On the "Come Up" with Karen                
2015 Reports on matters pertaining to Gary, Indiana and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's running of the "Steel City"

           Economics create a battle between the haves and the have-nots, and between the takers
           and the taken.

                      - Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, 2013

     "Gary, a city that is designed to provide the best government that tax dollars can buy."
                  - Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, 16 Jan 2014 [On selection of Gary as a Strong Cities, Strong Communities participant]

Gary, a community that seems to know its problems but can't figure out a way to solve them.
The shabbiness of the city, and the casualness with which it residents wield guns for self-protection, is shocking.
        - Urban Decay in a City of Steel (CNN Photo Blogs) 

Gary is confident that its worst days are over and the best are yet to come.  "You have to look at Gary with the correct idea-that Gary is an easel on which is to be painted one of the great success stories of the 20th Century."
         - Don Sullivan, Gary Business Development Commission 17 Apr 1988

"Gary is in continual decline.  I've been waiting for it to hit bottom for 50 years.  I haven't heard that thud yet."
        
 - Greg Reising, 2014

If a building can be abandoned a school, a church, an office complex, a hotel, a grocery store, an apartment building, a gas station it has been abandoned in Gary.
        
 
- Josh Noel, 2014 Tribune Travels

  Go To:  ARCHIVES PORTAL for access to all past Gary news reports (2008 to current)
  Go To:  
JACKO JABBER (Reports on matters relating to the demise of Michael Jackson)


Well, here we go with the 2015 report on the running of the City of the Century - Gary, IN - by its elected officials.  This is the fourth year without Rudy at the helm, as well as the fourth year a female has occupied the Gary Chief Executive office.  There can be little doubt but Karen Freeeman-Wilson does indeed still have her work cut out for her!

 

QUESTIONS FOR 2015 -
Will Gary set another record for murders (55 in 2014 by GDYNets count)?
Will Gary Int'l. become a viable airport?
How many of the 10,000 vacant/abandoned Gary homes will KF-W get tore down?
Will the now closed Lew Wallace H.S. be sold for pennies on the dollar, or will it be allowed to crumble away?

Remember, you may access the earlier reports from the links appearing above, or at the bottom of, this page. 


Gary Hopes to Cook up Jobs with Knight Grant

Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson

[31 Mar 2015]

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Tuesday it is awarding $650,000 to a Knight Cities Challenge proposal called "ArtHouse:  a Social Kitchen," submitted by the Rebuild Foundation, in conjunction with the Harris School of Public Policy.  Both groups are based at the University of Chicago, whose students have been working on projects to revitalize the city since 2012.

Knight Foundation officials called Gary's project "an innovative idea for making the city a more vibrant place to live and work by repurposing a downtown space.  The incubator stood out, it has a solid team behind it and it did the research," said Bahai Ramos, director/Knight Community Foundations. "It comes from a place authentic to what Gary is, rather than some lofty ideal about what could happen.  It's using food, things as simple as congregating around food and using a kitchen to express talents and creativity and build a marketplace."

The city is in partnership with the winning applicant, Ramos said.  "It's an opportunity for residents to step up and take ownership of the city," she said.  We wanted it to be squarely centered in building economic opportunities for residents."  Ramos said the goal of the project is for it to be self-sustaining after 18 months.  Two other culinary incubator models Inspiration Kitchen in East Garfield Park in Chicago and La Cocina in San Francisco have been successful, so far.

Lori Berko, of the Rebuild Foundation said the incubator would serve as a community training kitchen, a culinary business accelerator, and a potluck caf.  She said when the caf is completed, they'll host dinners to drum up interest and support.  Some dinners, may be held in private homes, as well.

The partners, which also include the Lake County-based Legacy Foundation, haven't selected a downtown site yet.  Brown and Berko said they are looking at vacant properties along Broadway and 5th Av, near the U.S. Steel Yard.  They hope to find a site that already has a kitchen in place.

[Ed Note:  As of 18 Mar this project is also one of 12 finalists in a Bloomberg Philanthropies competition for additional funding.]

 

State of Steel-2015
Compiled From nwiTimes Reports
[29 Mar 2015]

U.S. Steel no longer is the biggest steelmaker headquartered in the United States, but its still the largest integrated steel manufacturer and remains "America's Steel Company,"

The crisis in steel is real.  The United States has not witnessed such a torrent of steel imports since the late 1990s.  "The import surge is particularly troubling given that U.S. producers are currently using only 69% of production capacity."  The entire domestic industry is being irreparably harmed.  "The last time we were at these levels, nearly half of American steel companies disappeared."

"The U.S. Steel industry supports more than 1 million U.S. jobs.  And our presence isnt limited to the industrial Midwest, where we have deep roots.  We have a presence in 41 states and operate 100 production facilities."

Last year, the average income of an ArcelorMittal USA steelworker was more than $90,000.  That's double the average salary for the average factory worker in both Cleveland and NWI, where most of its employees work.

Theres also the ripple effect.  Studies have found that each high-paying steel job supports another seven jobs in the community, such as at restaurants and pharmacies.

But all those jobs are at risk.

 

Freeman-Wilson "Fixes" Campaign Finance Report
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[26 Mar 2015]

On March 4 the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration sent a letter to Erika Rumph, treasurer of the Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson a.k.a Karen About Gary Committee.  In the letter, the Board noted several deficiencies in the 2014 campaign finance report of the Committee which serves as the official committee of the Karen Freeman-Wilson mayoral campaign.  The letter was sent on March 4, 2015 and directed the Comittee to respond within 5 days (10 Mar).  On March 25, 2015, the Committee filed an amended Report of Receipts and Expenditures of a Political Committee.

The new report does include addresses for all contributors and vendors as required by law.  The amended report, however, now simply omits several contributions totalling $5,630.00  This raises the question as to how the original total of $241,157.75 was obtained and why that would change to $235,257.75 in contributions for 2014.

 

Steel Output Ticks Up in Great Lakes Region
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[24 Mar 2015]

Raw steel production rose to 612,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, after three straight weeks of sharp drops.

Local steel production rose by 9,000T, or 1.49% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output rose by 0.98% over the same period.  Most of the raw steel production in the Great Lakes region takes place in the Chicago area, chiefly Lake and Porter counties in Northwest Indiana.  Indiana has led the nation in steel production for decades.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.639 million tons, up from 1.623 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 69.3% last week, up from 68.7% a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 77.7% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 19.9 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 73.7%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 5.3%, while capacity utilization lags last year by an eye-popping 12.3%.

 

Gary Cop Cuts Plea Deal, Still Faces Termination
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[23 Mar 2015]

A patrol officer who has been on unpaid leave while charged with multiple felonies could return to work.

Yanders was charged in October 2013 with assaulting his then-girlfriend.  Demonte Yanders, 31, reached a plea deal with the Lake County prosecutor last week that allowed him to plead guilty to a Class B misdemeanor battery.  Two counts of felony criminal confinement, strangulation and another misdemeanor battery charge were dismissed.  In Indiana, a conviction for any criminal charge higher that a B misdemeanor requires automatic termination.

Yanders could still be fired, however.  The police administration filed a verified complaint in 2013, alleging his actions, including his arrest, violate rules that could result in termination.  Police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Decanter said Monday Chief Larry McKinley intends to pursue termination for Yanders through the police commission process.

Yanders was hired in September 2009, with a group of recruits selected by then Mayor Rudy Clay. A city ordinance sought by Clay allowed the department to hire any recruits from the eligibility list, instead of hiring those who scored highest on a battery of tests. Clay chose Gary residents exclusively over those with high scores.

 

Run Forest Run:  Hayes Latest to Leave Freeman-Wilson Administration
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[23 Mar 2015]

The string of high profile departures from the administration of Karen Freeman-Wilson continued late last week as the Gazette has now confirmed through credible sources that Forest Hayes has left.

As with many of the Freeman-Wilson pals, no one knows what Hayes did or how much he was paid.  Similar to the recently departed fire chief, Hayes was selected in a nationwide search.  He took the reigns of the Department of Commerce in 2012, a position created by Mayor Freeman-Wilson.  He later was listed as Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation, a title now held by another consultant, John "Bo" Kemp.

The Gazette has in the past attempted to get copies of the contracts for various City consultants.  City officials do not provide details regarding contracts and do not respond to public record requests.  The Freeman-Wilson adminsitration has made unprecedented use of "professional services contracts" for jobs which have traditionally been held by City employees.

 

Father of Fetus Found in Ceiling of Gary Funeral Home Sues
Compiled From a WGN-TV Report
[21 Mar 2015]

GARY, Ind. A Gary, Ind. man filed a lawsuit against the current and previous owners of Smith, Bizzell Warner and Son Funeral Home on Friday.

Two fetuses described as "skeletal remains" were turned over to the Lake County Coroners Office on March 4th of this year.  Gary police say at one point those fetuses were stored in the ceiling of the funeral home.

Attorney Marissa McDermott represents the father.  She says one of those stillborn fetuses found was about 24-weeks-old and was delivered at Methodists Hospital in March, 1996.  McDermott's client and his former wife are believed to have been the parents.  A hospital tag attached to the fetus lists the same last name as her client.

McDermott also says the funeral home never properly filed the fetal death certificate with the county coroner or the state.  She said her client paid the funeral home for the burial of this fetus and believed he had been buried.

WGN did speak with an attorney for Smith, Bizzell and Warner & Son Funeral Home and he said the funeral home just made contact with the father of the stillborn Monday.

The funeral home has changed owners three times since 1996.  The attorney for the funeral home says the previous owners had received the fetuses at that time, but failed to bury them before going out of business shortly after.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Wait one!  The parent(s) never tried to visit the grave of their deceased child?  If they had, would they not have noticed no grave existed?  This whole story just creates one question after another.

 

Forum on NWI Development Canceled Due to 'Legislators' Indifference'
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Rob Earnshaw
[21 Mar 2015]

EAST CHICAGO | A planned legislative forum regarding Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority funding and schools was canceled Saturday.

The forum was to be held at the Greater First Baptist Church with participation by state Sens. Earline Rogers, Lonnie Randolph and Frank Mrvan and State Reps. Charlie Brown, Vernon Smith and Earl Harris as invited participants, according to event organizers.  The Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations Jobs Coalition, the Twin City Ministerial Alliance, East Chicago Hope & Opportunity and the League of United Latin American Citizens were sponsoring the forum.

A note on the door of the church Sunday said the meeting was canceled because of "legislators' indifference and lack of committed participation."
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   No comment necessary!

 

Gary Loses Deputy Mayor, Fire Chief
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[20 Mar 2015]

GARY | Late Friday afternoon, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's office announced the departures of Deputy Mayor B.R. Lane and Fire Chief Teresa Everett, along with the appointment of Paul Bradley as the city's new fire chief.

The moves were expected, although questions earlier in the week about Lane's departure were deflected by Freeman-Wilson and spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington.  Everett's departure had been rumored for months.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said there was no secrecy around the departures.  "We were vague about both for different reasons.  We were trying to wait for BR's new boss to make the announcement to avoid speculation about why she was leaving.  While we can't disclose, she got an offer she could not refuse.  "The chief had long planned to retire.  She stayed to complete some critical projects which have now been handed off to her successor," Freeman-Wilson said.

In a private ceremony, Freeman-Wilson swore in Bradley, a native of Gary who joined the Fire Department in 1991.  Most recently, he served as assistant chief of training in the department's Supportive Services branch.

"Our top priority is to ensure the safety of the men and women in this outstanding department and all of the residents of Gary," said Bradley.  "I am honored to have been chosen by the Mayor for this position, and I am committed to providing a safe, efficient and ethical environment where we work together as a team."  According to the city, the department has nearly 200 employees and responds to more than 26,000 yearly requests.

Lane, who introduced Freeman-Wilson last month before her state-of-the-city address, served as chief of staff and interim director of the Gary/Chicago International Airport.  She's been with the administration since Freeman-Wilson took office in 2012.  The press release said Lane is pursuing an opportunity in the public sector that will be disclosed later this month.

Freeman-Wilson isn't replacing Lane in the deputy mayor's position until after the May primary.  The office has been vacant for much of Freeman-Wilson's first term.  Her first deputy mayor, Delvert Cole, left after six months in 2012.  The position remained vacant until Lane's appointment in January.

 

Upgrades Eyed for Miller South Shore Station
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[20 Mar 2015]

GARY Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said plans are in the works to upgrade the Miller South Shore station near Lake St.

Freeman-Wilson said Miller is in the midst of a turnaround and it's the centerpiece of a federal initiative aimed at revitalizing the community.  She rejected rumors that she favored a new South Shore station near Interstate 65.  "We have the 18th St Brewery, Miller Bakery, Beach Cafe and we just put $28 million in Marquette Park.  And we have the arts district.  Why would you drive traffic away?"

Freeman-Wilson and Mike Noland, general manager of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District said recently they want to establish a high-level boarding platform at the station to speed up the commute time for the railroad.  There's no precise timetable for the improvement, though.

But beyond the platform itself is the concept of transit-oriented development, which is Freeman-Wilson's goal for the Miller area.  It consists of establishing housing, retail stores, parking, and other conveniences to attract new residents, many of whom commute to Chicago.

Freeman-Wilson said the plan is one of the key components of Gary's Strong Cities, Strong Communities federal program that has targeted Miller and Aetna sections of the city for revitalization.  Federal experts are helping the city devise a plan to boost the success of the initiative.  The U.S. Housing and Urban Development department included Gary in the Strong Cities program last year along with six other cities.  Gary's inclusion in the program should give it a boost in securing money, she said.

The city is also expected to receive money from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority, if House Bill 1618 becomes law.  The measure, which has passed the House, provides about $4 million a year for transit oriented development.  The RDA will oversee the money.  The Senate Homeland Security and Transportation Committee is holding a hearing on the bill Thursday in Indianapolis.

The money from the RDA would be Gary's reward for dedicating a portion of its county economic development income tax to the expansion of the South Shore line into Munster and Dyer.  Under the legislation, the RDA is overseeing the expansion, as well.

"From our standpoint, the Miller Station is of strategic importance," said Bill Hanna, executive director of the RDA.  "Miller is further along than most, they've done preliminary planning and had conversations with INDOT (Indiana Department of Transportation)."

Hanna said Northwest Indiana is far behind Chicago in the transit-oriented development arena.  Other so-called TOD's are expected in Hammond, East Chicago, Portage and Valparaiso, he said.

 

Steel Output Continues Descent
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[20 Mar 2015]

Raw steel production declined again to 603,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, the third straight week it has fallen.

Local steel production fell by 10,000T, or 1.6% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output dipped by 1.3% over the same period.  Capacity utilization dropped to a yearly low of 68.7% and output lags behind the 2014 rate by 4.4%.

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second-biggest steel-producing region, dipped slightly to 535,000T last week, down about 1,000T from the week before.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.623 million tons, down from 1.645 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 68.7% last week, down from 69.6% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 77.7% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 18.2 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 74.1%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 4.4%, while capacity utilization lags last year by an enormous 13.1%.

 

Gary Schools Moving Headquarters
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[19 Mar 2015]

GARY Gary Community School Corp. central office workers are on the move as they pack up their staples and head across town to new quarters at the former Lincoln Achievement Center, 1988 Polk St.

The district is leaving its cramped old central administration center at 620 E. 10th Pl because of infrastructure problems, including a leaky roof and balky heating system.  Officials said the building was condemned several years ago.

When the district began shuttering schools because of a declining enrollment, school officials decided it was possible to move to a better building.  Lincoln, located just north of the closed Duncan Elementary, closed last year.

Moore said there's no set schedule for the move to be completed.  "As they modify the building, they'll bring more departments in," she said.  The school board is also expected to hold its committee meetings at the new location.

 

Freeman-Wilson Wants Public Input As to Sheraton Site
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[19 Mar 2015]

GARY The one-time "Best Place for a Taste of the '80s TODAY!" is now a vacant lot with city officials eager to figure out what to do with the one-time site of a Sheraton Hotel in the downtown area.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson considers demolition last year of the Sheraton which closed for business back in 1985 and sat vacant for decades as one of the accomplishments of her first term as mayor.  Yet that doesn't necessarily mean she knows what to do with the site at 465 Broadway.

Freeman-Wilson said that while she has some personal suggestions, she's anxious to hear what the public thinks should become of what was once a 135-room, 12-story hotel that was supposed to serve business and tourism opportunities in the downtown Gary area.  To that end, a public forum will be held Monday at the Genesis Convention Center, directly across the street from the former hotel.  The event will begin at 5:30 p.m., and is expected to run for about three hours.

Freeman-Wilson said she is bothered by the passage of so much time with the Sheraton's memory lingering over Gary.  Even so, she said it would be a mistake to try to rush to a solution now in developing the downtown property.  "I'm impatient and I understand impatient people.  I wish I had a magic wand and could come up with a quick solution," she said.  "But I know we have to take the time if we're to do something sustainable at the site."

 

Board to Examine Campaign Finance Reports of Gary Mayor
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
[17 Mar 2015]

Election Board officials will investigate the campaign finance reports of Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson in the wake of a complaint filed by one of her challengers for the mayor's office.

Members of the Election Board on Tuesday authorized their attorneys to conduct an investigation into Freeman-Wilson's campaign finance reports following a complaint filed by challenger James Nowacki, who is looking to win the Democratic Party's nomination for the seat in the May 5 primary.  Election Board attorney Jim Wieser said he is not sure how long it will take to conduct the investigation and asked for a detailed submission from Nowacki of his allegations within seven days.

Nowacki alleges in his complaint that Freeman-Wilson has not properly named or identified her political committee, which operates as both Karen About Gary and Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson, and that the reports submitted have numerous incomplete and illegible entries.  He also alleges the reports include excessive and illegal contributions and expenditures which appear to be personal in nature.  The complaint does not provide specifics.

"It's going to take a little bit of time (to investigate)," Wieser said.  He described the allegations as "serious issues."

Freeman-Wilson denied the allegations in Nowacki's complaint, although she acknowledged the reports filed with the board were "sloppy."  "I would be the first to admit that.  We are, as we speak, in the process of correcting that," she said Tuesday night.  Freeman-Wilson said her campaign finance reports do not include personal expenses, adding "it would be improper and illegal to use campaign funds for personal expenditures."  She said paperwork previously has been filed with the election board showing Karen About Gary and Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson are the same entity and exist at the same address.

Election Board director Michelle Fajman said her staff also found "a lot of things" wrong with Freeman-Wilson's report in its own routine investigation.  Among those issues were whether corporations listed in the report were truly corporations or limited liability corporations, which fall under different donations rules.  There were also missing addresses.  The department sent a letter March 4 requesting corrections.  The letter requests a response in 10 days.  The mayor said she received the letter from Fajman and the election board and is making the corrections that were sought.

Wieser and David Wickland, the Republican attorney for the Election Board, are expected to provide a status of the investigation at the board's April 6 meeting.

 

Gary Woman Dies Morning After Being Shot
#6 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz
[15 Mar 2015]

GARY | A Gary woman died Sunday morning after being shot, and a man was in critical condition, according to officials.

Tiffany Murphy, 38, was pronounced dead at 6:20 a.m. Sunday at Methodist Hospitals Northlake, according to the Lake County Coroner's Office.

According to the Gary Police Department, someone called police about a shooting around 6 p.m. Saturday in the 1800 block of E 20th Ct (the Dorie Miller Gary Housing Authority property), the same block where Murphy lived.

Someone took Murphy to the hospital, but police found a man, Ronald Davis, 51, at the scene of the shooting who had also been shot, according to Gary police.  He was also taken to a hospital and was in critical condition, according to police.

The coroner's office ruled Murphy's death was a homicide.  It did not say how many times she had been shot or where she had been hit on her body.

Police had no one in custody as of Sunday afternoon and were still investigating the shootings.

 

EDITORIAL:  Show More Spine to Fight Steel Dumping
Compiled From a nwiTimes Op Ed
[15 Mar 2015]

More steel is produced in Indiana than anywhere else in the nation.  We have reason to brag; we have held this distinction for 34 straight years.

But let's bring some perspective to this.

In 2000, there were 26,700 steel jobs in Northwest Indiana 39,900 less than in 1979, just before the industry restructuring began.  As of last year, Northwest Indiana had 17,900 steelworkers.  And more than 1,000 Northwest Indiana steel jobs have been shed so far this year.

Are you sitting down?  Good.  In the past 35 years, nearly 50,000 steel jobs have disappeared in Northwest Indiana.

Steel imports are strong, accounting for 33% of the U.S. market share so far this year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  That's a 36% increase from the same period in 2014.

The domestic steel industry and the United Steelworkers union have said for decades they can hold their own in a fair fight.  It's true, too.  American ingenuity has produced many technological improvements that have strengthened the steel industry.  But that only works when the fight is fair, and this one isn't.

President Barack Obama needs to join this fight.  We need his administration's muscle to aggressively pursue trade cases.  We need the president's strong voice supporting this effort.

Artificially inexpensive imported steel helps purchasers, but it weakens the nation and the region's economy.  We need a strong domestic steel industry to ensure we have adequate supplies of high-quality steel in the event of war, but also to keep the nation's economy humming.  This is a national security concern as well as an economic security issue.

 

Karen Freeman-Wilson Campaign Spends $5,000/wk in Off Election Year
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[14 Mar 2015]

Campaign lists $3,000 per week as "unitemized" expenses.

In 2014, the Campaign of Karen Freeman-Wilson spent $255,103.38  That is nearly $5,000 per week and it was not even an election year.  More troubling, $160,678.58 is listed as "unitemized."  Campaign finance law states that a candidate must itemize any expenditures which exceed $100 in a given year.  The Indiana Board of Elections spells the policy out clearly:

Expenditures made by a campaign finance committee to an individual, business, group or others when the total (aggregate or cumulative) of the individual payments exceed $100 during any calender year or reporting period must be itemized. -2015 Campaign Finance Manual

Thus if a candidate spends $100 at ABC Printing on January 1 and another $10 at ABC Printing on March 1, that must be itemized as a $110 expenditure.  Only expenditures that do not exceed a total of $100 for the entire reporting period (1 year in this case) do not need to be itemized.

In this case, the Committee entitled "Karen About Gary a/k/a Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson" must have made an average of 4.4 expenditures of under $100 each every day for the year 2014.  Additionally, each and every one of those 4.4 transactions per day must have been with different entities.  We know that has to be the case because otherwise the report is false and "a person who files a false report commits a Level 6 felony . . . " according to the 2015 Campaign Finance Manual.

 

Indiana Harbor Blast Furnace Down for Months
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[14 Mar 2015]

EAST CHICAGO | ArcelorMittal will idle the No. 3 blast furnace at Indiana Harbor, and it will stay offline for months in a previously scheduled outage.

The Luxembourg-based steelmaker has been making preparations to shut down the blast furnace at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor West in East Chicago for planned maintenance next week.  Stove repairs are needed.

"The outage is expected to last until late Q2 2015 or until additional capacity is required to meet customer demand," ArcelorMittal spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford said.  "The stove repairs on No. 3 blast furnace will improve the efficiency and reliability of the asset and ultimately allow ArcelorMittal and the Indiana Harbor facility to be well positioned to meet future customer requirements."

ArcelorMittal will continue to operate its No. 4 and No. 7 blast furnaces at the century-old steel mill, which employs around 4,850 workers on the southern shore of Lake Michigan.  "The outage will not impact our ability to meet customer demand," Holdford said.  The 3,100-acre steelmaking complex, the largest in North America, makes steel for cars, appliances and contractor applications, among other uses.

The No. 3 blast furnace can make as much as 4,500 tons of iron per day, Steel Market Update estimates.  It was last down for maintenance in 2013, when a turbo blower failed, causing an unplanned outage.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The hits just keep on comin'?

 

U.S. Steel Lays Off 83 More Workers at Gary Works
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[13 Mar 2015]

GARY | U.S. Steel will ax 83 more workers at Gary Works in the steelmaker's latest round of layoffs in Northwest Indiana.

"As part of the ongoing operational adjustment at Gary Works, 83 probationary employees were notified today of their release upon the completion of this week's schedule," U.S. Steel spokeswoman Sarah Cassella said Thursday.

All of the employees worked at the sprawling steel mill, U.S. Steel's largest, for under six months.  The company is laying off almost all the recent hires at Gary Works, who will receive their last paycheck Saturday, and have no call back rights under the union agreement because of the economic slowdown.  The layoffs are permanent, Cassella said.

With these, U.S. Steel has eliminated more than 780 jobs in Northwest Indiana this year.

Report From USW Local 6103

The union has been notified that all probationary employees in the Gary complex are being terminated.  75 at Gary and 12 at Midwest.  7 of those 12 are from the Sheet Mill and 5 are from the Tin Mill.   The union made a proposal to the company to keep these employees on as fire watches, traffic cops, and general housekeeping.  We felt this would eliminate OT in production, reduce downtime, and allow for training.  The company rejected this proposal quickly stating they wanted to get immediate cost savings.  We will continue to try to keep people up to date as fast as we can as things develop.  Our thoughts and prayers are with those employees and their families affected by this decision by the company.  Thank you for your help and patience.

 

U.S. Steel to Idle MN Iron Ore Plant
Compiled From a Pittsburgh Tribune Report by Alex Nixon
[13 Mar 2015]

U.S. Steel Corp. will temporarily idle one of its iron ore mining and processing facilities in northern Minnesota as the Downtown-based steelmaker adjusts operations to deal with falling demand and lower prices.

The company said it will idle its Keetac plant in Keewatin, Minn., on May 13, affecting 412 workers.

"These ongoing operational adjustments are a result of challenging market conditions," U.S. Steel said in a statement.  "Global influences in the market, including a high level of imports, unfairly traded products and reduced steel prices, continue to have an impact."

In the past several months, the company has announced a range of temporary and permanent plant closures, affecting thousands of workers.

Last month, U.S. Steel said it would close a coke-making plant at its Gary Works, displacing about 300 workers, and the company said it would lay off 369 workers indefinitely when it idles its East Chicago Tin finishing plant.

It earlier announced the temporary maintenance shutdowns of blast furnaces at Granite City Works in Illinois, Gary Works in Indiana and Fairfield Works in Alabama and the idling of three pipe-making plants in Ohio and Texas.  Production cutbacks at pipe-making plants in Alabama and Texas could result in layoffs for almost 2,000 workers.

The Keetac plant is the smaller of two iron ore facilities at the company's Minnesota Ore Operations. Its Minntac plant, in Mt. Iron, will continue to produce iron ore pellets.  Minntac has an annual production capacity of about 16 million net tons of pellets, while Keetac can produce about 6 million net tons.

U.S. Steel is coming off its first profitable year in 2014, after six years of financial losses, thanks to achieving $575 million in savings through its Carnegie Way cost-cutting and profit improvement strategy.

CEO Mario Longhi said in January that production at its facilities would be curtailed until demand returns.  "Customer order rates will determine the size and duration of any adjustments that we make," he said.

 

State Votes to Close Gary's Dunbar-Pulaski
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[12 Mar 2015]

INDIANAPOLIS In a stunning move, the State Board of Education voted 6-4 Thursday to close the Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School in Gary.

D-P is the only school in the city devoted strictly to middle school students, with 700 attending.  It has been graded an F for six consecutive years.

Board member Tony Walker, who represents Northwest Indiana, made the motion to close the school saying "it's the right thing to do for long-term austerity."  His motion came over the objections of state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, who urged the board to keep the school open.  Rogers helped craft the Public Law 221, the school accountability law that ironically led to D-Ps demise.

The board was split on the action with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz emphatically supporting the improvement plan submitted by Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt.  "This is a bad vote," Ritz told the board.

Pruitt stood silently at podium during the vote.  Ritz embraced her as the board broke for lunch.  "We will survive," Pruitt said afterward.

Its believed to be the first time the board has voted to shut down a school for poor performance.  As the action to close the school comes without precedence, no one knows what happens next.

Walker, meanwhile, said he wants the Gary Community School Corp. to cement a partnership with EdisonLearning Inc., the state-chosen operator of the Roosevelt College and Career Academy.  Under former school chief Tony Bennett, the state board took over the operation of Roosevelt for its own academic failings in 2011.  Walker said he wants to see Roosevelt revert back to the Gary district's control, but run jointly with EdisonLearning, a for-profit education management company thats struggling financially to keep Roosevelt open.

Walker said the 700 students who attend D-P have the option to move to Roosevelt next year.  Walker said D-P and Roosevelt are a mile apart and keeping both open doesn't make financial sense.  "I don't see any reason to stretch out limited monies," he said.  Ritz's staff has been working at D-P for more than a year to turn the school around.  Pruitt brought in a new principal this year and replaced 50% of the teachers.  Teachers have been receiving regular training and Pruitt said the district has pumped $600,000 into repairs at the school this year, including a new boiler that was $278,000.

The closing was one of the options for the state board under a state accountability law when a school posts a failing grade for six straight years.  The board could have kept the school open under Pruitt's internal plan to transform it.

Walker cited the school districts precarious financial position, saying it owed the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. $5.4 million in back bills.

Not all the board members agreed with Walker.  "I feel the weight of every one of these students on my shoulders," said Fourth District representative Sarah OBrien, who voted against the closure.  Board member Daniel Elsener, of the Seventh District, said the board will probably not find a taker if it opted to take the school over.  "It will be really hard for anyone to go in there and make a big turnaround.  I think we should consolidate our efforts."

Gary School Board President Antuwan Clemons said the board failed to take into account the support for D-P at a public hearing last year.  He said the school had been closed for about four years and when it reopened two years ago, its academic clock should have been reset, but wasnt.  "The states decision didnt take into account the recommendation of the community," Clemons said.  "Where do we put these students?  We now have to think long and hard as to what were going to do to save these students.  No other school has been closed without being given any other resources.  Roosevelt is not our school, it belongs to the state."  Walker disagreed, saying Roosevelt is still a Gary school even though its operated under the auspices of the state.

Clemons said he expects the school board to discuss the closing in the coming weeks.  "The fight is not over yet.  Were going to do everything we can to do whats best for those kids," he said.

Last spring, the school board deliberated closing D-P for financial reasons.  In the end, it opted to keep it open, knowing it could face a state intervention for poor academic performance.  It instead closed Lew Wallace High School.

 

Gary One of Six Cities in Police-community Pilot Program
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[12 Mar 2015]

GARYAlthough there is no money attached to the award, both Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and police Chief Larry McKinley said they are pleased to participate in a program that could help communication here and, ultimately, cities across the country.

What does Gary get?

"Training.  A lot of training, and technical assistance," McKinley said.  The International Association of Chiefs of Police will provide some of the instruction, which will focus on the community-orienting policing strategies once employed in the city under previous administrations.

Freeman-Wilson noted that the department could see money through its continuing work with the Office of Justice Program's Diagnostic Center.  A team of experts has made visits to the city and conducted interviews with police and residents to identify needs and problems.  "They know where pockets of discretionary funds that can be used," the mayor said.

What works in Gary and the other pilot cities can be applied to "develop a detailed site-specific plan that will enhance procedural justice, reduce bias and support reconciliation in communities where trust has been eroded," a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Justice states.

Ryan C. Holmes, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Northern District of Indiana office, said the National Initiative team used selection factors including the city's population, diversity, economic issues, "implicit bias and racial reconciliation at the local level."  He stressed that pilot cites were not necessarily the most problematic and noted that they represent the nation's overall challenges with race relations.

The result, Freeman-Wilson said, is Gary gets "training that will move the city forward."

 

Grant to Help Residents with Criminal Records Gain Job Skills
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[12 Mar 2015]

GARY The city will receive a grant of nearly $120,000 to create a program meant to help unemployed residents who have trouble getting jobs because of criminal records to gain the kind of skills that might someday let them create their own businesses.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson was with officials of the Urban League of Northwest Indiana and the Gary Economic Development Corp. on Thursday at City Hall to receive the grant for creation of a Gary 4 Jobs program.  Under the program, 25 local residents will participate in classes for the next eight weeks, while also doing work for A Better Cut, a Gary-based landscaping company.  They will be used on assorted beautification projects meant to improve Gary's physical appearance, the mayor said.

According to officials, the training program's two areas of focus will be on how to start a business and securing employment in a lawncare or landscaping enterprise.  The participants will receive training in mowing, edging, hedge maintenance, weeding and other lawn-care skills.  They are also participating in courses covering steps for starting a business, life skills, employment skills, mock job interviews and will attend at least one job fair.

During their time in the program, the residents will receive stipends of $12 per hour for their work.  Corporation Executive Director Bo Kemp said the residents will have some income during the period while participating in classes meant to get them to focus on how they could someday go about developing their own businesses.

Although JOBS Fund treasurer Angela Woolfolk said participants also will gain from having the work experience.  "We hope this will be successful in helping these people be able to obtain jobs" in the future, she said.  The program modeled after similar programs that Urban League chapters have created with Cook and Will county governments in Illinois is meant to give one-time criminal offenders a second chance to redeem their lives, although Kemp said a prior record is not required to be considered for the program.

People wishing to participate in the program, however, will be required to submit to a drug screening.  Urban League President Vanessa Allen said the first round of participants were chosen from among nearly 80 applicants based largely on their attitude.  "The people who showed up early and acted like they wanted a job, they were the ones chosen," she said.

Kemp said the fact that the participants recommended by entities such as the Gary Housing Authority, the city court system and the New Life Ministry have criminal records should not mean they don't have skills that could be of use in society.  "These people have drive and initiative, it's just that most of them did not put it to use in the most positive way," Kemp said.  Among the things the participants will be taught is that they will have a better chance of having gainful employment if they are able to work for themselves, rather than having to rely on a company hiring them.

Freeman-Wilson said the city will benefit from such an attitude if it winds up creating more local residents who are working and contributing to the local business climate.  "I think it is very thoughtful if it makes them realize they won't have to worry about filling out an (job) application if they have their own business," she said.

 

Deputy Mayor B. R. Lane Leaving Gary
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[12 Mar 2015]

The Gazette has received a credible, yet unconfirmed, report that Gary Deputy Mayor B. R. Lane has taken a job in the private sector.

Lane started as chief of staff for Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson in 2012.  She retained that $90,000 per year salary until she became interim airport director in September 2013.  She remained at the airport after the public-private partnership was approved and they appointed their own director.

In January, 2015 Lane returned to City Hall as deputy mayor retaining her increased salary of $120,000.  The slot of deputy mayor had been vacant since the departure of Delvert Cole in June, 2012.  At that time, the Mayor touted the move as a cost saving measure stating the vacancy would save the cash strapped city the $70,000 salary Cole received.

The departure is the latest in a string of Freeman-Wilson insiders leaving the administration.  While still not yet officially announced, Fire Chief Theresa Everett left her post in January.  Police Chief Wade Ingram left last year in a strange turn of events where he was suspended and brought back only to be forced out days later.

No word on whether or not Lane will be replaced.  The Gazette is hearing rumblings of more personnel changes in the administration and we will keep you posted as information is verified.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   If the reported departure of Fire Chief Everett is true, one has to wonder/ask why it has not yet been "officially announced?"

 

Down-under Consortium Claims Victory in Toll Road Bidding
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[11 Mar 2015]

CROWN POINT | An Australian consortium claims it has won the bidding war for control of the bankrupt Indiana Toll Road.

That would spell doom for the proposed Lake County and LaPorte County's public-private Partnership with Wall Street to acquire the highway in a deal that promised $5 million a year in fees to county government and millions more in surplus revenues over the next 66 years.

IFM Investors issued a press statement early Wednesday stating, " IFM Investors, on behalf of IFM Global Infrastructure Fund, has entered into a definitive purchase and sale agreement to acquire ITR Concession Company LLC.  "IFM Investors has agreed to pay $5.725 billion for (the Indiana Toll Road concession).  The closing of the transaction is subject to obtaining necessary third-party and government authorizations and approvals, including the approval of the Indiana Finance Authority."

IFM is described in the press release as a global fund manager for 30 Australian nonprofit pension funds.

Shaw Friedman, attorney for LaPorte County government, couldn't be reached early Wednesday for comment.  He told the Lake County Council only Tuesday that Lake and LaPorte counties were still in the hunt for the highway's acquisition.  The Lake County Board of Commissioners has approved the proposal Monday and LaPorte County commissioners approved it the previous week.

The state, which owns the ground beneath the 157-mile highway, leased the Toll Road in 2006 to ITR, an international coalition of businesses that became overwhelmed by disappointing revenues and accumulating debt.

 

DLGF Rejects Gary Schools Budget for Non-Compliance
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[11 Mar 2015]

The Indiana Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) issued an "Amendment to the 2015 Certified Budget Order" for Lake County on February 26, 2015.  According to the notice, the "amendment includes modifications to the levies for Gary Community School Corporation and associated tax rate updates in the taxing district in which the School Corporation is located."

The notice goes on to state that the 2015 Gary Community School Corporation "Budget denied due to failure to file appropriate SBOA reports."  According to Tyler Michael of the Indiana State Board of Accounts, the Gary Community School Corporation failed to file a required annual report for 2013.  Indiana Code provides that report is due annually by March 1. The 2014 report was due on March 1, 2015 and has presumably not been filed either.

The report comes after a string of financial blunders by the School Corporation including the revelation that the IRS has filed over $7M in Federal Tax Liens for payroll taxes.  The Corporation is currently seeking support for a $51M referendum.  Earlier this year, the Illinois Central Bus Company stated they were owed $4M in back payments.  The School Corporation settled a past due account of nearly $800,000 with the Gary Sanitary District late last year.

It is unclear at this point what the order means for the financially troubled district.  It appears that the 2014 budget order will carry over until the 2015 budget is approved.  That would mean there would be little effect on school operations.  Nonetheless, the development is significant primarily because of the string of financial issues plaguing the district.

 

Steel Production Slumps to Worst It's Been in Years
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[11 Mar 2015]

Raw steel production hit a five-year low two weeks ago, but dropped even further last week, falling to 613,000T in the Great Lakes region.

Local steel output fell by 5,000T, or 0.8% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel production dipped by 0.7% to the lowest it's been in a week since 2010.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, rose slightly to 536,000T last week, up about 1.9% from 526,000T a week earlier.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.645 million tons, down from 1.657 million tons a week earlier.  Capacity utilization fell below 70%, and trails the 2014 rate by double digits.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 69.6% last week, down from 70.1% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 77.7% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 16.6 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 74.7%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 3.4%, while capacity utilization lags last year by a staggering 11.9%.

In January, steel shipments dropped 2.7% compared to December, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  U.S. steel mills shipped 7.7 million net tons of steel, or 1.7% less than they shipped in January 2014.  U.S. steel makers shipped 2% more cold-rolled sheets in January, but hot-dipped galvanized sheets were down 6% and hot-rolled sheets were down 10%.

 

State Licensing Board Files Complaint Against Gary Funeral Home
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[10 Mar 2015]

GARYThe State Board of Funeral and Cemetery Service in Indianapolis filed a formal complaint against the funeral home where officials found bodies of two babies stashed in the ceiling last week.

Nicholas Goodwin, director of communication and legislative affairs for the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, said the complaint was lodged Monday against Smith, Bizzell and Warner and Son funeral home, 4209 Grant St.

On March 4, Lake County deputy coroners and Gary police went to the funeral home and recovered the bodies of two infants that had been stored in the ceiling of the morgue.  Funeral home officials provided police and deputy coroners with conflicting stories about how long the bodies had been there and how they were ultimately recovered.

The bodies are at the Lake County morgue where deputy coroners are attempting to locate relatives.  A spokesman for the coroner did not immediately return a message left Tuesday by the Post-Tribune.

Molly Johnson, spokeswoman for the Indiana Attorney General's office, said Monday the agency will not comment on the investigation until it is complete.

 

Glitches in Runway Expansion at Gary Airport to Cost $1 Million
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lu Ann Franklin
[10 Mar 2015]

GARY | The harsh winter and delayed access to the Canadian National Railway property have caused glitches in runway expansion for the Gary/Chicago International Airport costing $1 million, according to reports presented at Mondays airport authority meeting.

However, the $174.1 million runway expansion remains on schedule to be completed in June, said B.R. Lane, Gary Airport interim director.

Dan Vicari, project manager for the runway extension, delivered the news about the need for two contract modifications related to environmental cleanup issues.  His report also included the requirement to reimburse the Federal Aviation Authority $483,450 for such elements as technology installation and environmental impact projects.

The authority approved both contract modifications for Brandenburg Industrial Services and the FAA reimbursement in a 5-0 vote.  Commissioner David A. Fagan attended the meeting but left before the runway expansion reports.

Vicari said the harsh winter resulted in one foot of frost.  Brandenburg needs to test the area for contaminated soil, but must now dig 12 to 18 inches below the current grade to test that soil.  That will result in 5,700 tons of material being taken out and an equal amount of material brought back, he said.

An additional 14 sq. yds. of materials must also be tested for contaminants below grade on the CN property, Vicari told the authority board.  That brings the total to 31 sq. yds.  "We didnt have access to that property prior to this," he said, adding that the EPA and Indiana Department of Environmental Management require this action and, if not addressed now, this problem could have stopped the runway expansion project.

Operations at the Gary/Chicago International Airport are improving, Delbert Brown of AVPORTS, the company that runs the airport, told the authority board.  "Revenue is up and costs are down due to better collection and management," Brown said.  "Operations are up 49% this year."

 

Surging Steel Imports on Pace to Break Last Year's Record
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[10 Mar 2015]

A third of the finished steel products bought in the United States so far this year were made overseas, and domestic steelmakers are ailing.

Finished steel imports seized 33% of the market share last month, and have captured a full third of the market so far this year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. They're up 36% as compared to the same period in 2014.  Last year, finished imports captured a record 28% of the market share and they're on pace in the first few months of 2015 to smash that record.

The flood of low-cost imports have taken a toll on domestic steelmakers, which have lost business and been forced to keep prices low, eating into their margins.  ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel, which don't enjoy the same subsidies as foreign steelmakers, have announced plans to eliminate 1,000 jobs in Northwest Indiana after idling facilities that include East Chicago Tin and Indiana Harbor Long Carbon.

America imported 8 million net tons of steel in January and February, a 24% increase over last year. T hat included 6.3 million tons of finished steel products.  Cut-to-length plate imports were up 124% during the first two months of 2015, while line pipe, heavy structural shapes, cold rolled sheets, standard pipe, tin plate, oil country goods, and several other products also posted substantial increases.  Reinforcing bar imports rose 56% in February, while heavy structural shapes were up 38% and tin plate was up 35%.  Hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strip were up 16%.

"There's a big impact," said Terry Steagall, a steelworker with United Steelworkers Local 1010.  "They can dump this stuff, while our manufacturing is dwindling away.  It means a devastating loss for local economies.  And it's not just steel.  It's in every segment: steel, paper, rubber and glass."  "The tin mill's gotten hit real hard," Steagall said.  "U.S. Steel's closing pipe mills.  The bar mill at Indiana Harbor Long Carbon is going.  The reason is that they're not making money because they're fighting the low end of the market."

Imports did slow in February, with permit applications decreasing 15% from January to 3.7 million net tons, while finished steel imports fell 13%.  The estimates were, however, preliminary since importers have an additional 10 days in March to file the permitting paperwork.

The USW has been fighting trade cases to preserve good-paying steelworker jobs, but the nation's trade laws are backwards because tariffs only get imposed after the economic damage is already done, Steagall said.

 

State:  Cal Twp Dodges Secession Threat with LowerTax Rate
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Marc Chase
[9 Mat 2015]

GARY | A Griffith effort to secede from Cal Twp appears to be off the table this year following a letter issued Monday by the state noting the township has sufficiently lowered its tax rate.

Cal Twp Trustee Kimberly Robinson, who assumed the elected office for the first time in January, said the ruling from the IN Dept of Local Govt Finance was welcome news to a township beleaguered by waste and corruption from past administrations.

Griffith Councilman Rick Ryfa, who had advocated his town departing the township because of perceived waste and corruption, also claimed victory, noting the secession efforts forced a lower tax burden for his constituents.

Elected leaders of Griffith, which together with Gary falls under the auspices of the township, had planned to secede from Cal Twp under a 2013 state law allowing for such a move if the township failed to bring its poor-relief tax rate to less than 12 x the state average.

In a letter issued Monday, DLGF Commissioner Courtney Schaafsma noted the township's 2015 assistance property-tax rate is 10.4 x the statewide average, and thus is in compliance with state law.  The poor relief tax rate under the Elgin administration was nearly 23 times the state average for townships in 2013, the IN Legislative Service Agency estimated.

"We will continue to seek cuts and operate efficiently in order to stay at or below that rate," Trustee Robinson told The Times Monday after receiving the DLGF letter.  "All I ask is a fair chance for my administration to prove itself in this regard."

Griffith's Ryfa said while his town would have preferred leaving Cal Twp and joining another Lake County township, all was not lost in the DLGF tax rate determination.  He noted the levy Griffith property owners will pay Cal Twp in 2015 is a little more than $1 million.  Five years ago, Griffith taxpayers paid $2.8 million to the township, and 10 years ago, $3.5 million, Ryfa said.  Ryfa credited the reform legislation backed by his town as reducing that tax burden and forcing the township to focus on efficiency and channeling its money to the intended purpose of emergency poor relief.

"This has been a very good thing for Griffith and Calumet Township taxpayers as a whole," Ryfa said.  "While we may not be able to trigger a referendum to leave the township this year, their budget has been dramatically reduced, spending is much more accountable.  The result is lower taxes for all township residents."  Griffith will have the option of seceding, via referendum, in any subsequent year in which Cal Twp's tax rate rises above the "12 x threshold."

 

'Continued Pressure' Blamed for Ending Casino Win Streak
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Karen Caffarini
[9 Mar 2015]

Northwest Indiana's five casinos saw their two-month streak of improved year-over-year revenues snapped in February.

The casinos took in a total of $79.35 million in revenues last month compared to $80.25 million in February 2014, a 1.3% drop.

Dan Nita, senior vice president and general manager of Horseshoe Hammond, said he wasn't surprised at the numbers.  "There's continued pressure that won't subside," Nita said of the video gaming terminals located in bars, truck stops and other locations in Illinois.

He said those machines are hurting slot business in the Illinois and Indiana Chicagoland area.  He said the casinos in northern Illinois took a 5.1% hit in revenues last month compared to the previous February, and the overall Chicago area market, including Indiana, saw revenues drop a total of 3.2%.

While February was said to be the coldest February in years in the Chicago area, it had less snow than the previous February.

Ameristar in East Chicago showed the only gain, a slight increase from $18.27 million in February 2014 to $18.53 million last month.  Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City dropped from $11.86 million last February to $11.51 million.  Horseshoe Hammond was flat, going from $36.06 million last February to $36.03 million.  Majestic Star I in Gary went from $8.03 million to $7.63 million, while Majestic Star II in Gary dropped from $6.03 million to $5.65 million.

Ed Feigenbaum, editor of Indiana Gaming Insight, called the numbers disappointing overall.  "Weather or no weather, you had gas prices going down and lower unemployment," Feigenbaum said.  He said people appear to be conservative in their spending, possibly paying down their credit card debt and using less money for discretionary spending.

 

Curtis Cashes in Again-$60K From Airport
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[9 Mar 2015]

Karen Freeman-Wilson campaign contributor Curtis Whittaker took home another $60,000 check today.  This time it was from the Gary/Chicago Regional Airport Authority.

At a Board meeting today, Whittaker and Co. was hired to do an audit at the airport.  The Gazette has previously reported that Whittaker is also the auditor for the Regional Development Authority who has provided much of the funding for the $200M airport expansion.  Whittaker and Co. was also the auditor in 2012 when the RDA overpaid the airport in the amount of $10M.  The audit did not catch that overpayment but an employee did.

Curtis Whittaker has personally made several $5,000 donations to the campaign of Karen Freeman-Wilson.

No mention was made of the upcoming Gary Air Show at the meeting.

 

Lake Commissioners Sign Off on Toll Road Bid
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
[9 Mar 2015]

Lake County Commissioners joined their LaPorte County counterparts on Monday, adopting resolutions entering into a partnership aimed at creating a nonprofit that would allow the bidding for the Indiana Toll Road to continue.

Lake Commissioners unanimously approved the measure in a special meeting Monday.  LaPorte commissioners last week approved the resolutions.  The Lake County Council is set to consider the measures Tuesday, while the LaPorte County Council will consider it in a special meeting Wednesday.

 

City Clerk Appeals $4,000 Judgment for Ignoring Court Order
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[7 Mar 2015]

The Gary City Clerk is poised to spend thousands of dollars, perhaps tens of thousands, in legal fees to appeal a judgment of $4,047.50.  The case, captioned Leatrice Renee Davis v. City of Gary, Rosie Lynch, Gary City Clerk Suzette Raggs in Her Official Capacity, revolves around a license suspension issued by Raggs office.  The attorney who will be paid thousands in fees by the City of Gary, Jewell Harris, Jr.

The case started in 2012 when Leatrice Davis received a parking ticket in Gary, Indiana.  The ticket said she parked improperly in front of Family Dollar at 4500 W 5th Av.  A judgment was entered against her based on the parking ticket and she later filed a chapter 13 bankruptcy.  In January, 2013 Leatrice Davis provided notice to the Gary City Court and the Gary City Clerk that she had filed a bankruptcy.  That notice should have "stayed" any further proceedings, including any action to collect, in the City Court.

Not so in Gary.  Clerk Suzette Raggs issued a notice to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) in March, 2013 and the BMV suspended the driving privileges of Ms. Davis.  After the entry of the suspension, Ms. Davis Attorney received a fax from Jewell Harris, Jr. stating:

At the time that the paperwork was processed to have your clients license suspended, the clerks office was unaware of the bankruptcy filing.  Please be assured that the clerk is taking all necessary action to rescind and vacate the suspension.

No problem, right?  Throughout the rest of May and into June, Davis attorney tried to contact Raggs or Harris but was not able to speak with either.  On June 13 David Mack of Harris firm explained that Davis would have to file a motion in Gary City Court seeking to have her license reinstated.  So she filed a motion to have her license reinstated on June 19, 2013.

On July 17, 2013, Judge Dierdre Monroe issued an Order "refusing to reinstate [Davis] license."  That is when Davis went back to the Bankruptcy Court.  The Bankruptcy Court entered an Order directing Clerk Suzette Raggs, the City of Gary and prosecutor Rosie Lynch to pay Davis attorney fees and expenses for refusing to follow the Order.  Finally, one would think the madness would stop and the City of Gary would simply say sorry for the mistake, right?

Not so.  Harris Law Firm is appealing the Order to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  That appeal will likely drag out for much of 2015 and will cost you the taxpayers well in excess of $4,000.

It is unclear whether Davis ever got her license back.  Jewell Harris bills have certainly been paid though.

 

Lake County Forensic Pathologist Practiced Without License
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Ruth Ann Krause
[6 Mar 2015]

A Lake County forensic pathologist provided expert testimony in court without having a medical license, according to the state licensing agency.

For more than a year, a forensic pathologist for the Lake County Coroner's office did not have a license to practice as a physician in Indiana because of a tax warrant hold on his license, according to a state licensing agency.  Records at the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency indicate a tax hold was placed on Cavanaugh's medical license on March 6, 2013, and that his license was expired from Nov. 1, 2013, through Dec. 2, 2014.  Cavanaugh renewed his license on Dec. 2 after the tax warrant was paid off, records show.

Forensic pathology requires a medical license because it falls under the definition of medical practice, according to the Professional Licensing Agency.  Dr. John E. Cavanaugh, 57, is a board-certified forensic pathologist who has testified as an expert or skilled witness in numerous murder trials in Lake County.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said Cavanaugh's lack of a medical license will likely have no impact on criminal cases that went to trial where he conducted autopsies and rendered opinions as to the cause of the death.  "It's more of a clerical error than anything," Carter said.  "I don't think it has any effect on us."

Cavanaugh said he was told the tax hold would be lifted.  He also said he was told he had six months to resolve the issue, and that he could practice medicine.  After he switched from being incorporated to self-employed, Cavanaugh said he set up a tax payment plan in 2013.  He said he made a down payment and paid the first installment on the plan and thought the issue was resolved within the six-month time period.  "I should have had a perfectly active license from May to October," he said.

Cavanaugh said he sent in a check to renew his license on Oct. 8, 2013, prior to its expiration Oct. 31, 2013, only to find out at 6 p.m. on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving that there was a problem and the tax hold had been placed.  "I owed them $15.92 on a second lien and I have the receipt to show that I paid that off," he said.

 

Indiana Shipped Off Record Amount of Exports Last Year
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[6 Mar 2015]

Indiana shipped out a record $35.5 billion in exports last year, up from $34.2 billion in 2013.

The Hoosier state shipped $10.5 billion in transportation equipment, $8.7 billion in chemicals, and $4.2 billion in equipment, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration.  A large majority of the state's exports much of it shipped through the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor in Portage went to Canada, though Mexico, Germany, Japan and France were also large markets.

Overall, the United States exported a record $2.35 trillion in goods last year.

In 2013, Porter County exported an estimated $479 million, while Lake County manufacturers sent $403 million worth of goods overseas.  LaPorte County produced $390 million worth of goods that were sold in foreign markets.

 

Nowacki Thwarts Sign Caper
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[5 Mar 2015]

Stolen Sign

Gary Mayoral Candidate and community activist Jim Nowacki grew suspicious this morning when he saw a work crew arrive at 731 Washington St prepared to remove a sign.  Nowacki talked to the crew and called police.  Public records show that the dilapidated building which sits across from the 21st Century Charter School is owned by us, the citizens of Lake County, Indiana.  Nowacki says that something just didnt sit right when he saw the sign being removed.

Police showed up and asked for ownership paperwork.  The sign company, which appears to also be a victim in this matter, produced a work order and information that the sign had been sold online.  No ownership records for the building could be provided and the sign crew left without removing the sign.

Police are investigating.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The city is now being sold online!

 

Gary to Learn in May If Public Art Plan Wins $1M Grant
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[5 Mar 2015]

Gary is one of 12 finalist cities selected Friday by the Bloomberg Philanthropies to receive up to $1 million each as part of the Public Art Challenge.

At least three cities will be granted at least $1 million each over two years to support temporary public art projects that engage communities, celebrate creativity and enrich the vibrancy of cities.  The winners will be announced in May.

Gary proposes to transform a vacant building into a cultural hub that showcases visual and culinary arts.  Partnering with artist Theaster Gates, the city will use the public space as a catalyst to develop a cultural district and promote urban revitalization.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Friday she was thrilled to receive the news about Gary making it to the finalists round.  Among other Midwestern finalists are Chicago, Des Moines, Grand Rapids, Mich., and Maplewood, Minn.

Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors of U.S. cities with 30,000 residents or more to submit proposals.  More than 230 cities submitted proposals, representing 68 million residents across the nation.
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[COMMENT -GDY]:   Interesting.  When I think "public art" I definitely do not think of the Gary of 2015!

 

New Plan Stretches Gary Airport's Vision
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[5 Mar 2015]

The private developer for Gary/Chicago International Airport is working on a number of projects ranging from a customs facility to forging an alliance with Purdue University to move the airport forward.

The vice president of Aviation Facilities Company Inc. on Friday discussed a broad range of efforts underway at the airport with The Times Media Co., following his company's release of a comprehensive vision plan for the airport and lakefront areas nearby.  "It's a vision document with some teeth and an active action plan behind it," said Steve Forrer, executive vice president at AFCO.  The new vision plan is different from a raft of previous plans for the airport, because his company is committed for the long haul and intends to deliver on it, he said

On Friday, Forrer outlined numerous efforts now underway to deliver on the company's pledge to attract $100 million in investment.

Establishment of a U.S. Customs facility is possible in the next six to 12 months, Forrer said.  Talks are underway with the airport's two aircraft servicing facilities as to feasibility and ways to finance the $600,000 to $800,000 cost, he said.

The addition of more corporate hangar space remains a near-term ambition, with AFCO already talking to two prominent downtown Chicago employers about relocating their corporate flight departments to the airport.  Boeing Corp. already houses its executive fleet at Gary, as do Fortune 500 energy company NiSource Inc. and international hotel management firm Whiteco Industries.

Forrer also said it would be a "disappointment" if the airport is not hosting a leisure-destination passenger airline or regularly scheduled charters within the next two years.  The last regularly scheduled airline flights out of Gary were twice-a-week Allegiant flights to Florida. Those ended two years ago.

Another effort involves trying to recruit Purdue University to make use of the airport for its research and development projects in aviation.

Almost all of the plans hinge on completing the $174 million runway expansion, which has a June deadline for completion.  It will expand the runway to 8,900 feet from its current 7,000 feet and add mandated safety areas at either end.

The vision plan drawn up by AFCO is more far ranging than even the above projects, including everything from an Eco hotel in a nature preserve north of the airport to improving a docking space for commercial freighter ships at Buffington Harbor.

The vision document produced by AFCO is the latest in a long succession of such plans for the airport.  Forrer said, "There really isn't a new idea to bring to Gary.  Many people have had many good ideas through the years. But they just haven't been able to deliver on them."
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[COMMENT -GDY]:   Here's hoping AFCO will be the entity that is able to deliver!

 

State Investigating Gary Funeral Home
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[5 Mar 2015]

GARY | The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency filed a complaint against a Gary funeral home as part of the investigation surrounding the skeletal remains of two fetuses stored there for decades.

Nicholas Goodwin, spokesman for the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, said Friday morning two compliance officers from the state agency inspected Smith, Bizzell, Warner and Son Funeral Home at 4209 Grant St Thursday afternoon.  Their inspection report and the complaint was filed Friday afternoon with the Indiana attorney general's office.

Goodwin isn't disclosing the complaint's contents.  However, he says the Attorney General's Office has the option of seeking a 90-day emergency suspension of the funeral home's license.  Goodwin says if that happens, the agency's board could call an emergency meeting to consider it.

Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey on Friday said she was never told the remains had been properly stored prior to their relocation to the ceiling area of the morgue.  "It wasn't until after I brought the fetuses into our care (Wednesday) that I've come to know that possibly others may have known about the babies being there.

 

Immigration Reform?  Not in Indiana
Compiled From a Nuvo.Net Report by Amber Stearns
[4 Mar 2015]

Its called the "Dream Act."

Senate Bill 345 would have allowed state colleges and universities to offer in-state resident tuition rates to qualified undocumented immigrants.  Currently, Indiana is one of only three states where it is against the law for undocumented immigrants to receive in-state resident tuition rates.  [COMMENT -GDY]:  Good for Indiana!

Its called the "Dream Act" after the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) that was proposed as federal legislation in 2001.  The bill, first introduced by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-IL, and Orrin Hatch, R-UT, was designed to carve a path to citizenship for undocumented children raised in America (often referred to as "dreamers").  The legislation would give them credit for good moral standing, positive performance in school and success in college or the armed services.  The DREAM Act has been re-introduced several times but has never been approved by Congress.  However since that time, many states have passed their own "Dream Acts," mostly addressing issues of in-state tuition rates and financial aid opportunities for state colleges and universities.

Unfortunately, for this year in Indiana, it looks like the dream may be over.

SB 345s author, Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, never called the bill for a vote in second reading for the full Senate to consider, despite the measure passing the Appropriations Committee.   She was trying to make sure the 26 votes needed for the measure to pass were all there. "I think one of the worse things that you can do is to ask for a vote when you dont have the votes," explained Rogers.  "People vote no, and then when [the same bill] comes back the next year, even if theyve gotten more information, they just hate to go through the trouble of trying to come up with reasons as to why they changed their votes."

 

Funeral Home Could Face Suspension after Baby Remains Discovered
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Christin Nance Lazerus and Lori Caldwell
[6 Mar 2015]

Smith, Bizzell, Warner & Son Funeral Home could have its business operations suspended by the state for three months, or possibly longer, after the discovery of two babies' remains in the ceiling prompted a visit from state inspectors Thursday.

State Professional Licensing Agency spokesman Nick Goodwin said, "Based on the report, the board could take action by Friday afternoon to file a complaint with the attorney general's office."  The board would call an emergency meeting sometime next week and issue an emergency summary suspension, which forces the business to stop operations immediately for 90 days and allows the attorney general's office to gather more evidence to bring the case before the board.

At a Thursday morning news conference at the funeral home, 4209 Grant St, funeral home spokesman Sean Howard said a former employee moved the babies' bodies  into the ceiling above the morgue for a few hours last fall, not two years as some media outlets reported.  The Lake County coroner's office and Gary police say the bodies were found in and removed from the ceiling on Wednesday.

Howard said a male employee, who was the manager of the morgue, used a ladder to put the bodies in the ceiling in September, 2014.  When the funeral home manager noticed the ladder, she questioned him and he admitted to placing the remains there, Howard said.  She placed the remains back in the cabinet promptly.  "We regret the actions of this particular individual and take full responsibility," Howard said.  "We were very disturbed by this particular employee's actions."  Howard said the individual who had worked there for eight months is no longer employed by the business.

Concord Family Services took ownership of Smith, Bizzell, Warner & Son Funeral Home in June 2005.  The babies' bodies had been held by two previous owners, Howard said.  Howard said the bodies had been stored in a secure container and funeral home staff had made efforts to find the next of kin in the ensuing years.  The male infant appeared to have been stillborn.  He had a tag from Methodist Hospital suggesting he arrived in March 2012.  The second infant, who appeared to be mummified, may have been at the funeral home since 1996.  Investigators couldn't determine a gender.

"Since 2005, there have been renewed efforts constantly to attempt to find relatives, to find medical records, doctors' records and what have you, but to no avail," Howard said.  According to Howard, the funeral home purchased a special, lockable container for the remains in 2012 and kept them properly stored there until September 2014.  In September 2014, Howard said the funeral home reached out to the coroner's office in order to plan for a dignified burial or cremation.  "Our main goal is to get a license from the coroner to ensure that these fetuses are properly put to rest."

Howard said Thursday that funeral home managers know why the former employee moved the remains, but declined to share the reason citing the ongoing police investigation into the matter.  Howard said police instructed the funeral home not to comment on the employee's reason for moving the remains.

Gary police are no longer conducting an investigation, Gary police Sgt. Thomas Decanter said after meeting Thursday with the Lake County coroner's office.  However, police will assist as needed, Decanter said.
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[COMMENT -GDY]:   I am sorry, but the more one learns, the more confusing this whole situation becomes.  Aside from the reports of a 2012 date of birth on one child, if the improper placing of the bodies above the ceiling was discovered by the funeral home in 2014, why were they still there in March of 2015?

 

Two Babies' Bodies Found Stashed in Gary Funeral Home Ceiling
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[5 Mar 2015]

The bodies of two babies, one stillborn and the other a newborn, have been found in the ceiling of a Gary funeral home where they apparently had been placed years ago, police said.

Gary police and Lake County deputy coroners went to the Smith, Bizzell and Warner & Son Funeral Home at 4209 Grant St early Wednesday afternoon and recovered the bodies.  Workers told police they were found above the ceiling tiles in of the morgue.

Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey says funeral home owners contacted her after finding the remains.  Sharon Vaughn is vice president of Concord Family Services Inc., the funeral home's parent company.  She said previous owners left the bodies.  The company bought the funeral home in 2005.

One baby appeared to have been stillborn and its gender was unknown.  Investigators said the baby appeared "mummified."  Some information with that body suggests the stillborn infant arrived in March 1996.  There is a woman's name with the records, police said.

The other baby may have been a few months old, police said.  It carried a hospital identification band indicating the baby was born in March 2012.

Investigators said they were trying to sort out the facts but they don't suspect foul play in either death.  "If there's a crime, it would probably be related to improper disposal of the bodies," Cmdr. Del Stout said.  It's possible the funeral home collected the babies after they were born, but no funeral was held when family members couldn't or didn't pay for services.

Sandi Cogan, a spokeswoman for Concord Family Services, which has owned Smith and Bizzell since 2005, said the babies were stored "in the morgue" and the coroner was summoned in an effort "to get some final disposition" and "a final resting place" for them.  But investigators who gathered evidence at the funeral home Wednesday said it was clear the babies had been stored in a box above the ceiling tiles in the morgue.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Something just does not jive here?  Smith, Bizell acuquired the property in 2005.  One of the babies was born in 2012.  Yet Smith, Bizell says the body was placed above the ceiling tiles by the previous owner.  How did they accomplish that having vacated the premises seven years earlier?

 

Election Board Notes Irregularities in Freeman-Wilson Campaign Finance Statements
Compiled from a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[5 Mar 2015]

The Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration today returned the 2014 annual report submitted by Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson a/k/a Karen About Gary.  The form letter is generated as a matter of course, according to Director Michelle Fajman.  Fajman explained that her staff routinely conduct internal audits of campaign finance filings to look for what she referred to as "technical issues."

In the case of Mayor Freeman-Wilson, the form letter cites "Information is not complete, Columns A and B of the Summary Sheet are incomplete and Incomplete addresses listed on Schedules A&B."  In addition, there is a handwritten notation "Several discrepancies found in Report.  Highighted areas need to be fixed & resubmitted."

The move comes after challenger Jim Nowacki alleged a scheme of pay to play politics in Gary. Nowackis election board complaint alleged that the documents signed by Karen Freeman-Wilson contained numerous errors including incomplete and illegible entries.  Nowacki also alleged the campaign received excessive and illegal contributions as well as made expenditures that appeared personal in nature.  Nowacki's complaint was aimed at both the 2013 and 2014 reports.  Today's action by the election board appears to be aimed only at correcting the incomplete and illegible entries and only for the 2014 statement.

 

Council Votes in Favor of Plans for Man-made Lake
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[4 Mar 2015]

Several years of review by city officials came to an end when the Gary Common Council gave approval Tuesday to a measure allowing for creation of a private lake along Ridge Road.

The proposal had been desired by Quarter Circle JK Ranch Inc., of Gary, which wants to dig out an area at 3920 W. Ridge Road, the 9-hole Calumet Golf Club, removing some 1 million sq. yds. of sand and clay to dig a 35-foot deep hole over 23 acres.  The entire parcel is listed with the Lake County Assessor as being 45 acres in the 3800 block of Whitcomb St.

Brian Doughman, who is behind the project, said he then wants to fill the hole with water and stock the new lake with assorted types of fish.  The lake would be part of a fprivate club he wants to develop with its own lake for fishing.  His attorney, James Wieser, said, "It would be a high-tech facility" that would be "a private lake that he would use for his family and his friends."

The project has been before Gary municipal officials since the days of Mayor Scott King in the early 2000s.  It had come up periodically during the King and Rudy Clay eras of Gary government.

When Mayor Karen Wilson-Freeman became mayor, city officials expressed concern that the proposed lake did not have all the proper permits from state government that would be required.  Wieser on Tuesday was able to show that all permits had been issued, including from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.  Doughman would not say how much money he had spent on the project throughout the years.  "It has been so high that I've lost track," he said.

Council President Kyle Allen said that assurance enabled city officials to give final approval.  The council voted 7-0, with Councilwomen Carolyn Rogers and Mildred Shannon absent.

 

Imports Soar, Steel Production Plunges
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[4 Mar 2015]

The United States is importing more steel than ever before.  The final numbers aren't in, but the United States appears to have imported a record amount of steel last year.

Raw steel production dropped steeply to 618,000T in the Great Lakes region last week.  It is the second straight week of decline as imports continue to capture a third of the market share.

Local steel output plummeted by 44,000T, or 6.7% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel production fell by 3.4% to the lowest it's been in a week since 2010.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, plunged to 526,000T last week, down about 3.4% from 545,000T a week earlier.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.657 million tons, down from 1.716 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 70.1% last week, down from 72.6% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 75.8% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 15 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 75.3%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 2.4%, while capacity utilization lags last year by 34%.

The United States imported 4.25 million net tons of steel in January, a 16.8% increase over December and 33% increase over January 2014, according to the AISI estimates.  Finished steel imports rose 15.9% over the previous month to 3.4 million tons, a 40% jump over January 2014.  Finished steel imports captured 32% of the overall market share.  Imports of sheets, strips, metallic coatings, oil country goods, hot-rolled sheets, standard pipe and reinforced bars all soared in January.

 

Gary Supdt. Responds to Report that Schools Donated to Mayoral Campaign
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[4 Mar 2015]

Dr. Cheryl Pruitt, Superintendent of the Gary Public School Corporation, has issued the following statement in response to a sworn statement by Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson that the Gary Community School Corporation donated to the Mayors campaign:

As superintendent of the Gary Community School Corporation, I, along with my administration and the Board of School Trustees are committed to providing the best possible education for all of our children.  We are committed to be the best possible stewards over the District's finances.  Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has acknowledged an accounting error which mistakenly indicated that GCSC contributed to an event which occurred years ago.  We look forward to a continued positive working relationship with the mayor, as we focus on the needs of Gary's children.

____________________
[READER COMMENTS]:   
I read Dr. Pruitt's response.  However, I didn't read any denial that the School MADE the donation, only that the mayor SAID it was a mistake.  This is sounding like a mess!  For some reason, Supt. Pruitt could not find an unambiguous way to state her "denial".  Shes an educator, right?  With a doctorate degree, no less?  Let's see a copy of the check.

 

Gary Police Seek Person of Interest in Death of Man Found in Woods
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[3 Mar 2015]

GARY | Gary police said Tuesday they have identified a person of interest in the death of a Whiting man found wrapped in carpeting Wednesday in a ditch on the city's west side.

Police have deemed Nathan Marshall's death suspicious because of how his body was found.  The Lake County coroner's office has not yet made a determination about his cause of death, Gary police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Decanter said.

Marshall, 30, of the 1400 block of Fischrupp Av in Whiting, was identified the day after his body was found in a wooded area north of the 2200 block of Fairbanks St . Marshall was reported missing Jan. 23 by a family member who had not seen him since Christmas, police said.

 

Jewell Harris, Sr. Owes Gary $1.5 Million, Donates to Mayors Campaign
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[3 Mar 2015]

At a time when the Federal Government was attempting to collect over $1.5M which Jewell Harris, Sr. owes the City of Gary, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson accepted at least $3,000.00 from him.  Harris, Srs. bank accounts, corporate assets and personal property are under a continuing garnishment order from the Federal Court.  Any funds obtained by the Federal Court could be used for police, fire and other much-needed basic city services.

There is no question that the Mayor knew of the continuing garnishment order.  In 2008, Jewell Harris, Jr. was paid by the Gary Sanitary District to appear in Court regarding his fathers garnishment order.  In 2011, Harris, Jr. was the Mayors campaign manager.  The contribution came on May 8, 2014, just months before the County Commissioners suddenly and without notice returned nearly $25,000.00 in payments to Harris, Sr.
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[COMMENT -GDY]:   It does look as though we are getting into the "silly season" of Gary politics of yore?  Love it!

 

Gary Mayor Answers 'Pay to Play' Complaint
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[2 Mar 2015]

GARY | Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson came under fire Monday from a rival candidate claiming her re-election campaign has accepted "illegal and excess" donations.

Jim Nowacki, a city landlord and one of four Democrats running to unseat her in the May 5 primary, said, "It shows clearly a pattern of pay to play, a quid pro quo when you see the donors receiving huge city resources."

Mayor Freeman-Wilson, seeking a second term, said, "That is simply untrue.  He talks about quid pro quo and that's not the case.  Not even the timing works.  There are a lot of folks who do business with the city who don't give, and a lot of people who give who don't do business with the city."

Nowacki has filed a complaint with the Lake County elections board that the mayor's recent campaign finance reports are incomplete, illegible, erroneous and have "expenditures which appear to be personal in nature."  The mayor replied, "We typically check the math and if there is a problem we amend it or check it out.  That isn't evidence of anything except human fallacy."  Michelle Fajman, the county elections director, said the county elections board will meet March 17 to decide whether Nowacki's complaint rises to the level of possible election law violations.  If so, the board would hold a public hearing, take testimony and rule on it at a later date.

Nowacki took aim at some of the mayor's largest contributors, such as Hobart-based Gateway Partners Limited Liability Co. and Chicago-based developer Elzie Higginbottom, who are involved in high-profile urban renewal projects.

Gateway is involved in the $2.9 million construction of a bank a commercial business building at 5th and Broadway.  Freeman-Wilson said, "If you look at that building and the area adjacent to it today versus a year ago, who could argue with what has happened down there and what is happening?  We have Centier Bank coming in.  Demolition has occurred, Gateway is doing exactly what they said they would do in their development," she said.

Vance Kenney, managing partner of Gateway, said, "I think the quid pro quo allegation is absurd.  I have donated to the mayor of Hammond, the mayor of East Chicago, and I have no contracts in either of those cities."

Fajman said there are no contribution limits for limited liability companies.

Higginbottom, a chief fundraiser for former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, has been instrumental in constructing the new $9 million B. Coleman Aviation hangar at the Gary/Chicago Int'l. Airport.  Nowacki said Turnstone Development, which is associated with Higginbottom, is in line to receive more than $342,000 in Gary Department of Commerce, Community Development money to reconstruct the Mehencia Apartments complex at 1900 W. 5th Av.

Freeman Wilson said, "Turnstone is actually investing in the city."  She said Turnstone doesn't have a contract with the city, but could be in line for grant money in the near future, similar to the money given to developers for other affordable housing constructions.

Nowacki said he even found a $2,000 donation to the mayor in 2013 from the Gary Community School Corp.  The mayor said that entry on her campaign finance report was in error.  She said an individual donated that money so Gary School Board members could attend one of her political fundraisers.  "That was not a check from the school corporation," she said.

 

Gary School Corp Contributes to Mayor While Not Paying IRS
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[2 Mar 2015] by Ken Davidson

In 2013, the Gary School Corporation was unable to pay virtually all of the bills.  The IRS says that the Corporation did not even pay withholding taxes for school employees.  NIPSCO, the Gary Sanitary District, Illinois Central Bus Company and others were among a long list of creditors demanding payment.  In the midst of all of this, the Corporation did manage to find $2,000.00 to give a contribution to the campaign of Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

According to a statement, attested to by Karen Freeman-Wilson, the Gary Community School Corporation made a contribution in the amount of $2,000.00 on March 8, 2013.  Although the above Federal Tax Liens were not filed until 2014, you can see in the notation that the tax period was the year ending 12/31/2013.

Mayoral Candidate Jim Nowacki has filed a complaint with the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration outlining this and what he calls "a clear pattern of pay to play arrangements."  Nowacki has promised to outline more issues tomorrow at 11:00 am on the steps of Gary City Hall.

School officials were unavailable for comment at the time of this article.  We will update it as more information becomes available.

 

Elgin Asks for Trial Delay Until Fall
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz
[27 Feb 2015]

Former Calumet Township Trustee Mary Elgin wants to delay her criminal trial until the fall, according to a motion filed in federal court.

She and her three co-defendants - Alex Wheeler, Steven Hunter and Ethel Shelton - were set to go on trial March 16 on charges of using the township's office to help run election campaigns for Elgin, Wheeler and Shelton.  Elgin is also charged with lying to investigators, not filing her federal income taxes and attempting to extort a township vendor.  The defendants have all pleaded not guilty.

The motion, filed Thursday by her attorney, Kevin Milner, in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, says that the case has produced a large amount of evidence, some of which the government still hasn't gotten to the defense.  Milner also noted in the motion the complexity of the 15-count case.  Because of that, he is asking the trial be delayed until the fall.

Court records show that the defendants' final pretrial conference, originally set for Friday, was canceled.

Elgin lost the trustee seat last spring in the primary election to Kimberly Robinson, who went on to win in the general election.  Elgin and her co-defendants were charged in December.

 

Lake, LaPorte Take Next Step in Toll Road Lease Plan
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
                     and a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[27 Feb 2015]

Lake County officials will be asked to participate in an agreement with LaPorte County officials that will support the two counties' joint bid for the Indiana Toll Road lease rights.

Lake County Commission President Roosevelt Allen Jr., and LaPorte Commission President David Decker in a joint statement Friday announced they will be bringing the agreement before their respective councils and board of commissioners for approval in the coming days.  The effort could be worth millions for the two counties at no risk to taxpayers, the two say in the statement.

In November, both county commissions decided to pursue bidding for the lease rights of the bankrupt Toll Road through the formation of a non-profit entity known as the Northern Indiana Toll Road Authority Inc. (NITRA) that would represent the interests of each county.  NITRA would sell the non-recourse Toll Road revenue bonds to pay for the multi-billion dollar package.  With the use of non-recourse bonds, taxpayers won't will be held liable if revenues generated by the Toll Road fail to pay the debt service.

"Our financial advisers at Piper Jaffray continue to believe as they did in November that with the low cost of capital involved in a municipal debt-financed bid, we can be highly competitive in the bid process for the Toll Road lease," Decker said.

Allen said the counties have "engaged lawyers, financial advisers, underwriters and other consultants at little or no cost" to help submit the bid.  Lake County committed $10,000 in November to get the process started.  "Because the counties are willing to form the non-profit pursuant to the interlocal agreement, NITRA can issue municipal bonds at no financial risk to the counties or our taxpayers," Allen said.  NITRA would be overseen by an eight-member board of directors consisting of each county council and commission president.  Each of those members would have one appointment.  A ninth member, the Toll Road operator, would not be a voting member.  "This is a public-private partnership designed to make sure the road is run better and excess revenues are reinvested right here in Northwest Indiana," Allen said.

Completed bids must be submitted by March 15.  The successful bidder will go before the Indiana Finance Authority.  The LaPorte County Commission is set to consider the matter March 4.  Lake County Commissioners will consider the matter in a special meeting March 9 and the County Council will consider it at its regular March 10 meeting.  The LaPorte County Council will consider the matter in a special meeting March 11.

If successful, both Lake and LaPorte counties would be entitled to annual payments of $5 million, plus a split of any excess revenues for the next 67 years.  Those excess revenues could fund local public works or other transportation improvements.  The highway would be run by a board of directors, consisting of Lake and LaPorte county officials, and non-elected professionals in the fields of hospitality, tourism, transportation, education and health care who would be appointed by county officials.  One board member would represent the highway operator.

Investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co., of Minneapolis, estimated last fall the Toll Road could produce between $38 million and $53 million per year after operating and maintenance expenses.

 

Bill to Shrink Gary School Board Scuttled
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[26 Feb 2015]

Even though Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson testified in favor of a bill to downsize the Gary School Board, the bill's author said he pulled it from consideration at her request.

"I withdrew it," said State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary.  "The mayor is having talks with the Senate to try to get Gary schools more money," he said.  "I reluctantly withdrew it, but like MacArthur, it shall return," he said of House Bill 1514.

The bill, which would provide the mayor with two appointments on the school board and downsize its membership from seven to five, was approved by a House education committee.  The bill drew criticism from school board members.  Board President Antuwan Clemons said he felt "blindsided" by the bill, although Brown did tour the city last year taking input on the proposed changes.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said she urged Freeman-Wilson to drop her support of Brown's bill.  "I told the mayor this was the time we needed to work together and set aside any changes to school board legislation that Charlie has," Rogers said.  She it's more important now for the school district to get its fiscal priorities in check.

Freeman-Wilson, Rogers and school officials met with state Sen. Luke Kenley, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to talk about state relief for the school district.  "We're trying to get a handle on the fiscal problems the school corporation has," said Rogers.   She said the legislature could provide relief for Gary in the form of a Common School Loan forgiveness measure, like the state did with charter schools recently.  "We need to work on immediate problems, then long-term solutions," Rogers said.  She said Brown could bring his bill back in the next session.

 

Body Found at Bottom of J-Pit in Gary
#5 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
                     and a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[26 Feb 2015]

The body of an unidentified man was found at the bottom of the J-Pit on the city's far southwest side late Wednesday afternoon, Gary police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Decanter said.

A Black Oak boy was riding his ATV in the J-Pit a 150-plus-acre former sand mine, now a brownfield when he saw what he thought was a deer rolled up in a carpet at the bottom of the huge crater, Decanter said.  The boy told his father, who quickly realized it was a human body, Decanter said.

Because of the frozen ground, ice and falling snow, investigators have not been able to get close to the scene, just off 22nd Av near Fairbanks St in Black Oak.  Police were waiting for four-wheel drive vehicles to drive to the bottom of the pit and begin the formal investigation.

The disposal of the body suggest the man's death is suspicious, Decanter said.

The deceased was identified Thursday morning by family members as Nathan Marshall, 30, of the 1400 block of Fischrupp Av in Whiting, Lake County coroner's office investigators said.  Gary police said the man lived in the city's Black Oak neighborhood.

nwiTimes Staff Report - UPDATE
[5 Mar 2015]
GARY | The Lake County coroner's office has ruled a Gary man's death a homicide, though the exact cause of death is still pending.

 

U.S. Steel to Shutter Gary Works Coke Plant, Eliminate 300 Jobs
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[26 Feb 2015]

U.S. Steel wants to permanently close the coke-making plant at Gary Works, which would displace 300 workers.

Earlier this week, U.S. Steel warned the union that it is proposing to permanently close the coke plants at Gary Works on May 27, spokeswoman Courtney Boone said.  "This strategic decision was made in light of the company's long-term coke position and the future anticipated steelmaking operations, including the inclusion of an electric arc furnace," she said.  The sprawling steel mill in Gary would bring in coke a purified form of coal that's burned in blast furnaces to make iron from elsewhere instead of making it itself.

An estimated 300 workers now bake coal into fuel for steelmaking at the No. 2 coke battery, which produced an average of 593,000T over the last two years.  The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker plans to talk with affected workers and the United Steelworkers union about whether they will be transferred or laid off, Boone said.

In either case, an estimated 300 jobs that command some of the highest wages in the local manufacturing sector will vanish for good.  U.S. Steel already announced it would lay off 369 production workers indefinitely in March when it idles East Chicago Tin, which employs 397 when you count management and office workers.

Rumors have been swirling that the days of coke-making at Gary Works were numbered ever since U.S. Steel restarted Clairton Coke Works in November 2012, after a $1.2 billion upgrade that was supposed to make it more efficient and environmentally friendly, USW District 7 Director Mike Millsap said earlier this week.  Clairton, which is near Pittsburgh, is the largest coke-manufacturing facility in the United States.

U.S. Steel had already been shuttering coke batteries at Gary Works.  In 2013, after new CEO Mario Longhi came on, the company closed the No. 5 and No. 7 furnaces in Gary, transferring 120 workers to other positions at the mill as part of an overall strategy to cut costs after five straight years of annual losses.  Last year, the steelmaker also announced it would cancel the Carbonyx project at Gary Works, after dumping $210 million into a failed quest to find a coke substitute that would shield the company from the open market's volatility.

Gary Works could source its coke from a number of places, Boone said.  "In addition to U. S. Steel's other coke-making operations, including Clairton, we also have relationships with coke suppliers to support our steelmaking operations," she said.

The problem is, the coke battery at Gary Works is old and not cost-effective, said steel industry analyst Charles Bradford with New York City-based Bradford Research.  U.S. Steel has done a calculation that it's cheaper to ship coke in from Western Pennsylvania than make it in Gary.

The steelmaker, which turned its first profit in five years in 2014 after a cost-cutting initiative known as Carnegie Way, has been trying to cut down on fixed costs that drag down on its financial performance when business slows.  U.S. Steel also recently announced it would close Granite City Works, laying off 176 workers in Southern Illinois.

"We are continuing to pursue the current EAF (electric arc furnace) project as was described in our recent fourth quarter, year-end 2014 earnings call," Boone said.  "We are also monitoring market conditions and believe the EAF and the proposed closure of the coke-making operations at both Granite City Works and Gary Works puts the company in a more flexible position to adjust to cyclical market conditions."

Total job losses in Northwest Indiana's steel industry now run to about 1,000 in 2015.  ArcelorMittal plans to idle Indiana Harbor Long Carbon in East Chicago, which would eliminate another 300 jobs, though those workers would be transferred.

ArcelorMittal idled the No. 2 galvanizing line once the most productive in the world at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor West last year.  The Luxembourg-based steelmaker also warned the union it plans to idle the No. 1 aluminizing line at the former LTV steel mill in December.

 

Steel Production Slides by 4,000T in Great Lakes Region
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[26 Feb 2015]

Raw steel production slipped to 652,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, a slight decline from the previous week.

Local steel output sagged by 4,000T, or 0.6% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel production fell by 2.5%, largely because of a drop in output at southern mini-mills.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, plunged to 545,000T last week, down from 592,000T a week earlier.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.716 million tons, down from 1.76 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.6% last week, down from 74.6% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 75.8% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 13.3 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 76%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 1.5%, while capacity utilization lags last year by 2.5%, a jump of two full percentage points over the previous week.

 

Indiana Leads Nation in Steel Production for 34th Straight Year
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[25 Feb 2015]

Indiana again led the nation in steel production in 2014.

The Hoosier State has been first in steel output since 1980, after the national industry shrunk and Northwest Indiana's location on Lake Michigan made it a cost-effective place to receive iron ore and other raw materials for the steelmaking process.

"Indiana is still the top steel-producing state," American Iron and Steel Institute spokeswoman Rachel Gilbert said.  Though the state has a few mini-mills, such as in Crawfordsville and the Fort Wayne area, in this case Indiana mainly means Northwest Indiana.  Most of the steel is made in mills along Lake Michigan in Lake and Porter counties.

Nationally, U.S. steel mills shipped, or sold, 98.2 million net tons of steel in 2014, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Steel shipments rose 3% over the 95.4 million tons mills shipped in 2013.

Internationally, steel production reached 1.6 billion tons last year, a 1.2% increase over 2013, according to the World Steel Association.  North American steel production rose 2% year-over-year to 121.2 million tons.

The United States made an estimated 88.3 million tons of crude steel, a 1.7% increase over 2013, the World Steel Association estimated.  U.S. output hit its highest level since 2008, when it made 91.8 million tons of steel.

America hasn't made more than 100 million tons of steel in a single year since 2000, right before many of the domestic steelmakers went out of business and most of Northwest Indiana's mills ended up in the hands of ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel, according to World Steel Association estimates.

 

Gary's Mayor Knows After Blight Mapping Ends, Real Work Begins
Compiled From a Next City Column by Alexis Stephens
[24 Feb 2015]

After 200 volunteers surveyed nearly 60,000 parcels of land, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson of Gary, Indiana, is ready to make some comprehensive decisions about the citys blight problem.

Garys population was 78,450 in 2013, down from a peak of 178,320 in 1960.  Freeman-Wilsons civilian squad spent 18 months pounding the citys pavements armed with smartphones, identifying occupancy and safety concerns.  According to the Gary Parcel Survey, made publicly available on garymaps.com, nearly 7,000 properties in the city are vacant.

The city is a recipient of the Center for Community Progress 2015 Technical Assistance Scholarship Program (TASP), which will help officials to develop a comprehensive blight prevention strategy.  "The elimination of blight isnt just an exercise in demolition or even in reconstruction," Freeman-Wilson says.  "There is an opportunity to look at ordinances and even state statutes that have an impact on how property is handled by property owners, how its disposed of, and how you are able to hold owners accountable."

I spoke to the Mayor about the survey findings and next steps:

After collecting the data and taking a look at it, did anything surprise you?

We graded the properties [from A to F], and one of the things that was not just surprising, but was a great area of concern, was the number of people that were living in substandard housing.  The other was the fact most of the properties that should be demolished are not owned by the city.  Theres always been this sense that the city owns all of this blighted property, but we found out that was not true.

Are you looking at examples from other cities doing this type of work, like Detroit?

Were looking at Flint and Cleveland   Detroit is really just getting started in this work and are probably about where we are, but Flint and Cleveland are certainly ahead.  They provide great examples of the potential that exists.

Do you have any ideas about how you will prioritize demolition?

Right now we are using dollars from state funds to deal with the demolition of single-family residences.  We also have a new jobs program that well be unveiling next month that will train people in the removal of non-structural blight.  Because we have a number of landlords that are speculators, we are working with the state assembly to hold those individuals responsible.

 

Last Original Member of The Spaniels Dead at 79
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Philip Potempa
[24 Feb 2014]

Spaniels.jpgWillie C. Jackson, a Gary native and the last original member of the singing group The Spaniels, died last week at age 79.

The musical group debuted in late 1952 and is best known for the hit "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite," which rose to No. 5 on Billboard's R&B chart.

"Willie continued to keep his group's music and hit songs alive and remembered for future generations by performing regularly until just a few months ago," said Henry Farag, of Crown Point.  Farag is one of the original members of the singing group Stormy Weather who was also a friend of Jackson and served as his booking agent.  "It was the music and memories that continued to keep him going," said Farag, who has a tribute show to The Spaniels and other doo-wop music groups called "The Signal" at Munster's Theatre at the Center on April 4.  "Willie wanted to be on stage for The Spaniels segment but would likely have been in the audience ready to be introduced to take a bow," Farag said.

Farag said Jackson, who died Feb. 18, had been in declining health in recent years and required kidney dialysis treatments.  Jackson's funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Unity Baptist Church, 2019 Connecticut St. in Gary.  Jackson, who still lived in Gary, was a charter member at Unity Baptist and served as chairman of the Deacon Board.

When Jackson and the musical group debuted in late 1952 at Roosevelt High School in Gary, they went by the name Pookie Hudson & The Hudsonaires.  They changed their name to The Spaniels that spring and, upon graduation, became one of the first two artists to sign with Vee-Jay Records the first large, independent African-American owned record label.  The group recorded their initial release, "Baby It's You" on May 5, 1953.  The Spaniels played all of the prime stage spaces of Chicago and around the country, including The Apollo, The Regal and other large theaters.

The group's other members included Gerald Gregory, who died Feb. 12, 1999; Opal Courtney Jr., who died Sept. 18, 2008; Thornton James "Pookie" Hudson, who died Jan. 16, 2007; and Ernest Warren, who died May 7, 2012.

 

Gary Schools Seek More Transport Money
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[23 Feb 2015]

GARY Taxpayers will be on the hook for more money after the School Board voted Monday to amend its budget to reflect a $4 million levy increase in its transportation fund.

With state approval, the board voted to raise the transportation fund from its advertised rate of $9 million to the maximum allowable levy of $13 million.  School officials said the raise would be reflected in the June tax disbursement.

Interim Chief Financial Officer Michael Washington said taxpayers will see an increase of 14 cents per $100 assessed valuation, as the rate moves from 48 cents to 62 cents.  It represents a 31% increase within the fund, he said.

Board attorney Tracy Coleman said the state gave the district "consideration" because she said it really intended to ask for the maximum levy.  Typically, school districts seek the maximum levy and then face adjustments from the state.

It wasn't clear why the district didn't seek the maximum in its initial budget.

 

Gary Mayor Says Labor Relations Key to Effective Policing
Compiled from a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[23 Feb 2015]

GARY | Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson on Monday told a White House task force labor-management relations are key to building trust between police and the communities they serve.

Freeman-Wilson testified before President Barack Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing, which is gathering information on how police can reduce crime while also strengthening relationships with community stakeholders.  The task force is scheduled to present its recommendations to Obama on March 2.  Freeman-Wilson serves as chairwoman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Working Group of Mayors and Police Chiefs.

"I believe our role as mayors is to provide our police departments with the resources they need to get the job done," Freeman-Wilson said.  "Those resources can be money or equipment, or something less tangible, such as creating an atmosphere that makes it easier for our officers to get the job done."

City leaders need to examine policing from the viewpoints of officers and their unions, the departments as a whole, city government and the justice system, she said.  "In Gary, I use my convening power as mayor to involve the whole community," she said.  "I address the big picture and work with our chief to relate it to law enforcement."

Freeman-Wilson said she works closely with Police Chief Larry McKinley to improve "policing practices of concern" and to provide a consistent message that officers are "doing a great job."  "We make it clear that we support our officers and what they do, so long as they follow our established protocols," she said.  "But we also make it clear that, when something appears to have been done wrong, we will investigate it and act on the findings of that investigation."
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Me thinks the men and women who strap on the guns would be more than surprised to hear these views being expressed by their mayor, and might suspect her honor is the one in need of a reality check when it comes to police department morale?

 

Gary:   A Diamond in the Rough
Compiled From a www.valpolife.com/ Article by Robert Ordway
[23 Feb 2015]

Neither the distinctive image portrayed by the media nor the myriad of comments made by the casual observer adequately characterizes my personal experiences and overarching view of Gary, Indiana.  It has been insightfully spoken, "We are only as strong as our weakest link."  If Gary is that weak link in Northwest Indiana, it is of no benefit to kick a community that is already down.  Its time to strengthen Garys community for the betterment of our region as a whole and, in order to do so, we must first understand the contributing forces that have weakened this "diamond in the rough."

In many ways, Gary is the victim of a perfect storm.  A city founded in 1906 by US Steel, the first corporate politicians ensured that Garys economic base would not be diversified.  Born in the heat of the labor movement, the Steel Strike of 1919 failed to unionize workers and subsequently sparked a mass immigration and hiring of minorities at sub-par wages.  In turn, this led to serious racial tensions as segregated (and substandard) housing confined African-Americans in Midtown.  During this exact timeframe, Gary Superintendent, William A. Wirt pioneered a triad model with respect to education known as Platoon, explicating a balance between work, study, and play.  To its downfall, school segregation policies did not provide equal opportunity for all residents.

At the turn of the century, monopolistic practices of many robber barons were halted through the enforcement of the Sherman Antitrust Act.  Yet, in 1920, US Steel endured as one of the few companies to successfully dodge such legislative policies, continuing to consolidate the industry.  The incentive to innovate within the industry and sufficiently pay employees was minimalized as a result.  Permanent unionization of Garys industries would follow as the impact of the Great Depression caused steel output to decline by nearly 85%.

In the 1930s, the industrious community offered refuge for gangsters and notable figures such as John Dillinger.  Prostitution and opportunities for illegal gambling activities also colored the prohibition era in Gary and surrounding regions of Northwest Indiana.  While much a part of the city, such activities were relatively controlled as law enforcement, media personnel and others were likely on the take.  With the start of World War II, the steel industry soared like never before and the demographic of its workers shifted.  As white Americans were stationed overseas, minorities were pulled into skilled positions and leadership roles that were previously off-limits.

Between the boom and bust years of steel production, the colliding forces of globalization and the civil rights movement produced a thundering impact on the city.  As African-Americans became political leaders in the late 1960s, manufacturing jobs all but disappeared due to automation and imported products.  U.S. Steel, the worlds first billion-dollar company, began an irreversible, slow decent in market share.  Where 100,000 steel jobs once existed in Northwest Indiana, roughly 20,000 are left today.  Between the process of redlining by banks and the elimination of Garys buffer zone through state legislation, white flight and disinvestment became all too easy over the next two decades.  With the passage of time, the City of the Century became another victim of deindustrialization in Americas Rust Belt . . .

Raised just a mile east of I-65 in neighboring Lake Station, I have had the privilege of working off and on at a small engineering contractor on Garys west side since high school.  Whether it is a walk at Marquette Park, eating at establishments or engaging the locals at the train station, my time in Gary has been more than positive over the past 12 years.  The spirit of faith, hard work, family and community are firmly rooted within the city, stronger than many are led to believe.  These values are consistently overshadowed by the medias magnet towards reporting the negative happenings within the city streets.  Every time I read about a murder in Gary, I know a false stereotype is reaffirmed in the minds of many.  Allowing 80 people to brand 80,000 is not only a disservice to the community, but also a perpetuation of institutional racism in America.

It is easy to sit back and criticize, point fingers, diffuse responsibility, and blame issues of the past - politics, racism, corporate outsourcing, socio-economics which only serves to weaken this important link in Northwest Indiana.  Only through collaboration by taking action now can we strengthen Gary for the future.  With its proximity to Chicago, one of the largest economies in the world and business friendly policies of Indiana, Gary is poised to be one of the most vibrant cities in America.

Given my experience in government and politics, I believe the citys administrative leadership is stronger than it has been in decades.  However, it will take partnerships beyond the walls to rebuild Rome, to shine this diamond in the rough.  Whether one lives in Lowell, Valparaiso or Michigan City, we all have a stake in Garys success and should embrace the city as our true hub to Chicago.

At the NAACP Life Member Banquet in 2013, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson made a statement that has continued to resonate with me to this day regarding the future success of Gary, "You are either part of the solution, or you are part of the problem."  When it comes to making The Region a better place to work, live and play, which part are you?

Robert Ordway is the Co-Chairman of the Valparaiso Republican Party
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The record exists to correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the only refuge provided to John Dillinger in the 1930s in NWI was at the Lake Co. Jail?  History also records that he did not take kindly to this extension of hospitality and made a rather abrupt departure!

Aside from this seeming faux pas, the author does make several good points.

 

Griffith Awaits Word on Cal Twp Budget
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Charles F. Haber
[22 Feb 2015]

GRIFFITH | The deadline has passed for state townships to submit their 2015 budgets -- and Griffith is holding its breath for word on the budget of Cal Twp.

In 2013, the Indiana General Assembly passed a bill requiring Cal Twp to reduce its budget from 23 x the state average to 12 x that figure.  So far this has not happened, which could soon pave the way for Griffith to leave the township and save the $1.7 million it has been forced to contribute each year.

"We fully anticipate having more information" by the next council meeting, Council President Rick Ryfa, R-3rd, said.  Ryfa spoke with the director of the DLGF on Wednesday.  The budgets are certified by the Department of Local Government Finances.  "They will need to add an amendment to Lake County's final budget order before we get our certified budgets.  I was told that they expect to send that order out sometime late next week."

If the township's budget misses again, the council will begin arranging a ballot referendum, strictly for Griffith residents, to vote this year on whether to leave the township.

But this depends on the numbers involved when the budget is certified.  "Until the final numbers are published for Lake County, and all townships in the state, we will not know for certain if we can trigger the legislation that was passed in 2013," Ryfa said.

Ryfa noted the township previously filed a lawsuit against the state and governor that later was withdrawn.  "We fully anticipate additional legal complaints and possible accusations of technical issues included in the legislation that could cause delays."  As a result, all legislation in Indianapolis is being monitored by the town.

Ryfa said that Cal Twp will probably still have the highest tax rates in the state.  "(But) Cal Twp has dramatically cut their levy as a result of the pressure put on them by Griffith," Ryfa said.  "Griffith officials will continue to monitor the numbers and take appropriate action when more information is available."

 

Cops Protest Outside Gary Mayor's Annual Speech
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[20 Feb 2015]

Despite the brutal temperatures and bitter wind, about three dozen police and firefighters marched outside the Genesis Convention Center for more than three hours on Friday, carrying signs protesting low wages and lousy equipment.  "No raises in nine years," one sign said.  "Lowest paid in the county," claimed another.

The pickets hoped to get the attention of guests attending Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's annual State of the City address and residents.  While some people ignored the high-spirited protesters, others voiced encouragement.  "You are overworked.  And underpaid," said one woman as she crossed 5th Av.  Passing motorists honked support and fire trucks, squad cars and ambulances blared sirens as they passed the demonstration.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich, chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party, never made it inside for the luncheon and speech.  He stopped at the parking lot entrance and stepped out to shake hands with a few of the pickets, then left.  "I'll probably take some political heat for that," Buncich said.  "But I stand with my brothers in law enforcement.  Public safety over politics."

Freeman-Wilson observed later, "His decision was political," adding, "I'm a public servant, too."

Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 61 President Samuel Abegg said the protest is an effort to inform residents about the status of law enforcement in the city.  The department is losing too many experienced officers to other departments, he said.  "It costs significantly more to continually hire and train new officers as opposed to retaining veteran experience and leadership," Abegg said.

Freeman-Wilson said the negative statements could reflect poorly not only on the city but on the police force.  "You're kind of talking about yourself," she said.

Union police and fire department representatives have been meeting with the city since September, Freeman-Wilson said.  "We are about to come to a conclusion in compensation," she said.  City finances have been complicated by a decrease in casino funds.

 

NIPSCO Shutting Power Off at Closed Gary Schools
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[20 Feb 2015]

GARY | NIPSCO will begin turning off the power at several closed Gary school buildings next week.

The schools are Webster, Brunswick, Norton, Ivanhoe, Chase and Vohr elementary schools and Horace Mann High.  Charles Prewitt, Gary school supervisor of buildings, grounds and maintenance, said the district has a total of 23 closed school buildings.

School Superintendent Pruitt has said repeatedly the district needs money to repair buildings.  Pruitt said she hopes the savings generated from pulling the plug at these schools will be in the six-figure category.  She has also been working with vendors to set up payment plans.  She said officials are working with IRS and have set up a monthly payment plan.  Gary schools owe IRS $6.7 million.  She said they also have made cuts in the health insurance, and employees will have to pay a higher deductible.

A parent of a Roosevelt student said students were wearing hats, gloves and coats in the classroom this week because there was no heat.  Mike Serpe, EdisonLearning spokesman, said there is only one operable boiler to heat the entire building.  "As a result, students have been relocated to classrooms in the warmer areas of the building. ...  Steps are being taken to address the boiler situation, with the hope that appropriate repairs will be made in order for the building to be fully operational next week," he said Friday.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   I suspect that the effect of turning off the power to these buildings will only be to accelerate their deterioration.

 

Gary Gets New Fire Chief
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[20 Feb 2015]

Controversial Fire Chief Theresa Everett will be replaced in a ceremony scheduled for tomorrow sources tell the Gazette.  Communications Director Chelsea Whittington informed the Gazette that the Mayors Office would not comment on upcoming personnel changes.  However, sources close within the Department say that long time Gary Firefighter Paul Bradley will be named to the top post.

Everett has been controversial since her appointment to the position in 2012.  Firefighers stated privately that they believed Everetts ties to Freeman-Wilson weighed more in her appointment than her qualifications.  Freeman-Wilson and Everett are both members of the same sorority.  Everett was a finalist for a position with the Fulton County, Georgia Fire Department in 2013.  Everett's future plans were not known at the time of this article.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   This reported event has not come to pass (as of 24 Feb).  Perhaps the usually reliable and credible Ken Davidson at the Gazette was had by one of his sources?

 

Gary Fire Chief Defends Inaction on Promotions
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[19 Feb 2015]

Two lieutenants on the Gary Fire Department say there are openings in the captain rank that belong to them.

Lt. Brad Smith and Lt. Kevin Thomas filed complaints months ago before the Gary Fire Civil Service Commission asking the board to review the action or inaction of Chief Teresa Everett.  They contend the budget includes 30 captains but only 28 slots are filled.

The commission, court-ordered in December to extend the life of its promotion eligibility list while the matter is pending, heard Smith testify at its regular monthly meeting on Thursday.  The board scheduled a special meeting for March 12 to hear Thomas's case.  Commission attorney Rinzer Williams said the board will also deliberate on Smith's matter on that day.

Smith testified that "about half the time" he is transferred from his station on Grand Blvd in Miller to other stations to work in the higher rank, a practice called, "riding up."  Without a formal promotion, however, Smith said he loses the increased pay when he works overtime.

Both Everett and Acting Deputy Chief James Stanton said firefighters who take excessive sick days create some of the vacancies.  "We have attendance problems," Stanton testified.  "Certain firefighters on the job who are sick 10 to 20 days a year, even go 90."

Everett said that based on the number of fire stations and available trucks, "we are overstaffed.  If everybody comes to work, we have more people than apparatus."  The fire department operates 10 stations, including the Gary/Chicago Airport.  Each station has three shifts of firefighters and a captain assigned to each shift.  "Right now I have 27 captains.  I have captains in other positions.  Captains on light duty.  I have too many lieutenants," the chief testified.

The chief said promotions are made when "there are funds available and an operational need."  But right now, "There is no operational need for captain promotions," Everett said.

UPDATE -
nwiTimes, Dan Carden
[23 Feb 2015]

INDIANAPOLIS | The Republican-controlled Senate voted 37-11 Monday to retroactively prohibit a 15-year-old lawsuit filed by the city of Gary against several gun manufacturers and retailers.  Senate Bill 98, which now goes to the House, terminates the lawsuit that seeks damages for alleged complicity in the illegal retail sale of handguns.

 

Cops:  Students Arrested after School Receives Bomb Threat
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[19 Feb 2015]

GARY | Two students at Gary New Tech Innovative Institute may have learned a lesson Wednesday not to make prank calls.

The teenagers were arrested after police investigating a bomb threat about 2:20 p.m. at the school, 1800 E. 35th Av, traced the call to a cellphone inside the school, police said.  The students were found after police called the cellphone, according to a police report.

The students were taken to a security office for questioning and admitted to making the call, police said.  One of the students said they were "they were just playing around and decided to make prank phone calls," the report said.

 

Gary Ramps Up War on Blight
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
                     and a nwiTimes Report by Ed Bierschenk
[19 Feb 2015]

825 E 44th Av - East Glen Park - Gary, IN - 2014

 

BLIGHT HITS HOME

Pictured is an East Glen Park residence located at 825 E 44th Av.  It was built in 1945 at a cost of $5,000.  When built it had 5 bedrooms, 2 full baths, a full basement and a 2-car unattached garage.  It also had a coal bin.  3 generations of the original purchaser's family occupied the home from 1945 through 1969.

When built, the neighborhood and community were serviced by St. Joseph Catholic Grade School, St. Mark Catholic Grade School, Riley, Pittman Square and Franklin Elementary Schools, and Lew Wallace H.S.  None of those insitutions are up and running in East Glen Park any longer.  Gone is the fire station at 41st & Washington St (which would have had responsibility in 2014 for putting out this home fire), as well as the Glen Park Branch of the U.S. Post Office.  Once a point of pride of residents, the East Glen Park LIttle League ceased providing organized baseball for the youth of the community many decades ago.  The Ridge and Roxy Theaters closed their doors well before the turn of the current century.  Yes the Glen, on the site of the former Ridge Theater is open, but not on a regular basis.

Why single out this house?  It is but one of many, as pointed out in the main article, below.  It is also but one of many on this very block in East Glen Park.  In fact, of the first five houses on the south side of the 800 block of 44th Av, only one remains standing today.  So what is it about this residence?

This home is singled out because it is my childhood home.  When I was brought home from Mercy Hospital in 1946, it was to this very house.  I grew up here.  I mowed the lawn here.  I scrubbed the floors here.  I washed the walls here.  I helped paint the house.  I did my homework here.  I graduated from high school here.  My father and I both returned home here after working our shifts in the mills.  I went off to college from here.  This house was my family home.  It was and is a part of who I am today. 

Sad to see it's demise ... .   

 

GARY | Hollowed out homes and graffiti-marred buildings are easy to find in Gary, but now the city has a precise street-by-street road map to the urban blight that impacts one in five houses.

Officials said Wednesday they hope the 18-month survey of 60,000 parcels will spark a high-tech strategy to deal with a decades of decay.

About 200 volunteers, including graduate students in the U. of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, went block by block, using their smart phones to log in vacant homes.  According to the city, 25,008 of 58,235 parcels (42.9%) had structures present on them.  12,394 of 33,227 structures (37.3%) in the city could be considered blighted.  6,902 residences (20.8%) and 554 of the 2,220 commerical buildings (1.7%) were vacant.  The study revealed that one in five residential buildings in the city and one in four of the commercial buildings are vacant.  About 13% (1,611) of the 12,394 structures deemed blighted by the survey were inhabited, a number that surprised officials.

The results can be found on garymaps.com.  The data is considered a base line for the technical assistance the city is receiving from the Center for Community Progress, a Washington-based organization that studies and analyzes urban blight solutions.  Gary is one of four cities to receive the assistance.

"We have sort of an all-star team of nerds," said Redevelopment Director Joseph Van Dyk of the expertise the city is receiving.  He called them "civic technicians" and said, "Instead of going to Wall Street, they are going to Silicon Valley."  He said data from disparate sources, such as code enforcement, police, zoning, and the law department would be meshed together by the experts.  "We can get the best idea to allocate resources and identify opportunities for investment," he said.

Van Dyk said downtown, west of Broadway, had the most blight, followed by Midtown.  Freeman-Wilson estimated about 300 people were living in abandoned structures.  "We're forming a task force to check on those folks," she said.  In some cases, they're starting fires to stay warm and destroyed the structure, she said.  "It cuts to the core of challenges we have around poverty and housing," said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.  She said she told her public safety chiefs to check on people living in blighted houses because of the bitter cold weather and the possibility of fires.

Freeman-Wilson said there will be a new drive to hold property owners of blighted structures accountable.  "We have to hold them responsible.  We are exploring the legal process.  The city is in the process of demolishing more than 400 homes with a $6.5 million state grant received last year.

 

Great Lakes Steel Rebounds, but Trails 2014
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[19 Feb 2015]

Raw steel production shot up to 656,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, after a big slide the previous week.  Local steel output soared by 28,000T, or 4.4% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. 

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, plummeted to 592,000T last week, down from 621,000T a week earlier.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.76 million tons, down from 1.769 million tons a week earlier.  Overall U.S. steel production still dipped by 0.5%.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 74.4% last week, down from 74.8% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 75.8% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 11.6 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 76.5%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 0.8%.

Steel shipments rose 4.5% to 7.97 million net tons in December.  Hot-rolled sheets were up 7% in December, while hot-dipped galvanized sheets rose 5%.  Cold-rolled sheet was up 1% in the last month of 2014.

 

Missing Witness Leads to Dismissal of Murder Charges
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[17 Feb 20156]

Days before his jury trial for murder and murder in perpetration of a robbery was set to begin, prosecutors dismissed the case against a 20-year-old man.

Charges were dismissed against Cordell K. Hull, 20, of Gary, because of the lack of an essential witness in the case, according to the motion to dismiss filed by deputy prosecutor Michelle Jatkiewicz.  The charges could be refiled if the witness becomes available.

Hull's case had been set for a jury trial starting Tuesday before Lake Superior Court Judge Salvador Vasquez.

Hull had pleaded not guilty to charges he shot Tyrece Harris, 18, of the Brunswick section of Gary, on Feb. 10, 2014.  Harris sustained a gunshot wound to the head as he sat in a car in the area of 8th Av and Mathews St in Gary.  Witnesses told police Hull had gone to purchase marijuana from Harris on the evening of Feb. 9, 2014, and returned with an amount more than the $30 he had with him would have bought.  Hull said he had to "finesse" Harris, meaning that he robbed him, court records state.

Police found a handgun at a residence in the 5000 block of West 7th Av in Gary, where Hull was when police arrived three days after the homicide to speak with a potential witness in the case.  A firearms examination showed the spent bullet from Harris' body and the casing left at the scene matched the .45-caliber handgun found in the basement of the residence.

Vasquez ordered Hull released from the Lake County Jail, where he had been held without bond since June 11.

 

Man Amits to Voluntary Manslaughter Charge
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[17 Feb 20156]

With his murder trial scheduled to begin in less than a week, a 20-year-old Merrillville man pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in a 2012 homicide in Gary.

D'Cartia LeBraun Hoskins admitted in court Tuesday before Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell that he shot Omari Barnes about five times with a .45-caliber handgun while acting under sudden heat.  Barnes was shot in the left back shoulder area, above the left ear, and three times in the back of the head.

Barnes, 35, was killed on July 13, 2012, in his home in the Tarrytown section of Gary.  After the shooting, Barnes' brother, Carl Grays, went inside the home in the 4000 block of West 19th Av in Gary and removed a cell phone from Barnes' clothing and took two handguns from the residence, according to the facts that Hoskins admitted when he pleaded guilty to the voluntary manslaughter charge.

Hoskins' case had been set for a jury trial starting Feb. 23 on charges of murder, murder in perpetration of a robbery, robbery, escape and resisting law enforcement.  Hoskins, who was 17 at the time of the homicide, had faced 45 to 65 years on the murder and felony murder counts.

Hoskins' plea agreement outlines a 20-year prison sentence. Judge Boswell scheduled a March 12 sentencing hearing.

 

Calumet College Removes High School Classes at Charter School of the Dunes
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[17 Feb 2015]

Calumet College of St. Joseph will eliminate grades nine through 12 at Charter School of the Dunes in Gary effective this fall.

The college, which became the authorizer for the charter school in July 2013, has made a number of changes to make the school academically and financially stable.  Charter School of the Dunes will be K through eight only, making this summer's high school graduation the first and last.

Christine Pepa is no longer the principal, and the charter school has severed ties with founder Danielle Sleight.  The School Board also is looking for a president/superintendent to operate the charter school, who will also be responsible for choosing a sound curriculum.

These restructuring moves received approval from the Indiana Department of Education.

 

Senate Bill Targets Gary Gun Lawsuit
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[16 Feb 2015]

The city of Gary's legal battle with guns has ricocheted around the courts for 16 years, absorbing glancing blows and small victories along the way.

Now, it's in the cross hairs of a measure in the state Senate that could deliver a knockout punch because a southern Indiana lawmaker says it stands in the way of creating gun industry jobs.  "It's been laying there like a beached whale and it's starting to stink," state Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, said during a Senate committee hearing last week.

His bill would prohibit lawsuits against gun dealers and manufacturers, making it retroactive to 1999 when Gary's civil lawsuit was filed.  Tomes said gun manufacturers have told him the Gary lawsuit is stopping them from locating in Indiana.  "They won't consider Indiana at all because of this lawsuit.  We're talking about jobs here."  Tomes said his bill is an effort to eliminate the case.  "I think the practice of holding somebody else responsible for the corrupt actions of other people is horrible policy," he told the committee.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who was Indiana attorney general when the suit was filed, said Tomes' bill smacks of legislative meddling.  "There's a practice in this country for allowing litigation to be resolved on its own merits.  To have subsequent legislation directed at it is contrary to principles on which this country was founded."

Freeman-Wilson, who didn't testify during the hearing, called Tomes' claims of gun industries coming to Indiana "speculative at best."

Indiana University Maurer School of Law Professor Jody Madeira criticized the proposal during the hearing, saying as a mother she's concerned about gun violence.  She said the bill would provide "unprecedented" immunity to gun sellers.

The Gary lawsuit is pending in Lake Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins' court in East Chicago.  The city is represented by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.  There's no upcoming court date on the docket, but Freeman-Wilson said the case would be moving along.

In August, 1999, troubled by gun violence that wracked his city, former Gary mayor Scott King sued 21 gun manufacturers and distributors and six local dealers and three associations.  Two local retailers reached settlements with the city, including the now-closed Fetla's in Valparaiso and Westforth Sports in Gary.  Ameripawn in Lake Station no longer sells handguns.

A trial court judge dismissed gun manufacturers and dealers, but a higher court reversed the ruling.  In its successful appeal, the city pointed to 70 murders in 1997 and 54 in 1998. From 1997 through 2,000, 764 recovered handguns were sold by dealers named as defendants.

The lawsuit contended major manufacturers such as Smith & Wesson, Colt and Beretta and gun dealers should be accountable for readily supplying guns they know will reach criminals and others who legally can't buy them.  King pointed to an investigation by Gary police in which undercover officers made straw purchases of at least nine handguns and boxes of ammunition after telling gun store clerks they were convicted felons or juveniles.

About 30 cities across the country, including Chicago, filed similar lawsuits.  All of them have been dismissed except Gary's.  Setting aside the gun makers' arguments that a federal shield law protects them from suits, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled the case could proceed in 2009.

 

Gary to Outline Number of Abandoned Structures, Announces Blight Elimination Roundtable
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[14 Feb 2015]

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has announced that the City of Gary will officially announce the results of a count of abandoned structures in the City on February 18.  A time was not given for the event which will be held at City Hall in the Gary room on the 2nd floor.  Those wishing to attend should RSVP to Chelsea Whittington, Director of Communications and Media.

The City has also announced that there will be a community forum to address blight elimination at the Genesis Center from 2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. on February 18.  The forum will officially launch Garys partnership with the Center for Community Progress, a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing issues of blight nationwide.  The Center for Community Progress has chosen Gary as a grant recipient for 2015.  According to a release from the Center, "the focus will be on how data can be used to inform policy and practice."

 

Judge Rules Sheriff Did Not Violate Gag Order
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Elvia Malagon
[13 Feb 2015]

CROWN POINT | A Lake County judge ruled Sheriff John Buncich did not violate a gag order when he spoke to newspaper reporters about a suspected serial killer's request for items in the jail.

Darren Vann's defense attorneys Matthew Fech and Teresa Hollandsworth filed a motion to hold Buncich in contempt of court after he spoke to reporters from The Times and The Post-Tribune about a letter the defense sent to the jail.  The letter requested Vann have access to reading and writing materials, including a book from his family about the White Sox.

Lake County Criminal Judge Diane Boswell ruled Friday in favor of Buncich and asked him to, "please be cautious."

Boswell called Buncich's statements to reporters unnecessary and said they did give insight into Vann's conditions at the jail.  However, she said no one really knows if the statements would impact a jury pool if Vann's cases go to trial.

After the hearing, Buncich issued a statement saying he was pleased the court found he was not in contempt of court.  "I'm exercising my First Amendment right," Buncich said.

John Bushemi, attorney for Buncich, argued the sheriff didn't violate the gag order because Buncich did not speak to reporters about evidence in the case.  He argued Buncich spoke about jail policies, which related to concerns of contraband getting into the facility.  He said he spoke to the reporters because he was not happy with the letter and felt it raised safety concerns for the jail.

 

2 Suspected Gary Serial Killer Victims ID'd
Compiled From Post-Trib and nwiTimes Staff Reports
[13 Feb 2015]

The bodies of two Gary women suspected to be victims of an alleged serial killer have been identified through DNA testing, the Lake County coroner's office announced Friday.

Coroner Merrilee Frey identified the women found Oct. 19 in an abandoned building at 413 E 43rd Av in Gary as Sonya Billingsley, 53, and Tanya Gatlin, 27.  Both women were last known to live in Gary.

Billingsley disappeared in early February.  Billingsley's daughter, Samira, told The Times after her mother went missing that her 52-year-old mother left Samira's grandmother's home in the 4600 block of Connecticut St about 9 a.m. Feb. 7 after making a phone call.

Billingsley's family passed out fliers in an effort to find her.  Her sister said a relative believed one of the people who took a flier not far from where Billingsley disappeared was Darren Vann.

Darren Vann has been charged in the deaths of Afrikka Hardy, 19, of Gary, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville.  Authorities have said Vann confessed to killing seven women and then led police to six of their bodies found in vacant houses in Gary.  Vann was arrested Oct. 18, after Hardy was found strangled in a Hammond motel room, authorities said.

The other Gary women identified were Kristine Williams, 36, Teaira Batey, 28, and Tracy Lynn Martin, 41.

 

Women of Steel Encourage Gary Girls
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[12 Feb 2015]

GARY | Two members of the Women of Steel organization encouraged girls who attend the Gary New Tech Innovative Institute to finish their high school education and earn a college degree.

Sherry Schultz and Lillie Owen-Taylor, who work at U.S. Steel Corp., were guest speakers at New Tech on Thursday.  Both speakers said they were teen moms, but told students that is no reason to let that derail their education and their future.

Schultz said U.S. Steel has afforded her an excellent job, and she has earned her bachelor's and master's degree.  "The more education you get, the more you can climb," she said.

The pair stressed the importance of an education to become gainfully employed and a contributing member of society.

Schultz said, "if U.S. Steel folds, if there's a layoff or a strike, I can go anywhere and get a job.  I enjoy learning.  I have taken advantage of everything the company has to offer," she said, adding she started in the mill at 25 years old.

Taylor said education is very important for the job.  "The more education you have, the better your income."  She added, there is an opportunity for a six-figure income at the steel mill.

That's one of the many things that Gwendolyn Sanders, pathway coordinator at the Gary Area Career Center, wants the female students to get out of the presentation.  "They (the speakers) were able to relate to the students because they shared their personal experiences.  What's priceless is the information they discussed about what employers are looking for in prospective employees," she said.

Senior Ebony Lane, 18, thought the presentation was enlightening.  She intends to be a business management major.  "It's very encouraging for teen moms who are going through so much and may not have their parents still around.  I know some teen moms who don't really want to finish their education.  I think it will encourage them to finish high school and go on to college and make a better life for themselves and their children," Lane said.

 

EdisonLearning Chief:  Educating Gary Students a Personal Commitment
Compiled From a Post-Trib Opinion by Thom Jackson
[12 Feb 2015]


Gary, Indiana, is a place of historical and personal pride for me.

As the owner, president and chief executive officer of EdisonLearning, the largest minority-owned, for-profit education services company in the country, I feel duty-bound to help Dr. Pruitt find and implement the right solutions for our students in Gary.

Any speculation that EdisonLearning would walk away from the difficult task of improving educational opportunities in Gary can only come from not knowing who we are as an organization, and not knowing who I am as an African-American man.  Yes, it is personal, but what happens to the students in Gary must be personal for each of us.

EdisonLearning will continue to meet its commitments at Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy despite incurring now millions of dollars in financial losses.

 

Homeless Man Killed After Argument
#4 and Counting
Compiled  From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[12 Feb 2015]
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GARY |Anthony Harrison was a familiar sight outside most any operating business on the west side of the city.

Known as "Tom-Tom," the 50-year-old man was homeless and frequently panhandled at area drug stores, fast food restaurants and, occasionally, even the police station.

But on Wednesday afternoon, his pleas for change led to an argument outside a doctor's office at 2200 Grant St, Lt Thomas Pawlak said.  Harrison and a man argued on the sidewalk about 4 p.m.  The man threw a brick, police said, striking Harrison in the head.  He lost his balance and fell into the street," Pawlak said.  A Salvation Army truck then ran him over.  Harrison was dead at the scene.

Pawlak said the man who threw the brick drove away in a green minivan.  The case is being investigated as a homicide because the intentional act with the brick led to the traffic incident, police said.  Pawlak said the Salvation Army truck stopped at the scene and the driver is cooperating with police.

Lake County Detectives Edward Jenkins and Jeff Minchuk, who are assigned to Gary's Violent Crimes Unit, are leading the investigation.  Anyone with information about the suspect is asked to call them at 881-1210.

 

5 of Top 10 Counties with Highest Unemployment in NWI
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[12 Feb 2015]

Joblessness in Northwest Indiana rose again in December, while the region continued to have some of the highest unemployment in a state that has one of the highest unemployment rates in the Midwest.

The jobless rate in the Gary metropolitan area which includes Lake, Porter, Newton, and Jasper counties rose to 7.8% in December, up from 7.4% in November, though it was down from 8% a year earlier.  Joblessness in the Michigan City metro, which is only LaPorte County, surged to 8%, up from 7.5% in November, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

In December, five of the top 10 counties with the highest joblessness in the state were in Northwest Indiana.  Lake County had an unemployment rate of 8.2%, the highest out of all 92 counties in Indiana.  LaPorte had the fourth highest rate of 8%.  Jasper was sixth with 7.9%.  Newton finished seventh with 7.5% and Starke was 10th with 7.2%.

Unemployment rose in East Chicago, Michigan City, Hobart, Hammond, Portage, and Merrillville in December.  The steepest increase was in Michigan City. The jobless rate was unchanged in December in Crown Point and Valparaiso, while it ticked down in Gary and Schererville.

Statewide, Indiana's jobless rate rose to 5.8%, the first time it has exceeded the national average in a year. I ndiana continued to have the third-highest jobless rate in the Midwest, lower only than Michigan and Illinois.

 

Great Lakes Steel Production Plummets While Exports Sag
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[10 Feb 2015]

Raw steel production plunged to 628,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, a steep drop after two straight weeks of increases.

Local production plummeted by 42,000T, or 6.2%.   Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, rose to 621,000T last week, up from 582,000 tons a week earlier.  U.S. steel production fell by 0.72% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.769 million tons, down from 1.782 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 74.8% last week, down from 75.4% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 75.8% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date output was 9.8 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 76.9%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 0.3%.

Steel exports fell 2.6% in December, largely because of drops in demand from Canada and Mexico, according to the American Institute for International Steel.  Exports to Canada fell 2%, while exports to Mexico decreased by 4.5% in the last month of 2014.

In a bright spot, the European Union the third largest international market for American steel bought 17.5% more metal from U.S. steelmakers than it did in December 2013. Exports to Brazil also jumped nine-fold in December.

Overall, exports declined by 5% last year, due to the strong U.S. dollar and the economic struggles of countries abroad.

 

Bill to Downsize Gary School Board Advances
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[10 Feb 2015]

A House bill decreasing the number of Gary School Board members from seven to five cleared the House Education Committee Tuesday and is moving on for a vote on the House floor.

"Something needs to be bold to save the Gary schools," Brown said.  "We have gone from 64 to 14 schools, do we need seven members when we only have 14 operating schools?" asked Brown.  "As bad of shape as we are in, we need to have innovation in Gary."

The bill passed out of committee by an 11-2 vote.  State Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, voted against the change.

It was also opposed by lobbyists from the Indiana School Boards Association and the Indiana Federation of Teachers, Brown said.  Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who is seeking re-election, testified in favor of the change.

If passed, the action would take effect Jan. 1, 2017.  If members leave the board before that time, the vacancy would not be filled unless it reduces the number of members to less than five.

Brown said he expects an amendment on the House floor that would change the district alignment of the three elected board members.  Rather than three members running at-large, they would represent consolidated districts, Brown said.

Brown canvassed the city last summer, taking input on his downsized school board proposal before writing the bill.

 

City Attorney on Scene at Chelsea Arrest
Compiled From an EXCLUSIVE nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[10 Feb 2015]

The Gazette has learned exclusively that an attorney from the City of Gary was on scene during the traffic stop of Chelsea Whittington.

Chelsea Whittington was stopped after leaving Romeos Bar near 50th and Broadway on the evening of June 14, 2014.  She was not arrested at the scene and the question is whether that is due to involvement by high ranking officials within the City of Gary.  Whittington was charged with operating while intoxicated 4 months after being stopped by the Indiana State Police.  According to the probable cause affidavit filed in the case, GPD Officer Nate Harris told the ISP Trooper that he "was receiving calls from the Mayors office on this" shortly after the stop.

The City Attorney was not identified by name and did not intervene at the scene according to the source.  The City Attorney did make a phone call, however, and the information that she was on scene was relayed to then Chief of Police Wade Ingram.  Ingram was placed on suspension immediately after the incident and later resigned.  Ingram's City provided cell phone was taken from him at the time of his suspension and never returned.  The Gazette reported exclusively regarding the suspension at that time.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has promised to release all telephone records regarding the incident, stating that she did not know about it until the following day.

 

Candidates Withdraw From Lake Primary Races
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
[9 Feb 2015]

CROWN POINT Fifteen candidates took the last-chance opportunity Monday to withdraw from the May 5 primary without penalties.

Two candidates pulled out of the city council race in Gary.  Democrats Darren Washington and Benjamin Robinson withdrew from the at-large and 4th District races, respectively.

 

Casino Revenue Shows Healthy Jump Over January 2014
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Andrew Steele
[9 Feb 2015]

This year has started much better for Northwest Indiana casinos than 2014, according to revenue figures reported Monday by the Indiana Gaming Commission.

The region's casinos earned $76 million in January, as compared to $65.5 million in January 2014.  Blue Chip, in Michigan City, recorded the highest percentage year-over-year gain, increasing gambling revenue by 26.2% to $11.7 million.  East Chicago's Ameristar revenues increased 18.2% to $17.6 million; while the combined Majestic Star casinos in Gary grew revenue 15.9% to $12.5 million.  At the area's largest casino, Horseshoe Hammond, the total take jumped up 13.7% for a monthly revenue figure of $34.1 million.

This year's rebound over last year hasn't changed the longer term trend of eroding revenue, though.  Four years ago, in January 2011, the casinos brought in $90.3 million.  That shrank to $86.9 million in January 2012, and $78.9 million in January 2013.

NWI January Casino Revenues
Overall Northwest Indiana casino revenues rose 15.9% in January 2015, as compared to January 2014.
Ameristar:  $17.6 million, up 18.2%
Blue Chip:  $11.7 million, up 26.2%
Horseshoe:  $34.1 million, up 13.7%
Majestic Star I:  $7.2 million, down 0.1%
Majestic Star II:  $5.3 million, up 28.5%
Source:  Indiana Gaming Commission January revenue report

 

Drowning in Debt, Gary Schools Seek $51.8 Million
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[6 Feb 2015]

GARY Mired in $81 million worth of debt, the Gary Community School Corp. hopes taxpayers will approve a $51.8 referendum to keep its schools open.

An amended resolution, approved by the School Board on Friday by a 6-1 vote, states the school district "cannot carry out its public educational duty unless it imposes a referendum tax levy..."

The board originally approved the referendum on Jan. 27, but bond counsel Jimmy Shanahan said the Department of Local Government and Finance ordered two changes in the wording.  The amended version restated the purpose of the referendum for "funding teaching positions, staff positions, and educational programming."

Shanahan said the resolution will be forwarded back to the DLGF and he could receive approval by Monday.  From there, it goes to the Lake County Council and the Lake Circuit Court.  Finally, it moves to the Board of Elections.  Shanahan said Feb. 20 is the final deadline for the referendum to be placed on the ballot for the May 5 primary.  The money would supplement the district's general fund over a seven-year period.

A campaign period of sorts is expected to begin and Shanahan warned the board that it's prohibited from spending district money to advocate for the referendum.  If it uses a district building for a forum, opponents of the referendum must be allotted the same option.  Teachers and others employees can't advocate for the referendum during their work day.

The school district has struggled with debt since property tax caps took hold and enrollment declined to about 7,000 students.  The city has six charter schools that have siphoned off nearly half of its enrollment base.  Recently, the district had to change its employee health insurance provider from Anthem to Cigna because of the premium cost.

Retired teacher Carlos Tolliver said he had mixed feelings about the referendum and still needed to be convinced.  "We have the highest tax rate in state," he said.  "First of all, there must be a clear explanation and picture of what the $51 million will be used for."  Tolliver said he's concerned the people managing the day-to-day spending of the money are non-residents of the community.  "We can't have double speak.  We have to have clear facts."

Interim chief executive financial officer Michael Washington painted a sobering picture of the mountain of debt facing the district.  He pegged its debt load, including the $2 million judgment bond also approved Friday, at $81 million.  Shanahan said $1.7 million of the judgment will go to the Illinois Central Bus Co. for transportation.

Washington said the district's most recent property tax collection rate was about 50%.  The property taxes finance three funds debt service, capital projects and transportation.  Each fund has a different collection rate with the debt service rate at 77%, he said.

School officials met with state lawmakers Thursday in Indianapolis, Washington said, in an effort to seek relief.  He said state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, was attempting to amend the rules to allow the district to borrow $25 to $30 million in a state Common School Fund loan.

Board member Marion Williams, who said he didn't even see the referendum resolution prior to the meeting, voted against it.  "I don't know how the $51 million will be spent," he said.

"Our district does need to have some sort of revenue," said board member Nellie Moore.  "We, along with other public school districts in the our state, have been placed in this position by inadequate funding by the state."

Meanwhile, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said it's premature for her to voice an opinion on the referendum.  She said she welcomed sitting down with the district to talk about it.  "I certainly understand the impetus for the referendum.  We all know the devastating impact tax caps have had on the ability of government to function.  While all units of government have been driven to efficiency, most astute observers understand that having insufficient dollars to educate or provide services is never optimal."

 

Gary Schools Hire Media Consultant
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[6 Feb 2015]

GARY The image-conscious, but debt-plagued School Board has hired a community relations consultant who will receive a $65,000 salary from the district's federal Title I funding.  Title I is a supplementary federal program that provides financial assistance to school districts with high numbers of children in poverty to ensure they meet state academic standards.

Michael Gonzalez signed his contract on Wednesday.  The board approved the hiring by a 4-3 vote Jan. 27.  Gonzalez said he will work full-time assisting in media relations with schools and the community.

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt recommended the hiring of Gonzalez, who writes as a freelance correspondent for the Post-Tribune.  He also works for the Norfolk & Southern Railroad.  He said he plans to keep all his positions.

Board member Nellie Moore voted against the hiring, saying it wasn't a priority for the district.  "We have elementary schools without a librarian to develop their reading," she said.  "We still have staff donating paper towels and soap...  We need to be realistic.  You can't tell me this position is more important than a librarian's position with Title 1 funding."

Board member Marion Williams also voted against the hiring, along with new board member Darling Pleasant.  "We have three people currently on staff who we can give these responsibilities to," Williams said.  The district has one full-time media relations staffer, in addition to Gonzalez.

Board member Rosie Washington supported the hiring, along with Antuwan Clemons, Doretha Rouse and Robert Campbell.  "We really need someone to tell our story," Washington said.

The move comes as the district ramps up support for a $51.8 million tax referendum that would be spread out over a seven-year period.  The board approved a resolution calling for the referendum on Friday.  Voters will determine its fate in the May 5 primary.

The district faces a debt of about $81 million, its interim financial chief Michael Washington said.  It closed five schools in June, but kept one of them open while heating system repairs are being completed at the Bailly Preparatory Academy.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   I am certain that the hiring of a PR guy will "ensure that the Gary Schools meet state academic standards," as required by the Title I mandate?

 

Former Gary Councilwoman Expected to Be Released from Prison
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz
[6 Feb 2015]

Former Gary Common Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas was expected to be released from prison Friday, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website.

Krusas was sentenced in January 2014 to a year and a day in federal prison after she admitted to not filing a federal income tax return for two decades and then hiding a $232,000 inheritance from the IRS to avoid paying taxes owed.

Krusas, who has had health problems, was unable to speak during her hearing and instead wrote a letter apologizing for her actions.  She wrote that she became overwhelmed after missing her first income tax filing, which only compounded year after year.  Her attorney, Scott King, had argued for a mix of probation and home detention instead of a prison sentence, partly because of her health problems.

That request was denied, though, and she has most recently been held at the Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas.

The BOP's website listed Friday as Krusas' release date, although neither she nor a representative could be reached to confirm that.

It is unclear how long Krusas has served in prison.  She was ordered to report to prison on March 26, 2014, and anyone sentenced to longer than a year can be released after serving 85& of their sentence.  In Krusas' case, that would be about 11 months.

 

Gary Police Roster Drops to 220
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[6 Feb 2015]

GARYDespite two rounds of hiring by the city last year, the number of new recruits is barely keeping up with officers who retire or resign, and the Fraternal Order of Police president says the exodus will continue.

The Gary Police Civil Service Commission acknowledged seven departures at its meeting last week.  At least two more will be on the board's March agenda.

Commissioners didn't comment after hearing the list of names, but after the meeting, Chief Larry McKinley said that while the loss of manpower and experience is difficult for the department, he understands the problem.  "More money. I keep trying to get them more money," McKinley said.

The budget allows for 235 officers, but it's down to 220, police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Decanter said.

FOP Lodge 61 President Samuel Abegg said Friday the steady stream of officers leaving is "an embarrassment.  No matter how many are hired, we have that many and more leaving on a regular basis.  We continue to lose highly qualified officers with veteran experience to other municipalities that care enough about public safety to provide and adequate means of compensation."

The city hired 15 officers last year and never reached its full complement.  All but one of the nine officers who have retired or resigned since Dec. 22 are working elsewhere.

"These officers dedicate themselves to the citizens of the community and to providing safer neighborhoods for our children and have receiving nothing in return.  They are expected to clean up the crime problems that exist with barely any resources or manpower," Abegg said.

According to the FOP's website, probationary officers are paid $35,646 and a 1st Class Patrolman makes $39,304.

The board acknowledged retirements of Lt. Jeff Trevino, Lt. Jack Arnold, Sgt. Jarrett Bridgeman and Cpl. Gabrielle King.  Cpl. Kevin Campbell, Cpl. Glenn Mayes and Patrolman Keith Hojnicki resigned.  Next month, the board will receive notice of Sgt. William Wood's retirement and Cpl. Stephen Otten's resignation.

The board has begun its hiring process to create a new eligiblity list.

 

State Bd. of Ed. Debates Future of Gary Schools
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[5 Feb 2015]

Members of the State Board of Education said Gary Community School Corp. is in a dire situation, and something needs to be done now.

State board member Gordon Hendry said month after month, the state board hears about the Gary schools, and he is becoming increasingly concerned.  "What are we doing for those children?" he asked.  "Maybe it's just a lack of the full information.  I don't want it to keep going month after month."

State education leader Glenda Ritz said, "Yes, it's dire.  In terms of education we have a lot of plans.  We have had ongoing conversation with Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt.  We are making sure all the educational programs are sound.  There are dire circumstances with the finances."

The Gary Community School Corp. has a deficit of $23.7 million.  It closed five schools last year and reduced staff to save money.  School leaders have said almost all the school buildings need renovation and they don't have money to fix them.  They have had problems paying vendors, and fell behind on several bills, including transportation for students and pension payments for teachers.  Almost four years ago, the Indiana Department of Education appointed private company EdisonLearning to operate failing Gary Roosevelt, taking it away from the district.

A year ago, IDOE designated Gary a high-risk district due to its history of unsatisfactory academic performance and its fiscal instability.  That designation allowed IDOE to intervene, determining how federal dollars would be spent.

To boost the operations budget, the Gary School Board voted last week to ask taxpayers to support a $51.8 million referendum in May.

In December, Pruitt and EdisonLearning CEO Thom Jackson told the state board they would work together to develop a "courageous plan" to transform the school district, including a plan to improve Dunbar-Pulaski, which is in its sixth year of failure.  By statute it is under state board jurisdiction.  However, that plan has not been shared with the State Board of Education.  Board members said they are concerned the plan has not been presented and they don't have a "total picture" of how the district will be improved.

The state board received a memo from Ritz regarding IDOE's support for Gary schools and Dunbar-Pulaski as the citywide middle school,.  The memo has sparked discussions about keeping Dunbar-Pulaski open and the district's academic and financial standing.  Contractors recently installed a new boiler though the middle school still needs extensive renovation.

In reviewing Ritz's memo, state school board members expressed concern about the tone of a letter Pruitt sent Monday in response to Ritz's plan,.  Pruitt said it appears to be "a partial takeover."  In her letter, Pruitt clarified the steps the district already has taken to improve schools.  She also wrote:  "Unaware of the (Ritz) plan in totality.  Do not know what it means for the Gary schools.  Uncertain as to who will manage the district and/or school."  Hendry told Ritz, "The tone of the letters from the two of you sound like ships passing in the night.  I look at this letter from Dr. Pruitt, and it's basically saying baloney."

State Board member and Gary attorney Tony Walker said another issue is that EdisonLearning, the company managing Roosevelt, has been noncommittal about continuing under the current contract for next year.

"Edison and GCSC have not come forward with their own plan for systematic change, which we gave them a month to do in December," he said.  "The SBOE is likely to take a vote on the future of Dunbar-Pulaski at the March meeting.  I have yet to hear any reason why it should not be closed."

Walker clarified his position Thursday, saying, "The Gary Community School Corp. has the burden of showing that (1) it needs the space provided by Dunbar-Pulaski for its school population, and (2) it has the financial means to maintain the facility in good repair.  We do not want another school under SBOE jurisdiction that no one can afford to keep operating safely for students.  We have seen the impact of this with Roosevelt.  If GCSC can meet this threshold, then I will take up consideration of the various options for it remaining open."

 

Did Freeman-Wilson Phone in Favor to Get Chelsea Released?
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[5 Feb 2015]

Court records show that City of Gary Communications Director Chelsea Whittington was charged with Operating While Intoxicated on October 17, 2014. 

Court records also indicate that it is very unlikely that Whittington will be convicted of the charge.  Early intervention by Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson seems to have helped the mayoral aide.

According to a probable cause affidavit filed in the matter, Mrs. Whittington was stopped after she drove over a cement center divider near 50th and Broadway on June 14, 2014.  After stopping her, Indiana State Trooper G. Runde "smelled a moderate odor commonly associated with an alcoholic beverage" according to the Troopers sworn statement.  Mrs. Whittington was administered a portable breath test which registered well over the legal limit at .13%.  The officer administered a horizontal gaze nystagmus test as well as a nine step walk and turn test.  According to the report, she failed both of these tests.  Mrs. Whittington passed the one leg stand test according to the report.  "The thirty seconds had elapsed and I instructed her to put her foot down," Trooper Runde wrote.

Trooper Runde then prepared to arrest Mrs. Whittington.  "As I was placing the handcuffs on her, she told me that she couldnt afford to get arrested because she is the Communications Director for the City of Gary . . .  Mrs. Whittington asked me several times to call the Sheriff" the sworn statement says.

Gary Police Officer Nate Harris who was working at Romeos Night Club came to the scene.

Trooper Runde relates the following exchange:  Officer Harris asked me if he could talk to me for a moment in private.  We stepped away from Mrs. Whittington and he (officer Harris) informed me that he was already getting calls from the Mayors Office about Mrs. Whittingtons situation.

I immediately called Sgt. Dillahunty for guidance with the situation, since it involved a person working in the Mayors Office. . .  Sgt. Dillahunty called me back and told me he had spoken to someone with the Gary Police Department and that a sergeant and lieutenant would be coming to the scene to take custody of Mrs. Whittington.

Mrs. Whittington was then released to the custody of an unnamed Lieutenant in the Gary Police Department.  Charges based on the June 14, 2014 incident were filed in Lake Superior Court 4 months later, on October 17, 2014.  The Court record indicates that Mrs. Whittington was never booked, fingerprinted or otherwise processed based on the charge.

 

McDermott:  "Preposterous" to Not Give Voters a Voice in $600M Train Decision
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[5 Feb 2015]

"We are talking about $600 million and it is being force fed down our throats . . . .  75% of my population does not want this project . . . and I am going to fight for them."

Hammond Mayor McDermott traveled to Indianapolis yesterday to testify before the Indiana House of Representatives regarding funding for the South Shore West Lake Extension funding.  Under a proposal before the Indiana House Committee on Roads and Transportation, the State of Indiana would provide $282 million, $9.4M per year, for the South Shore extension to Munster.  Mayor McDermott made the trip to ask the Committee to allow Lake County voters to make the decision regarding the South Shore extension.  "I am going to keep on asking, why cant we hold a referendum on this . . . " McDermott stated.

Lake County Councilman David Hamm also testified that a referendum is needed.  The exchange was short, being cut off by Committe Chair Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso.  "What I want to point out is where this funding is coming from . . ." Hamm started.  Chairman Soliday interrupted "Let me stop you right there, this hearing is not about funding . . . "  Councilman Hamm concluded, "then I will make it relatively short, I stand in support Mayor McDermotts proposal for a referendum."

A vote on the issue was continued.  Discussion will not be allowed prior to the vote.

 

Thea Bowman Charter School Under Scrutiny
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[3 Feb 2015]

GARY | Thea Bowman Leadership Academy parents are concerned about mounting issues at the public charter school, ranging from academics to sports.

And now, the school's authorizer, the Office of Charter Schools at Ball State University, submitted a list of requirements the School Board must comply with or face losing its charter.  The school has been granted a one-year provisional contract renewal for the 2015-16 school year.  That follows two consecutive years the school was rated a D by the Indiana Department of Education.  The charter school received an A in 2008 and 2010.

Last week, it abruptly fired basketball coach and athletic director Marvin Rea.  Last summer, several administrators said they were forced out.

Parents say they are also upset by what they deem a cavalier attitude of the Drexel Foundation, which serves as the School Board since the previous board was dissolved.  "We need the parents and community to come together to save this school," parent Tawanna Staples said.  "We need the members of the Drexel board out of there.  They have no regard for how the things they are doing are impacting students.  Several parents have attended the meeting, and they don't seem to care."

Ball State wants to know the name of the charter school's next educational service provider by Feb. 20.  It has been Chicago-based American Quality Schools since the school's inception in 2003, but Drexel Foundation members say the contract with AQS -- which ends June 30 -- will not be renewed.

Drexel Foundation President Ben Clement said they intend to meet the required performance and financial goals.  He said the foundation is working with AQS, school leaders and teachers to improve academic performance and achieve the educational standards established in its mission.

Clement said the board had planned to transition to self-management but "given Ball State's requirement that the school continue to use the services of a management company for the 2015-16 school year, a request for proposals has been released."

Staples said every parent should have a copy of the letter Ball State sent to the school.  Staples obtained a copy through the Freedom of Information Act, copied it and passed it out to parents.

"The first thing that they did was to get rid of three people, leaders at the school who have nurtured those students and had their best interests at heart," she said.  Staples is referring to Gwen Adell, chief administrative officer; Rubye James, principal of Thea Bowman Junior/Senior High campus; and Alethea Fontleroy, principal of the elementary/middle school campus, who were reportedly forced out in June.

Clement said those administrators resigned and the new principals are highly qualified.  He said the Rea situation is a personnel matter.

Parents Reba Johnson and Henry Taylor are working with Staples and 30 others who are concerned.  "I think all AQS cares about is the money," Johnson said.  "The kids pay book rental, and some of them don't have books.

The Drexel Board told us if we bring in more students, they might be able to hire people back.  Some of the people who have been terminated had established a great relationship with our kids.  They also have not told us how people can get on the board, and they didn't tell us about the letter from Ball State."
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Being an ol' codger with no school age kids, I guess I did not realize that it is the job of sudent's parents to recruit on behalf of the privately run school?  Also, please explain how increased enrollment guarantees an increase in academic improvement?

 

Gary City Official Charged Four Months After Traffic Stop
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[3 Feb 2015]

GARYIndiana State Police didn't drop their drunken driving case against city spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington after all.

On Oct. 17, four months after Trooper Gary Runde stopped Whittington, 42, near 47th Av and Broadway, she was charged with operating while intoxicated and disregarding a traffic signal.  A hearing set for Friday in Lake Superior Court in Hammond has been rescheduled for March 25.

Her attorney, Thomas Vanes, said he asked prosecutors to review the case.  "It's sitting in the prosecutor's hands for reevaluation," Vanes said, adding he doesn't believe evidence exists to pursue the criminal charge.

The charges were filed based on troopers' observations and the video recording from the squad car, sources said.  She was not administered any alcohol test at the scene, was not arrested and was allowed to go home.  She did not, however, drive herself, police said.

On June 14, Whittington was returning from a reunion celebration with West Side High School classmates at Gleason Park when she caught the attention of Trooper Gary Runde.  He stopped her near Romeo's bar on Broadway.  "She immediately identified herself," ISP spokeswoman Sgt. Ann Wojas said at the time.

A state police supervisor called Gary police supervisors, who declined to involve themselves in the situation.  Gary police said they were told at the scene that Runde had performed a "preliminary field sobriety test," which Whittington failed.  But Wojas said she was told no such test was administered.  Wojas said at the time that her department's standard procedure would be to perform sobriety tests on any driver stopped for suspicion of drunken driving.

 

Budget Revision Addresses Gary Deputy Mayor Pay
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Ed Bierschenk
[3 Feb 2015]

GARY | The City Council on Tuesday approved a budget revision for Gary Airport interim Director B.R. Lane to return to City Hall as deputy mayor.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson last month announced she planned to make the move.  Lane, who will remain a special administrator at the airport, said at the time her combined salary will equal the $120,000 she made as airport director, with the city picking up the largest share.

According to figures provided by the city, the budget calls for Lane to receive $80,039.48 from the city, which is the same paid for the chief of staff position that is being eliminated.  She also will receive $18,960.70 from the Gary Sanitary District.  Richard Leverett who had served as chief of staff had earlier left to take a job with AT&T as director or external affairs for Northern Indiana.

A prepared release from the airport last month said the reassignment of Lane would save the airport $148,886.  Freeman-Wilson said she did not think Lane would be spread too thin in taking on the different responsibilities.  She noted as mayor she has to take on a number of different responsibilities in overseeing the various city departments.

 

Great Lakes Steel Production Rises Slightly to 670,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[3 Feb 2015]

Raw steel production rose slightly to 670,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, the second straight week it increased.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, dropped to 582,000T last week, down from 614,000T a week earlier.  U.S. steel production fell by 2.4% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Local production however bucked the downward trend and ticked up by 4,000 tons, or about 0.6%.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.782 million tons, down from 1.825 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 75.4% last week, down from 75.9% a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 75.8% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 8.1 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 77.4%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production is up 0.4% over 2014 so far.

 

Pratt Unlikely to Run Again in Gary Council Race
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[3 Feb 2015]

If you are considering a run for Gary Common Council, current Council Member Roy Pratt may have just made your decision easer.

At-Large Gary Common Council Member Roy Pratt confirmed with the Gazette today that he is unlikely to seek another term in office.  While not positively ruling out a run, Pratt said "31 years is long enough" when asked whether he would file for re-election.

Pratt went on to state "I have not made an official announcement."  Pratt continued "I have loved doing what I was doing . . . it has been a wonderful experience. . . .  I love working for my City . . . I think the time has come [to leave]."

 

Former Land Owners Near Airport Sued for Cleanup
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz
[2 Feb 2015]

The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority wants the former owners of annexed land to pay almost $2 million and possibly more to clean up the property.

The authority filed a lawsuit Friday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond against Anthony Zaleski Jr. and a land trust that oversaw the 83-acre property at the center of the dispute.

The authority took over the property in 2012 through eminent domain as part of the airport's runway extension project.  The property originally belonged to Cities Service Oil Co., which used the land as a dump site for storage tanks that held hazardous material.  The company sold the land to a land trust that was owned by Zaleski, Ted Peters and Jack Slaboski.

The lawsuit claims that a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency assessment of the land in 1991 found that Zaleski had also dumped hazardous waste on the site, and the lawsuit contends he continued to do so through the 1990s.

The authority says it has already spent $1.2 million to clean the site and has since been told by the EPA that it owes $600,000 to the government to stop release of an oily sheen into a nearby ditch, which leads to the Grand Calumet River.

The authority is asking that Zaleski and the land trust pay for all costs the authority has already spent to clean up the site and for any future costs.  Zaleski could not be reached for comment.

 

Indiana Ports Crush 20-year-old Shipping Record
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[2 Feb 2015]

The record for most annual shipments at The Ports of Indiana stood for 20 years.  But last year set a new high water mark, about 800,000T more than the previous record in 1994.

The state's three ports, which include the deepwater port on Lake Michigan in Portage and two ports on the Ohio River downstate, exceeded 10 million tons for the first time since the port authority was established 53 years ago.  The ports ended the year on a strong note, with a record 1.3 million tons in December and a quarterly record 3.4 million tons of cargo in the fourth quarter.

Steel shipments more than doubled last year, as imports captured nearly a third of U.S. market share.  Road salt shipments nearly tripled after last winter's polar vortex.

"These record numbers are a tribute to the world-class companies at our ports and the importance of maritime transportation to the regional economy," Ports of Indiana CEO Rich Cooper said.

Tonnage rose 30% at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, which handled more cargo than at any time since the port opened in 1970.  Ocean vessels rose by 35% over 2013, while barges were up by 25% to more than 500.

"The growth of Indiana's ports is the result of continued investment into facilities and infrastructure by the port and our business partners," Cooper said.  "Our board has approved over $42 million in capital investments in the past six years to help the Ports of Indiana develop one of the leading inland port systems in North America and it is gratifying to see those investments are paying off for Indiana."

 

Serial Arsonist Strikes in Gary, Police Pursuing Suspects
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[31 Jan 2015]

Gary Firefighters battled three blazes simultaneously last night as call after call came in. By morning, crews had extinguished 6 separate blazes throughout the City.

Gary Fire crews were assisted by Firefighters from Merrillville and Lake Ridge Volunteer Fired Departments.

Sources tell the Gazette that investigators believe all of the fires were arson and that a person of interest is being sought for questioning at this time.

 

Gary Critic Joins Dem Primary Field
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
[30 Jan 2015]

CROWN POINT--A longtime vocal critic of Gary and Lake County government on Friday tossed his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination for the office of mayor in the May 5 Democratic primary.

James Nowacki is mounting his challenge against incumbent Democrat Karen Freeman-Wilson, Robert Buggs Sr. and Dean Hensley Sr.

 

Clay Street Turning Into a Drive-thru Dump
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Jerry Davich
[30 Jan 2015

The short stretch of peril named Clay Street, between Lake Station and Gary, is one of the worst roads in Northwest Indiana.  The street if you can call it that -- is littered with trash, debris, furniture remnants, car parts, deep cracks and countless potholes.

Attempting to navigate it, north from Central Av in Lake Station to 15th Av in Gary, reminded me of traversing the roads in Haiti when I visited that developing country in 2010 after the earthquake.

At one point along Clay Street, I pulled over my car for a few minutes to watch other vehicles play hopscotch with all the potholes and cracks.  I also watched one motorist dump something on the side of the road as if it's commonplace.  Because it is.  You name it, it's there on the roadside.

The road connects the two cities and serves as a shortcut into the Miller section of Gary off the eastbound Borman Expressway.  I remember using it 30 years ago for such a purpose, and I always remember it being in bad shape.  But not this bad.

Whose responsibility is it?  The easier question is whose responsibility is it not?

Gary officials tell me the city is responsible for Clay St but only up to 15th Av, heading south.  The portion of the street south from 15th Av is not the city's responsibility.  The street is a corporate boundary between the two municipalities, and Gary recently resurfaced it, but only from 6th Av to 13th Av.

The Indiana Department of Transportation tells me it's not under its jurisdiction either.  The agency does not own or maintain Clay St from Central Av to 15th Av.  "Local governments would be responsible for the portions of Clay St that are within their boundaries," said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield.

I contacted Lake Station's Department of Public Works for input about this hot potato of a roadway, but did not get a reply.  According to maps of that area, the municipal boundary line between Gary and Lake Station dissects Clay St from north to south.  It's similar to the County Line Road near the lakefront, involving Gary, Portage and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Chelsea Whittington, director of communications for the city of Gary, told me, "We are a neighborly city and we would be interested in some type of partnership with Lake Station since our residents use that thoroughfare to enter and exit Miller and Aetna."

Christopher A. Meyers, the city of Gary's former director of planning and development from 2005 to 2012, said Clay St should never have been constructed in the first place.  The road rests on poor soil and fluvial land, as part of the underlying river system in that marshy area.  "The roadway base is gone and would need to be entirely rebuilt," Meyers said.  "Plus, with no existing sewers or curbs, a serious and dangerous condition of rather poor drainage exists."  Because the road is considered a local arterial, federal aid-route funding is limited, he said.  Plus, it has no streetlights, so "questionable activities" have always been a problem there.

I've heard from many motorists who use the road on a daily basis during their commute.  Most tell me they have no hope for its upkeep and future paving.  "I lost a tire on that street last winter because I couldn't see the potholes," said Marvin Jones of Gary, who works in Merrillville and lives in Aetna.  "Something needs to be done.  It's dangerous and it's a public safety hazard."

If you doubt him, take a drive there and see for yourself.  In some ways, this short roadway can serve as a microcosm for our area and the challenges of working together for a greater good.  In the meantime, I'll stay on this issue with hope that the street gets paved or repaired this spring by someone.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The highlighted statement immediately above could appropriately be read as saying that "Gary is a dump?"

 

Designation Bolsters Gary's Blight Elimination Efforts
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[29 Jan 2015]

GARY | Gary is one of four cities named recipients of the Center for Community Progress Technical Assistance Scholarship Program, a national nonprofit to help local leaders develop new strategies to address property blight, vacancy and abandonment.

"The city of Gary's designation as a TASP recipient is huge for us because it coincides with the many efforts we are currently employing to eliminate blight in our community," Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said.  "The technical assistance that will be provided allows us to be more strategic with our initiatives and make visible impacts one neighborhood at a time."

Community Progress work in Gary will focus on data and how it can be used to inform policy and practice.  Community Progress will examine, at a systems level, how property and other neighborhood-related data are being gathered.  The organization will offer recommendations to the citys redevelopment department on how to improve data collection and how to use data to inform blight elimination and neighborhood stabilization strategies.

Gary and three other cities Detroit, Dallas, Texas, and Trenton, N.J., were chosen after requesting assistance in one or more of TASPs key issue areas.  These include strategic code enforcement, data and information systems, and vacant land maintenance and reuse strategies.

Proposed projects were reviewed on a range of criteria, including the potential for innovation that other cities can learn from, demonstrated leadership to implement reform and overall need.  "The team in Gary demonstrated strong leadership and a heartfelt commitment to developing new approaches to problem properties," said Tamar Shapiro, president and CEO of the Center for Community Progress.

Each selected city will receive assistance from a team of national experts.  Technical assistance will take place throughout the first half of the year and may include, for example, staff training sessions, legal and policy analysis and tailored reports with recommended changes.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   While this is all well and good, and Gary will take all the help it can get, what it really could use are jobs and working families to stem the blight, not data.

 

Indiana Toll Road Driving Toward a Sale
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[29 Jan 2015]

Lawyers for the bankrupt operator of the Indiana Toll Road on Thursday told a judge they could have a final offer on the table for the 157-mile expressway in as little as two or three months.

Lawyers for Indiana Toll Road Concession Co. told Federal Bankruptcy Judge Pamela Hollis there are "many" interested parties participating in the bidding process for the 75-year lease for the interstate but kept the names confidential.

Judge Hollis also approved without objections an incentive bonus plan for top Indiana Toll Road executives that could have them splitting a multimillion dollar bonus pool if the road fetches a rich price.  Under the motion approved by the judge, Toll Road CEO Fernando Redondo and four executives under him would share a $1 million incentive bonus pool if the road's sale fetches more than $4.5 billion.  But for every $1 billion in excess of $5 billion paid, the bonus pool would grow by $2 million.  If the road sells for $4.5 billion or less the four top executives other than the CEO share a bonus pool of just $300,000. The CEO would receive no bonus.

On Jan. 15, the motion to set up the executive incentive plan was submitted by the special committee established to oversee the bidding process.  UBS Securities LLC has been hired as the special committee's financial adviser.

The bonus pool available if the road sells for more than $5 billion is based on multiplying any amount above $5 billion by 20 basis points, which is 20/100ths of 1%.  For example, if the road fetches $5.01 billion, the $1 million bonus pool already in place would grow by just $20,000.  But if the road fetches $6 billion, the $1 million bonus pool would swell to $3 million total.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Let's see, a huge bonus for driving the toll road into bankrupcty?  Gee, why didn't I think of that?  Makes perfect sense, right?

 

Rep. Brown Proposes Bill to Give Mayor More Control Over School Board
Compiled from a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[30 Jan 2015]

Just as the Gary Community School Corporation will go the voters to ask for a $51M tax hike, Representative Charlie Brown has introduced a bill that would strip voters of the power to select all Gary School Board members.  Under HB 1514, authored by Representative Charlie Brown D-Gary, the Mayor would appoint two members to the Gary School Board.  The Board would be reduced from 7 to 5 members, meaning the Mayor would need only one vote for complete control over the Gary Community School Corporation.

The Bill would also have all three elected Board representatives elected at-large rather than in districts.  Appointed Board members would not have to live within the school district.

 

Gary Schools Eye May Funding Referendum
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
                    and a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[29 Jan 2015]

GARY The Gary Community School Corp. will ask taxpayers in a May 5 referendum for a tax increase of 41 cents per $100 of assessed valuation for a total of $51.8 million over seven years to shore up a gaping deficit in its operating budget.

The move, approved by the School Board Tuesday, came with little warning.  School officials promised public meetings to update taxpayers on the need for the money.

The districts financial troubles have been well documented.  It owes several vendors and just settled a long-standing debt with the Gary Sanitary District that was reduced from $793,903 to $400,000.  It also owes the U.S. Internal Revenue Service nearly $7 million in back payroll taxes.

Even though taxpayers are immune to levy hikes because of property tax caps, they would pay the additional referendum tax if its approved, said Chicago-based bond counsel attorney Jimmy Shanahan.  The referendum would cost taxpayers $7.4 million a year for seven years.  The money would go into the districts general fund that pays salaries and operating costs.

School board members had mixed emotions over the referendum.  They said they are taxpayers, too, and would feel the impact. 

"Our district is in very bad shape financially," said board member Nellie Moore.  "It is not due to mismanagement by this board, but by the way our public schools are being funded."  Moore criticized Gov. Mike Pence for sitting on a $2 billion surplus while schools suffer.  "I dont relish paying any more money, but I want the infrastructure of schools improved.  The only way we can do that through the state is to ask for the community to support a referendum."

Board member Rosie Washington urged citizens to come together and put pressure on state lawmakers to reform the funding system, which is being debated during the ongoing General Assembly session that ends in April.  "We just celebrated Dr. Kings birthday.  It may be time to get on the bus again."  She said the idea is to put the issue before the voters.  "We will be able to say that we have exhausted every means, every measure to do what we need to do to improve our budget," she said Wednesday.  "It will be up to the taxpayers as to whether they will support it or not.

School Superintendent Pruitt said, "We have to be as transparent as possible in assessing where we are as a district and what is needed to ensure a high quality education for our students in Gary.  It takes courage to face the truth."

Board member Marion Williams, a retired educator and businessman, blamed charter schools for putting a stranglehold on Garys budget.  Gary has six charters.  "The state of Indiana has created a situation where equity has not been afforded to this community," said Williams who said he pays nearly $70,000 in property taxes on homes and land he owns throughout the city.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Query - Even if the referendum should pass, will it make any difference since close to 50% of Gary property taxes go unpaid?

 

Gary-based Utility Increasing Water Rates by 11%
Compiled from a nwiTimes Staff Report
[29 Jan 2015]

GARY, Ind. (AP) A Gary-based water utility has been given the green light to raise its rates for residential customers in northwest Indiana by 11.5%.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission approved a settlement agreement allowing the rate hike for Indiana American Water.  The company originally requested a 17.2% rate increase last January, but lowered it by nearly 6% in the agreement with the Indiana Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor and several other parties.

According to Indiana American Water, the typical residential customer in the northwest part of the state using 4,600 gallons per month will see an increase of about 12 cents per day.

The (Munster) Times reports rate increases for other customers will depend on meter size and water use.

 

Great Lakes Heavy Metal Output Hits 666,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[28 Jan 2015]

Raw steel production rebounded to 666,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, after a big drop the previous week.

Local production jumped by 16,000T, or about 2.5%.  Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, rose to 614,000T last week, up from 607,000T a week earlier.  U.S. steel production increased by 1.1% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.824 million tons, up from 1.806 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 75.9% last week, up from 75.1% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 75.8% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date output was 6.3 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 76.6%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production is up 1.2% over 2014 so far.

The United States reported 3.6 million net tons of steel in December, down 2% compared to November, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

About 2.9 million net tons of finished steel was imported, a 0.1% increase.  Wire rod imports were up 36% in December over November, while line pipe was up 18% and standard pipe was up 13%.  Hot-rolled bar imports rose 11%.

 

Gary Sanitary District Board Settles with School District
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[26 Jan 2015]

GARY A debt payment of $400,000 from the struggling Gary Community School Corp. has been approved by the Gary Sanitary Board.

The school districts past due bill for sewage services was $743,000, but after talks between the two public entities, an agreement was reached for the school district to pay $400,000 by the end of 2014.  "We figured we would get what we could get right now," Gary Sanitary District attorney Jewell Harris Jr. said.  "Who knows what the future will hold for them in 2015?"

Harris said the sanitary district is monitoring the school districts month-to-month bills.  "If they fall behind again, we still have the same statutory remedy to lien property and disconnect sewer service," Harris said.

Harris said the district is trying to resolve its debt and is selling some properties.  The district hopes to sell Lew Wallace High School to a local church (For a paltry $100K! - Ed.).  Shuttered Brunswick, Webster and Vohr elementary schools are also for sale.

The board approved the debt payment at Friday's meeting.

 

Family Copes with Fresh Tragedy as Gary Grandfather, 63, Shot to Death
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[26 Jan 2015]

GARY | A 63-year-old retiree who lost a grandson and nephew to violence in the city was gunned down Saturday night as he stood at his front door.

Edwin Deloney Sr. died after being shot multiple times at his residence in the 1500 block of Tennessee St.

His sister, Barbara Ross, who lives a block away, said her brother was waiting to be picked up by a friend to go out to dinner.  She said his two teenage grandsons were in the basement as someone fired at her brother from a vehicle.

"I heard it," Ross said of the gunfire.  "I was sitting here and we heard this bang, bang, bang, bang.  My granddaughter thought someone was at the door.  She looked out the door.  It stopped for a second and started again bang, bang, bang. "

Ross didn't know her own brother had been shot until a short time later when a cousin pounded on her door.  He just shouted, They shot Booster, they killed him, " Ross said.   Although her brothers first name was Edwin, everyone called him "Booster," Ross said.

Ross rushed to her brother's house, but by then, police had arrived and were securing the scene.  She could see her brother's body but wasn't allowed inside.

"We're so distraught.  We can't even think of an enemy he might have," Ross said.

Ross said her brother was deeply disturbed over the deaths of her son and his grandson.  Another nephew in the family was shot and paralyzed, she said.

In 2011, Deloney's 17-year-old grandson, Edwin Parker Deloney, was shot and killed as he walked home from football practice at West Side High School with his brother.  The teens had just moved to Gary from Riverdale, Georgia, and were living with their father, Edwin Deloney Jr.

In 2010, Deloney's nephew and Barbara Rosss son, Jason E. Ross, 31, died in a hail of bullets in the 1600 block of Ohio St.  Also killed were Tanya Liggins, 36, and Jonelle Dixon, 30.

Ross said her brother was retired from Methodist Hospitals Northlake in Gary where he worked in maintenance.  He was divorced, with two daughters and a son.  He was just elected last year as a Democratic precinct committeeman.  "He was a dedicated committeeman," said Willie Stewart, city Democratic chairman.  "This is just tragic."

Ross said her brother loved his neighborhood and liked to spruce up city parks.  "If someone needed something fixed or a yard mowed, hed do it.  If anybody needed help, he was there.  He was just such a nice guy," Ross said.

 

Gary Man, 63, Shot to Death
#3 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[25 Jan 2015]

GARY A 63-year-old man died from multiple gunshot wounds Saturday night.

The Lake County coroners office reported that Edwin Deloney, of the 1500 block of Tennessee St, was pronounced dead shortly before 8 p.m. at his residence.  The coroner classified the death as a homicide.

Gary police and the Lake County CSI unit are investigating.

 

Sheriff Should Be Reprimanded, Vann's Attorneys Say
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Elvia Malagon
[24 Jan 2015]

CROWN POINT | Defense attorneys for a suspected serial killer want a judge to publicly reprimand Lake County Sheriff John Buncich for speaking to local newspaper reporters.

Vann, 43, of Gary, is facing murder charges in the strangling deaths of Afrika Hardy, 19, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville, according to court records.  Vann allegedly confessed to killing five other women who were found in October in abandoned houses, police previously said.

Darren Vann's defense attorneys, Matthew Fech and Teresa Hollandsworth, filed a motion last week to hold Buncich in contempt of court for allegedly violating a gag order in the state's cases against their client.  The motion was filed Tuesday, but the court documents were not publicly accessible until Friday.  The public court files had been held in Lake County Criminal Judge Diane Boswell's chambers.

The motion alleges Buncich violated the gag order when he was interviewed Jan. 16 by The Times about a letter requesting jail officials return to Vann a book about the White Sox.  In the letter, Fech and Hollandsworth also requested jail officials allow their client to have access to paper, writing materials, reading materials and his court documents.  The motion also cites a story published Tuesday by The Post-Tribune, which quotes Buncich on the same topic.

According to the gag order, officials involved in the case are prohibited from a) speaking to the public about Vann's "character, credibility, reputation or criminal records of the defendant, b) other suspects or witnesses or the expected testimony of the defendant or a witness."  Officials also are prohibited from speaking about c) the existence or contents of any confession, admission or statement given or not given by Vann.

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said Wednesday he hasn't been told that he violated a gag order in the state's case against a suspected serial killer.  "I haven't received any notification," he said.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   I may be wrong (if I am it would not be the first time) but I recall no mention whatsoever of items a, b or c, above, in Sheriff Buncich's statements reported by the press?  In fact, it looks as though the Sheriff followed the "letter of the law?"

 

More Than 300 Jobs Could Be Lost With Idling of ArcelorMittal Plant
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[23 Jan 2015]

EAST CHICAGO | ArcelorMittal plans to idle its Indiana Harbor Long Carbon facility on March 1, and then shut down the rolling mill sometime over the next three months, in a move that could result in the permanent loss of 304 jobs in East Chicago.

The Belgium-based steelmaker says the 114-year-old facility has lost money every year since 2011.  The former Inland Steel mill uses an electric arc furnace to make steel bars that are used in cars and fasteners.  Indiana Harbor Long Carbon had been idled during the depth of the Great Recession in 2009 and was revived the following year, but has since suffered from underuse, high costs and scheduling inefficiencies, company spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford said.

"This decision entails the potentially permanent loss of more than 300 direct jobs as well as indirect jobs associated with the facility," she said.

The decision only affects ArcelorMittal's long carbon plant, and does not impact its integrated mill or flat carbon facility at Indiana Harbor in East Chicago, or any of its other local operations.  The electric arc furnace that's slated to be shuttered could make up to 340,000 tons of steel a year.

ArcelorMittal hopes to relocate the 246 affected United Steelworkers union members and 58 salaried employees to its other facilities in Northwest Indiana, where they could be absorbed.  The company expects the "great majority" of Indiana Harbor Long Carbon employees would be able to find other positions at ArcelorMittal.

While layoffs might not take place as a result of the idling, the steelmaker warned the jobs at the long carbon facility may never return.

"We have been negotiating with the USWA since mid-November to maintain the rolling mill as an economically viable operation using outsourced billets," Holdford said.  "We no longer view this option as feasible given the union's requirement that this change be linked to increased production bonuses at the rolling mill, equivalent to an increase of approximately $4,000 annually per hourly employee at current production levels."

The USWA continues to negotiate with the company in an effort to save jobs, District 7 Director Mike Millsap said.  ArcelorMittal wants to import billets, and the USWA hopes to instead work out a deal where they can still be made in East Chicago, he said.  "We've been negotiating with the company to try to keep the bar mill open and making steel," he said.  "We're trying to figure out the best way to do that, and will continue to bargain.  This is about imported steel and trying to protect jobs.  We're willing to bargain with them.  We're working to protect these jobs for our members."

Earlier this week, U.S. Steel notified workers that it would idle the nearby East Chicago Tin and lay off 369 workers.  U.S. Steel has laid off more than 1,300 workers nationwide this January.  U.S. Steel recently shuttered two of its oldest and most outdated coke batteries at Gary Works, displacing 120 workers.  ArcelorMittal mothballed the No. 2 galvanizing line, once the worlds most productive line, at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor West last year.

ArcelorMittal also warned workers it planned to idle the No. 1 aluminizing line at the former LTV steel mill in East Chicago near the end of 2015, when production will be shifted to a newer, more modern plant in Alabama.  About 100 workers would be reassigned if that takes place.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The hits just keep on comin'!

 

Consultant Bo Defends Salary, Rebuffs Critic
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[22 Jan 2015]

GARY A city consultant defended his work this week after receiving a renewal of his $65,000 contract with the Redevelopment Commission.

Bo Kemp, of J. Gari & Associates, has worked for the city since 2012 after Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson took office.  Kemp was a campaign adviser during her campaign.

During Wednesdays meeting, Kemp outlined improvements at the Genesis Center and at the Hudson-Campbell Fitness Center.  He said hes also beginning the process of working on the renewal of the contract with the SouthShore RailCats.  The RailCats play at the city-owned U.S. Steel Yard.  The contract expires in 2017.  Kemp said hes also assisting in development around the Gary/Chicago International Airport, including a successful sale transaction with Carmeuse Lime thats based near Majestic Star Casino on the lakefront.  "You got another 130 acres under your control," Kemp said.

After the commission approved Kemp's contract without comment, administration critic Jim Nowacki questioned the value of Kemps work, saying some of the projects were the same as last year.

Kemp said he rarely spars with critics, but defended his work saying hes made a significant contribution.  "Carmeuse is not only creating jobs, theyre investing $200 million into this property," he said.  Kemp said Belgium-based Carmeuse selected Gary over other competitors worldwide.  He said Carmeuse was paying administration costs, allowing the city to be able to develop its property.  In addition, Carmeuse is starting a waste-to-energy plant that recycles paper waste products.  "Theyve added 40 jobs there and theyre building a plant on Industrial Hwy.  Thats an example of what were talking about.  There are very tangible things that we worked on collectively."

Kemp also received an $85,000 professional services contract from the Gary Sanitary District last month for 2015 (And pray tell, just who is the head of the GSD?).  A GSD official said Kemp provides municipal business services, participates in audits and was taking the lead in the development of a waste-to-energy project with Carmeuse.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   It  obvously pays, and quite well I might add, to be friends with Karen!

 

U.S. Importing More Steel Than Ever
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[22 Jan 2015]

The final numbers aren't in, but the United States appears to have imported a record amount of steel last year.

Imports were on pace to capture the highest market share ever, said Thomas Gibson, president of the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Once the year-end numbers are tallied, foreign finished steel imports should capture about 28% of the total market share, Gibson said.  That exceeds the previous peaks of 26% that were set in 1998 and 2006.

"What's causing it at its root is that a very large overcapacity exists in steel, especially in managed economies in Asia," he said.  "It's been estimated worldwide overcapacity is as high as 628 million net tons.  There's an irrational overcapacity, and they keep adding steel capacity."  China and other foreign countries have continued to build new steel mills because the job creation is politically popular.  They then make more steel than they can sell at home, so they try to shop it around abroad.  They will sell heavily subsidized steel, sometimes at a loss.

Steelmakers do not get the same government subsidies in the United States, which is an attractive dumping ground because of its size and free trade policies.

In 2014, the United States imported 44.2 million net tons of steel that gobbled up about 30% of the market share, according to preliminary estimates from The U.S. Commerce Department's Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis.  That was a 37% increase over the previous year.

Finished steel imports rose 35% to 33.5 million net tons last year.

Domestic steelmakers are calling for more trade protections, including the ability to impose countervailing duties on foreign countries that are able to keep steel costs down by artificially manipulating their currency.

 

Great Lakes Steel Production Plummets by 21,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[22 Jan 2015]

Raw steel production plunged to 650,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, ending a two-week streak of increased output.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, plummeted to 607,000T last week, down from 668,000T.  U.S. steel production sank by 4.89% in the week that ended Saturday, as capacity utilization fell by four full percentage points, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Local production dropped by 21,000 tons, or about 3.1%.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.806 million tons, down from 1.899 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 75.1% last week, down from 79% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 75.8% at the same time a year earlier.

Steel exports declined by 5.6% from October to November, falling below 1 million net tons for the first time since February.  Even so, they were still 1.6% higher year-over-year, according to the American Institute of International Steel.  Exports to Canada were down 10.7% in November, while exports to Mexico were unchanged from October, but 15.8% higher than at the same point in 2013.

Canada and Mexico are by far the two largest export markets for steel forged in the United States.  Total exports through the end of November stood at 11.12 million net tons, a 6% decline compared to the same period in 2013.  Exports to Canada were down 5.3% for the year, while exports to Mexico were up by 2.6%.

 

U.S. Steel to Idle East Chicago Tin Mill, Lay Off 369 Workers
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[21 Jan 2015]

EAST CHICAGO | U.S. Steel will lay off 369 workers in East Chicago, where it plans to idle its tin mill.  The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker notified workers this week it would temporarily idle East Chicago Tin, a finishing plant that makes tin-plated metal largely for canned foods such as soup and vegetables.

The mill, which U.S. Steel acquired in a swap with International Steel Group in 2003, will go back online and bring back the laid-off workers when market conditions improve.  "We will be temporarily idling East Chicago Tin with layoffs beginning in mid-March due to low-priced imports of tin mill products that have severely hampered our business," U.S. Steel spokeswoman Sarah Cassella said.  "The idling is temporary but we cannot comment as to the duration."

So far, 2015 has been a dark year for workers at U.S. Steel.  It has laid off more than 1,300 employees company-wide as imports have stolen away its market share and failing oil prices have shellacked its tubular steel business.

U.S. Steel also warned the USWA this week it will permanently shutter its coke-making operations at Granite City Works in Illinois, where 176 workers will be laid off.  The steelmaker, the second largest in the United States, already laid off 756 workers earlier this month when it idled plants in Ohio and Texas that make steel pipe and tube for oil drilling and exploration.

Tin products only account for about 2% of the market, said Charles Bradford, a steel industry analyst with New York City-based Bradford Research Inc.  The tin can market at one point accounted for as much as 5% of the demand for steel, but the business has been steadily declining for years, Bradford said.

Aluminum long ago stole away the beer and pop can market from the steel industry.  Consumers are increasingly buying more fresh foods and fewer canned vegetables.  Soup is often coming in alternative packaging, including plastic pouches, microwavable containers and reinforced paper boxes.  The decline accelerated in 2014.  Tin-plated steel dropped from 2.2% of the overall steel market at the beginning of the year to just 2% at the end of November, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

U.S. Steel has nearly half the domestic market for tin-plated steel, around 45% of it, Bradford said.  Not much tin-plated steel is actually imported because it's a small niche market with few buyers, since the United States has only a couple of major canning companies.

But U.S. Steel has been re-evaluating all its operations as part of an ongoing push to cut costs, dubbed the Carnegie Way initiative, after failing to turn a profit over the last five years.

 

Sheriff Accused of Violating Gag Order in Serial Killing Case
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Ruth Ann Krause
[21 Jan 2015]

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich has been summoned to appear at a contempt hearing to show cause why he shouldnt be cited for violating a gag order in a high-profile murder case of suspected serial killer Darren Deon Vann.

Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell issued the summons sought Tuesday by Vanns defense team, Teresa Hollandsworth and Matthew Fech, after Buncich contacted a newspaper reporter to give an interview and share a letter regarding the attorneys attempts to have items returned to Vann and privileges restored.  The contempt hearing is set for 10 a.m. Feb. 13.

In the meantime, Boswell has ordered Buncich to return a book Vann received from his sister about the Chicago White Sox and longtime team owner Bill Veeck, and paper and writing utensils.  The judge also ordered Buncich to allow Vann the ability to get other reading materials, receive mail from family and his attorneys, maintain his states discovery and purchase items from the commissary, unless good cause is shown.

Boswell granted the order without objection by Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter.

In a newspaper article on Friday, Buncich said without a court order, he was unwilling to return Vanns book and discussed a letter he received from Hollandsworth and Fech about the issue.  Vanns defense team said the interview was in direct violation of the courts order barring law enforcement, attorneys and others involved in the case from releasing information outside the courtroom about the case, the petition for the contempt finding states.

In court last month, members of Vanns legal team had informed Boswell that their client had been denied paper, writing utensils, possibly some states discovery and the book, which was taken from Vann.  At the hearing, Carter said at the hearing he would speak with Buncich and his staff about having those items returned.  Fech followed up with Carter on Jan. 12, and Carter contacted Fech two days later to indicate that Buncich or his staff suggested Vanns defense team write a letter outlining a list of items they wanted returned.

The letter was delivered to the warden on Jan. 15, according to the petition.  The following day, Fech received a phone call from a newspaper reporter who said Buncich contacted him and shared the letter sent on Vanns behalf, the petition states.

Vanns attorneys are seeking sanctions in the form of attorney fees to be paid to the Lake County Public Defenders Office for preparation of the contempt filing, preparing for and attending the hearing, and that the sheriff be publicly admonished for failing to comply with the order.  The gag order was issued Oct. 23, and Buncich was one of several individuals notified of the order.

 

Two Victims in Vann Case Were 'Good Friends'
Compiled From nwiTimes Report by Elvia Malagon
[20 Jan 2015]

GARY | Friends say Tracy L. Martin and Teaira Batey ran in the same crowd, a group that "looked out for each other."

Martin's body was identified last week as one of six women found dead in abandoned homes in Gary.  Batey's body was recovered in October.  Martin's body was found less than two miles from Teaira Batey, 28, of Gary, who was found dead in an abandoned home in the 1800 block of East 19th Av.  Two bodies remain unidentified.

Bill Dillon, a friend of Martin, said Batey and Martin were friends and hung out with the same crowd.  "They all looked out for each other," Dillon said.

Marvin Clinton, Batey's boyfriend and father of her son, said he didn't know Martin but he knew the two women were friends.  "They were good friends," Clinton said.  "When they did see each other they did have nice conversations between the two of them."

Dillon said he met Martin years ago on the streets while the two of them were going through their individual problems.  "Everybody that is on the street are not super bad," Dillon said.  "It's terrible.  Tracy is just a person that got caught on the wrong side.  She was a sweetheart."  He described Martin as a personable person who quickly made friends when she would ride with him on a semitruck he drove.

Dillon said for awhile it appeared Martin was getting her life back on track and had gotten a job at a fast food restaurant.  But after he stopped hearing from her, he said he assumed she had gotten arrested.

Dillon said Martin and Batey were good people despite their flaws.  "They got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time," Dillon said.  "We hate that (Martin) went the way that she did."

 

Gary Man, 19, Found Shot to Death in Glen Park
#2 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Christin Nance Lazerus
[19 Jan 2015]

A 19-year-old Gary man was found shot to death in the middle of a Glen Park street on Sunday afternoon.

About 4:30 p.m., Gary Police responded to a call of shots fired in the 4700 block of Washington St and found Gregory Anthony Marshall lying in the middle of the street with multiple gunshot wounds.  Marshall lived just around the corner on West 47th Av.

A man who was wearing a mask and carrying a gun was spotted in the neighborhood at the time of the shooting.

This case is an ongoing investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact the Gary Police.

 

Dunbar-Pulaski School in Gary Closed, Under Repair
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[19 Jan 2015]

GARY | Dunbar-Pulaski Academic and Career Academy in Gary will remain closed this week while a new boiler is installed at the school.

The boiler issues forced students to miss school Wednesday and Thursday; teachers attended professional development on Friday.  All Dunbar-Pulaski staff and students will go to the now shuttered Lincoln Achievement Center, 1988 Polk St, until installation is complete.

Gary public schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the safety of students is the top priority.  "I applaud staff and community stakeholders for quickly coming together to immediately implement a contingency plan that best suits Pulaski students, staff, parents and all support staff involved."

Pruitt anticipates students will be able to return to Dunbar-Pulaski Jan. 26.

 

Gary Grant Award Aims to Bring a Community Back to Life
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[17 Jan 2015]

GARY | City leaders eagerly announced a $500,000 federal planning grant Friday to revitalize the downtrodden East Glen Park neighborhood around Ivy Tech Community College.

Gary is one of six communities to receive the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Choice Neighborhoods grant, and Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson hopes it will lead to more substantial grants in coming years.

Gary is focusing on what Freeman-Wilson termed the University Park-East section of the city, including an entire block of vacant homes owned by HUD, directly west of the Ivy Tech campus in the 3400 block of Tennessee St. The homes were ravaged by the 2008 flood and have been deemed uninhabitable.  City officials said the two dozen homes, which are boarded up, will be demolished.

The creation of the transformation plan will be a collaborative effort between the city and several partners, including the Legacy Foundation, Ivy Tech, Indiana University Northwest and the Gary Public Transit Corp.  The plan will focus on education, jobs, crime and blight.

Citing a "significant amount of crime" in the East Glen Park area, Freeman-Wilson said the program will employ community policing strategies and will dovetail with Project Rebuild, the City Court truancy program.  "It's a comprehensive approach that will bring a community back to life," said Freeman-Wilson.

"We are excited about all the partners that have come to the table and excited it will be an opportunity to enhance education.  It happens one neighborhood at a time."

Antonio R. Riley, HUD's Midwest regional administrator, has championed several Gary efforts in the past.  "Today represents a turning point from the failing housing policies in the past," Riley said at a City Hall news conference.  "This is a hands-on approach.  We have more work to do here in Gary, but the foundation for growth has already been laid," he said in reference to the Strong Cities inclusion.  "This $500,000 grant is toward a new vision, sending a loud message we believe in Gary, Indiana, and a new approach to community revitalization," Riley said.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Correct me if I am wrong, but if the federal governement (HUD) owns the houses in question, why schould the City of Gary have to use its money (albeit received from the feds) to tear down the houses?

 

Another Victim of Confessed Serial Killer ID'd
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[17 Jan 2015]

GARY | Another victim of suspected serial killer Darren Vann has a name.

A body found Oct. 19 in a vacant house at 2200 Massachusetts St has been identified as Tracy Martin, 41, of Gary.<>

Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey issued a news release Friday afternoon, stating that the Indiana State Police laboratory used DNA testing to confirm the identify of the decomposed body that was found in the wake of Vann's confession that he killed several women and hid their bodies in abandoned homes in the city.

Martin is the fifth of seven women to be identified.

Vann is being held without bail at the county jail on two murder charges.  Additional charges have been delayed while police wait for Frey to declare the women as homicide victims.

 

Panther Pride:  Roosevelt Named a Historic Building
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[17 Jan 2015]

GARY | The first and only high school in Gary built exclusively for African-Americans, Theodore Roosevelt High School, recently was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The National Register listing recognizes Roosevelt for its architecture and association with the development of the citys black community.  Tiffany Tolbert, director of the Northwest Field office for Indiana Landmarks, said documentation combines the architectural history along with social and cultural history associated with the building, which also is on the state's historic list.  "The research is extensive.  The building is historically significant," she said.

The Colonial Revival school building, designed by renowned architect William Butts Ittner and built in 1930, is one of five school buildings he designed in Gary.

Tolbert said the designations are honorary, but make the properties eligible for grants to preserve the building.

Tolbert said the nomination process begin in 2007 and took several years and the assistance of historic preservation consultant and architectural historian Gregg Abell.

Stephen McShane, codirector at Calumet Regional Archives at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, said Roosevelt is one of the greatest landmarks for African-American history in the state.  "It represents a significant time period in Gary's history," he said.

Roosevelt's current school was built after the Emerson school strike in 1927.  After a small group of black students were transferred to Emerson due to overcrowding, many white students refused to attend Emerson.  "That episode turned into one that engaged most of Gary's residents in discussions and debates about segregation in the Gary schools," McShane said.

Now called Roosevelt College and Career Academy, the school has a long and storied history, said Annie May, 69, who graduated from the high school in 1964.  Retired Gary police Officer Glenn Trammell, who graduated from Roosevelt in 1962, said school pride is embedded in every student who graduated from Roosevelt.  "We were one of the top schools in the nation for academics and athletics," he said.

"We've had some fantastic people who graduated from Roosevelt," Trammell said.  Among them were basketball players Dick Barnett and Lee Calhoun along with actors Avery Brooks and William Marshall.

"Things have changed over the years.  It really saddens me when I come through here nowadays," Trammell said.  "It's hard for me to understand the kids who go here today.  They don't know the history of Roosevelt.  If they did, maybe they would take more pride in the school."

"You didn't disrespect your elders.  You didn't disrespect your teachers.  If you wanted to remain in this school, you had to meet that expectation."  Trammell said teachers and parents were leaders.  He said he grew up without a father in the home, and teachers like Ida B. King helped to mold him.  "Theo Tatum, as the leader of this school, was the catalyst.  He was the one who made sure the teachers did what they were supposed to do," Trammell said.

Hill said they didn't have new books at the school, but, as the only black school, used old books from other schools in Gary.  "You might get a book from another student and see where someone had highlighted some passages in the book.  You knew that was the good stuff and you needed to know it," he said with a chuckle.

Benjamin Starkey, a paraprofessional in a special education classroom, said his father taught years ago at Horace Mann, and his mother taught at Roosevelt a couple of years ago.  "I have always been fascinated with the history of Gary and Roosevelt High School," he said.  "My grandparents grew up in Gary," Starkey said.  "I talk to the kids sometimes about Roosevelt's history.  They don't know anything about it.  They don't know why this school was built. ...  There is a lot of history between these walls."

 

Roosevelt Continues to Struggle
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[17 Jan 2015]

GARY | Although the Indiana Department of Education graded Gary Roosevelt an F under EdisonLearning, the same grade it received when it was run by Gary Community School Corp., EdisonLearning officials said there has been some improvement.

EdisonLearning spokesman Michael Serpe said the test scores at Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy showed a 9.1% increase in seventh grade, and an 8.9% increase in eighth grade.  He said while challenges remain, the school's investment in more concentrated direct help to students in reading resulted in marked improvement.

"Both of these increases exceed the 5% growth goal stipulated in our contract with the Indiana Department of Education," Serpe said.  "We have already taken steps to increase the amount of time for direct assistance to students not performing at the appropriate level in math for this school year, and expect positive increases in math scores during the school year."

After an initial acrimonious relationship, Gary Community Schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and EdisonLearning CEO/President Thom Jackson have pledged to work together to develop a five-year plan to improve the education for all Gary students and return Roosevelt to the Gary Community School Corp.

Pruitt told the Indiana State Board of Education that EdisonLearning would be its "external partner" to improve all struggling Gary schools, and the two would develop a plan and present it this month. The concept to use an external partner is in line with a series of recommendations approved this month by the State Board of Education, which decided to create its own turnaround unit to monitor struggling schools.

Pruitt and Jackson have held a series of meetings in the city talking with local politicians, residents and School Board members.  Pruitt said the district wants the state to back off with school takeovers, vouchers and charter schools, and give the district an opportunity to develop its own improvement plan.  The plan will be presented to the Gary School Board, then to the State Board of Education.

 

Gary Solicits Resident Input on Sheraton Site
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Ed Bierschenk
[17 Jan 2015]

GARY | With the long-awaited removal of the former Sheraton Hotel completed, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is looking to residents for ideas on what to do with the vacant space.

Freeman-Wilson would like to see an outside area that could be used for performances as well as an outside gathering spot for City Hall employees and others to enjoy their lunch in warm weather.  In the winter, she thinks it would be nice to have a skating rink at the location.

Freeman-Wilson said the city does not have many places like that for residents to enjoy and "we certainly don't have them downtown."  The mayor emphasized, however, that she wants to hear from residents about their ideas for the site and plans to have a community meetings on it when the weather turns warmer.

Freeman-Wilson also is hoping to meet with developers and real estate professionals about other sections of the city where demolitions are taking place.  The amount of land to be redeveloped will depend on whether she can secure additional money from the state to remove much of the remaining abandoned properties within the city.

"Simultaneously to making plans for demolition you have to make plans for development," she said.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   KF-W, here is my suggestion:  How about a plaque that reads, "On this site the downfall of Gary, Indiana began when Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher began transforming the 'Steel City' from a viable, self-sustaining entity into a municipality dependent upon federal largesse?"

 

Sheriff:  Confessed Serial Killer Cell Isn't a Reading Room
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[16 Jan 2015]

CROWN POINT | Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said he will feed, clothe and shelter a suspected serial killer, but refuses to entertain him without a court order.

"Does he think I run a newsstand?  Does he want a romance novel?"  Buncich wondered aloud Friday.

He was referring to Darren D. Vann, 43, who is pleading not guilty to charges he strangled Afrika Hardy, 19, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville in separate homicides last fall.  Police said Vann has confessed to killing five other women whose bodies were found in abandoned Gary properties.  The prosecutor's office has indicated it may file death penalty charges against Vann.

Buncich said lawyers for Vann this week requested the warden immediately return or provide Vann with a book he received earlier about the Chicago White Sox and its previous owner, Bill Veeck.  The letter, signed by defense attorneys Matthew Fech and Teresa Hollandsworth, states Vann should receive normal privileges given other inmates, but at minimum they request Vann receive, "Paper and writing utensils ...  The ability to obtain other reading materials ...  The ability to obtain any and all mail from the family, legal or otherwise," a place to put copies of court papers and "Any items he purchases from commissary."

The jail's commissary sells snacks and convenience items to jail inmates.  Buncich said although Vann is confined away from the jail's general population in a unit for defendant's facing high profile crimes, Vann has access to the commissary, paper and writing utensils as well as the jail's law library.

Buncich said Friday he will provide Vann with anything the court orders, but until then, if Vann has become bored he can read the one book provided to all inmates, the Bible.  "He can start with Genesis," Buncich said.

 

Piatak Meats Hoping to Crowdfund Renovations
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[16 Jan 2015]

MERRILLVILLE| An old school but Internet-savvy butcher shop in Merrillville has turned to crowdfunding to pay for renovations.

Piatak Meats, which started in Gary in 1910 and relocated to Merrillville in 1959, has launched a Go Fund Me campaign online to solicit donations for a face-lift to its decades-old building.  The family-owned neighborhood butcher shop hopes to raise enough for a wide array of repairs and improvements, including a new roof, an updated electrical system, a replacement convection oven, and a new marquee to attract more walk-in traffic.

"We joined Facebook in 2010, which isn't that long ago," manager Tom Schnoor said.  "Something we realized is our customers are old school and that we would have to change with the times to attract new customers.  A Go Fund Me campaign is a relatively modern way of getting funds so we can get a face-lift and are putting our best foot forward."

Piatak Meats is perhaps best known for making 25 different types of homemade sausages and grinding its meat fresh daily.  All of its meats which also include ribs, smoked hams and Amish chickens are hormone-free, steroid-free and preservative-free.  There's also never any filler.  The butcher shop's USDA Choice Beef comes from grass- and grain-fed cattle, and is not too fatty or too lean, Schnoor said.

"We're definitely a small business, an alternative to a chain," he said.  "We've been around for 100 years now.  We've been keeping the founders' recipes around, and our butchers are a wealth of information if you need a special cut or the recipe calls for a weird cut."

The butcher shop at 6200 Broadway has been owned by Steve Fugate and Leo Roccaforte for decades.

About 10 days remain to donate online. To contribute, visit http://www.gofundme.com/piatakmeats.
$1,100 of $100K goal raised by 22 donations over a 2-month period through 15 Jan 2015

 

Gary Mayor, City Dem Chairman Split on Council Seat
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[15 Jan 2015]

GARY Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Democratic city chairman Willie Stewart Jr. are supporting different candidates in the Jan. 24 caucus to replace Kim Robinson on the City Council.

Robinson represented the 5th District, but she resigned after her election as Calumet Township trustee.

The caucus is at 10 a.m. on 24 January, in the clubhouse at the Gleason Park golf course.  Stewart said 15 precinct committeemen are eligible to cast ballots.  Candidates have until 10 a.m. Jan. 21 to file with the Democratic Central Committee.  The council term expires Dec. 31.

Freeman-Wilson said Wednesday she is supporting Linda Barnes-Caldwell, a precinct committeeman, who works for the citys General Services department.

"If thats the mayors choice, then thats her choice," Stewart said.  "I dont believe in being a rubber stamp."  Stewart said Barnes-Caldwell would have to resign her city job if she becomes a council member.

Stewart is backing former school board member LaBrenda King-Smith. "Shes best qualified," he said.

Stewart said Corey French, John Henry Hall and Linda Collins are also in the caucus race.

Whoever wins wont have much time to celebrate.  Filing is already under way for the council seat in the May 5 primary.  Barnes-Caldwell, King-Smith, Hall, French, and Keishawna Key-Tatum have filed already.  Filing ends Feb. 6.

The Jan. 24 caucus marks the second skirmish between Freeman-Wilson and Stewart who beat the mayor by a vote of 47-44 in a runoff for the chairmans job in September. Freeman-Wilson failed to file for the chairmanship in time, and she was nominated from the floor.

After the vote, the two pledged to work together.

 

Great Lakes Steel Production Rises by 11,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[15 Jan 2015]

Raw steel production rose to 671,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, the second straight week it's been on the upswing.

Local production accelerated by 11,000 tons, or about 1.6%.  Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, rose by 5,000T to 668,000T last week.  U.S. steel production picked up by 2.2% in the week that ended Saturday, as capacity utilization neared 80%, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.899 million tons, up from 1.857 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 79% last week, up from 77.2% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 75.8% at the same time a year earlier.

Domestic steel mills shipped an estimated 7.6 million net tons in November, a 10.2% decrease from October though a 0.4% increase over the previous year, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Hot-rolled sheets were down 8%, while cold-rolled sheets declined by 9% and hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strips had fallen off by 12%.

Shipments through the end of November, the most recent data available, hit 90.2 million net tons, a 2.8% increase over the same period in 2013.

 

Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor Has Best Year in 44-year History
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[14 Jan 2015]

PORTAGE | Nearly 30 massive beer fermentation tanks, each with a capacity of more than 20,000 gals, voyaged from Germany to the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, where they were loaded on trucks and shipped to the new Lagunitas Brewing Co. brewery in Chicago last year.

The major shipment to one of the largest craft breweries in the United States was one of many last year at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor, which just had the best year in its 44-year history and was so busy stevedores had to work longer hours, even on weekends.

Portage's deepwater port on Lake Michigan handled more tonnage last year than at any point since it first opened in 1970.  The previous record had been set in 1994, when more than 3 million tons passed through.  The total cargo in 2014 exceeded the previous record by 3%, spokesman Rich Allen said.  The Port of Indiana-Burns Harbors 2014 total cargo tonnage exceeded 1994, the ports highest year on record, by about 3%.

Shipments rose by more than 30% over 2013 as more steel, salt and grain came through the port.  About 35% more ocean vessels docked at the port than did in 2013, and barges coming in from the Illinois and Mississippi rivers were up 25%.  Those river systems give the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor access to 20 states and year-round access to international markets, since ocean vessels can come up through the Gulf of Mexico when the ice-choked St. Lawrence Seaway is closed during the winter.

Imports of steel were up by 37% last year, after domestic steelmakers tried to raise prices for the first time in years and a number of customers opted instead to buy foreign steel, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.  Steel exports were down 6% through the end of November.  Steel made up about 40% of the port's total cargo last year.

"Steel going into the manufacturing sector was a key driver for the increase in port shipments," said Port Director Rick Heimann.  "In 2013, the port handled its highest steel volume since 2006 and 2014's steel tonnage more than doubled the previous year's total.  The port also handled over 500 barges in 2014 for the first time in several years."

"The Ports of Indiana, Portage are critical to the entire Midwest's transportation infrastructure," Portage Mayor James Snyder said.  "We are grateful for their success this year and believe they will continue to grow and Portage will provide them and their tenants with continued first class public safety, the best local economic development team and critical utility infrastructure."

In 2013, the ports system invested more than $5.9 million in infrastructure projects, including a reconstruction of the main railroad line at the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor.  About 1,900 feet of sanitary sewer pipe also was replaced, the harbor was dredged, and roads were paved.  Dock walls were repaired, mooring bollards were rehabilitated, and security cameras were installed.

A total of $7 billion is being spent on infrastructure improvements at all the ports on the Great Lakes, the survey found.  An estimated $4.7 billion had been invested by both the public and private sectors in ships, ports, terminals and waterway infrastructure between 2009 and 2013.

"The survey results quantify what the Great Lakes maritime industry has long suspected that businesses are bullish on the future of the region's economy," said Steve Fisher, executive director of the American Great Lakes Ports Association.  "Hundreds of individual companies have independently made the same decision to risk capital and reinvest in the Great Lakes maritime industry.  The monies being spent reflect a commitment to the health and safety of the workforce as well as the environment.  New technology and equipment will ensure that cargo moves efficiently, sustainably, and safely."

 

Freeman-Wilson Files for Reelection
Compiled From a nwiTImes Staff Report
[14 Jan 2015]

CROWN POINT | Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson filed for reelection Wednesday morning at the Lake County Government Center.

"We are headed in the right direction and I would like the opportunity to continue on this path that is leading to Gary's revitalization," Freeman-Wilson said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Freeman-Wilson is the first female mayor of Gary and the sole African-American mayor in Indiana.

Earlier this month, she told The Times she planned to seek reelection.  "You have to finish what you start," Wilson said earlier this month of her plans for a second term to continue economic redevelopment in the city's downtown, its University Park project, improving public transportation, and Gary/Chicago International Airport capacity for more air traffic.

Freeman-Wilson said at the time she expected Gary Democratic City Chairman Willie Stewart to support her candidacy and to have a united party behind her.

 

Gary School Board Moves to Sell 4 Schools
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[14 Jan 2015]

GARY The school board hopes to sell four schools, including the shuttered Lew Wallace High School.

The board voted Tuesday to advertise to sell or lease Lew Wallace, and Webster, Brunswick and Vohr elementary schools. Webster and Brunswick closed last year.  Vohr closed in 2009.

A local church is interested in Lew Wallace, board attorney Kenya Jones said.  The church sent the school district its proposal, but details were not disclosed (The details are:  A paltry $100,000 for the $4 Million complex!).  Jones said the district has received phone calls with interest in other schools, as well.  Jones said the district hopes it can sell the schools, not lease them.

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the sale or lease of schools is governed by a state statute.  Bids are open to public review, according to the statute.

"I'm very proud to see some movement has taken place.  Our schools are at tremendous risk for vandalism," board member Marion Williams said.  "Look at Emerson.  It's been completely destroyed.  You find the same condition existing at Carver."

LaVetta Sparks-Wade, a Glen Park resident and Lew Wallace graduate, said the closing of Lew Wallace caught its supporters by surprise.  "We believe the school should not have closed.  It had one more year to turn around its failing grade."  Now that there's a possibility Lew Wallace could be sold, Sparks-Wade said the community deserves to be part of the discussion.  "We do not want Lew Wallace's fate to be that of Emerson, Beckman and Edison," she said referring to abandoned schools that have been decimated by vandals and scrappers.

In the past decade, the district has closed about 20 schools, including three high schools, as it battled a growing budget deficit and declining enrollment.  Enrollment this year is about 8,000 students in 13 schools.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   GDYNets, thanks to the NWIGazette, reported on this turn of events back on 23 Dec 2014.  What has the school city done with the 20 buildings that formerly housed schools.  Should not a, if not the, goal be to get these properties back on the tax rolls?  Selling Wallace to a church for pennies on the dollar ($100K) will not get the building back on the Gary property tax rolls.

 

IL Gov. Rauner's Order Puts Illiana Expressway on Hold
Compiled From nwiTimes Staff/Wire Reports
[13 Jan 2015]

SPRINGFIELD | A planned expressway between Illinois and Indiana is among the transportation projects put on hold by new Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner.

In his first act after taking office Monday, the Republican issued an executive order aimed at cutting spending.  It suspended planning and development of any major interstate construction projects pending a "careful review" of costs and benefits.  That includes the Illiana Expressway, a planned 47-mile east-west link between I-65 in Indiana and I-55 in Illinois.

Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence supports the project.  He and other supporters say it would relieve traffic congestion on I-80 south of Chicago and create much-needed jobs.  A delay may very well threaten the viability of a project.

The project would be a major economic boost for the whole region, especially at a time when the construction trades are in need of more work, Northwest Indiana Federation of Labor President Dan Murchek said.

Critics including Rauner's pick to lead the Illinois Department of Transportation have said it's financially risky.  Lake County (IN) Commissioner Michael Repay said, "From my perspective, Illinois has a much greater benefit than Indiana, so if Illinois is questioning the cost-benefit, obviously that would be a sign that something might be missing.  Illinois has been driving it."

"The Illiana project is ill-conceived and unfunded and it could cost Illinois taxpayers a billion dollars," said Al Grosboll, legislative director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.  "As a candidate, Gov. Rauner said he would do business differently in this state and that it wouldn't be business as usual.  Stopping the Illiana would send a strong signal about righting the ship of state."

Times Staff Writer Joseph S. Pete contributed to this story.

 

Return Flight to City Hall for Gary Airport Official
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Christin Nance Lazerus
                    and a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[13 Jan 2015]

GARY Gary/Chicago International Airport interim executive director B.R. Lane is making a return to Gary City Hall as Deputy Mayor, pending approval by the city, but shell juggle that post alongside her airport duties.

At Mondays airport board meeting, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson proposed the dual roles for Lane the mayors former chief of staff to the board since her most recent Chief of Staff Richard Leverett left for a job in the private sector last week.  "This move will not cause us to lose any momentum at the airport, but would allow the city to take advantage of her knowledge," Freeman-Wilson said.  "I understand that I am asking her to do a little more, but I think she is up to the challenge."

The airport approved the memorandum of understanding outlining Lanes responsibilities and pay.  Lanes salary about $120,000 will now be paid by the city of Gary, pending the approval of the Board of Works and the City Council, with the airport covering a small supplemental.  The Gary airport authority voted 5-0 in favor of employing Lane as their special administrator shortly after Freeman-Wilson addressed them at Monday's meeting.

The Gary Common Council must still approve the new post of deputy mayor, which Freeman-Wilson said would undertake the duties currently performed by the mayoral chief of staff, a post she is eliminating.

"B.R. Lane will come back to City Hall, but will continue to do what she does at the airport," Freeman-Wilson said.  "There is a need to have someone here accountable to the board, our stakeholders and the agencies.  But it is not the same as when we needed a full-time director."

Day-to-day operations at the airport are now overseen by AvPorts, the private operator hired on a 10-year contract one year ago.  Attracting new businesses to the airport is the responsibility of AvPorts' parent company Aviation Facilities Co. Inc., which has a 40-year contract with the airport authority.

Lane said she was a little taken aback when the mayor announced the proposal "What?  I have job," she recalled but she said the timing is right as the airport runway expansion project is winding down.  "I think my focus will continue to be on the airport and whatever the mayors agenda will be," Lane said.   "I expect to work on economic development and transportation and have a major focus on regionalism."

Lane said the airport can now put her salary toward capital projects, such as retrofitting an existing building at the airport as a customs facility.

AECOM project manager John Lukas said the removal of the berm that blocks the extension of the runway is almost 90% complete. "Yes, it is really cold out, and yes, it is snowing, but we have two contractors who are actively working," Lukas said.

Monday also marked the first meeting for newly appointed board president Stephen Mays.  On Dec. 31, Gov. Mike Pence named Mays a Munster insurance agent to the chairmans spot.

Mays said his main priority is working with operator AvPorts to "focus on making the airport a success" in terms of attracting commercial aviation business to the airport and developing the industrial property that surrounds it.  "I want to see some traction at the airport, and make sure it leads to actual success," Mays said.  "The ball is in AvPorts court to create a viable strategy going forward.  This airport has the potential to be an economic engine.  The upside is enormous."

The board will pare down its meeting schedule for 2015.  They will meet once a month, on the second Monday at 11 a.m.  Previously, the board also met on the fourth Monday.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Maybe it is just me, but something about this reeks?  Why would the city pay her to work for the airport authority?  Moreover, why would Gary City Council agree to fund a Deputy Mayor position?  Also, the board is going to do more by meeting less?  Strange way to run a railroad, er airport!

 

Man Reports Carjacked After Stopping for Gas in Gary
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[12 Jan 2015]

GARY | A 31-year-old Westville man told police he was carjacked, beaten and robbed early Monday after getting off Interstate 94 in Gary to get gas, police said.

The man told police he exited the expressway at Broadway and drove to a gas station at 21st Av and Virginia St.  He said he was approached by several men who jumped into his mother's blue, four-door 2013 Toyota Prius and forced him to drive to 19th Av and Missouri St, according to a police report.  The group allegedly beat the man, pistol-whipped him and drove off in the Prius.

Police arrived and found the man bleeding from the face and head.  He was taken to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus for treatment.

Anyone with information about is asked to call Gary police at (219) 881-1210.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   "The Citizens of Gary Welcome You to the "Steal City!"

 

Gary FOP President Says Officers "Fed Up"
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[8 Jan 2015]

After Curtis Whittaker was awarded contract to provide accounting services for the Gary Fire Department, the Gazette reached out the FOP President Sam Abegg for comment.  The following is the reply we received, in its entirety:

"We (The GPD) are tired of being the stepchild of the city.  Time and time again we continue to be shoved aside while the city continues to frivolously spend what little tax dollars its actually able to collect.  Contract after contract continues to be awarded to individuals that only a select few knows what they do.  All in all, its highly unlikely that they contribute even a fraction of what these officers do to the citizens in the community.  Its almost as if the the words Gary Police Department and Gary Police officer become synonymous with ignorance.  This department is full of highly educated individuals who are fed up with being mistreated and for the city to assume that we are none the wiser to their antics is a far cry from reality.  The FOP will continue to be vigilant in its efforts to obtain and sustain a more healthy work environment for the officers on the department."

 

Kim Robinson Says Cal Twp Met State Spending Mandate
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[8 Jan 2015]

 According to Calumet Township Officials, Griffith Will Not Be Allowed to Secede Because They Have Met the Requirements Under the Law

Kimberly Robinson took the helm last night in Calumet Township at the years first Board Meeting.  The new Board consisting of veteran member Clorius Lay and newcomers Darren Washington and Mary Canty Reedus was introduced.  Lay and Washington appeared to form a cohesive team as Reedus sat awkwardly and defensively silent.  The meeting consisted primarily of organizational details with Lay being named President of the Board and Washington being named Secretary.

Kimberly Robinson sat largely silent during the meeting.  Toward the end of the meeting Robinson stated "We did not fail," referring to the state mandate to reduce spending to 12 times the state wide average.  Under a state law, Griffith may petition to secede from the Township if the budget is not reduced.  According to Indiana Department of Local Government Finance records, Calumet Township spent about $2.5M of its $10M budget on poor relief in 2013 (the latest year for which records are available).  According to new Township Accountant Steve Dalton of Cender & Co., the Townships 2013 budget was below the 12X mandate and that budget was carried forward after the Board failed to approve the budget submitted by former Trustee Mary Elgin.  All numbers have not yet been certified by the State, according to Dalton.  Nonetheless, Dalton says he is confident Calumet Township will meet the mandate.

Griffith Town Officials are expected to continue with the petition to secede.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   If this be true, and I have no reason to doubt the accuracy, it is a startling bit of news.  It is particularly ironic that the reduction came under the administration of now former, ousted trustee Mary Elgin.

 

OPINION:  Abolish the RDA to Save the Region
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[2 Jan 2015]

The Regional Development Authority (RDA) is up for re-authorization.  The RDA was originally funded with $100M from the Indiana Legislature and $175M from a combination of local sources to make something big happen in Lake and Porter Counties.  It has wholly failed in that mission and should not be given another cent of State of Indiana money.

Let's take a look at some of the failures of the RDA. According to the RDA website:

The RDA provides funding for the Gary/Chicago International Airport, Commuter Rail Transportation, a regional bus system, the Lake Michigan Shoreline Development and other economic development projects in northwest Indiana.

Let's first look at the Gary/Chicago International Airport.  The RDA has poured $50M, nearly 1/5 of the total resources allocated to it in the past ten years, to this project.  After this ten year investment, there is still no commercial air service at the airport and nearly everyone involved admits that there likely never will be.  Airport planners are now suggesting that the airport may be a viable cargo hub rather than a commuter airport.  The problem with that suggestion?  Immediately after the RDA pumped $50M of tax money into the airport, they stood silently by while Gary City Officials entered into a public-private partnership agreement that will give away any future profits.  In a normal public-private partnership, the private partners are asked to contribute money to the project-not so with the Gary Airport P3.  The private partners, hand selected in secret meetings by a non-elected committee, did not commit a single cent to the project.  The deal was so bad that three Board members resigned rather than sign off on it and the deal was pushed through on a day when all other government offices were closed due to weather with only four of seven board members present.  The RDA sat silent as the $50M of public funds invested by the Authority were given away.

Similarly, with Regional Bus Service.  The RDA squandered millions and missed an opportunity to produce something of value for Northwest Indiana.  According to annual statements on the RDA webiste, the RDA spent nearly $14M on the Regional Bus Authority.  The net result of this spending was less bus service for Lake County Residents.

The RDA has also failed on another important issue-accountability.  One glaring example is the $10M which was overpaid to the Gary Airport.  Most residents know nothing about this because it was not widely reported.  In 2012, the RDA somehow paid the Gary Airport $10M twice.  These are the sorts of things that can happen when you have one accountant auditing both sides of the equation.  The citizens may have never known about the overpayment if it was not reported two years later in a State Board of Accounts Audit.  The story was picked up by Keith Benman who has been the only steady watchdog at the Gary Airport.  The RDA has never said a word about the $10M oversight and has since re-hired Curtis Whittaker as their auditor despite the apparent conflicts which he has with the Gary Airport and the City of Gary.

Obviously, ten years and $275M later and the Regional Development Authority has failed in two of the three primary functions for which it was created.  Now that the Authority is up for re-authorization, they have spent tax money to hire cronies to tell you what a great job they have done.  No one wants to have a real conversation about the failures of the Authority or what could be done to make it work.

And what about Porter County?  Why would they pay $105M ($3.5M X 30) for a six mile train to Munster?  Please let us know what you think in the comments.  More important, please write to your legislators and let them know how you feel.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The publication of this OpEd may rightly be viewed as an indication I am in agreement with the sentiment expressed.  Any organization which would campaign to, and, remove the Gary Air Show to a site in Jasper Co.  clearly does not have the interests of the region at heart!

 

Gary PD Add Four New Cars to Fleet
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[8 Jan 2015]

GARY | Gary police on Thursday rolled out four new Dodge Chargers with in-car computers, traffic radar systems and LED lights.

Police Chief Larry McKinley said in a statement that several Ford Explorers also will be added to the department's fleet in early spring.  "It is our goal to gradually add new vehicles to our fleet and phase out some of the older models as funds become available," McKinley said.

Three of the new marked Chargers will be used by patrol officers, department spokesman Sgt. Thomas Decanter said.  The fourth, unmarked Charger will be used for traffic enforcement.

Indiana State Police noted in an October 2013 report that the Gary Police Department needed to update its aging patrol fleet and take steps to ensure the safety of those vehicles.  The report also recommended that all patrol units be equipped with computers.

State police issued the report following a comprehensive review of the Gary department ordered by Gov. Mike Pence.  The governor directed state police to conduct the review after Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson asked Pence for assistance from state police following a rise in violence in 2013.

 

NWI Casino Revenues Down in 2014
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Andrew Steele
                     and a Post-Trib Report by Karen Caffarini
[8 Jan 2015]

Northwest Indiana casino revenues rose 5.9% in December 2014, breaking their yearlong losing streak. However, for the year they declined 7.3% when compared with 2013.

December was the only month in 2014 in which the casinos had an overall year-on-year gain, earning $80.2 million in 2014 as compared to $75.7 million in December 2013.  That was largely due to better weather in 2014, Horseshoe Casino general manager Daniel Nita said.  In 2013, snowy weekends and a wintry New Year's Eve drove down attendance and revenue.

The December revenue growth was the first monthly year-on-year increase since November 2013, Nita added.  But it wasn't enough to make up for revenue declines the other 11 months of 2014.  Total revenue for 2014 at the Northwest Indiana casinos was $974.8 million, as compared to $1.05 billion in 2013.

Nita blamed the proliferation of slot machines in Illinois, including at "bars, taverns, scuba shops, florists and a variety of other businesses."  "That has become quite a powerful convenience play" for slot players, he said.

For the year, only Ameristar showed an increase, and that was only 0.4%, to $220.9 million.  The other casinos had revenue decreases:  2.4% at Blue Chip, to $155.9 million; 10.7% at Horseshoe, to $435.8 million; 6.8% at Majestic Star I, to $95.2 million; and 17.8% at Majestic Star II, to $67.2 million.

The challenges faced by Indiana casinos have caught the attention of the Indiana General Assembly, which is once again taking up the issue of land-based casinos and other changes meant to boost Indiana's competitiveness.

In December, year-on-year increases at Blue Chip, Horseshoe, Majestic Star I and Ameristar casinos outweighed a small decrease at Majestic Star II.  Ameristar and Blue Chip both had double-digit%age gains for December. Ameristar brought in $18.7 million for a 15.5%age point gain, and Blue Chip raked in $13.1 million, for an 11.7% gain.

Horseshoe and the two Majestic Star casinos were close to equal the last two Decembers.  Horseshoe's revenue grew to $35.8 million, growth of just under 2%.  Majestic Star I revenue grew less than a percentage point to $7.2 million, and Majestic Star II's shrank nearly 2% to $5.4 million.

2014 NWI Casino Revenues
Ameristar: $220.88 million, up 0.4%
Blue Chip: $155.88 million, down 2.4%
Horseshoe: $435.76 million, down 10.7%
Majestic Star I: $95.17 million, down 6.8%
Majestic Star II: $67.15 million, down 17.8%
Source: Indiana Gaming Commission 2014 monthly reports

 

Great Lakes Steel Production Rises by 6,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[7 Jan 2015]

Raw steel production rose to 660,000T in the Great Lakes region last week, getting back on track after two straight weeks of decline.  Local production increased by 6,000T, or about 0.9%.

Production in the Southern District, typically the nation's second-biggest steel-producing region, skyrocketed to 663,000T, up from 556,000T the previous week.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.857 million tons, up from 1.746 million tons a week earlier.

U.S. steel production shot up by 6.3% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 77.2% last week, up from 72.6% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 74.6% at the same time a year earlier.

Plunging oil prices, which have dipped below $50 a barrel, are expected to dampen demand for tubular steel.  U.S. Steel announced Tuesday it would idle 756 workers at plants in Ohio and Texas that make oil and natural gas pipes.

Steel imports decreased by 18.2% in November, but were still 40% higher than in November 2013, according to the American Institute for International Steel.  The 3.6 million net tons the United States imported in November marked the first decline in imports in three months.

Imports from Brazil fell most dramatically plunging 39%.  Imports from Mexico dropped 26%, and imports from Canada fell by 471,000T, or 14%.

Year-to-date, steel imports are up 37% over 2013, and finished steel imports are up by 34%, according to the AIIS.  European Union imports have surged 45.6%, while Chinese imports are up 68.5%.

The AIIS chalks the rise in imports up to an economy that is growing at its most robust rate in 11 years, which drives up demand for steel, as well as to high prices for domestically produced steel.

 

Gary City Council Kills Plan for Another Strip Club
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[7 Jan 2015]

GARY Agreeing that it would hurt the citys image at one of its gateways, the city council on Tuesday unanimously rejected a permit for a proposed strip club on Dunes Hwy in the Miller area.

The vote came after several citizens, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington all spoke against a special-use zoning permit that would have allowed Club 65 at the former site of another strip club, Pandoras, at 3201 Dunes Hwy, near the terminus of I-65.  Freeman-Wilson pointed to the planning that Gary has done to improve its northern corridor, only to "flush it down the toilet" if it allowed a strip club there.  "I dont think having a strip club there would contribute to a gateway to Gary," resident LaVetta Sparks-Wade said.   "This is a horrible idea. How can we possibly do this to our city?"  Eric Reaves, of the Miller Citizens Corp., said the proposed club did not mesh with Garys master plan for the corridor, adding that a strip club there "may discourage other businesses."

Panicos Kaloghirou and partner Mike Scandura, of south suburban Alsip, Illinois, planned to renovate the building, which is in an industrial zone.  But they needed a special-use permit because of a city ordinance governing strip clubs.  The board of zoning appeals denied the permit in October.

Kaloghirou and Scandura also operate Club Tops, a strip club on Industrial Hwy near Clark Rd.

Kaloghirou said he and his partner were "good citizens" with no criminal records and the strip club would not be near a school or residences.  "Why does Miller always stand in the way of business?" he asked.  Scandura said eight of the business strippers graduated from college, in part with money they earned dancing.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Well, if that be true, they certainly have put those college degrees to good use!

 

Date Set for Elgin Public Corruption Trial
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz

Former Cal Twp Trustee Mary Elgin is set to go on trial March 16, according to court records.

Elgin, whose three terms in the township office ended last week, was charged in December in U.S. District Court in Hammond in a 15-count indictment.  The bulk of the charges claim she and three co-defendants her son, Steven Hunter; her secretary, Ethel Shelton; and her campaign manager, Alex Wheeler used the office and township employees to help raise money for her re-election campaigns.  She also was charged with lying to investigators, not filing her 2012 and 2013 federal income tax returns and trying to extort a township vendor.

All four defendants have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.  Elgins attorney, Kevin Milner, said after her arraignment in December that she had cooperated with federal investigators and maintains she did nothing wrong.

 

Woman Dies Days After Being Pushed From Car in Gary
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[4 Jan 2015]

GARY | A woman who was pushed from a car at a gas station in Gary's Midtown section on New Year's Day died Saturday night at a Merrillville hospital, authorities said.

Gary police were called between 3 and 4 p.m. Thursday to the gas station at 17th Av and Harrison St for a woman having seizures, department spokesman Sgt. Thomas Decanter said.

The woman had been pushed out of a car that stopped at the gas station and then drove off, officials said.  She had no signs of trauma on her head or body, Decanter said.

Emergency personnel arrived and found the woman unresponsive, Decanter said.  She initially was taken to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary, but later was transferred to Southlake Campus in Merrillville, he said.

The woman's cause and manner of death were pending, the coroner's office said Sunday.

The Lake County coroner's office is seeking information about the woman's identity, according to a release.  The woman was described at black, about 5 foot 6, 255 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.  She was between 30 and 40 years old.  She also had a heart and arrow-shaped tattoo on her upper left arm that says "Pat."  Anyone who may know her is asked to call the coroner's office at (219) 755-3265.  Callers may remain anonymous.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   While this incindent sure bears the indicia of homicide, GDYNets shall refrain from adding it to the "and Counting" list, for now.

 

Chicago Man Shot to Death in Gary While Helping Deliver Pizza
#1 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[4 Jan 2015]

GARY A 68-year-old Chicago man was shot and killed Saturday as he drove an employee of Rico's Pizza to deliver a pizza.

The Lake County Coroner's office said in a release that Tate Hatchett Jr., of the 3000 block of West 77th Pl, suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was found in a vehicle on the front lawn in the 300 block of Durbin St.  He was pronounced dead shortly after 8 p.m.

Sgt. Thomas Decanter said Hatchett was shot during a robbery, although he was not an employee of the Gary pizza business.

He said police received a call of a car crashing into a house on Durbin Street at 6:46 p.m. Then police received another call that the driver had not exited the vehicle. When police arrived, they found that Hatchett had been shot as he sat in the drivers seat.

 

Freeman-Wilson to Market Her Mayoral Brand
Compiled from a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[3 Jan 2015]

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, a Democrat, said she will formally announce her re-election campaign in the coming days.

"You have to finish what you start," Wilson said of her plans for a second term to continue economic redevelopment in the city's downtown, its University Park project, improving public transportation, and Gary/Chicago International Airport capacity for more air traffic.

Freeman-Wilson said she expects Gary Democratic City Chairman Willie Stewart to support her candidacy and a united party behind her.

 

16,000+ Zero Tax Properties in Gary Alone
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[2 Jan 2015]

City is Buying Properties At Record Pace With No Plan to Move Them Back to Tax Rolls

The number of not-for-profit entities in Lake County has made news recently.  That number stands at 6,943 according to a list of properties receiving a charitable deduction provided by former Lake County Assessor Jolie Covaciu.  The number reported for Porter County was slightly higher, at just over 7,000 parcels.  The problem with the comparison is that the Lake County list includes ONLY charitable properties, while the Porter County list included all properties which are granted an exemption.

In order to compare apples to apples, a complete list of zero tax properties would need to be compiled.  While compiling such a list for Lake County would be a monstrous task, the Gazette has obtained a list of properties in the City of Gary that were billed zero taxes in 2008.  These are not tax delinquent properties, these are properties that legally owe no taxes.  That list included properties that paid zero tax for any reason.  By far, the number one reason a property is not taxed in Gary, or anywhere in Lake County, is because it is government owned.  In Gary alone the number of zero tax properties was 16,000 in 2008-nearly one-third of the 55,000 total parcels in Gary.  That number has grown significantly and will continue to grow in coming years.

The List of Zero Tax Properties is Growing Daily

The Freeman-Wilson administration has set acquisition of real property as one of its primary goals.  Joe Van Dyk and the Department of Redevelopment are acquiring properties in City Court through code enforcement as well as from the Lake County Commissioners.  Travel to the Gary City Court on any given Wednesday and you will see federally funded code enforcement officials taking deeds from property owners en masse.  These deeds, granted to the Department of Redevelopment, are rarely recorded in a timely fashion so there is no record of how many deeds have obtained in this manner.  Our observations indicate that the City is picking up properties at the rate of 3-5 per week in the City Court.  Lake County Commissioners also deed tax delinquent properties directly to the City or, in some cases, to the politically connected friends of the City.  One recent legal notice listed 120 properties acquired by Van Dyk and the Department of Redevelopment.

Nearly 50% of Parcels Will Pay Zero Tax

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has pushed the idea that there are 8,000 "blighted" properties which the City needs to acquire and demolish.  That would push the number of zero tax properties in Gary to nearly 50% of the total parcels in the City.  Once acquired by the City and their not-for-profit friends, these properties will remain off the tax rolls for many years to come.

Many of the properties owned by the City of Gary are being used by private corporations, some of whom receive a majority of their income from Government contracts.


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Created 4 Jan 2015 - 10:23:52 Hrs.

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