
Board approves a 33% raise for Junior. Why do you folks put up with this
garbage? But garbage is another issue! The governor is right. We are entitled to elect a
crummy, inefficient, crony-filled government if we want. But why do
we? Is the political machine too strong? Are the elections
fair? Or are we too dumb to make the changes we need to make? I can only imagine what the conditions in Gary would be
like if we were not blessed with one of the two greatest mayors in the United
States and the best graphics editor anywhere.
From Post-Trib "Quickly" Column
[13 Mar 2009]
Fellow Garyites, we are so blessed to have not only one of the best mayors in America in Rudy Clay Sr., but also one of the best video-recording and graphics editors in his son, Rudy Jr. At least, that's what Rudy Sr. proclaims. Of course, both of those positions were filled without cost-saving competitive bidding. And now, the Sanitary District Board approves a 33% raise for Junior. Why do you folks put up with this garbage? But garbage is another issue!
The governor is right. We are entitled to elect a
crummy, inefficient, crony-filled government if we want. But why do
we? Is the political machine too strong? Are the elections
fair? Or are we too dumb to make the changes we need to make?
I can only imagine what the conditions in Gary would be like if we were not blessed with one of the two greatest mayors in the United States and the best graphics editor anywhere.
Gary Schools Block Airport Expansion
GARY -- Gary/Chicago International Airport officials shared their frustration with Gary's school system Tuesday, a month after a land deal needed for its runway expansion broke down.
Since 2006, Airport Board Chair Johnson said, school officials indicated a willingness to work with the airport. A year later, though, after the school board heard a presentation from airport director Chris Curry, former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher expressed an interest in buying the land for a civil rights museum. State officials explained to Hatcher that obtaining permits for a museum on that property would be "almost impossible" because the property isn't suitable for construction. Even so, in February, Johnson said the school system indicated "it was unilaterally withdrawing its cooperation."
The properties at issue are found in the 6000 block of Miller Avenue and the 2100-2200 block of Burr Street.
School Board President Nellie Moore said three appraisals setting the properties' worth at $368,000 undervalue the parcels at the center of the debate, though, ignoring the reason airport officials are so eager to buy them. However, Moore said the schools are in need of funding and she said the board is obligated to get the best price for its assets.
Johnson, meanwhile, said he is being as fair as possible to the schools, and the airport is following the rules attached to the money that is funding the expansion. .""We can't pay any more than appraised value for a property," Johnson said Tuesday.
"It's not a time to be playing games," Johnson said. "We
need all the help we can get.
[COMMENT -GDY]: Evidently, the immortal words of Rodney King of, "Can't we all get along?" has no application between these Gary agencies?
Clay's Son Gets GSD Video Contract
GARY -- The Gary Sanitary District approved a new contract for Rudy Clay Jr.Tuesday, to provide video recording and editing services. Rudy Clay Jr. is the son of Gary Mayor Rudy Clay, who is also special administrator at the Sanitary District.
The contract, approved unanimously by GSD's board of commissioners, lasts for 12 months and is worth $39,960. That amount is an increase from the $30,000 contract approved last year by the GSD board for Clay Jr., who was present and videotaping Tuesday's meeting.
Mayor Clay's critics have zeroed in on his son's contracts as Gary struggles with deep budget cuts and layoffs. It is the only city petitioning the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board for tax relief this year. The Gary Sanitary District is part of that petition. The appeals board's members have said the city must show it has done all it can to help itself financially before relief will be granted.
Mayor Clay adamantly defends his son's contracts, calling him the "best that I know anywhere in editing, graphics, etc." last year.
A $25,000 contract for Clay Jr. to provide video
services to the city in 2008 was rescinded in August, shortly after a 20% pay
cut was announced for Mayor Clay's employees. That move didn't affect Clay Jr.'s
contract at the Sanitary District, officials said.
[COMMENT -GDY]: Well, "one had washes the other," still! However, with the loss of the Lake Co. Dem. Chair, by dad, there is less largess for Sr. to hand out.
Rudy Clay thinks he is one of the best mayors in the United States. Maybe he should ask the citizens in his city whether they agree. I'm sure they wouldn't. He should try spending some time and energy fixing the problems in Gary instead of worrying about other stuff.
I see that Mayor Tom McDermott upset Gary's mayor to become Lake County's new Democratic chief. I'll be so glad when the day comes that Clay is no longer the mayor of Gary.
Mr. Clay thinks he is one of the best mayors in the country? His attempt at humor is hilarious.
Rudy Clay thinks he is one of the best mayors in the United States. Maybe he should ask the citizens in his city whether they agree. I'm sure they wouldn't.
Gary appeals Trash Contract
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Jon Seidel
[10 Mar 2009]
GARY -- The city has appealed last month's order by Special Judge Thomas W. Webber voiding a trash collection contract at the Gary Sanitary District. Gary's appeal was filed Wednesday, according to court documents, and the case will now go to the Indiana Court of Appeals. Gary Sanitary District attorney Hamilton Carmouche said the appeal doesn't change any city services.
"We're still going to be picking up garbage," Carmouche said.
The Sanitary District modified a contract with Allied Waste in October to privatize garbage collection, and it implemented a collection fee of $12 per household, with a discounted $7 fee for senior citizens. Gary made the move as a cost-cutting measure, and several city jobs were eliminated. The contract was immediately met with a class-action suit from the Miller Citizens Corp. Its members asked Webber to void the contract because it wasn't subject to a public bidding process. They also asked Webber to toss the collection fee because it wasn't approved by the City Council.
Webber ruled last month that Allied's contract is void and "against the laws and public policy of the State of Indiana."
Federal Aid May Reduce Amount of Cash for Gary Schools INDIANAPOLIS -- The federal stimulus package may not
bring to the Gary public schools and other beleaguered school districts the cash
windfall many had hoped. School administrators in Gary planned to use the
one-time federal influx to help finance much-needed building and technology
upgrades as the district tries to modernize. But lawmakers now say they
may be forced to lower payments to local school districts in the state budget
and use the federal stimulus money to fill the shortfalls. So Indiana's public schools may not be drastically
under-funded in the short-term, as some feared. But they probably won't be
flush for a couple years as many hoped, either. "I don't think anybody's going
to see a big chunk of money," said State Rep. Terry Goodin,
D-Crothersville. "With the way our finances look now, we're going to have
to spread it around." Without explanation, Gary's Board of Public Works and
Safety has decided to tap into money that's been languishing for 16 years to
build a marina at Buffington Harbor. Suddenly, it seems plans and the desire to build a Gary
marina are "shovel-ready." That's how quick President Obama's federal
stimulus plan can jump-start an old project, as some believe. The city of
Gary listed the marina as one of its priorities on a wish list that has $400
million worth of projects on it. Submitted recently to the U.S. Conference
of Mayors as well as the Indiana General Assembly, the list stated the eventual
350-slip marina would cost $19 million and result in the creation of 35
jobs. Nonetheless, the decision is difficult to
comprehend. The economy is in the full throes of a recession, and folks
aren't even buying cars, much less boats. Gary officials need to explain
why they've sat on the money for so long and now suddenly are convinced the time
is right for a marina.
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by John Byrne
[10 Mar 2009]
[COMMENT -GDY]: Gee, has not Dave's Den been advocating for more than quite some time now that the solution to Gary's problems lies within Gary itself, not from outside entities? Well, this report seems to support that line of thinking, in that mouth of the gift horse is a) not as big as one thinks, and b) actually contains teeth which may bite!
Gary Does Not Need to Construct Marina
[10 Mar 2009]
INDIANAPOLIS -- The federal stimulus package may not bring to the Gary public schools and other beleaguered school districts the cash windfall many had hoped.
School administrators in Gary planned to use the one-time federal influx to help finance much-needed building and technology upgrades as the district tries to modernize. But lawmakers now say they may be forced to lower payments to local school districts in the state budget and use the federal stimulus money to fill the shortfalls.
So Indiana's public schools may not be drastically
under-funded in the short-term, as some feared. But they probably won't be
flush for a couple years as many hoped, either. "I don't think anybody's going
to see a big chunk of money," said State Rep. Terry Goodin,
D-Crothersville. "With the way our finances look now, we're going to have
to spread it around."
Without explanation, Gary's Board of Public Works and Safety has decided to tap into money that's been languishing for 16 years to build a marina at Buffington Harbor.
Suddenly, it seems plans and the desire to build a Gary marina are "shovel-ready." That's how quick President Obama's federal stimulus plan can jump-start an old project, as some believe. The city of Gary listed the marina as one of its priorities on a wish list that has $400 million worth of projects on it. Submitted recently to the U.S. Conference of Mayors as well as the Indiana General Assembly, the list stated the eventual 350-slip marina would cost $19 million and result in the creation of 35 jobs.
Nonetheless, the decision is difficult to comprehend. The economy is in the full throes of a recession, and folks aren't even buying cars, much less boats. Gary officials need to explain why they've sat on the money for so long and now suddenly are convinced the time is right for a marina.
McDermott Tops Clay to Lead Dems
CROWN POINT -- Just moments after shouts of joy from Tom McDermott Jr., supporters rang out from the top row of the Lake County Government Complex' auditorium Saturday morning. The new Democratic chairman candidate confirmed their hopes with a thumbs-up.
After 2 months of after-hours stumping, McDermott ousted Gary Mayor Rudy Clay for the top spot in the county's Democratic Party, by a final vote of 405 to 280. The victory is thought to be the first time an incumbent party chairman has not been retained for a second term.
Clay conceded immediately, calling McDermott and himself "two of the greatest mayors in the United States." "One thing about the Democratic Party is that we put up good fights. But when it's over, we join hands and become even stronger," Clay said to a round of applause. "We had two of the greatest mayors in the United States vying to be the chair of the greatest, strongest organization in the United States. "I am committed to supporting (McDermott and newly elected Vice Chairman Michelle Fajman) 1,000%."
McDermott thanked Clay for his four years of service
before describing his biggest plan for the party: Creating a governing
board that will serve as the party's voice. The board will be made up of
one appointed representative for every 23,000 residents in a community and will
serve as the party's eyes, ears and brains. And Clay already has a seat at
that table, McDermott vowed, as will representatives from south Lake
County. "They'll help me and advise me on what's going on. For
example, we'll have people from Lowell and Cedar Lake there; what do I know
about either of them?" he said. "I think it's a big step for us."
[COMMENT -GDY]: McDermott not only won, he won hadsomely, carrying 69% of the vote. At last, someone found the courage to say no to Rudy. Typical Rudy, what does he mention in conceding, but his own greatness. Would but this would be the start of a new era. One may hope, but is it simply hoping for too much?
Governor Unloads on Lake County
GRIFFITH -- Gov. Mitch Daniels is fed up with Lake County government and he's tired of pretending he isn't.
During a wide-ranging question-and-answer period at Griffith High School on Friday, Daniels returned time and again to one point: Lake County will remain alienated from the rest of the state until voters here hold public officials to a higher standard. "You are entitled to all the lousy, crummy, graft-ridden government you want and are willing to pay for," Daniels told a crowd of about 450 people, one of the largest turnouts he said he's seen at such a forum.
Daniels was invited to Griffith to discuss tax caps and township government reform. The governor said those issues are symptoms of the broader political culture that makes Lake County a black sheep in the eyes of many Hoosiers. "Ultimately nobody, not me, not anybody, can advocate for Lake County and Northwest Indiana unless there is some evidence the people here are prepared to clean up the act that has made the rest of the state look sideways at Lake County for a long time," Daniels said.
Some local officials in the audience bristled at Daniels' characterizations, calling it "unacceptable" for Daniels to sling arrows at Lake County elected officials.
Daniels agreed his rhetoric on Lake County is getting harsher the longer he sees resistance here to change. "I guess after five years of trying to speak always to the positive and encourage people to move in a positive direction, that I'm trying to express candidly my thought that I'm a little tired of waiting," he said.
Gary Official Denies Role in Missing Money
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Jon Seidel
[6 Mar 2009]
GARY -- Records show Gary's director of Community Development helped run a now-defunct title company where as much as $400,000 meant to pay off clients' mortgages went missing. Jacquelyn Drago-Hunter, who now oversees millions in federal dollars in her position with the city, denies playing any role in the scheme at Maximilian Title Corp. State filings list Drago-Hunter as Maximilian's secretary. Drago-Hunter was the settlement agent in at least two documented cases.
Indiana Commissioner of Insurance James Atterholt ordered Maximilian to cease and desist all business in June after its underwriter accused it of "improperly withholding, misappropriating, or converting monies received in the course of doing insurance business."
Drago-Hunter said the missing money was taken by two employees she wouldn't name and who she said were deceased. She said she isn't aware if a police report was ever filed against the thieves, but she said she is the person who uncovered the discrepancies and told the underwriter. "I was the one that shut the company down," Drago-Hunter said.
Norman Ginn and his wife, Willena Ginn, visited Maximilian's offices at 5th Avenue and Broadway in 2006 when they decided to refinance the mortgage on their Miller home. Wells Fargo, the bank doing the refinancing, referred them to Maximilian. The meeting was cordial. Drago-Hunter notarized the new $73,000 mortgage for the Ginns and the Ginns considered their first mortgage debt satisfied.
Two years later, the Ginns' phone rang. It was a collection agent, wondering why the couple stopped making payments on that debt. Norman Ginn's response: "What payment?" "After two years, you know, I had totally forgotten about it," Norman Ginn said.
According to court records filed in July, the Ginns still owed $51,792 in principal on their 2001 mortgage. Collectors came down hard on the couple, Norman Ginn said, threatening to kick them out of their home. "They were real nasty," Norman Ginn said. "They wouldn't listen to a word I had to say."
The Ginns were forced to hire an attorney to help them clean up the mess. United General Title Insurance Co. wrote a check for $59,047 to pay off the original loan with interest, documents show. United General said Maximilian continued making monthly payments on clients' mortgages instead of paying them off. "United General has reported that the missing funds total between $300,000-$400,000," Hulbert wrote in her petition.
The Ginns weren't the first homeowners to have trouble with Maximilian Title. A similar problem nearly scuttled the sale of a house on County Line Road overlooking Lake Michigan. Anna Panagiotaros refinanced that home in 2003, closing the deal in the same office as the Ginns, and working with the same closing agent: Drago-Hunter.
Panagiotaros expected $254,104 owed to Washington Mutual Home Loans for the mortgage on that property to be paid off. Washington Mutual said it was still receiving monthly payments on the mortgage one year later show. Meanwhile, a buyer had committed to purchasing the home from Panagiotaros, according to a court filing. The sale couldn't go through until Washington Mutual released the mortgage. The case was eventually dismissed with prejudice after Maximilian wired $254,212 to Washington Mutual to pay off the mortgage, and Panagiotaros transferred the property to a new owner through a warranty deed in July 2004.
Drago-Hunter pointed to her dismissal from that case as
proof of her innocence. She again insisted that the employee who took the
money died before the scam was uncovered. "There was nothing you can do
about that," Drago-Hunter said. "What are you going to recover?
[COMMENT -GDY]: It sounds as though Ms. Drago-Hunter is eminently qualifed for her current city post; having been well schooled in shady financial dealings!
Van Til Drops Out of County Chair Race
Lake Co. Surveyor George Van Til unexpectedly dropped out of the race for chairman of the Lake Co. Democratic Party Thursday, leaving two candidates in the race -- current chairman and Gary Mayor Rudy Clay and Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr.
Van Til left a voicemail message with a Post-Tribune withdrawing from Saturday's race. He would not answer subsequent questions about why he withdrew, or whether he would support Clay or McDermott.
Clay said Van Til called him and indicated he was going
to fax a withdrawal form to the Democratic Party office on Thursday. Clay
would not speculate on why Van Til withdrew or what it meant for the
[COMMENT -GDY]: Gee, dare one ask if Rudy had anything to do, behind the scenes, with Van Til's witdrawal? Nah, that would be beneath him!
Gary Schools Unveil Final Wirt H.S. Plans
Thursday night the Gary School Board unveiled final plans for the future of Wirt High and its students. It looks like many Wirt students will be heading to different buildings next year. More than 50 parents, students, community members and Wirt employees listened to the news from administrators and school board members. They weren't happy about it.
Gary is closing 12 schools due to a $23 million budget shortfall, but the district's academic record also precipitated the moves. School board member Barbara Leek said the dropout numbers in Gary -- hovering just above 50 % -- made it clear that students need to learn job-ready skills in the district.
Emerson School for the Visual and Performing Arts will be housed in the Wirt building this fall. About 500 students in Grades 6 - 12 attend Emerson, but administrators intend to open its enrollment by about 200 students, with Wirt students given priority.
West Side, Roosevelt and Lew Wallace will become themed academies for Grades 7 - 12. Roosevelt will serve as a career and technical high school. Lew Wallace will become a science, technology, engineering and math school. West Side will be a gifted-student and leadership academy.
Students who live east of Lake Street will attend Lew Wallace H.S. Students who live west of Lake Street will head to Roosevelt.
Many of the speakers wondered why Wirt and Emerson
couldn't be combined in the same building. Leek said they did explore
combining the two schools. Leek said by the time all of the dance studios
and practice rooms were allotted, there wouldn't be enough room for all of the
[COMMENT -GDY]: It seems to me, commuting from "east of Lake St.," to 45th & Madison (Lew Wallace H.S.) is more than a bit of a long haul to be undertaken on a daily basis. I cannot imagine this will do much in terms of improving attendance/dropout rates?
Gary Drug Bust Routine Before Gun Battle GARY--A routine drug raid turned suddenly violent
Monday. Police were met with gunfire as they attempted to arrest a Glen
Ryan man at his home. No one was injured during the raid. Three
people were arrested and one man charged with eight felonies, including
attempted murder, police said. David Moore Jr., 23, of 647 New Jersey St., a criminal justice student at Purdue
University Calumet, was inside the residence with his girlfriend, Cynthia
criminal justice student at IU Northwest), 24, when Emergency
Response Team members knocked on the door and announced their presence more than
once, Sgt. John Jelks said. Because Norwood has a young child, officers were taking
extra precautions at the home where undercover agents had made at least five
cocaine and marijuana buys in recent weeks, Jelks said. The ERT officers
deployed a percussion device outside to warn the occupants, Jelks said. Once inside, ERT officers were met with two gunshots,
fired toward the lead team member. "After Moore fired these shots, he
released a vicious dog on the officers," the probable cause affidavit
states. Police did not fire their weapons into the bedroom where Moore and
Norwood fled, fearing the child was with them, Jelks said. But Moore
continued to shoot at them, court records state. Moore apparently tried to
escape by breaking a bedroom window, but cut his hands and required medical
treatment. Moore was charged Tuesday with attempted murder, dealing
cocaine and dealing marijuana. Police seized a Ruger semiautomatic
handgun, the buy money used to make undercover purchases and more than 100 grams
of marijuana. Charging information signed by Detective Greg Tatum notes
the alleged drug deals occurred less than 1,000 feet from Glen Ryan park. Dem Officials Ask State to Monitor Chairman Election Compiled from a Post-Trib
Report by by Erik Potter Twelve Lake County Dems petitioned the state Democratic
Party to come and monitor the county chairman elections this Saturday.
Citing a lack of information about who will be eligible to vote and how the
voting process will work, among other things, the 12 signatories request that
State Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker, or a representative, be on hand to
resolve any dispute that might arise during the party meeting. The letter was signed by supporters of Hammond Mayor Tom
McDermott Jr., and include mayors Joseph Stahura of Whiting, Brian Snedecor of
Hobart, Keith Soderquist of Lake Station, David Uran of Crown Point, and North
Township Trustee Frank Mrvan. "The fact is we are concerned. We all
are," McDermott said about holding "full and fair" elections on Saturday. McDermott and Lake County Surveyor George Van Til are
challenging Gary Mayor Rudy Clay for the chairmanship of the Democratic Central
Committee. The race will be decided by a vote of the more than 900
precinct committee chairs and vice chairs at the Lake County Government
Complex. The 12 signatories to the letter state, despite requests
to Clay, they have been unable to confirm the election procedures to be used at
the convention. They request the state party establish its own
procedures. Among six specific suggestions, the letter asks that all
candidates be provided a list of eligible voters, that standard state election
law be used (which requires voters to show a photo ID) and that each candidate
be allowed to have poll watchers. Van Til went a step further, saying that he thought the
state party should run the election, not just monitor it. "The party rules
say the chairman runs the convention, but when the chairman is running (for
re-election), that just smacks of running into conflict," Van Til said. Clay did not immediately return calls seeking
Compiled From a Post-Trib Repot by Lori Caldwell
[4 Mar 2009]
[COMMENT -GDY]: Well, it looks as tho' Dave and Cyndi will now be eligible to participate in a little criminal justice internship; on a tuition free basis!
[3 Mar 2009]
[COMMENT -GDY]: Why would anyone question Rudy's ability to assure a fair and open election in a race where he is one of the candidates? And, we do know that Hammond Mayor McDermott had more than a few choice things to say on CNN about Rudy's running of elections!
GARY--A routine drug raid turned suddenly violent Monday. Police were met with gunfire as they attempted to arrest a Glen Ryan man at his home. No one was injured during the raid. Three people were arrested and one man charged with eight felonies, including attempted murder, police said.
David Moore Jr., 23, of 647 New Jersey St., a criminal justice student at Purdue University Calumet, was inside the residence with his girlfriend, Cynthia Norwood (a criminal justice student at IU Northwest), 24, when Emergency Response Team members knocked on the door and announced their presence more than once, Sgt. John Jelks said.
Because Norwood has a young child, officers were taking extra precautions at the home where undercover agents had made at least five cocaine and marijuana buys in recent weeks, Jelks said. The ERT officers deployed a percussion device outside to warn the occupants, Jelks said.
Once inside, ERT officers were met with two gunshots, fired toward the lead team member. "After Moore fired these shots, he released a vicious dog on the officers," the probable cause affidavit states. Police did not fire their weapons into the bedroom where Moore and Norwood fled, fearing the child was with them, Jelks said. But Moore continued to shoot at them, court records state. Moore apparently tried to escape by breaking a bedroom window, but cut his hands and required medical treatment.
Moore was charged Tuesday with attempted murder, dealing
cocaine and dealing marijuana. Police seized a Ruger semiautomatic
handgun, the buy money used to make undercover purchases and more than 100 grams
of marijuana. Charging information signed by Detective Greg Tatum notes
the alleged drug deals occurred less than 1,000 feet from Glen Ryan park.
Dem Officials Ask State to Monitor Chairman Election
Compiled from a Post-Trib
Report by by Erik Potter
Twelve Lake County Dems petitioned the state Democratic Party to come and monitor the county chairman elections this Saturday. Citing a lack of information about who will be eligible to vote and how the voting process will work, among other things, the 12 signatories request that State Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker, or a representative, be on hand to resolve any dispute that might arise during the party meeting.
The letter was signed by supporters of Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr., and include mayors Joseph Stahura of Whiting, Brian Snedecor of Hobart, Keith Soderquist of Lake Station, David Uran of Crown Point, and North Township Trustee Frank Mrvan. "The fact is we are concerned. We all are," McDermott said about holding "full and fair" elections on Saturday.
McDermott and Lake County Surveyor George Van Til are challenging Gary Mayor Rudy Clay for the chairmanship of the Democratic Central Committee. The race will be decided by a vote of the more than 900 precinct committee chairs and vice chairs at the Lake County Government Complex.
The 12 signatories to the letter state, despite requests to Clay, they have been unable to confirm the election procedures to be used at the convention. They request the state party establish its own procedures. Among six specific suggestions, the letter asks that all candidates be provided a list of eligible voters, that standard state election law be used (which requires voters to show a photo ID) and that each candidate be allowed to have poll watchers.
Van Til went a step further, saying that he thought the state party should run the election, not just monitor it. "The party rules say the chairman runs the convention, but when the chairman is running (for re-election), that just smacks of running into conflict," Van Til said.
Clay did not immediately return calls seeking
To Clay and Council: Release Slush Funds There have been suggestions that the state of Indiana
should "take over" the city of Gary because of the lousy job critics surmise
Mayor Rudy Clay is doing. Clay certainly isn't an ambassador for
efficiency in government, but the state doesn't need to manage Gary from
Indianapolis. The good people of Gary need to marshal their voices and
strategies and confront the barrage of poor choices being made by their elected
officials. It's time to stop grumbling and whining from the sidelines.
Instead, citizens need to step up and fight to take back their city. The city can't operate like it did in the 1960s, when
money was flowing and jobs were plentiful. Painful decisions must be made,
not dodged. It's inexcusable to continue a practice because a previous
administration did it. This is a new day. President Obama told an assemblage of mayors recently
that he will "call them out" if they waste money from his $787 billion stimulus
package. Cities, and not just Gary, should be accountable for every dime
they receive from taxpayers. In Gary, there are two good places to start. The
city is squeezed for money at every juncture, and yet the City Council and mayor
still have discretionary stashes of cash to spend as they choose. Clay
didn't even know his discretionary fund had been increased by 15% to
$100,000. The City Council has $217,515 to spend this year. That
money is dished out to churches, schools, cronies and pet projects. It's
difficult to track how it's spent. Clay says he's cut jobs and slashed his budget.
Yet the money in those funds could be spent more wisely by a city teetering on
A Post-Trib Editorial
[27 Feb 2009]
There have been suggestions that the state of Indiana should "take over" the city of Gary because of the lousy job critics surmise Mayor Rudy Clay is doing. Clay certainly isn't an ambassador for efficiency in government, but the state doesn't need to manage Gary from Indianapolis.
The good people of Gary need to marshal their voices and strategies and confront the barrage of poor choices being made by their elected officials. It's time to stop grumbling and whining from the sidelines. Instead, citizens need to step up and fight to take back their city.
The city can't operate like it did in the 1960s, when money was flowing and jobs were plentiful. Painful decisions must be made, not dodged. It's inexcusable to continue a practice because a previous administration did it. This is a new day.
President Obama told an assemblage of mayors recently that he will "call them out" if they waste money from his $787 billion stimulus package. Cities, and not just Gary, should be accountable for every dime they receive from taxpayers.
In Gary, there are two good places to start. The city is squeezed for money at every juncture, and yet the City Council and mayor still have discretionary stashes of cash to spend as they choose. Clay didn't even know his discretionary fund had been increased by 15% to $100,000. The City Council has $217,515 to spend this year. That money is dished out to churches, schools, cronies and pet projects. It's difficult to track how it's spent.
Clay says he's cut jobs and slashed his budget. Yet the money in those funds could be spent more wisely by a city teetering on financial ruin.
Clay on State of the City
"We can go from a silk worm to a butterfly," Clay said.
Clay Defends Increase in Discretionary Budget
GARY -- Mayor Rudy Clay was at a loss last week to explain how a discretionary fund for his office grew by 15% this year, and he said he doesn't plan to spend the full $100,000 now at his disposal. "We're going to be very frugal in spending money, that's for sure," Clay said.
At the height of Gary's 2008 cash crisis, Clay proposed a 2009 mayoral operating budget for City Council approval that reflected an overall cut of $127,000. But projected spending for one account, used mostly as a donation pool for churches and not-for-profit groups, grew from $87,000 in 2008 to $100,000 in 2009, records show.
That was news to the mayor, who insisted he slashed that fund, officially known as "grants and subsidies," by 50%. "We wanted it cut," Clay said.
Unable to explain the bump, the mayor directed further questions to Deputy Mayor Geraldine Tousant, who then deferred to spokeswoman LaLosa Burns. Burns said Gary begins its budgeting process early each year, and the need for an increase was projected before the city's downward financial spiral began. "It could be that (the mayor) would not use the entire amount that's appropriated," Burns said.
Indeed, Clay spent just $50,248 of that cash in 2008,
58% of the money approved by the City Council. The largest payment out of
the account, by far, was a check worth $8,798 written to Aramark Sports &
Entertainment on Dec. 29. When asked about payment, Clay once again
deferred questions to Burns, who said that money covered the 2008 food tab at
the city's U.S. Steel Yard baseball stadium skybox. "The mayor's the
person who uses it," Burns said of the skybox.
[COMMENT -GDY]: In fairness to the mayor, and it is not often (if at all) that I step up to defend Hizzonor, this story appears to have a negative slant. It does not sound to me like the mayor was defending the budget. Rather, in typical Rudy fashion, he claims a total lack of knowledge of the increase. Why would he increase the amount, when he did not spend all of the allocated funds in the year previous? Instead of being attacked in this instance, perhaps he should be lauded for his exercise of fiscal restraint?
Post-Trib Letters to the Ed
If Gary receives money from the stimulus plan, those funds should not be put into the hands of Mayor Rudy Clay and other city officials.
There should be an independent board appointed by the federal government to administer the plan. The board should be composed of members who have no personal interest other than making sure the money is spent well. There should be public hearings so the city can explain to the citizens just how and where the money will be spent. There should be very strict accounting rules and oversight so the money is spent where it should.
The most important part should be that anyone found misusing the funds or committing fraud should be prosecuted and sentenced to mandatory jail time, with no plea bargaining.
Here is a chance to show Indianapolis that we can do things right and to change the negative perceptions about the city of Gary. Things should be done that will truly help the city of Gary, like repairing streets and doing something about the very poor condition of our schools. There shouldn't be anything like the Sheraton Hotel project. Most importantly, there should be real job creation for all citizens looking for work, not just for friends of the city officials. The mayor made the comment that we have a friend in Washington, so he shouldn't object to his friend helping him do the right things.
Jesse Peeples, Gary
Post-Trib Letters to the Ed
A recent letter said, "The Post-Tribune continues to be a petty racist voice in Northwest Indiana," claiming that the newspaper bellyaches too much about the 2009 Hummer that the broke city of Gary recently bought for the mayor.
With the simplicity of just a few words, our region now has been shown clearly what racism really looks like. Racism isn't always from white people with white hoods who burn crosses.
One who can believe their own lies will be more than happy to accept lies from others. Gosh, nothing is wrong with Clay buying a Hummer on your dollar, when he has his own cars in his driveway, as long as he's acceptable, right? He can use, lie to, and deceive you all he wants, but as long as he's the preferred skin color, then it's OK, huh?
But if a white Post-Tribune reporter dares to shine a light on the truth of his deeds, then you claim the entire paper is racist. Never mind that the Hummer story actually was discussed nationwide via cable news and the Internet. Gee, maybe the entire nation found Clay's decision to be ridiculous.
Thank you for demonstrating to Northwest Indiana that there are many racists in Gary, something I've known since I lived there as a half-black, half-white citizen.
And Post-Tribune writers should remember that rats don't like your light, and if you corner them, they'll attack you. But keep letting your light shine, so that the rest of us can see.
Christine Hisick, Valparaiso
Gary Lawmaker's Pleas Ignored
INDIANAPOLIS - State Rep. Vernon Smith gave brief but telling testimony during the legislative debate last week over a $1 billion state economic stimulus package. His statements spoke not only to Northwest Indiana's dislocation from the rest of the state, but to the back-room way important decisions are made by a small group of lawmakers in the Statehouse.
As members of the closely divided House took turns picking apart a plan that would direct $500 million in federal highway funds and $500 million in state highway reserves to local governments for infrastructure, Smith (D-Gary) stepped to the microphone and pleaded for somebody to help his hometown. While he spoke, many of Smith's colleagues carried on conversations of their own or surfed the Internet at the computers on their desks. So, he was left to make echoey entreaties to a half-interested hall.
Black residents of Gary aren't represented in the road construction industry in NW Indiana, Smith said. They won't see many of the new building jobs the stimulus plan should bring to the area. A provision in the bill to give preference to Indiana steel is nice, but the mills don't employ as many Gary residents as they used to, Smith added.
Smith said nobody in the House consulted with him before putting together the $1 billion package. Nobody asked whether much-needed paving projects on Chase Street or MLK Drive should be explicitly written into the bill, the way other roadwork was.
While the plaintiveness of Smith's testimony last week was striking, NW Indiana -- Lake County in particular -- is in a tough spot right now in Indianapolis. Since it's reliably Democratic, that gives Democratic leaders less reason to appease. And why should the Republicans go out of their way to make the region happy? Gov. Daniels got whipped in Lake County, and still won the state running away. Vernon Smith can plead all he wants, it's going to be hard to get the 130-odd lawmakers from outside the area to listen.
Garyites Told Pay Up or be Cut Off
GARY -- Gary Sanitary District customers are questioning whether they should pay a new fee for trash collection after a judge voided a related contract with Allied Waste. Two community groups are suggesting customers deduct that fee from their bills, calling it "illegal."
Sanitary District attorney Hamilton Carmouche says nothing in the ruling voided the fee, though, and money paid to GSD accounts will first be applied to the garbage fee. That would leave customers with an unpaid user fee balance. Carmouche added, if GSD bills aren't paid in full, "Then your water gets shut off."
Allied is still collecting garbage in the community while exploring its legal options. Mayor Rudy Clay, who is also the Sanitary District's special administrator, said the collection fee stands.
"What I have suggested that people do is to deduct the garbage collection fee from their bill and pay the balance," Grimes said. That, Grimes said, is because the fee is based on a voided contract. "My view is that the people have no legal obligation to pay for services provided under a contract with the GSD that is null and void," Grimes said.
Carmouche, however, said Clay can enact the fee as special administrator and any customer failing to pay the fee risks a loss of services.
Gary Loses Tax Case Against U.S. Steel
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana tax court issued a multimillion-dollar reversal to Lake County in its ongoing property tax fight with U.S. Steel, one that will likely deepen Gary's financial troubles.
In a decision released this week, the court sided with U.S. Steel, ruling the Calumet Township Assessor's Office over-assessed the company's Gary Works property in 2001. Tax Court Judge Thomas Fisher said the property should have been assessed at $130 million rather than $269 million.
According to the court's findings, the county failed to take into account the impact of an inefficient layout of the 700 buildings on the 3,155-acre Gary Works property. That factor should have lowered the value of the property, the court ruled. U.S. Steel also argued successfully the township should have considered the property value at other American steel mills which were declaring bankruptcy around the time of the assessment.
U.S. Steel paid its full property tax bill based on the
2001 Calumet Township assessment and now the taxing
districts which received those proceeds will need to return about $12 million
plus interest, according to Lake County Attorney John Dull. The
county's share will be about $800,000, Dull said.
[COMMENT -GDY]: Hey, what is a mere $800K? What with the infamous Gary International Airport in line for $100 Million, and the city looking for $400 Million from their "friend in the Whitehouse," $800K is a mere drop in the bucket. At worst, it may mean a few less new machine guns for the Gary P.D.!
Gary Airport Gets in Line for Simulus Funds
Gary/Chicago International Airport has joined the vast
stimulus queue forming across the country in anticipation of President Barack
Obama signing the $789 billion bailout bill into law Monday. At the
airport's board meeting on Thursday, Director Chris Curry said the airport has
submitted about $100 million worth of projects for stimulus funding, including
money for an expansion of the airport terminal. The expanded terminal
would include an area for customs screening, which would open the door for Gary
to host international passenger and cargo traffic.
[COMMENT -GDY]: My question is, who isn't getting in line for federal stimulus funds? Is the likelihood of all these request being fulfilled real? I think not. Even though the size of the bailout package is huge, it is no where near large enough to grant everyone every request/wish! Again, I ask, what is Plan B, when the request is not met?
Is the only solution to the current economic plight of Gary, or any/all cities, external? Is an external solution viable, long-term? These are not permanent dollars we are talking about here. These are temporary measures, designed only to get things moving again. What happens when the funding stops? Without any plan to stand on one's own two feet when the federal trough runs dry, will not the recipients of these dollars will be worse off, as they will be dependent, instead of self-sufficient?
Gleason Course Manager Retires
GARY -- South Gleason Park Golf Course manager John Lowe announced his retirement Wednesday, ending a tenure that lasted more than 20 years. Lowe's work received praise from board members, but he leaves under the cloud of an internal investigation.
An internal investigation of golf course finances began last year after a Post-Tribune inquiry found Lowe continued selling golf accessories to city customers four years after his contract to do so expired. Lowe acknowledged making an unknown amount of profit from his sales at the public park.
Park Board President Tommy Berry called for Lowe's removal as manager, and the board authorized Jones to conduct an internal investigation. Jones later confirmed that, as part of her review, she was trying to figure out why $1,993 paid to Lowe for an outing at the course failed to make its way into the city's bank accounts last year.
Clay: Gary Sets Example for Cost-cutting
I write to invite the media and public to examine fairly all facts concerning Gary's efforts to survive the economic challenges facing our city. A just assessment of what we have been doing will reveal that Gary's strategies mirror and, in many cases, predate job-preserving practices now being adopted across the nation.
Since my taking over following the sudden mid-term resignation of my predecessor, Gary's employees and municipal leaders have accomplished what some believed the impossible; maintaining services and simultaneously slashing an average of nearly $1 million per week from the budget. These reductions total more than $30 million. Yet Gary has maintained or improved city services and avoided massive layoffs. Gary actually has out-performed many municipalities and states that already have released numerous workers and eliminated or reduced public services. Incidentally, such layoffs do not stimulate local economies, and this is why we are fighting to save jobs in Gary.
Moreover, in an effort to avoid layoffs, Gary was first in adopting a four-day work week for civilians, which reduced salaries by 20% during the final months of 2008. This particular policy was consistent with President Obama's repeated statements encouraging American workers to accept pay reductions if such reductions would preserve the jobs of fellow workers.
Additionally, I may have been the only mayor in America to voluntarily take a 20% pay cut, and my cabinet heads may have been the first to work five days, while being paid for only four days, each week. Obviously, the state of Indiana found this to be a solid leadership strategy.
Furthermore, our decision to expand the outsourcing of garbage collection to eliminate an estimated $3.1 million in escalating costs and to ensure consistent trash service made good sense. In addition, our consolidation and elimination of city departments is consistent with streamlining taking place in America's most progressive private and public institutions.
Gary's comprehensive and stellar presentation to the state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board on Jan. 5 helped to demonstrate how the imposition of recent tax legislation would devastate Gary's ability to continue to provide adequate police and fire protection, which is what the state of Indiana is currently seeking to ensure across the state. As we continue to work with the Distressed Unit Appeals Board, we look forward to learning of specific suggestions that can be implemented without eradicating Gary's ability to maintain vital services and keep its citizens safe.
We remain open to new ideas that will assist our city in receiving the regulatory relief it seeks. However, we believe that among cities of comparable size, Gary is among the nation's leaders in implementing extreme cost reductions without shutting down city services.
Some have suggested that I have blamed my predecessor for much of Gary's current woes. The question is not one of blame but of truth. Just as President Obama already has had to remind some in Congress that when he arrived at the White House there was a huge deficit and potential financial collapse awaiting him, we have been forced to provide similar context at the local level. In Gary, my administration also inherited a fiscal ship that must be steered out of existing storms as we simultaneously navigate our way into greater prosperity.
The national media have informed us adequately of what this means for the White House, but locally one is hard-pressed to find extensive analysis of how nearly $1.1 billion (including $300 million of casino tax revenue) was spent before I became mayor.
Additionally, while the national debt is certainly relevant, we should be informed also as to how Gary's most recent former mayor left the city with approximately $70 million of debt, a $4.5 million utility bill, a $900,000 water bill and astronomical monthly expenses, such as $38,000 per month in cell phone bills. This is not playing the "blame game," this is providing transparency and proper context for fair analysis.
At the end of the day, a true and fully contextual review of my administration will demonstrate that we have not mismanaged city finances. Instead we have successfully managed inherited debts, implemented historic cost-cutting and maintained city services. These measures had to take initial priority in our administration because of the poor fiscal health of the city when we assumed office.
In essence, we have done and continue to do what we must to keep Gary alive until the fiscal cavalry arrives. We are making good decisions and, like other cities, do not seek handouts but only mutually beneficial partnerships.
Rudy Clay, Mayor of Gary
[COMMENT -GDY]: I guess Rudy sees a real need to defend himself by going public? Could that because of his performance ratings are worse than former President Bush's? He says he does not blame, but then proceeds to indict ex-mayor King. Rudy's solution is await the arrival of the "fiscal calvary." Is that a plan, or only a hope? What if it does not come galloping up to save Gary? Too bad, but there appears to be no alternative plan.
Nor should we forget that Rudy's cost-cutting measures of privatizing garbage collection, and reducing the pay of police and fire personnel, was ruled to be illegal by the courts. Also, did not some city departments simply ignore Rudy's edicts by openly refusing to implement them?
Clay 'Shoots for the Moon' with $400 Million Wish
INDIANAPOLIS -- Gary Mayor Rudy Clay arrived at the Statehouse Tuesday with a $399,666,584 stimulus wish list in-hand. Clay presented legislative leaders a proposal detailing 43 projects he believes are "shovel ready" for federal and state money soon to be released. If funded, Clay said the entire package would put 18,362 people to work.
But that's an extremely large "if." The U.S. Senate passed an $838 billion stimulus bill. The U.S. House of Representatives an $820 billion deal. It remains to be seen how the funds will be distributed to states and, ultimately, local governments in the final package.
The General Assembly is still hammering out the details of a state stimulus package. The House of Representatives passed a deal Tuesday which would direct $500 million in federal money and $500 million in state funds to infrastructure projects. Plus, Gov. Daniels will have a lot to say about how any dollars get spent.
Clay wasn't letting those uncertainties stop him as he met with legislative leaders. "We're the only unit which has asked for aid from the Distressed Unit Appeal Board," the mayor said, referring to the state body the city has asked for financial help because of a massive revenue hole. "Because of that, we hope we have made the case we should get a good share of these stimulus funds," he said.
The biggest of the city's big ticket requests comes in the realm of public housing. Clay posits a huge overhaul. The Gary Housing Authority would use $105 million to build 700 new housing units, after spending several million dollars to demolish the Ivanhoe Gardens Public Housing development and parts of the Delaney West development. According to the city's estimates, the entire public housing face lift would create 5,600 jobs.
Six new fire stations would run $18 million and create 900 jobs, according to the city's report.
A $19 million project would build a 350-slip Gary Marina, to help complete the Marquette Plan and create 950 jobs.
Privately, several legislators said they were skeptical of Clay's chances of success, in no small part because Gary is viewed in the Statehouse as a victim of its own mismanagement.
But Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, a key Republican fiscal leader who has in the past urged Lake County communities to do more to help themselves and hold down government costs, appreciates Clay's moxie. "I was impressed," Kenley said. "Shoot for the moon."
Memo to Staff Not a Gag Order: Clay
GARY -- Mayor Clay says he didn't authorize a memo to staff members last week directing all media inquiries to the office of the press secretary. He also insisted there is "no gag order on city employees." "When I saw that, I said that this should not have been put out or sent out," Clay said.
The memo is from press secretary LaLosa Burns. It reminds recipients reporters are actively seeking information about the city, and anything reporters "see, hear or what you say is available for print or reporting." "Keep in mind, the media covers meetings to obtain information for story-writing, not as a favor to us," the memo reads.
According to the memo's instructions, media inquiries shouldn't be immediately answered but instead directed to Burns whether made by phone, e-mail, written correspondence or "in passing."
Clay said well-informed supervisors shouldn't hesitate to answer questions from the media when reporters pose their questions. "I have no problem with our department heads talking to the press as long as they got the facts right," Clay said.
"Steel City" Proposed Use of Stimulus Funds
• Gary, Indiana wants $750,000 for a host of
"modernization" upgrades to its police department, including "sub-automatic
machine guns" and an "armored vehicle."
[COMMENT -GDY]: I do not vouch for the accuracy of this report. Even so, I do react to it. Pray tell, how and the H... are sub-macahine guns and armored vehicles going to create jobs in Gary? — I have since [12 Feb] learned this report is in fact accurate! See: Mayor's Conference
Letters to the Editor
How inspiring! A federal government that is open to the citizens for both ideas and criticism. A renewed understanding of government, complete with new lobbying regulations, a freeze on unnecessary salary increases for top White House officials and a true freedom of the press. But most importantly, a return of the American government to its rightful owner -- the U.S. citizen.
Gary must begin this new political season with the same aspiration and the belief that our city is the responsibility of its owners: us. We must build on the momentum that President Obama has begun. In order to accomplish this task, we must remember that our government is "of the people and for the people." Our elected officials are our representatives, not our rulers.
Our current situation -- morally, economically, socially and politically -- is in turmoil. However, I feel that it is not too far gone for us to come together and correct our current problems. We are a strong community of people that once, when faced with adversity, raised up and elected America's first African-American mayor. We are a community that inspired a nation of black politicians to run for office by hosting the first Black National Political Convention. We are a community that, when the world said we couldn't, said "Yes we can," and we did! It is this spirit, determination and belief that inspired me to run for office, and it is this spirit that continues to inspire me.
We must reignite our sense of pride and rekindle our love for one another to band together to create the best educational system this country has ever seen. We must come together to make our community safe for one another. Then we will attract the businesses that we need to make Gary thrive. We must come together to rid our city of trash in empty lots and potholes that damage our cars. We must come together to demand that our consumer needs be met with a smile and in a timely fashion.
All of these needs and more can be met if we come together to demand that our representatives do better; remember, their actions are representative of us. If there is something in your community or neighborhood that you do not agree with, you must make these concerns known and help to rectify them. We all have a duty to our community, so we must each do our part in making Gary one of the premier cities in the state and an inspiration to the country.
We must find inspiration in our new president's philosophy of change. "Change will not come if we wait for some other person or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. ... We are the change that we seek. ... We are the hope of the future. ..." I look forward to working with you in making Gary great!
Ragen H. Hatcher, at-large representative, Gary City
[COMMENT -GDY]: Hear! Hear! At last, a cry from out in the wilderness. Could there really be someone who is actually getting the picture? For the sake of Gary, I sure hope so!
Gary Fire Station Repairs Fall Short
Compiled from a Post-Trib report By Jon Seidel
[9 Feb 2009]
GARY -- A firefighter making a meal in the kitchen of a Glen Park fire station a year ago would have done so in a room with moldy, water-damaged walls threatening to collapse. Fresh tile covers those walls now. They were donated to the city, and firefighters put them up. It's how most maintenance problems in Gary's fire stations are solved.
It's been a year since a Post-Tribune photographer and reporter toured Gary's fire houses, where firefighters work 24-hour shifts. At that time, the buildings needed significant repair. Water leaked from holes in the ceiling and bunk-room walls were covered in mold.
With fresh paint on the walls and new doors on the hinges, Capt. Rodney Smoote says his East Side Gary Fire Station No. 12 has done a complete "360." "It's a world of difference," Smoote said.
The Post-Tribune decided to take another look in the last few weeks to see what was done in 2008 to fix the fire houses. While some stations improved, the tour revealed that others continue to crumble. Raynard Robinson, president of GFF Local 359, said little has changed. "You've pretty much got the same thing," Robinson said.
Some work has been done. The Salvation Army gave a gas stove, couches and recliners to one fire house last year. A Gary businesswoman sought out donations for others.
City Council members Shirley Stanford, D-2nd, and Carolyn Rogers, D-4th, also stepped up, directing thousands of city dollars to be used for fire house repair in their districts. Stanford directed $20,000 to Station No. 9, 761 Clark Road, Station No. 8, 2800 W. 5th Ave., and Station No. 1, 200 E. 5th Ave. Rogers, meanwhile, earmarked $40,000 in 4th District funds to be spent at Station No. 12, 19th and Mississippi St. That donation was followed by a matching $42,000 donation from the Gary Economic Development Commission. The money, Rogers said, paid for a new roof, furnace, windows, doors and new paint for the walls.
There is plenty left to do, even at stations that saw repairs in 2008. Gutters are falling down at Station No. 8 and shingles are falling off the roof. A gaping hole remains in the ceiling of the garage at Station No. 4, 25th Madison St. The drains in that building don't work. Firefighters use a squeegee to push water around on the floor.
Firerfighter President Robinson said the donations from Stanford and Rogers are a "start," but he said it equates to a band-aid over the larger problem in Gary. "We need new stations. They need to direct money to build a new station."
Robinson said his union will start negotiations on a new contract with the city this year. The condition of the fire stations will be part of the talks. "They're going to have to agree to some kind of upkeep of these stations," Robinson said.
Mayor Clay and Fire Chief Jeff Ward said staff members
are pursuing grants and federal stimulus money that could be used this year to
improve the stations without tapping into Gary's general fund.
[COMMENT -GDY]: I do apologize for sounding like a broken record, but the facts are what the facts are. Once again the Mayor's solution to Gary's plight is to look to the outside for a solution. Rudy, that ain't the answer!
Gary High School Principal Shot
It happened Wednesday (4 Feb) night as Lucille Upshaw pulled up to at a stop sign near 24th Avenue and Burr Street. A bullet shattered the rear windshield and grazed her shoulder. She is the principal at Lew Wallace High School.
Upshaw's grandchild and husband were not harmed.
She drove to a near by truck stop and called for help. Police do not
believe she was a target of the shooting.
[COMMENT -GDY]: Just another day in the neighborhood!
City Trash Contract
Compiled from a Post-Trib report by Jon Seidel
[7 Feb 2009]
GARY -- The Gary Sanitary District's attempt to privatize trash collection last fall was "against the laws and public policy of the State of Indiana," a special judge ruled this week, rendering the Allied Waste contract "null and void." Judge Thomas W. Webber made his ruling in Lake County Superior Court in response to a class-action lawsuit filed by the Miller Citizens Corp., whose members were upset that Allied Waste got the business without a public bidding process.
Gary turned garbage collection over to Allied Waste in October. At that time, the Gary Sanitary District also implemented a garbage collection fee of $12 per household. The privatization contract eliminated several city jobs. The contract was part of an effort by Gary to survive a $13 million budget shortfall in 2008.
It wasn't clear Friday afternoon what will happen next in the case. More urgently, no one seemed to know who will now collect the garbage.
Mayor Rudy Clay, special administrator for the GSD, said he hadn't seen the ruling Friday afternoon. Neither had district lawyer Hamilton Carmouche. Both declined to comment. Allied Waste's representatives didn't return calls by press time.
MCC president Douglas Grimes called the ruling "a breath of fresh air." He reminded his more jaded members of the difference they can make in local government. "We got to the point where we thought nothing could happen. We couldn't do anything," Grimes said. "It kind of renews your faith a little bit."
The MCC objected to the contract on the grounds that the GSD never sought bids for garbage collection. Nor, Grimes said, did the MCC believe the GSD's board of commissioners had the right to impose the new collection fee. "That was the province of the City Council," Grimes said.
Carmouche has argued that no bidding process was necessary because the GSD was modifying an existing contract with Allied Waste.
An ordinance that would ratify the GSD board decision to impose a garbage fee was introduced to the City Council last year, only to be withdrawn.
Despite the court ruling, Grimes said the responsibility for picking up trash remains the city's responsibility. "We do pay for basic services when we pay our taxes," Grimes said. "The city has a responsibility to pick it up. It is a basic service."
P-T Should Stop Hummer Stories
I am sick of the Post-Tribune bellyaching about Gary Mayor Rudy Clay's Hummer. So what if he has a 2009 Hummer?
Every mayor in this country drives something. Every city might not be paying for its mayor's vehicle, but not having to pay the $600-a-month lease payment is going to save the city just $7,200 a year.
The Post-Tribune continues to be a petty racist voice in Northwest Indiana. When will U.S. Steel do more for the city of Gary while making record profits? That is what concerns me. If U.S. Steel doesn't do more for Gary, I think the city should have a 1% sales tax.
Sheri Burton, Gary
Jermaine Jackson -- I Don't Make Squat
Jermaine Jackson thinks $3,000/mo. is too damn much for child support ... for a guy who only barely made $10,000 in all of 2008.
In a desperate attempt to save himself some cash, Jermaine filed legal papers with the L.A. County courts Wednesday, claiming he hasn't made diddly squat since 2007 -- when he raked in $450,000 to appear on the U.K. version of "Big Brother."
Jermaine claims the current monthly amount he's required to fork over to his ex wife Alejandra Jackson is unfair, because his income from "Big Brother" was a factor when he agreed to pay $3,000/mo. in child support in May 2008. Now Jermaine claims he can't afford to keep up the payment because he's had a "significant change of circumstance" -- and only makes $892.75 a month.
Jermaine claims on his current salary, he can barely afford to pay for clothes, laundry, groceries and a tutor for his kids, Jaafar and Jermajesty. Oh, and he also claims he's so strapped for cash, that Alejandra needs to pay his legal fees too.
Garyites Groan I'm sure once President Barack Obama gets a handle on
our nation's financial crisis, health-care system, the war on terrorism and the
other problems our country has encountered, his first task will be a sit-down
with Gary Mayor Rudy Clay. Hah! Can the city of Gary do anything right? I sent out
my firearms permit application Oct. 16 last year, and I have not received the
permit, due to internal issues. Let's get it together, people. You teach in the Gary schools and are upset because the
kids couldn't watch the inauguration? Ever heard of a DVR? Your
children have some of the worst reading and math scores in the state, and you
want to take them out of class to watch the inauguration? Give me a
break. The Jacksons are coming! The Jacksons are
coming! At least that's what one of the Jackson brothers is saying
publicly, promising a long-awaited return trip to Gary, the family's hometown,
for an A&E documentary. Should we be excited? Should we be
appreciative? Should we expect their visit to help the beleaguered city in
any way? No, no, and no. Don't kid yourself. The Jacksons will be in Gary
just long enough for a photo op or how long it takes to film that documentary,
and then they will be out of here. It will be a 100% self-serving
homecoming with one purpose in mind: To help promote themselves.
Nothing more. And that's fine, if they would only admit
that. Instead, they utter the same lies they've been saying for
decades, like how they're looking forward to returning and seeing old friends,
as brother Tito said in an interview. Puh-lease.
From the Post-Trib "Quickly" Column
[2 Feb 2009]
Compiled from a Post-Trib Blog Entry by Jerry Davich
[31 Jan 2009]
I'm sure once President Barack Obama gets a handle on our nation's financial crisis, health-care system, the war on terrorism and the other problems our country has encountered, his first task will be a sit-down with Gary Mayor Rudy Clay. Hah!
Can the city of Gary do anything right? I sent out my firearms permit application Oct. 16 last year, and I have not received the permit, due to internal issues. Let's get it together, people.
You teach in the Gary schools and are upset because the kids couldn't watch the inauguration? Ever heard of a DVR? Your children have some of the worst reading and math scores in the state, and you want to take them out of class to watch the inauguration? Give me a break.
The Jacksons are coming! The Jacksons are coming! At least that's what one of the Jackson brothers is saying publicly, promising a long-awaited return trip to Gary, the family's hometown, for an A&E documentary.
Should we be excited? Should we be appreciative? Should we expect their visit to help the beleaguered city in any way? No, no, and no.
Don't kid yourself. The Jacksons will be in Gary just long enough for a photo op or how long it takes to film that documentary, and then they will be out of here. It will be a 100% self-serving homecoming with one purpose in mind: To help promote themselves. Nothing more.
And that's fine, if they would only admit that. Instead, they utter the same lies they've been saying for decades, like how they're looking forward to returning and seeing old friends, as brother Tito said in an interview. Puh-lease.
Gary Schools Hit with Fine in 2006 Lawsuit
HAMMOND -- A federal judge has sanctioned Gary Community School Corp. for failing to turn over documents to lawyers for a former student who is suing the district for barring him from the senior prom because he was wearing a pink gown.
Even before the case goes to trial, the district will have to pay some fees for lawyers representing Kevin "K.K." Logan, who had requested Judge Paul R. Cherry's intervention after school attorneys repeatedly missed deadlines to give up documents related to the 2006 West Side High School prom.
Logan, a transgender student who cross-dressed in women's clothing for most of his senior year, has sued the district, claiming his civil rights were violated when school administrators turned him away from the prom when he showed up in an ankle-length pink gown.
"There has been a real pattern of not complying with court orders and court rules," said Cole Thaler, an attorney representing Logan for the Lambda Legal Fund.
Dems Trade Barbs Before
Compiled from a Post-Trib report by John Byrne
[31 Jan 2009]
The election for Lake Co. Democratic chairman is, by definition, insider baseball. Several hundred representatives of the party's precinct organization will convene 7 Mar to cast ballots for the person who will steer their course over the next four years in a county absolutely critical to Democratic success statewide.
But the three men who have announced their intention to seek the post insist they have higher aspirations than to simply control the organization and enjoy the kingmaking potential that goes along with it.
Incumbent Rudy Clay, Gary's mayor, points to the high Democratic turnout engineered under his watch to help carry the state for Barack Obama.
The next four years will be key to helping the region through its economic troubles, with federal aid Clay says will flow freely to Lake County under his stewardship.
"We have a friend in the White House, for the first time in 44 years," Clay said. "Why would we want to change leadership now?"
The other 3 candidates are:
Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr.
Lake County Surveyor George Van Til
Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub (undeclared, but keeping options open)
[COMMENT -GDY]: Clay says federal aid will flow freely to Lake Co., now that "we have a friend in the White House." Typical Rudy, always chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and never taking substantive action to bring about real change!
State Chamber Slams Gary Proposal
Labeling Gary's petition to a state tax appeal board "ill-founded, flawed, and misguided," the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has joined a chorus of voices seeking its rejection.
The city asked the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board earlier this month to raise tax caps for Gary businesses from 3.5% to 5.46% to make up for a massive loss of revenue expected at City Hall this year. Gary is the first and only city to petition the DUAB for relief.
In a letter now on the DUAB Web site, Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin M. Brinegar expresses his concern that future petitioners might seek similar resolutions in their communities.
"The DUAB's decision on these petitions could establish a precedent and promote a practice that would only further undermine and threaten the economic stability of troubled localities across the state," Brinegar wrote.
Brinegar's letter was also submitted on behalf of the Indiana Manufacturers Association, the Indiana Retail Council and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.
Gary Schools Big Stimulus Package Winners
INDIANAPOLIS -- Gary schools would see a 40% increase in state funding for the next two years under the federal economic stimulus package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives this week. If the bill makes it through the Senate, the Gary Community School Corp. could get about $75 million in additional federal money over the next two years to be used on things like technology upgrades, construction and teacher training.
Gov. Mitch Daniels mentioned the percentage increase during a news conference Thursday to discuss the stimulus package. He said Indiana will get about $5 billion overall to spend on construction, tax reduction and other pump primers for the Indiana economy. About $1.5 billion will be earmarked specifically for schools across the state, Daniels said. Distribution of the funds will largely be based on the number of students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches because they live near or below the poverty level.
The governor was quick to point out the formula could change significantly in the Senate. On average, Indiana school districts would see a 10% state funding increase. Because so many students in Gary live in poverty, the jump would be much higher.
Under the current House plan, the district would get $44 million in 2009 for capital improvements and operating expenses, Kitchell said. Gary public schools would get $31 million in 2010 for operating costs, and then the federal funding would stop.
Daniels urged schools across the state to keep in mind their shares will run out after two years. "If we keep state funding where it is, increases will average 10%, with a high of 40% in Gary. 40%, for two years, and then evaporate," the governor said.
"It's good news, because (schools) will be financially stronger than they could have ever imagined," Daniels said. "But it won't be good news if they simply spend all that money and commit to new levels of spending that will be completely unsustainable two years from now."
Gary Hopes for Stimulus Money
At the mayor’s office on Broadway, Rudy Clay says what he really needs is federal government help in the form of stimulus money and state help in the form of waivers on tax caps.
Then he could jump-start Gary’s assets which he says include the city’s proximity to Chicago, its airport and its well used expressways and commuter train and begin to return Gary to the way people like Rozzelle Hammond (owner of the Esquire Men's Shop on Broadway) remember it. Hammond's memory is long, as he has been at this location for 60 years.
CLAY: I was raised in Gary. I know what it
was, what it can be, I know what it is now. We are poised to become a
great city. All we’re saying is give us a chance here. And, I think
we’ll get that chance and then we’ll soar like an eagle here in Gary,
[COMMENT -GDY]: Rudy is big on talk, but his real talent is as a professional panhandler. All he knows how to do is beg. Instead of a hot metal ladle being a part of the City of Gary Seal, maybe it should be changed to a tin cup?
Stretch of Chase Street To Be Closed
GARY -- The treacherous stretch of Chase St. that's played a part in six deaths and several accidents over the last seven years will be closed next month. Acting on an executive order issued by Mayor Rudy Clay, the Board of Public Works approved the closing Wednesday, which affects the portion of Chase Street between 28th and 35th avenues. Road signs will be placed along Chase Street to alert motorists of the pending 28 Feb road closure, according to Public Works Director Rinzer Williams III.
Costs for repairing the bumpy and pothole-riddled road
would be "astronomical" at this point because it's in a flood plain near the
Little Calumet River, said Deputy Mayor Geraldine Tousant. "When we first
looked into it, it cost $4 million. Now, I would estimate it at $6
million," she said.
[COMMENT -GDY]: Gary's solution to the problem is to close the road, not fix it! Sadly, this is typical of how matters are handled in the "Steel City." Had the Little Cal. R. flood wall project been completed years ago, the road a) would not now be in a state of abandonment, or b) so costly to repair.
Suggestions to Help Gary Rebound
To the people of Gary:
You may think it rather presumptuous of me to advise you about ways to enhance Gary's prospects. After all, I don't work or live in the city. I know I am an outsider, but I like to think that I am nevertheless a friend. Sometimes friends at some distance can be helpful.
First, the positives. Gary has many advantages. More than 30% of Indiana's entire Lake Michigan frontage lies within Gary's city limits. What a potential for future development! You have the area's only professional team (the RailCats and formerly the Steelheads).
Indiana University Northwest and Ivy Tech Community College are in your city. You have major employers, like U.S. Steel, and many smaller companies. Your airport is said by just about everyone to be one of the most important economic development opportunities in all of Northwest Indiana. You have ready access to Chicago via the South Shore. You have an outstanding interstate highway network -- the Indiana Toll Road at the north end, Interstate 80/94 at the south end and I-65 running the length of the city. You have more people than any other town or city in Lake or Porter counties, and your faith in community is strong and vibrant. When you add it all up, no other community in Northwest Indiana has more pluses than Gary.
So why is Gary a "distressed community?" Why do we hear about streets not being plowed, garbage not being picked up and high crime? Why is the city devoid of major retailers? Why are the public schools in poor physical shape and test scores so low, despite able students and dedicated teachers?
Racism is often cited, and this is an important issue,
but we can't let that stop us. The south side of Chicago is heavily
African-American, yet many of its neighborhoods are revitalizing and have
[COMMENT -GDY]: Is it wrong to inquire how long Garyites will continue to not accept responsibilty for its current situation? I mean, the last time Gary was controlled by the old white guard, or had a white majority population was circa 1968, wasn't it? That is only a decade short of being a half-century ago! At some point in time those now in control, or with a vested interest by reason of being residents and taxpayers, have to ask themselves, "What am I doing to change my situation? It would be refreshing to see a little "I am black and I am proud!", as well as an "I am mad as hell and am not going to take it anymore!" attitude in all living with Gary's problems 24/7.
Another negative being repeated lately is the property tax cap. This, too, is serious. But Gary is not alone. True, Gary is hit harder than others, but every community is going through this painful adjustment. Some say Gary's problems started long ago and the community is just now experiencing this painful inheritance. This is certainly true to some extent. But what good does it do to complain about the past? It can't be changed. It's the future that needs our attention.
And so, dear people of Gary, what can be done to make your future better? I believe the key elements are committed leadership and an attitude of open-minded sharing. Those of us outside the community want you to succeed, and many of us are willing to help if you are open to partnering with us. I'm not talking about shipping in money and letting the powers that be spend it as they please. This has been tried it, and hasn't worked to your benefit.
Rather, I would like to suggest that rank-and-file Gary residents join with your non-political (and usually younger) professionals to brainstorm what can be done. Think outside the box. Be willing to sacrifice if necessary. Be open to experts from outside the community. Forget about fiefdoms and power struggles. Work out a solution for yourselves and take it to the mayor and City Council with a polite but firm demand that your plan be implemented.
For example, you might say that for the balance of 2009 the city should suspend all other activities, however good, and focus on basic municipal services -- like public safety, timely garbage pick-up, and proper street maintenance in all four seasons. Then for 2010 you might build on that success and focus on economic development, possibly even privatizing that function to remove politics and making it possible to hire the best professionals at market rates.
At the same time, you might turn to the School Board and insist that it hire an able superintendent and give him or her sufficient independence to accomplish needed reforms. Whatever you decide, I hope education attainment is high on the list. This is the ticket your youth need to succeed in the 21st century.
The foregoing are just suggestions. I don't actually know what the city needs or how it should be accomplished, but I am confident that you and your neighbors can figure it out. This is the time for a bottom-up solution. The old top-down approach hasn't worked.
Calvin Bellamy is a Hammond and Schererville attorney and former chairman of Bank Calumet.
Although we are currently operating in an extremely difficult environment, it is worth noting that 2008 was a record year for United States Steel Corporation with revenues of $23.8 billion, operating income of $3.1 billion and net income of $2.1 billion or $18.11 per share. The fourth quarter included a record U.S. Steel worker profit sharing payment based on our third quarter results.
Turning to our outlook, we expect an operating loss in the first quarter as results continue to reflect the extremely difficult global economic environment. We do not know when conditions may improve, but we are well-positioned to fully participate in a market recovery when it occurs.
Closure of City Jail Yields Fewer Arrests
GARY--Closing the Gary City Jail did more than just move inmates to Lake County.
The most obvious impact is apparent on Monday mornings in Gary City Court, where for years, at least a dozen, or as many as 30 people appeared before the judge. On Jan. 5, there was one inmate. A week later, three.
Cmdr. Richard Allen was unable to provide the Post-Tribune with statistics comparing the number of arrests during the first two weeks of this year to 2008, but Lake County police say they are receiving fewer prisoners than expected.
Although no one would speak on the record, Gary officers say they are making fewer arrests for a number of reasons, including the length of time it takes to process one prisoner. Without correctional officers to photograph and fingerprint prisoners, police who make the arrests must perform every step. Sometimes, officers have been in booking for up to three hours completing paperwork. "I have heard from a number of officers who tell me they don't understand, they haven't received training to do it," FOP Lodge 61 President Del Stout said last week.
"It doubles our work," a patrol officer who asked not to identified said. "It's a different computer system and there's no one there to show you. My worry is the officer safety issue. When you have an arrest, it takes twice as long, that's a long time to have one less officer on the street when there are so few out there already," he said.
The ever-declining roster is also a factor in the drop in arrests, observers say. As officers continue to seek employment elsewhere -- three more resigned this week, totalling 21 resignations and retirements in a year -- and others are reassigned to task forces or the new Neighborhood Enforcement Team, the patrol division is short-staffed.
On Thursday, eight officers in four cars were patrolling
the entire city during the day. Previous administrations required at least
21 officers per shift.
[COMMENT -GDY]: I hope this is not an example of, "If it means more work on my part, then I simply will not do it" attitude? One cannot believe commission of crime has gone down, when the number of police officers on the street has gone done by 66%?
Hey Quickly, I got my tax bill yesterday. I'm going to pay the taxes, but I really, really don't want to do it because of six inches of snow. I've been sitting in the house two days, waiting on a plow to come by, so I can get out. No plow. Why should I pay my taxes on time when I can't even get a plow out here in Gary? This is so ridiculous!
Can someone explain why the train/bus station in Gary is not plowed? We pay to park there and then have to push our cars out because of the snow. Maybe the mayor could put a plow on that new Hummer and help out?
Don't blame the state for problems in NWI
I take exception with several of the situations where Michael Goodson tries to lay blame on Gov. Daniels, Indianapolis and "South Indiana" in his 15 Jan column. Once again another voice from Northwest Indiana tries to lay blame at someone else's door for this area's wastefulness.
The pay raises for the tourism bureau, a plan to run a train that no one wants to Lowell and an ever-expanding and useless airport are mostly of our own making. Because of Northwest Indiana's reputation for wasting public money, being resistant to bring local governments into cooperation and looking only to maintain the status quo of party patronage, I don't wonder that restrictions were put on Regional Development Authority distributions.
Look at the Little Calumet River levee project that was estimated to cost less than $100 million and be completed in 10 years. After over $200 million and 18 years, it's still $15 million and three years from completion.
Also, what about the Gary Airport whose CEO gives away $350,000 without repercussions? The airport has received millions of dollars and is of little more use than the one that hasn't been built near Peotone, Ill. If it is built in Gary, they will not come.
Every project that is started in NWI has a life of its own. There seems to be no sunset on them until those in charge are caught, prosecuted and sent to prison. I think Goodson needs to look closer to home for solutions to NWI's problems.
Pragmatism, honesty and a true heart for the community are needed from the politicians, rather than looking to assure themselves of a job for life. This, in turn, would give this area a better standing in the remainder of the state. Perhaps then they could say there are some good things coming out of NWI.
Carl Robinson, Porter
[COMMENT -GDY]: Carl raises some good points here. Just who are the elected leaders looking out for is the question that must be answered. And, that answer had better be the citizens, not themselves. If it is not, throw the bums out!
City Fate Awaits Casino License Decision
It isn't clear if casino owner Don Barden wants to sell his boats, but a state lawmaker from Gary warns that powerful politicians want to move one of his casinos out of the city.
Just this month, Mayor Clay told a tax appeals board in Indianapolis that both of Barden's boats are for sale. He repeated the statement at a City Council meeting days later. Reached briefly while boarding a plane this week, Barden was asked if he was truly trying to sell his boats. "That's not true," Barden said.
Upon hearing of Barden's denial, Clay declined to comment any further. "It's highly possible I misunderstood what he said," Clay said.
Ernest Yelton, executive director of the Indiana Gaming Commission, said his office hasn't been notified of any pending sale. Frozen credit markets, meanwhile, could seriously hinder any deal, Feigenbaum said.
Ron Pratt, still a regular critic of Barden at City
Council meetings, is preparing himself just in case. A new license holder,
Pratt said, would mean the city could negotiate a new development agreement and
increase cash flow at City Hall. "We'd have jobs, and we'd have money,"
[COMMENT -GDY]: Yeah, and maybe the Pied Piper of Hamlet will come along and save the city? It is high time those in charge quit grabbing at straws in an effort to solve Gary's problems! Casino revenue is not, and never has been, the long-term solution to Gary's loss of industry, jobs and revenue. Someone with insight is needed to lead Gary back to viability, and that someone is neither Clay, nor Pratt.
GARY -- The City of Gary's checkbook could be subject to the state's "consistent oversight" under a concept talked about Wednesday by Gary's leaders and members of the state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board. Both sides are promising to work together, but board member Paul Wyman said it will be tough to reconcile Gary's expenses with new property tax caps taking effect across the state this year. "There will not be an easy solution," Wyman said.
Gary is the only Indiana city petitioning the appeals board for relief from the state's new property tax caps. Those caps could slash the city's $63 million budget by at least $24 million in 2009.
Gary's business community met with the DUAB at
Truck City. The business community is "very concerned" over the city's
suggestion that the state raise property tax caps for businesses from 3.5% to
5.46%. A higher tax bill would be considered by new businesses, Wyman
said, when they decide where to open shop. "They might not choose to come
to Gary," Wyman said.
[COMMENT -GDY]: What sane, reasonably competent, business person would consider coming to Gary to start a business?
State and city officials retired to a closed-door
meeting to discuss what Gary would need to do to qualify for relief. Wyman
later characterized this meeting as "frank" and "honest." The governor and
other state officials have consistently said the city must cut spending as much
as possible to qualify for "special treatment." That "special treatment"
could be accompanied by an annual audit. Wyman said he broached the idea
in Wednesday's meeting of a more thorough and "consistent oversight" of city
finances. "The key to this whole process is going to be
accountability,"Wyman said. While he took no options off the table, Wyman
said that review isn't likely to be as extreme as a complete state takeover of
[COMMENT -GDY]: Given the dire financial straits the "Steel City" is attempting to navigate, I would say something far more than an annual state audit is in order. I would call for state pre-approval of the expenditure of funds for any single item in excess of some reasonable dollar amount. Should city monies be spent without state pre-approval, the amount of that expenditure should be deducted from any relief monies due the city.
From Post-Trib "Quickly" Column
[22 Jan 2009]
Gary Mayor Rudy Clay has shown us that he doesn't have the chops to do the job he was elected to do. Anyone can whine and complain and push around the blame. A smart man would take the situation, whatever it might be, and make the best of it. Any improvement would be better than none. What a reputation he could earn if he would just make the effort.
Buying a Hummer when you have the Distressed Unit Board coming to do some analysis on the city of Gary was not a bright move. What's even less intelligent is that Mayor Rudy Clay went to Washington, D.C., for the inauguration and left others here to do work he needs to be handling. Do you think these people are going to sit here and wait for him to come back to Gary? He should make them his priority. We need someone in Gary to take up the challenge and say, "We're fighting for Gary." But, so far, we have yet to have any elected official who has Gary as a main priority.
Is anyone aware that Roosevelt High School in falling apart? The walls are peeling, water is sitting on some of the classroom floors, and the ceiling is coming down. Some of the rooms are so cold the students have to keep on their coats.
A remarkable lady will turn 100 on Thursday, Martha Morgan-Naylor. She and her family moved to Gary in 1917, along with many immigrants from Eastern Europe and blacks from the Deep South. People flocked to Gary seeking jobs at U.S. Steel, better living conditions and excellent schools for their children. Morgan-Naylor taught physical education at Roosevelt H.S. for 32 years, then at Beckman Middle School for 11 years until her retirement in 1974.
Morgan-Naylor reflected on the many years Gary's
curriculum included study halls and physical education from first through 12th
grades, and the extended bands, orchestras and multiple choirs. "I believe
the once nationally respected Gary schools were focused on the total success of
educating students." "Years ago, parents, churches and teachers expected
the best from all students," she said. "The Gary Plan (Work-Study-Play)
was utilized by many school districts around the country. All of the
disciplines -- academics, sports and cultural activities -- added up to high
educational standards," Morgan-Naylor said. "All schools included a bank
savings plan for interested students, which was an early lesson in economics and
[COMMENT -GDY]: Ah, but that parents and citizens in Gary would get involved with their children/community. There is truth in the adage that "one lives up to their expectations." Sadly, it seems the residents of Gary have no longer have any, let alone high, expectations.
Stop Blame Game - Cut City Expenses
Gary Mayor Rudy Clay continues to use the words "inheritance" and "mismanagement" as he talks about the city's financial woes. Clay says he has not mismanaged anything, but inherited a massive problem from former Mayor Scott King.
It's time for Clay to stop placing blame and fully address the problems. That's the mayor's job. Pointing fingers won't get anything done.
There is plenty of blame to go around for Gary's financial troubles. For instance:
* Several mayors over the years failed to cut the amount of city government as the population plummeted from almost 200,000 to less than 100,000 today.
* While some contend the tax cut the Legislature provided U.S. Steel almost a decade ago was too large, the fact is the city failed to reduce costs in response to the loss of property tax revenue.
* With breaks to U.S. Steel, the closure of many businesses and the exodus of much of the population, reassessment and property tax caps have had a negative impact on those who remain.
Rather than pointing fingers, Clay needs to craft a plan to make immediate cuts without endangering public safety. That's what Ryan Kitchell, chairman of the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board, meant when he said, "The mayor proposed making cuts over a four-year period. Why wait until year three or four to cut something that could be cut today?"
The board surely will watch for that. If there are obsolete or unneeded departments, get rid of them. If two people can do the jobs of three, do so.
And one more thing, Mayor. Get rid of the
Hummer! It's not the cost, but the image.
[COMMENT -GDY]: Well said! To hear Clay tell it, he is not responsible for anything; be it the past, present or future of the city he was elected to lead.
There is one good thing about the sub-zero temps -- less crime in Gary. It's too cold for the gang bangers to come out!
Gary Mayor Says He Inherited Mess
Gary, Indiana Mayor Rudy Clay will be departing soon for Washington, DC to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama. Clay says there’s similarities between the economic mess Obama’s walking into, and his own problems in Gary. Gary is nearly broke, having a tough time attracting new business and fighting crime. It’s looking for a bailout from the state and stimulus money from the federal government.
It’s been nearly two years since the 72-year-old Clay took over as mayor of the city he’s lived in all of his life.
CLAY: I think the correct word is inheritance. We’re still digging out. We’ve had to cut our employee staff. I took a 20% pay cut. So we are doing everything we can, creative and otherwise, to keep the city going, but we really inherited a real mess here.
acknowledging those problems, Clay says, like Obama, he remains confident he can
make a difference.
Gleason Golf Probe Expands
GARY -- The internal probe of an unauthorized pro shop at South Gleason Golf Course is expanding. It now encompass money missing money from at least one annual golf outing, Parks Superintendent Caren Jones confirmed.
That money passed through the hands of golf course manager John Lowe. Lowe is already under scrutiny for selling golf accessories to the city course's customers without a contract, and keeping undetermined amounts of profit. Parks Superintendent Jones revealed that now, "Some other things have come up, and we are looking into those things." She also stated, "I will not be able to comment on that because it is part of the ongoing investigation."
The treasurer for the USWA Local 1014, Mike Rivera, said his union and U.S. Steel paid $8,240 for an 8/2/08 golf outing at South Gleason. The union made an initial cash deposit of $1,993, Rivera said. U.S. Steel later paid the $6,247 balance.
Those amounts are also recorded on a Gleason Park invoice, which acknowledges receipt of the cash deposit. That receiprt is signed by Lowe. However, records in the city controller's office show Gleason revenues totaled just $6,247 that day. The records contain no indication of receipt of the initial $1,993 payment.
Officials Hope Demolition Will Spark Gary Revival
GARY -- If Gary's leaders are able to finalize an agreement with state historical officials, abandoned and dilapidated buildings on Broadway could begin to slowly disappear. The work would begin with a building purchased by the city at tax sale after state Rep. Vernon Smith's nonprofit, IU Dons, Inc., failed to pay thousands in property taxes. Redevelopment Director Vaness Dabney said, "It's our starting point."
Mayor Rudy Clay said he expects the state's Division of Historical Preservation and Archaeology will soon permit demolition or restoration of buildings in the 700 block of Broadway. "Our hands have been untied as it relates to a few of the historic preservation sites," Clay said.
Dabney said the city specifically wants to target 700-718 Broadway. It signed a memorandum of agreement this week that has now been forwarded to state officials. "There's a process that you have to go through when you want to demolish buildings with federal dollars," Dabney said.
It isn't clear yet, though, how the demolition will be paid for, or how much it will cost. Federal Community Development Block Grant funds are a typical source of demolition money. Dabney said the city is sending out a request for bids to get a sense of the demolition cost. It shall decide how to proceed from there.
Per Dabney, the city wants to begin demolishing the
downtown buildings to show investors it is serious about redevelopment.
"Maybe we can get some viable developers that can actually come in and work on
the level required by the historic preservation office," Dabney said.
[COMMENT -GDY]: How does demolition = "historic preservation," one has to wonder? While tearing down delapidated, abandoned eyesores is indeed a good thing, I would question whether doing so is sufficient incentive to a potential developer to consider investing good money into downtown Gary?
Municipal Hiring Bias in Gary, Feds Charge
GARY -- The U.S. Department of Justice accuses Gary of racial discrimination in the fall of 2006 hiring of six emergency medical technicians. Those techs, all of whom were black, ranked below white applicants on a city hiring list. According to the federal lawsuit, the white applicants were never hired.
One black EMT applicant offered employment by the city didn't even appear on that list, federal attorneys wrote.
"Federal law guarantees equal access to employment opportunities without regard to race," Grace Chung Becker, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, wrote in a statement.
Hamilton Carmouche, Gary's corporation counsel, said that list was prepared under former Mayor Scott King and wasn't recognized by Mayor Rudy Clay, who took office in April 2006. Clay, he said, gave preference to applicants living in Gary. "We hire not on the basis of any race, but on the basis of residency," Carmouche said.
According to the complaint, Gary created an EMT hiring list in February 2006. The list ranked 25 job applicants. Offers of employment were to be made in order of rank on that list,. The hiring list expired in February 2007.
The EEOC made an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the
matter with the city voluntarily, according to the lawsuit."
[COMMENT -GDY]: Should one be at all surprised that Gary officials act as though federal law does not apply in the "Steel City?"
Clay on Gary's Fiscal Crisis
The mayor insists the city's financial crisis is one he "inherited" from former Mayor Scott King:
"The word is not mismanagement. The word is inheritance," Clay said.
Gov. Daniels on Gary's Fiscal Crisis
INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Governor Daniels takes a dim view of Gary Mayor Clay's push to delay extensive budget cuts by denying city businesses millions in tax breaks.
Clay and other city leaders asked a state appeals panel Monday to tweak the caps so that Gary and its sister agencies would need to make only $5 million in budget cuts. The requested tweak would require the city businesses to pay $31 million more in taxes.
"That's a good way to make sure the very last job leaves Gary. "I don't think much of it."
The Republican governor's sentiment looms large because one of his top staffers heads up the Distressed Unit Appeals Board that is vetting the city's plea for budget relief. Ryan Kitchell is the director of the state Office of Management and Budget. Kitchell promises to steer Gary officials toward every conceivable cost-cutting avenue before the state panel would clear a path to higher property taxes.
Gary Controller Celita Green told the state appeals
panel the city has a 15.9% unemployment rate -- more than double the state
jobless rate -- and a declining business base that makes financing city
government difficult. Asks State Budget Director Chris Ruhl, "Wouldn't
that argue for a lower cap for business instead of higher one?"
[COMMENT -GDY]: The solution to a "declining business base, and 15.9% unemployment rate, is to tax more? I was always told, "You cannot squeeze blood from a turnip." Evidently, the City of Gary thinks fiscal accountability means balancing the books on the backs of taxpayers, be they residents or businesses? We don't reduce spending, we just increase municipal revenue via taxation!
One Citizen's View
Since there's no money to plow the streets in Gary and the citizens of Gary just bought Mayor Clay a new Hummer, the least he could do is equip it with a plow, strap one of his high-paid security guards to the hood with a bucket of salt and do his bit to help clear the streets.
Gary May Lose Court, Fear Clerk and Judge
GARY -- "The city administration has to be very careful that in its funding request to the state, through the IDUAB, that it is not doing so at the expense of giving up our ownership or authority to be maintained as a city," Gary City Clerk Suzette Raggs told the council. "Are citizens prepared to accept the loss of court services that have existed in our city since 1910?"
Gary's court and clerk take up a total of about $3.3
million worth of the city's $63 million 2009 budget. However, Raggs said
the court and the clerk are the "largest revenue generating community service
team in the city." They average more than $1 million in total annual
collections, Raggs said, processing more than $300,000 in cash bonds each
[COMMENT -GDY]: Now, here is a real dilemma for city government. The yearly cost to run the court is $3.3 Mil, and the court brings in $1 Mil. Let's see, that yields an annual LOSS of $2.3 Mil. But, in order to save these millions, how many jobs of the folks living off of taxpayer dollars would have to be eliminated? Is it not a question of what is more important, the fiscal viability and possible continued existence of the City of Gary, or the jobs of those presently milking the city treasury; so long as there is a city treasury to milk?
A drastic move like eliminating the city court can't happen on a whim, clerk attorney Jewell Harris, Jr. said. At the very least, he said, it would require a vote by the City Council. "It may require state authorization as well," Harris said.
Second-class cities can abolish their courts every four years, according to state statutes. Gary's next opportunity would be in 2010. Before that happens, Harris said, city and state officials have some homework to do.
Eliminating the city court means extra work for Lake County judges. "Does the county even know that's the city's plan?" Harris asked. "Is the county prepared to absorb those 70,000 pending cases?"
If the court were eliminated without the proper research, Harris said, he's "sure" there would be legal challenges. First, though, he said he wants to make sure everyone is aware of the ramifications.
Clay declined to comment on the clerk's comments. —
GARY -- If a state appeals board chooses not to raise local tax caps and increase city revenues can the City of Gary continue to exist, a new report asks. The comments are included in an audit of Gary's 2007 finances by the State Board of Accounts.
The state auditors discuss Gary's financial future in light of new property tax laws in a summary letter. "The amount of budget reductions that would be required for the city to fully implement the current tax legislation raises substantial doubt about the city's ability to continue as a going concern," auditors wrote in the report.
Auditors also write that the tax caps would put public safety services in jeopardy if the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board doesn't help the city. "Several essential public safety and health and welfare services would have to be transferred to Lake County," auditors wrote.
Mike Bozymski, deputy state examiner, said his auditors were not editorializing on whether Hartman and other appeals board members should vote for that relief. "It's just part of the auditing standards," Bozymski said.
As part of the review, auditors pointed to several accounting irregularities and problems with internal controls at City Hall in 2007. Among the auditors' concerns was $2,393 in personal purchases on city credit cards. Another $28,346 in credit card purchases lacked sufficient supporting documentation, according to the report.
Mayor Rudy Clay declined to comment on the audit. He and members of his cabinet traveled to Indianapolis Monday to make their appeal.
Gov. Mitch Daniels and appeals board chairman Ryan
Kitchell have said Gary must first do all it can to cut its own budget before
qualifying for "special treatment."
[COMMENT -GDY]: Accounting irregularities and problems with controls at City Hall? That kind of thing doesn't occur in the "Steel City," does it? The Clay administration certainly bears all the hallmarks of a municipal government the state would jump at the chance to bailout!
GARY - Police Commissioner Charles Smith took a moment at Thursday night's meeting to thank officers who have remained on the force, after acknowledging the loss of five officers - four who quit and one retiree. Smith pleaded to a handful of officers who attended the Gary Police Civil Service Commission meeting, "Please stick around. We're happy you're here. The citizens may not know everything that you do, but I appreciate you."
As the city's financial crisis expands and police overtime, equipment and morale dissipate, officers are seeking employment elsewhere. City officials have suggested laying off as many as 71 officers in the next few years, even though the police roster is at the lowest point since the early 1990's.
At the meeting, the board also received testimony in a disciplinary matter involving 13 year veteran patrolman Henry Waddell. Waddell admitted to using a stun gun on an unconscious, intoxicated Portage man in May, after a security guard at a Miller adult book store asked police to remove the man. Although a hearing officer agreed with Chief Reggie Harris' recommendation that Waddell serve a 30-day unpaid suspension, the board chose to review the matter independently.
I read the article about the guy who is sick of the negative press Gary gets in the Post-Tribune. However, Gary is what it is: high homicide rate, high crime rate, "gimme, gimme" comments in Quickly, complaints about the mayor you elected, and so on. Until the residents stop expecting the government to do everything for them, Gary never will change. Progress starts with the residents. You want change? Prove it!
Clay Vows Paying Own Way to Inaugural
GARY -- Elected officials planning to attend the inauguration of Barack Obama, including Gary Mayor Rudy Clay, say they won't be doing so out of the pockets of local taxpayers. "The taxpayers are not going to spend one penny for me to go to this inaugural," Clay said.
The mayor plans to travel to Washington a few days early, so he may attend the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. It's an expense I shall fund privately, as well. "The taxpayers are not going to pay any money for my going to the United States mayors' conference," Clay said.
When he arrives at the conference, Clay said he will be carrying photographs of 2,000 abandoned Gary homes to deliver to U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, while asking for demolition money. There is talk that Obama might attend the conference to speak to the nation's mayors about the stimulus package he will pursue upon taking office. "I'm going there to bring money back to Gary, Indiana," Clay said.
At the same time, the
mayor said he will don a tuxedo to celebrate the inauguration of the new
president. "I am going to try to dance with Michelle," Clay said, referring to
future First Lady Michelle Obama.
(AP-Gary, IN) The chairman of a state panel considering whether Gary's city government should receive an exemption from new property tax caps is questioning how financially distressed the city is if it can afford to buy the mayor a 2009 Hummer H3 for $29,970.
Ryan Kitchell, chairman of the state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board, said Tuesday he was disappointed to learn about the purchase a day after city officials sought a waiver from the caps imposed by the General Assembly last year, saying it could cost the city $30 million and lead to hundreds of layoffs.
The board would consider giving the city an exemption only after it has shown it has cut all it can from its budget, Kitchell said. "The new Hummer and testimony presented yesterday clearly show that much more spending can be cut."
But Mayor Clay defended the purchase, which is being paid in three yearly installments. "What do you want me to do, walk around here?" Clay asked. "I've got to have a car." Clay defended his vehicle choice Tuesday, saying he pays for the gas and that it's one of the least expensive SUVs. (The base price for a 2009 Hummer H3, according to Hummer's Web site, is $34,135. It gets 14 mpg in the city and 18 mpg on the highway, according to the EPA.) "We're saving taxpayers money by riding in a Hummer," he said. "I could've bought a $50,000 Expedition." (A basic 2009 Ford Expedition, according to Ford's Web site, would cost $32,820.)
More than 30 Gary residents submitted comments to the board opposing the bailout, some of which criticized the city for buying the Hummer. One person wrote a letter comparing Clay using the Hummer while seeking relief from the state to the CEOs of America's Big Three automakers flying to Washington on corporate jets to seek a bailout from Congress.
Panel member Mark GiaQuinta of Ft. Wayne said the letters
he has seen tell him that Gary residents want to see "profound change" before
the city is granted the higher tax levels.
[COMMENT -GDY]: Wait one? Taking 3 years to pay for the new Hummer takes it out to 2012, does it not? Does Rudy's current term of office even last that long? If not, that means another administration will have to pay off this car loan! And, yes Rudy, we would love to see you walk the streets of Gary. Perhaps if you did, those same streets might be safer for the taxpaying citizens!
Business Cool to Gary Bailout
Compiled from a Post-Trib report by Jon Seidel
[7 Jan 2009]
GARY -- Local business owners are not interested in helping Mayor Clay fill a $31 million budget gap; rejecting his proposal that the state increase property tax caps.
"The way the economy is and the way our business is right now, every day is just a prayer that we stay open," Dolly's restaurant owner Joslyn Washington said. "You would hope that we'd be able to find some other method," Chuck Hughes, director of the Gary Chamber of Commerce, said. "Our businesses are suffering as it is."
"U.S. Steel supports the governor's property tax relief plan. However, it recognizes that the city of Gary has serious budgetary issues that must be addressed." At the same time, the company already pays more taxes on its Gary Works facility than any of its other properties. "Our company's primary focus right now is how to compete in a very difficult economic environment, reduce costs and keep our people working," Armstrong said.
Larry Buck, senior vice president and general manager of Majestic Star Casino, said his company's own financial turmoil would make the additional taxes difficult to absorb. "The reality is what affects the company also affects the employees and our vendors," Buck said.
Small business owners like Washington confirmed IDUAB Chairman Kitchell's fear that the caps could drive them out of Gary. Washington pays property taxes on her Grant Street restaurant under a contract with the owner, and she said she recently moved her home out of the city. "Every dollar that you invest into a business, you hope to see a return," Washington said. "I'm not seeing a return at this point."
Steve Truchan, owner of Gary Bridge and Iron Co., said he doesn't want to take on new debt by moving out of the city. He isn't happy, though, about a possible tax increase. "If I were young, I'd go tomorrow," Truchan said.
From the Post-Trib "Quickly" column and "Letters to Editor"
[7 Jan 2009]
Gary Mayor Rudy Clay, I beg to differ with you. You continue to blame previous administrations for the problems instead of getting the job done. How come we don't hear of layoffs in your administration? What have you done to curb expenses? Why does the city have so many traffic signals that are not needed? Why doesn't the city court order community service as punishment to help clean up the city? Why does the City Council still give out money? Why should the rest of the county pay for the city of Gary when the rest of the county is also experiencing the same pains?
The problem is, the city of Gary had a bloated budget living off the steel mills for so long that it doesn't know how to deal with the problem now because it has poor leaders. Yes, God is good, but that $36,000 Clay gets from the Sanitary District should be donated to the city so it can pay back what it owes to the Sanitary District.
Garry Smith, Hobart
Thank God for caring groups like the Miller Citizens Corp. representing the Miller area. With the greed, crime and just plain corrupt government in Gary, the MCC and the good people of Miller are bright spots as they fight the overtaxation put upon a select area in order to compensate for Gary's slackers. Wake up Gary; if it weren't for Miller and U.S. Steel, there would be no tax base and no Gary.
While the ball drops on New Year's Eve in New York City, the bullets fly in Gary; one went through the hood of my car. From an incompetent mayor and City Council to a disinterested police force (no one wanted to examine the bullet hole or even the recovered bullet), one thing is certain -- the mob rules in Gary.
Appeals Board Hears Gary's Plea
INDIANAPOLIS -- Gary Mayor Rudy Clay, and a cadre of other elected officials, spent six, plus hours before the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board on Monday.
"There will be major change that will come to the City of Gary out of this whole deal," appeals board member Paul Wyman said after the hearing. Wyman, from Kokomo, and his colleagues repeatedly spoke of "profound change." Some appeals board members, including chairman Ryan Kitchell, said that request could end up driving businesses out of the city.
Board members also talked to Clay about symbolism in city spending, referencing more than 30 letters written by members of the public in opposition to Gary's petition. "I've read all I want to read about a Hummer," GiaQuinta said. Simply eliminating the lease payments on Mayor Clay's H3 Hummer won't solve the city's budget crisis, GiaQuinta said, but "To some degree, symbolism plays a role here."
A state report shows Gary might have to cut its 2009 budget by more than half because of new property tax caps written into state law.
State of the City (Services)
I live in Glen Park in Gary and I haven't seen a single plow since we started seeing snow. For what exactly are my tax dollars (which doubled this year) going? Try calling the city to inquire where the plows are; they just hang up on you.
Gary's fiscal fate hangs in the balance as the city awaits a response from the state regarding our appeal for relief to the Distressed Unit Appeals Board.
... [W]e believe Gary has presented one of the strongest cost-reduction cases of any governmental unit. We have done our best to reduce costs and remain open to additional savings.
... [I] appeal to state leaders to give Gary needed time to generate new revenue from non-taxing sources, while ensuring the safety of law abiding citizens. If Gary is not afforded relief from the state at this time, the city will be unable to guarantee adequate public safety.
Gary is not asking for a handout from the state and
other taxpayers but simply an opportunity to develop our city and enhance
Northwest Indiana without having our fiscal hands tied behind our backs.
[COMMENT -GDY]: Typical Rudy; the fate of Gary lies in the hands of some entity other than its elected leader! Evidently, doing "our best" does not include dumping the Hummer? Rudy is going to "generate new revenue from non-taxing sources?" Is this a plan? Where are the details, if it is? Also, why is time needed to do so? Just DO IT! And, last but not least, there is the not so subtle threat of chaos on the streets.
Gary Officials Haven't Made Case on Spending
On Monday, Gary Mayor Rudy Clay and his financial advisers will face a host of largely Republican-appointed officials to plead for more money for the financially challenged city.
The odds are good there won't be too many sympathetic ears.
It's clear Gary is in distress. In 2008, Clay pared about $13 million from his city budget and ordered 20% pay cuts for employees. The city faces a $36 million shortfall this year, and the number could rise to $45 million in 2010, a state report notes.
Gary leaders believe the state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board will grant them relief. Yet, that relief can only be balanced on the backs of Gary taxpayers. Citizens, primarily from Gary's Miller section, are bombarding the state board with letters of opposition to Gary's bid for relief.
There is some legitimacy in Gary's beef that a 2003 state law that gave tax breaks to U.S. Steel wrecked its tax base. It's likely, however, that the Distressed Unit Appeals Board will be looking for proof Gary is not spending money frivolously. There, the city could have a problem.
There have been numerous documentations of questionable spending and management of money. They include recent Post-Tribune stories on the City Council's special promotions fund, the use of city-owned take-home cars by department heads, and legal wranglings with Majestic Star casino owner Don Barden. Not to mention a mayor who persists in tooling around the city in a Hummer.
It's time for Clay to stop the excuses and lead.
Clay and the City Council must let go of all the trappings they're accustomed
to. If they stick a finger in the wind, they'll get the idea.
[COMMENT -GDY]: The only solutions Gary's political leaders seem to be able to come up with are, have others solve their problems. "It ain't gonna happen, or work!" I don't know, but it seems to me if you are not part of the solution, aren't you in fact part of, if not the, problem?
When suggested that he donate his second salary to the city of Gary, Mayor Clay said "God is good." What kind of response is that? Other than to show that he thinks he has a sense of entitlement. His city can flounder, but he will still drive around like he is king of the world.
We voted for change in our federal government in November. Now I think it is time we make some changes in our city of Gary. The city needs to trim the fat starting at the mayor's office and working its way down. Let's get qualified people in these jobs who will do the work and really care about the city. Maybe then we could get more police officers and clean up the murder capital.
GARY -- April will bring us the Year 4 RC (Year 4 of the Reign of Rudy Clay); that is 2009 to us mere mortals.
Rudy Clay is still the mayor of Gary. Rudy Clay is still a paid member of the Board of the Gary Sanitary District. Rudy Clay is still the chairman of the Lake Co. Democratic Party. Rudy Clay's wife is still occupies a paid "temporary" seat on the Gary Convention Center Bd. of Commissioners. Rudy Clay's son is still on the city payroll, photographically documenting Rudy's reign.
Rudy Clay still gasses his transport of choice, a Hummer, on the city's dime. The perennial eyesore, the Sheraton Hotel, still sits empty. The Gary International Airport, is still devoid of any commercial activity; be it the air transport of either passengers or cargo.
Gone are Rudy's 7 previous chief of police appointees. Appointee #8 has to be eyballing the calendar and wondering. Gone is the superintendent of the Gary schools; albeit still being paid.
Ever present is the 2d highest murder rate in the country. Ever present is the 7th highest crime rate in the country. Ever present is the highest home forclosure rate in the state. Ever present is the abysmal high school graduation rate of a mere 47%.
MIA is any hint of a plan to allieviate Gary's fiscal shortfalls, other than to beg the state for more money. Interestingly, among those Garyites willing to publicly commit themselves on the request for state aid, they are unanimously against it!
What will the Year 4 RC hold for the beleaguered residents of the once proud "Steel City?" A 2006 statement by M. M. Eisenstein, Associate Professor of Political Science at Purdue University Calumet, pretty well sums up what to expect out of Hizzonor in the coming Year 4 RC:
The one thing that will be true is that Gary will have the best dressed mayor in Indiana -- but that is all.
This individual does not have a clue of what is going on. The main factor that he is missing is gray matter between the ears. There is absolutely no evidence that Clay has any idea of what is going on. This is not the result of his age, there are many intelligent and issue aware seventy year olds; Rudy Clay is not one of them.
HAPPY NEW YEAR,
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