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!


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. 

Local Steel Production Rises by 4,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[30 Jun 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose to 622,000T last week, up from 618,000T a week earlier.

Great Lakes steel production increased 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 output fell by 0.04% over the same period.  Local steel output has been much lower than normal all this year amid a flood of imports that now account for a historic 32% of the total market share.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the South, increased to 597,000T last week, up from 591,000T the week before.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.733 million tons, up from 1.726 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 73.3% last week, up from 77.5% a year earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 72.5% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date output has been 43.5 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.5%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.4%.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  This is the first time in quite a while that both Great Lakes and the Southern District had saw production gains in the same reporting period.


Gary Cops, Medic, Firefighters Brawl at T-ball Game
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[27 Jun 2015]

An argument between a boy's father and his mother's fiance launched a brawl at a T-ball game that left his parents and their significant others reporting injuries, police said.  All are Gary city employees.

Gary police Lts. Nelson Otano and Thomas Pawlak are investigating the criminal complaints filed Wednesday evening by Gary police Cpl. Shirletta Montgomery, 41, the boy's stepmother; her husband and the boy's father, Danielle Montgomery, 46, a Gary firefighter; Brandi Smith, 33, Gary Fire Department medic and the boy's mother; her fiance, Larry Banks, also a Gary firefighter.

The Montgomerys and Smith are Merrillville residents. Banks lives in Gary, the police report states.

The police department Internal Affairs Division is also reviewing the officer's action in the melee.  Fire Chief Paul Bradley said his department is investigating the actions of his employees and said he expected to make an announcement next week.

About 6:50 p.m., police were called to the ball field at 21st Av and Harrison St, north of Roosevelt High School.  Patrolman Jonathan Barnes wrote in his report that Banks and Danielle Montgomery argued about custody of Montgomery's son and when the argument peaked, pushing and shoving escalated to punching and biting, the report says.

The four adults involved all provided police with their own versions of the altercation.  Smith and Danielle Montgomery went to the hospital for treatment of their injuries, the police report states.

Smith said she had cuts on her face and a swollen, bloody knee.  Montgomery said her left eye was swollen because of a punch.  Shirletta Montgomery reported she was scratched on her face and her right hand was injured.  She said she lost diamond hoop earrings during the confrontation.  Banks told police he was struck in the face while trying to separate Smith and Shirletta Montgomery.


Bloomberg Funds Public Art in "Murder Capital" Gary, IN
Compiled From an Online Report at http://www.blouinartinfo.com/
[25 Jun 2015]

Bloomberg Philanthropies, spearheaded by the former mayor of New York, is funding a $1 million public art project in the city of Gary, IN, as part of its program to revitalize depressed economies through art.  Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has called upon artist Theaster Gates to helm the project "ArtHouse:  A Social Kitchen," in a downtown building where locals will run small restaurant ventures.

Michael Bloomberg said in a statement:  "Great public art strengthens cities by making them more exciting and attractive places to live, work, and visit.  Public art can also help us to see urban challenges in a new light, and imagine new solutions."  Other cities to receive grants include Los Angeles; Spartanburg, South Carolina; and Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, New York.


1 Dead After Shooting in Gary's Miller Neighborhood
#24 and Counting
ompiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[24 Jun 2015]

An early morning shooting outside a Miller bar has left at least one dead.  Police and ambulance crews were called to Murphys House of Pain, 5245 Melton Rd at 1:03 am in reference to a "shootout" in the parking lot.  The Gazette has confirmed that, in addition to the confirmed homicide, at least one person was transported to Methodist Hospital Northlake with gun shot wounds.  The condition of that person is unknown at this time.

According to the office of Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey, coroner investigators were called to 5245 Melton Rd in Gary at 1:25 a.m. today.  20 year old Jonathan Farries of the 5600 block of E. 5th Pl was pronounced dead at the scene.  Farries suffered a gun shot wound and the case is being investigated as a homicide by Gary Police.

US 12 was closed for most of the night, as Lake County Crime Scene technicians and Gary Police worked to gather evidence and process the scene.  Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District Transit Police Chief Bob Byrd said Train No. 101 was delayed at the Miller station about 10 minutes early Wednesday as Gary police secured part of the crime scene nearby.


Carmeuse Lime and Stone Investing More Than $30M in Gary
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[23 Jun 2015]

GARY | An international mining company plans to pump about $30 million into the city of Gary, where it's building a new train terminal and and a green energy plant.

Carmeuse Lime and Stone, which already employs 75 workers at its Buffington Harbor facility, plans to add 30 to 40 more jobs as a result of the expansion, area operations manager Jeff Bittner said.

The Belgium-based company broke ground Tuesday on an $18 million rail terminal it will build in Buffington Harbor so trains can haul in limestone that will be stored and later trucked off to local steel mills.  Lime is a key ingredient in steelmaking, and about 100 kilograms of lime is needed to make every metric ton of steel.  It draws impurities out of the steel, and is also used by utilities and construction firms.

"This investment by Carmeuse represents a part of our long-term strategy to enhance our operations in what we consider to be a key market," Bittner said.  "This terminal will support our local customers, including the regional steel industry."

Carmeuse also is building a waste-to-energy plant near Gary/Chicago International Airport that will turn unrecyclable materials into a fuel that will be used as an alternative to coal when it heats limestone in its kilns.  The facility, which will employ about 30 workers, should open early next year.

Gary has even bigger plans for the Buffington Harbor area that Carmeuse calls home, which is now isolated and accessible only by gravel roads, but which the city wants to develop into a thriving industrial park.  About 130 acres are available for development, said Bo Kemp, director of Gary's Economic Development Corp. and a top aide to Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.  "We believe more development opportunity exists in the area than in any other location in Northwest Indiana," Kemp said.  "This is probably one of the types of projects that people will be talking about for a long time."

The state, the city and the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority are contributing $13.3 million to a new road for Carmeuse and other manufacturing companies.  The new road will extend from the new Gary Marina Access Road the city built to the Majestic Star casino last year, to the new industrial park.


Gary Enters Agreement for New Buffington Harbor Industrial Park
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Andrew Steele
[23 Jun 2015]

GARY | The city and a Terre Haute-based construction company have formed a partnership to transform an 84-acre tract near Buffington Harbor into a modern industrial park.

Garmong Construction Services specializes in building industrial "shells" and marketing them to companies seeking available space.  Garmong will spend the next several months developing a plan that could include as much as 500,000 square feet of industrial space.

"This is an industrial-site developer's dream," Garmong Vice President Dan Zuerner said of the site immediately southwest of Carmeuse Lime and Stone, which is located along Lake Michigan east of Majestic Star casinos.  Its proximity to Lake Michigan, interstate highways, railroads and the airport make it highly marketable, Bo Kemp, director of the city's Economic Development Council, said.  "This is a very unique space," he said. "What we lack is (building) inventory."

The property is in the footprint of the Gary Chicago/International Airport public-private partnership.


Local Steel Production Dips by 3,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[23 Jun 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region slid to 618,000T last week, down from 621,000 a week earlier.

Local steel output has been much lower than normal all this year amid a torrent of imports that now account for a historic 32% of the total market share. Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.4%.

Great Lakes steel production dropped by 3,000T, or 0.4%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output fell by 1.4% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the American South, declined to 591,000T last week, down from 599,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.726 million tons, up from 1.747 million tons a week earlier. Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 73% last week, down from 73.9% a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been 78.5% at the same time a year earlier. Year-to-date output has been 41.8 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.4%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.


No One in Custody in Homicide of Gary Teen
#23 and Counting
ompiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[23 Jun 2015]

GARY | No one was in custody Tuesday morning in connection with the fatal shooting of a Gary teen there Monday night, police said.

Sgt. Thomas Decanter, spokesman for the Gary P.D., said officers were called Monday evening to the 2300 block of Harrison St, across from Roosevelt College and Career Academy, where they found a 16-year-old boy lying in the grass in the Delaney housing complex.  Lewis was less than a half mile from his home.

The Lake County Coroner's office identified the youth as Rashaud Lewis of the 1000 block of W 22nd Av in Gary.  Lewis was pronounced dead at 5:21 p.m. at The Methodist Hospitals' Northlake Campus in Gary.  The cause of death was listed as multiple gunshot wounds suffered in a homicide.

Decanter said Tuesday morning the Lake County Metropolitan Homicide unit is investigating the case.  No one was in custody in connection with the homicide Tuesday morning, he said. Decanter asked anyone with information regarding the homicide to contact the Lake County Metropolitan Homicide Unit at (219) 755-3851.

Rashaunta Lewis, his big sister, said he always woke up about 7 a.m. as a child.  "He used to come in my room early in the morning every day and wake me up and get to rapping at me," she said.

Rashaud Lewis was good at making people laugh, she said.  "He'd say all types of crazy stuff," she said.  He also was an open person who was liked by everybody.

"He wanted to finish school, be a rapper," she said.  "He wanted to get rich."

Witnesses told police Lewis was speaking with a man before the man pulled out a gun and started shooting.  The man ran west through the Delaney complex, police said.


Demolished Homes Increasing in Assessed Value
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[21 Jun 2015]

In 2015, the City of Gary was the recipient of a $6.6M blight elimination grant from the State of Indiana.  According to a list on the City of Gary, Indiana website, the City has already demolished 37 properties.

Of those 37, 29 have increased in value since 2011 according to the office of Calumet Township Assessor Jacquelyn Collins.  In fact, the average assessment on the properties which are now rubble increased by over 20% in just 3 assessment years.  Just 8 of the properties decreased in value.  One noted an "Assessor Change" after it was sold at tax sale.  Several of the other decreases seem to be a result of appeals.  The total assessed valuation that has been demolished so far is $1,153,970.00.  Those 37 properties were assessed at $1,063,900 in 2011.


Gary Man Found Dead in Street Friday
#22 and Counting
ompiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michelle L. Quinn

The Gary Police Department received a call of a man down in the 1400 block of Jackson St at 6:27 p.m., Sgt. Tom Decanter, a Police Department spokesman, said Saturday.  Officers found that Eric Duncan, 34, of the 1100 block of Pierce St, was lying on the street with a gunshot wound to the head.  Paramedics called to the scene determined the man had died.

The death has been classified as a homicide by the Lake County coroner's office, but no one is in custody at this time, Decanter said.

The Gary Fire Department's EMS Service, Lake County CSI and coroner's office assisted with the initial investigation, and the Lake County Metro Homicide Unit is continuing it.  As no suspects are in custody, anyone with information is urged to call 219-755-3851, Decanter said.


Gary IT Scandal:  State Board Warned Gary Officials of Possible Thefts
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[18 Jun 2015]

In an audit report dated September 30, 2014, State of Indiana Officials repeatedly warned City of Gary officials that the potential for theft and abuse existed in the internal controls over City property.  The Indiana State Board of Accounts noted:

Failure to maintain detailed and accurate equipment and property records, to perform periodic physical inventories and to reconcile the inventories to the records could result in assets being lost, stolen, misappropriated or disposed of improperly and not detected within a reasonable period of time.

The quote is chilling in that it foretells the entire scandal involving computer equipment in Gary which is now being investigated by the FBI and Indiana State Police.  The theft of computer equipment was reported to Indiana State Police by Chicago Police, not by City of Gary officials.  An initial investigation resulted in warrants being served at multiple locations.  While no indictments have yet been handed down, numerous employees have been fired or quit.

Gary City Director of Finance Celita Green responded in three separate letters that "The City will investigate any discrepancies between the physical inventory and capital asset records and perform a reconciliation."  Ms. Green stated the reconciliation would be completed by December, 2014.


IUN Project Called University Park 'Cornerstone'
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Ed Bierschenk
[18 Jun 2015]

GARY | There was some concrete evidence Thursday that development in Gary has graduated from the planning stage despite some concern by residents at an earlier meeting Wednesday that more action needs to be seen in their city.

A symbolic groundbreaking was held inside Indiana University Northwest's Savannah Center for a new three-story, 126,300-square-foot building to be constructed at the corner of Broadway and 35th Av.  The building is seen not only as an educational enhancement to the university, but as a "cornerstone" for redevelopment goals in the city's University Park plan.

Half of the building will house IU Northwest's fine and performing arts programs along with academic and administration space for the College of Arts and Sciences.  Thirty percent of the building will be occupied by Ivy Tech science programs and a "one-stop shop" for enrollment and admission programs.

The remainder of the structure expected to open in 2017 will include classrooms and informal study spaces to be shared by both institutions.  Key features will be a 500-seat performing arts venue and smaller performance area referred to as a "black box" theater.

The planned new facility will span most of a city block.  It will not only be a significant construction project, but a signature building for Gary, university officials said.  The state appropriated money for the building in 2013.


Local Steel Production Rebounds by 28,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[16 Jun 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region surged to 621,000 tons last week, up from 593,000T a week earlier.  Great Lakes steel production rose by 28,000T, or 4.7%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output rose by 1.4% over the same period.

Local steel output has been much lower than normal all this year amid a torrent of imports that now account for a historic 32% of the total market share.  Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.3%.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the American South, dipped to 599,000T last week, down from 602,000 tons the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.747 million tons, up from 1.722 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 73.9% last week, up from 72.8% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 78.5% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output has been 40.1 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.4%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.


Gary Man Shot Outside Home
Compiled From a Post-Trib Crime Report
and a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[16 Jun 2015]

Jeffrey Cruz's mother heard about a half-dozen gunshots late Monday night, then looked outside her Gary home and saw her son lying at the bottom of the stairs.

Cruz, 28, died minutes later at The Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus.  He was pronounced dead at 11:42 p.m., a news release from the Lake County coroner states.

Police said Cruz was returning home and had just parked his gray Cadillac in the driveway adjacent to his home near 19th Av and Grant St when he was apparently confronted by a gunman who fired a shot through the windshield.  Cruz was able to get out of his car, but was shot several more times as he tried to reach his front door, the police report states.

His mother called police and an ambulance took him to the hospital, police said.

Homicide investigators questioned people at the scene, but declined to speculate on a motive for the slaying.

Cruz was a lovable jokester who will be missed by his four children, said Channing Clark, his girlfriend of five years.  Clark said she has a 2-year-old daughter, Kylei, and 4-year-old son, Kingston, with Cruz and he's also father to 8-year-old Prinston James and 10-year-old Jeffery Cruz.  "He was real special about his daughter," she said.  "He has three boys and one daughter."

Cruz loved cars and owned several.  His favorite was his late 1980s "box" Chevrolet.  "He liked to paint them and put rims and tires on them," she said.

Clark said she met her boyfriend at Hubcap World in Hammond, where he worked.


Gary Man Shot and Killed
#21 and Counting

Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[16 Jun 2015]

GARY | A Gary man was shot and killed near his home late Monday, police said.

Jeffery Cruz, 28, of the 1400 block of W 19th Av, was pronounced dead at the scene at 11:42 p.m. Monday, Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said in news release issued early Tuesday.

The cause of death was listed as gun shot wounds suffered in a homicide in the 1400 block of W 19th Av.

Gary police were not immediately available for comment early Tuesday.


Gary Runway Opening Will Not End $174 Million Project
Compiled From a nwiTimes Reprot by Keith Benman
[15 Jun 2015]

GARY | The extended 8,900 foot runway at Gary/Chicago International Airport will open for business June 25, but other projects that made that possible could continue for years.

The entire main runway will close at 6 p.m. on June 23 so striping and other on-surface projects can be completed before it reopens for business on at 6 a.m. on June 25, Ross told the board.  "There is a lot of furious work going on those last 36 hours," Ross said.

The airport plans to have a July 10 "commerative" opening of the runway, with 150 people including top elected officials invited, airport spokeswoman Emily Tapia-Lopez told the board.  That event will occur just one day before the opening of the Gary Air Show, which returns to Gary after a two-year absence.

Project manager John Lukas, of engineering consultant AECOM, told airport board members at their regular meeting Monday railroad reroutes that constituted a major portion of the expansion project will continue into 2016 and possibly beyond.  That includes the new rail line that will replace the current Norfolk Southern Gary branch, which will eliminate numerous rail crossings near downtown Gary.

Another welcome project, to take place this fall, will involve removing the railroad viaduct over Airport Road.  The road beneath the viaduct is nearly impassable now, as the city struggles to complete a paving and drainage project in the flood-prone area.


Steel Shipments Slump as Imports Rise
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[15 Jun 2015]

U.S. steel mills shipped 7 million net tons in April, a 2.5% decrease from March and a 13.9% year-over-year decrease, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Cold-rolled sheets were down 7%, while hot-rolled sheets and hot-dipped galvanized sheets and strip were down 2%.

So far this year, shipments or the amount of steel mills actually sell are down 9.5%.  U.S. mills have shipped 29 million net tons through the end of April, as compared to 32 million during the same period in 2014.

At the same time, steel imports have continued to rise.  Import permit applications in May totaled 3.4 million net tons, a 3% increase over April, according to the U.S. Commerce Department's Steel Import Monitoring and Analysis data.

Standard rail, tin plate, and hot-rolled sheets all posted major gains in May, as compared to April.  Imports of line pipe, standard pipe and heavy structural shapes also are all way up year over year.  So far in 2015, total steel import tonnage is up 7% to 18.6 million net tons, while finished steel imports are up 20% to 15.3 million net tons.  Finished steel imports have captured 29% of the market share in May, and 32% year-to-date.  That's way above the record market share imports attained last year.

Domestic steelmakers have blamed the flood of cheap imports for national layoffs and plant idlings that include U.S. Steel's East Chicago Tin in East Chicago.


Two Fired, Gary City Hall Probe Widens
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[11 Jun 2015]

As a state and federal investigation continues, Gary's information technology department has been moved out of its City Hall basement office and into the Gary Police Department.  It's now under the direction of police Cmdr. Sarita Titus.

Two employees in the five-member department have been fired, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said Thursday.  She declined to identify them.  Federal and state officials served search warrants at City Hall Monday and at the homes of some employees.

The basement office of the information technology department was dark and locked Thursday.  The three remaining members of the department are reporting for work at the new police department location, Freeman-Wilson said.

Meanwhile, the Board of Works approved a $100,000 contract Thursday with Complex Network Solutions, based in Hickory Hills, IL, to provide security and maintenance on the city's computer equipment and network.

Freeman-Wilson said city officials alerted state police in April following an arrest and the discovery of equipment that belonged to the city.  "It was disconcerting and we asked for the state police and for federal officials because we believed there were federal violations," she said.  She said some equipment was found by police in a vehicle during a traffic stop.  Freeman-Wilson didn't say where the incident took place.

The mayor said the investigation will determine if a criminal prosecution will be initiated.  Last month, a state police official said they were contacted by Gary police in April.  In April, Chicago police contacted Gary police regarding a shipment of printers that had been recovered as part of a criminal investigation in that city.


Local Steel Production Plunges by 38,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[9 Jun 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region dropped to 593,000T last week, ending a two week-streak of gains.

Local steel output has been much lower than normal all this year amid a flood of imports that now account for a record 32% of the total market share.  Great Lakes steel production fell by 38,000T, or 6%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output rose by 1.3% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the American South, soared to 602,000T last week, up from 553,000 tons the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.722 million tons, up from 1.7 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.8% last week, up from 71.9% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 78.5% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date output was 38.2 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.3%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.3%.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  One gets the distinct impression that U.S. Steel, and maybe the entire industry, is playing a juggling act here?  A review of the weekly reports shows that with capacity greater than demand, and a desire to not permanently shut down facilities, the production seems to be allocated to the Great Lakes Region one week, to the Southern District next and on around the horn.  One has to ask, "How long can that mode of operation continue?"


Hatcher Reprimanded by Indiana Supreme Court
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[9 Jun 2015]

Gary attorney Ragen H. Hatcher has been disciplined by the Indiana Supreme Court for violating professional conduct rules in the handling of an estate case.

In a 5-0 decision, the court agreed Monday that a public reprimand for misconduct would serve as Hatcher's discipline in the matter.

The case involved the estate of a deceased individual whose representative filed a lawsuit to recover owed wages against an employer, represented by Hatcher, a Democratic candidate for an at-large seat on the Gary City Council.

Meanwhile, the estate's representative told Hatcher his attorney had withdrawn and she agreed to replace the attorney, leaving her in direct conflict with her position as attorney for the employer.

The court order said Hatcher cooperated with the investigation, had no prior violations, recognized her error and accepted responsibility or the misconduct.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Duh?  It does not take a mental giant to appreciate that an attorney cannot represent both sides in a law suit!


Mayor:  State, Feds Served Warrants at Gary City Hall
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[8 Jun 2015]

GARY | Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the city continued to cooperate with state and federal authorities Monday as investigators served search warrants in Gary.

One of the warrants was executed at City Hall, where the Information Technology Department is housed, according to a city news release.

Indiana State Police said in May they were investigating Gary city employees after receiving an initial report of a crime involving Apple products and the city's Department of Information Technology.  State police 1st Sgt. Al Williamson said at that time that only his agency was involved.

The city's news release Monday said the FBI and Department of Treasury also have joined the investigation.  "This is a coordinated effort and we are fully on board with the continued investigation," Freeman-Wilson said in a statement.  "We welcome the process and the opportunity to hold anyone who has abused his/her position accountable."


ArcelorMittal, U.S. Steel File Trade Case Against Steel Dumpers
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[8 Jun 2015]

U.S. steelmakers have been taking a beating from cheap foreign imports, and they're responded by idling plants and laying off thousands of workers nationwide.

Six steelmakers, including ArcelorMittal USA and U.S. Steel, have filed anti-dumping and countervailing duties charges against five countries that are accused of dumping corrosion-resistant steel.  Fort Wayne-based Steel Dynamics Inc. AK Steel, California Steel Industries and Nucor Corp. also joined in the filing of a petition with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the United States International Trade Commission.

The trade case charges China, India, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan with illegally importing steel made with significant government subsidies, which violates international trade law.  They're also accused of significantly undercutting the prices of domestic steelmakers, by charging less than is fair.  Domestic steelmakers allege the countries dumped steel at margins between 71% and 123%.

Imports of corrosion-resistant steel from China, India, Italy, South Korea and Taiwan have increased by 85% from 2012 to 2014, according to the complaint filed.  Overall, low-cost steel imports now account for 32% of the market share for finished steel products, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

The corrosion-resistant steel in question sheet that's been coated or plated to extend its life is used in cars, manufacturing and infrastructure.  Gary Works and ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor make the metal, which is widely used in roofing, siding, bridge decks, guard rails, culverts, trucks, appliances, industrial equipment and agricultural machinery.


Outlaws Leader's Brother Found with Throat Slashed in Burning Home
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[8 Jun 2015}

GARY | A man found dead with his throat slashed and his hands handcuffed in front of him inside his burning Gary home Saturday morning has been identified as the brother of former Outlaws Motorcycle Club leader Randy Yager.

Gerald A. Yager, 68, of the 5100 block of Washington St, was pronounced dead at 6 a.m. Saturday at his home, Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said in a news release.  Gerald Yager's death has been ruled a homicide.  Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said Gerald Yager's throat was slashed and his hands were handcuffed in front of him.

Gary police on Saturday said firefighters were battling a blaze around 4 a.m. at Gerald Yager's home when they discovered his body inside and called police.  The fire was deemed an arson.  "All indications show it was arson," Buncich said.  "Gas cans were found in the residence."

Buncich said Gerald Yager was last seen around 9:30 p.m. Friday night.

Gerald Yager is the older brother of former Outlaws Motorcycle Gang Leader Randy Yager, who was arrested in Mexico in October 2014 after 17 years on the run.  He was placed on the U.S. Marshals Service most wanted list in 2004.  He allegedly skipped town with girlfriend Margie Jelovcic in September 1997.  Jelovcic died in a high-speed crash while fleeing police during Randy Yager's apprehension in Mexico last year.

Buncich said Gerald Yager was also a member of the Outlaws.  "He was affiliated, but not as heavily as his brother," Buncich said.

A relative of Gerald Yager's told police Saturday the deceased had received notes containing death threats he believed were from his brother, who is currently incarcerated.  Buncich said investigators are looking into the report as part of the ongoing investigation, which includes federal authorities.


Man Found Dead in Gary Arson Fire
#20 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[6 Jun 2015]

GARY | The death of a man found inside a burning Gary home early Saturday has been ruled a homicide, police said.

Firefighters battling a blaze just before 4 a.m. Saturday in the 5100 block of Washington St discovered the body of a man inside a home there and contacted Gary police, Sgt. Thomas Decanter said.

The fire was deemed an arson, and the death ruled a homicide, he said.br>

The Lake County Coroner's office did not release any information on the death as of 1:30 p.m.

Decanter said the new Lake County Metropolitan Homicide Unit is leading the investigation, which remains ongoing.

[6 Jun 2015 GDY] - Info availble from sources that should know indicate the deceased found in the house is one Gerald Yager.

Gerald is the brother of the infamous Randy Yager.  Randy Yager, one of America's 15 Most Wanted and former leader of the Outlaws biker gang, was arrested recently in Mexico, ending his running from authorties for 15 + years.  The house destroyed by arson is the long time Yager family homestead.

Fox 6 News, WITI [10 May 2015] Randy Yager was captured on Thursday morning, October 16th in Mexico in the Baja region.  Yager will be flown back to Wisconsin.

Considered one of the 15 Most Wanted fugitives in all of America, he managed to avoid law enforcement for about 15 years.

Yager was the regional president of the Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana area "Outlaws" a bike gang.  His criminal record includes a 1981 accusation of shooting a rival gang member.

In 1983, prosecutors say Yager, known by his nickname, "Mad" planned the arson of a home in Gary, Indiana.  Investigators say it belonged to the mother of a fellow gang member torched for insurance money to help fund the legal defense of another Outlaw.

Twice in 1984, Yager was linked to two serious assaults, including a beating in December of a rival gang member, labeled an attempted murder charge.  The assault was carried out with a four-foot metal coat rack. Medical bills totaled $47,000.

Headlines linked the Outlaws to a 1974 Milwaukee bombing death.  The 15-year-old victim was delivering newspapers when he picked up a mysterious package never meant for him.  Former Milwaukee County District Attorney E. Michael McCann calls it the most notorious murder in Milwaukees history.  He says the person who built the bomb was extremely technically skilled.

Another headline from 1987 described a slain biker whose wife and young son were shot to death in the Town of Jackson. Investigators speculated the Outlaws killed a former member and his family, possibly for trying to cooperate with law enforcement.

Margie Jelovcic Yagers girlfriend would eventually go missing as well. Jelovcic was a bartender at a tavern Yager would visit. She was drawn to the Outlaws bad boy biker image and the two started dating.  Not long after the 1997 Outlaw round-up, Jelovcic vanished and has been a missing persons case for more than a decade.


Patrolman Charged with Battery Wants Cops Who Arrested Him Fired
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[5 Jun 2015]

Gary police Patrolman Jason Johnson could lose his job in the wake of domestic battery charges filed against him.

He wants the supervisors who arrested him to lose their jobs, too.

The Gary Police Civil Service Commission accepted, without comment, three complaints at its regular monthly meeting Thursday night.  One was prepared by the city, seeking termination for Johnson, who was arrested at his home April 23 after a female relative accused him of battery.  Johnson submitted the other two, accusing Lt. Dawn Westerfield and Sgt. Michael Barnes of violating both department rules and commission regulations when he was arrested.

The commission voted to assign all three cases to local lawyers, who will schedule evidentiary hearings then submit recommendations to the board, which can then accept, reject or modify the final decision.

In his five-page complaint, Johnson, 32, wrote that while his female relative repeatedly told officers on the scene that she was not battered and did not make a report, the status changed after he left his home in Glen Park and Westerfield and Barnes remained at the scene.

Court records in the criminal case state the victim told police she had been hospitalized previously from injuries caused by Johnson, but had been afraid to report the batteries.

Johnson said the two patrol supervisors created false reports and violated both the department's domestic violence and arrest policies because they did not question him about the events and did not acknowledge his defensive wounds or call medics, the complaint states.  The complaint also accuses Westerfield and Barnes of failure to treat him politely, willful mistreatment and conduct unbecoming an officer.

Johnson, of Gary, was on sick leave when he was arrested and has not returned to work.  He served a 60-day unpaid suspension in the spring of 2013 after admitting he violated several rules and regulations when he left his assigned sector to participated in filming a rap video with Freddie Gibbs.  Johnson's take-home squad car was used as a prop in the video.  Cell phone videos of the filming posted on Facebook show Johnson, in uniform, standing by while others wave handguns.

Johnson is scheduled to appear before Lake Superior County Division Court Judge Jesse Villalpando on Monday for his initial hearing on the Class A misdemeanor.  If convicted of the charge as filed, Johnson would automatically lose his job, based on Indiana law that prohibits officers from retaining police powers.  He is represented by Russell Brown, an attorney in the Scott King Group.


Two More Gary Officers Quit, Applicants Sought
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[5 Jun 2015]

Two more officers have resigned from the Gary police department, which is at least 20 short of a full roster of 235.

Cpl. Frank Nanney and probationary officer Stephen Hawkins both submitted resignations last month.  The Gary Police Civil Service Commission acknowledged the action at its regular monthly meeting Thursday night.

Nanney had been on extended sick leave before he notified the city he would not return.  Hawkins quit after police administrators learned of a posting he made on Facebook that was deemed unprofessional, sources said.

The city is processing a group of applicants now, but commission administrator Angela Brown told the board that it should begin issuing applications again.  The board agreed to made applications available from June 15 through July 31 at the Public Safety Facility.  Applicants must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 21 and 35 years old, with a high school diploma, a valid driver's license and no criminal convictions of a Class A misdemeanor or higher.

In other business, the board agreed to postpone an appeal hearing for reserve officer Joe Franklin until its July meeting.  City attorney Rodney Pol sought the appeal, saying he was not properly notified of the date and time of the original hearing.  Franklin was accused of stealing $300 from a prisoner and the board voted to suspend his reserve powers for 60 days, which is lapsed.

Commission attorney Rinzer Williams said Franklin can be returned to the active reserve list.  His lawyer, Russell Brown, complained Franklin tried to get his police radio and the request was denied.  Williams said Franklin's powers were reinstated after the suspension ended.


Sheriff Blames Condition of Neighborhoods for Gary Murder Rate
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[5 Jun 2015]

Lake County Sheriff John Buncich says he thinks he has a solution to the once-again rising homicide rate in Gary, and it doesn't entail more police officers on the streets.

Buncich used a forum on public safety Thursday evening at City Hall to say he thinks Gary government ought to triple the size of its Code Enforcement Department the entity that can ticket property owners for letting their lands become decrepit.  Having more Code Enforcement officers scouring the city for abandoned and neglected buildings would result in many of those structures ultimately being torn down, which would be a step towards improving the physical condition of Gary, Buncich said.

The sheriff said that would then help improve the overall image of the city and make local residents more inclined to work with police, which would help them to investigate and solve many more of the murder cases than they currently are able to.

"Everybody has got to get to work if we're going to do something to resolve this problem," said Buncich, who said the solution to dealing with the homicide rate does not include outside help.  "We're not going to get assistance from Indianapolis," Buncich said.  "If I were to appeal to the National Guard for help, they would tell me to get lost."

June Atkins, who has lived 58 of her 80 years in Gary, was pleased with what Buncich said.  She said her neighborhood has become gang-ridden with many vacant homes on her block providing cover.  "It looks like a war zone," she said.  "I'm getting afraid to walk outside."

While Gary resident Ethel Collins said she wishes the Gary Police Department were able to respond to more calls for help.  The Gary police are concerned, but they don't send out officers like they used to," she said.

For the first five months of this year, there have been 19 homicides in the city.  Police Chief Larry McKinley said just over half of them were incidents of domestic violence, rather than gang-related or other related to other crimes.

Councilman Ronald Brewer, D-At-large, said that to Gary residents, the distinction doesn't matter.  "People refer to us as the 'murder capital.'  They don't really care if someone's death was or was not gang-related," he said, adding he expects the city's rate to increase during the summer months.  "It hasn't got hot yet," he said.  "We all know that when the temperatures pick up during the summer, the situation will get worse."

For his part, Brewer said it might be possible for city officials to achieve Buncich's suggestion of tripling the Code Enforcement Department, which he said would require roughly a $200,000 investment.  He said city officials would have to review the entirety of the municipal budget to find other areas to cut spending to get the money.  While refusing to say what city programs might be cut, Brewer said, "Our police department and other public safety programs have to be our first priority."

Thursday's forum is not the only event this week trying to draw attention to the homicide rate.  Neighborhood activists have coordinated a walk-a-thon for 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday from 13th Avenue and Broadway to Buffington Park at 6th Avenue and Connecticut Street.  Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson plans to participate, along with both McKinley and Buncich.

Buncich expressed his dismay at the need for such an event.  "How many of these marches do we have to go to before we do something about the problem," the sheriff said.


Officials Say Extension of Gary Airport Runway Nearly Done
Compiled From an AP Wire Report
[4 Jun 2015]

GARY, Ind. (AP) Officials at the Gary airport say the final pavement has been laid as part of a $174.1 million extension of its main runway.

The (Munster) Times reports the project is meant to give Gary/Chicago International Airport the ability to handle larger planes.  Interim airport director Dan Vicari says the expanded runway will open June 25 as planned.  Planes have been using the existing length of the runway.  Airport spokeswoman Emily Tapia-Lopez says the remaining construction projects deal with environmental remediation.

The expansion has been in the works since 2006.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  Hey, what is a decade in the cosmos of time?


Gary Takes Next Step in Demolition Process
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Ed Bierschenk
[4 Jun 2015]

GARY | The city awarded bids to demolish 41 buildings to six contractors Wednesday with the prices once again coming in below the amount Gary was awarded to knock down the structures.

Last year, Gary received $6.6 million through the Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program that was initially expected to allow the city to tear down a minimum of 379 blighted structures with the average allotment coming out to between $15,000 and $20,000 per structure.  The actual cost has been coming in lower than anticipated.  Gary Redevelopment Director Joseph Van Dyk now estimates the city can tear down as many as 800 to 900 structures with the money.

For instance, Van Dyk said the city's was allotted more than $650,000 to demolish the 41 structures that are next on the list to be demolished.  Instead, he said, the actual amount the city will pay will be $363,900.  The city already has demolished 37 structures with the federal money it received through the state program and Van Dyk has estimated that perhaps 400 will be torn down this year.


Woman Raped, Robbed in Downtown Gary
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[3 Jun 2015]

GARY | A 49-year-old woman was raped and robbed about 11 a.m. Monday in downtown Gary, police said.

The woman told police she was walking south in the 500 block of Broadway when a man with a gun grabbed her from behind and forced her into an alley and then into an abandoned building.  The man forced her to perform sex acts against her will while holding her at gunpoint inside the building, police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Decanter said.

The man then took $600 from the woman and fled, he said.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  We are talking about Gary's main intersection here, a mere stone throw from City Hall!



Harris Sr. Owes $1.6M,
Harris, Jr. Sues Customer for $3.07
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[2 Jun 2015]

Jewell Harris, Sr. owes the Gary Sanitary District and the City of Gary over $1.6M.

One would think a cash strapped city may put collecting that money high on the priority list. That would be incorrect.  Instead, the Sanitary District has provided Jewell Harris, Jr. yet another contract to collect hundreds, perhaps thousands, of purported overdue accounts.  Those customers say they dont owe any money.

Miller resident Lita Filipo says she got a letter threatening a lawsuit if she did not pay $3.07.  "I cannot believe the Board would even allow this to happen.  How much are they paying to have an attorney send me a letter for $3.07.  I pay my bill and do not owe them any money" Filipo told the Gazette via telephone.  The letter clearly states that Filipo will be sued if she does not pay the $3.07.

Some residents took to social media to express their outrage suggesting that everyone should dispute the validity of the debt and request a complete copy of the billing record.

If you have received a collection letter and dispute the debt, we would like to hear from you in the comments.  We may use your comments in an upcoming feature.


Local Steel Production Up for Second Straight Week
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[2 Jun 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region ticked up to 631,000T last week, the second straight week it increased.

Local steel output has been much lower than normal all this year amid a deluge of imports that now account for a record one-third of the total market share.  Great Lakes steel production rose by 3,000T, or 0.4%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output fell by 1.8% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the American South, declined to 553,000T last week, down from 573,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.7 million tons, down from 1.732 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.9% last week, down from 73.3% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 77.3% at the same time a year earlier.  Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.2%.

Year-to-date output was 36.6 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.3%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.


Local Steel Production Increases by 15,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[29 May 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region shot up to 628,000T last week.

Local steel output remains much lower than normal amid a deluge of imports that now account for a record one-third of the total market share.  Great Lakes steel production rose by 15,000T, or 2.4%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses mini-mills across the American South, dipped to 573,000T last week, down from 575,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.732 million tons, up from 1.705 million tons a week earlier.  Overall U.S. steel output rose by 1.5%.  However, U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.2%.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 73.3% last week, up from 72.1% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 77.3% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date output was 34.9 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.3%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.


Fed Investigation Requested to Look into Gary Primary Winner
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[27 May 2015]

CROWN POINT | A Lake County government official has called for a federal inquiry into the winner of the May 5 primary for Gary's 6th District City Council.

"I'm a whistleblower, and I'm not ashamed of it," Eugene Krasoczka, a former deputy director of the Lake County Economic Development Department, said Wednesday of a complaint he recently filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.  He asked Erica Hamrick of the OSC to investigate whether LaVetta Sparks-Wade violated the Hatch Act, a federal law forbidding political campaigning by federal employees or local government employees whose salaries come entirely from federal grants.  Krasoczka claims her $50,000 annual salary comes entirely from a Housing and Urban Development grant that funds the work of the county government's economic development work to enhance local businesses and rehab housing.

Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington, D-Merrillville, a political ally of Sparks-Wade, said at least part of her salary comes from local property taxes.  "She is not in violation of the Hatch Act.  The Hatch Act clearly states a position cannot be funded 100% by federal funds.  That position has never been fully federally funded.  This is a case of Gene Krasoczka harassing one of our employees and trying to make something out of nothing," Washington said.

Sparks-Wade, who became deputy director of the Lake County Economic Development Department on March 6, declined to comment.

Nick Schwellenbach, senior communications specialist for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, stated in an email to The Times, "We generally cannot comment or even confirm if we have a case, due to privacy laws."  He confirmed Erica Hamrick is the deputy chief of the Office of Special Counsels Hatch Act Unit.

Tim Brown, the county's economic development director and Sparks-Wade's supervisor, said Wednesday he received a call from OSC.  "There was a request for information from the office.  I have to get back to her as to her specific question related to how the (Sparks-Wade) position is paid," Brown said.

Sparks-Wade provided a profile to the Times earlier this year stating she is a Gary native, a graduate of Lew Wallace High School, received a bachelor's from Tuskegee University in political science and a master's in public affairs from IUN.  She was a Gary precinct committeewoman and employed at a Merrillville family counseling service in January when she became one of of six Democrats who challenged Gary City Councilman Ronier L. Scott's re-election bid.  She defeated him 534-358.


Steel Import Market Share Up Nearly 18%
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[27 May 2015]

Steel imports fell 4% in April, but continued to grip a full third of the U.S. market share.

So far this year, imports are on pace to crush the previous record for market share by a margin of nearly 18%.

The steel industry has become increasingly globalized, and multinational steelmakers like ArcelorMittal and Sevestal often import raw steel into the United States for finishing.  But U.S. steelmakers say the root cause for so many cheap imports is as much as 600 million tons of global overcapacity that has led China, South Korea and other countries to subsidize exports that are sold at a loss in America.  Here domestic steelmakers have to foot their own bills without comparable government assistance.

The United States imported 3.4 million net tons of steel in April, a 3.7% decline compared to March, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Standard pipe, heavy structural shapes, cold-rolled sheets, and sheets and strip and all other metallic coatings all posted double-digit increases in April over March.  So far this year, line pipe imports are up 93%, heavy structural shapes have increased by 81% and cut-length plates have risen by 49%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  The long list of finished imports that have posted significant gains in 2015 include standard pipe, plates in coils, cold-rolled sheets, reinforcing bars, tin plate, oil country tubular goods, and hot-rolled sheets.

Overall, total steel imports are up 13% over the same period in 2014.  The United States has already imported 15.2 million net tons of raw steel through April, or more than three times as much as ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor can make over the course of an entire year.  Finished steel imports have skyrocketed 27% to 12.6 million net tons year-to-date, according to American Iron and Steel Institute data.  Finished products account for 33% of the market share in April and year-to-date.  On an annualized basis, finished steel imports would be up 12% over 2014.


Griffith Secession on Hold While Cal Twp Trustee Cuts Spending
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
[24 May2015]

GRIFFITH | Town officials had hoped to be preparing in the coming months for a referendum to bolt Calumet Township and its tax burdens.  But town officials recently learned a state law that was supposed to authorize their separation had some fine print that is keeping the town and township hitched, however unhappily, for the present.

"It is so frustrating," Griffith Town Council President Rick Ryfa said recently as he reactivated the town's long secession campaign.  The town long lobbied for legislation, passed in 2013, that was supposed to trigger Griffith's secession process, if the trustee's tax rate for administering assistance was more than 12 times the state average.

Ryfa said town officials assumed the average rate would be calculated by simply adding up the spending for township assistance programs across the state and divide the total by the 1,008 townships.  "That way, (Calumet) is over 40% higher than what they need to be.  We had been using that for two years so we figured we were good to go and had all the plans ready with an election referendum," Ryfa said.

However, the law stipulates the average township assistance levy must be determined by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, which oversees tax rates, not Griffith.  DLGF issued a memorandum recently that Calumet's 2015 township assistance administration rate was $.1425 per $100 assessed value.  While high, Calumet's tax rate is only 10.4 times the average statewide township assistance rate and just under the secession law's trigger rate.

Ryfa said the difference between Griffith and DLGF's viewpoints is that DLGF uses a "weighted average." That formula includes not only the tax dollars spent, but also the township's assessed value, the official worth of business and agricultural and residential real estate for taxing purposes.  Ryfa argues there is nothing in the law that authorizes a weighted average.  "Using their method, the township is just a hair under the number limit," Ryfa said.  Ryfa also believes Cal Twp's assessed value, as determined by the township assessor, is inflated by more than $300 million.  "That is what is killing us because if they had a true assessed value the trustee blows past the limit."

Cal Twp Trustee Kimberly "Kim" Robinson, who took office in January, said she is determined to keep Griffith in the township's fold.  "We are trying our hardest to work with the town of Griffith. We give them what they ask for and certainly what they deserve."  The Cal Twp trustee's office once extracted nearly $2 million a year from Griffith residents to provide housing and other basic services to township residents who live below the poverty line.

Officials plan to meet later this summer with local legislators and the leadership of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, which oversees the DLGF, to change their calculation of the average," Ryfa said.  Ryfa said if that meeting fails, he would like the General Assembly to amend the law and remove all doubt about how to arrive at the average.

State Rep. Hal Slager has asked for a legislative committee to "review the progress and the spirit of what was done with House Enrolled 1585."


Gary City Council to Look at Republic Trash Contract
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[23 May 2015]

"$248.98 fee per trash can, per month at City beaches raises questions -

Gary City Council members say they will take a look at the recently awarded no-bid contract between the Gary Sanitary District and Republic Services of Indiana.  Councilman-At-Large Kyle Allen said at last weeks council meeting that they need to take a look at that terms.  Councilman Ron Brewer told the Gazette via telephone that he would bring the issue up at the next council meeting.  "I will be taking a look at that" Brewer said, referring to the no-bid Republic Contract.

The comments came after activist Jim Nowacki pointed out that the contract calls for Republic to receive $248.98 per trash can at City controlled beaches.  According to the contract, Republic will be paid over $400,000 per year to collect trash at the City beach.  The contract states that there are 150 trash cans at the beach.  The contract price for emptying 138 trash cans in City Parks is just over $16,000 per year ($10 per trash can).  [Gee, when I do the math $16,000/138=$115.94 and 138 x $10=$1,380.00?]  The proposal the Sanitary District rejected, from Lakeshore Recycling, provided collection services at City beaches for $10 per container.

In addition to the $400,000 beach bonus, the "house count" was raised in the contract.  Waste Management was paid to collect from 22,600 houses under the contract which Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson abruptly cancelled last fall.  The request for proposals for the no-bid contract also called for a house count of 22,600.  Unexplainably, the contract calls for Republic to be paid to collect from 22,896 residences.  The City guarantees payment for the contracted number of houses whether they are vacant or not.  Under the prior contract, the inflated house count was the primary factor which resulted in an $11M shortfall in collections.  Nowacki told the Gazette he believes the actual house count to be closer to 17,000.  Regardless, there is no reason for the City to guarantee payment under the contract.

Republic Services, through a PAC, donated over $10,000 to the re-election campaign of Karen Freeman-Wilson in just over a year.  Waste Management donated just $1,000.00.  After the contract was awarded, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson stated that there was a competitive bidding process and Republic won out over Lakeshore.  That simply is not true; there was no bidding and the Republic contract will cost the residents millions of dollars more over the next five years.


RDA Targets $12 Million for Two Gary Projects
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[21 May 2015]

Two Gary projects totaling $12 million have won backing from the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority.

On Thursday, the RDA board of directors agreed to review a request for providing $7.5 million toward the construction of a new industrial corridor access road in Buffington Harbor to reactivate the dormant lakefront site.  The RDA also pledged $4.5 million as part of a funding match for a federal grant aimed at establishing at transit-oriented development (TOD) in Miller, near the South Shore commuter rail station on Lake Street.

Both projects dominated the discussion at Thursday's meeting.

Gary city adviser Bo Kemp, chairman of the city's Economic Development Corp., said the access road would be parallel to the existing road that takes patrons to the Majestic Star Casino and hotel.  He said a roundabout would be constructed near the Majestic Star archway and industrial traffic would be routed to the new road.  Kemp said the cost of the road is $14 million.  He said the city would contribute $3.5 million from a tax increment finance fund and the Indiana Department of Transportation would add $2.3 million.

RDA executive director Bill Hanna said the project is aimed at relieving traffic congestion along Clark Rd, used primarily by U.S. Steel and other industries.  He said they've been looking for solutions for about two years.  "We tried to find a budget-conscious way to solve the problem to relieve the artery from industrial traffic," Hanna said.  "This gives us some relief to U.S. Steel by not pushing more traffic on Clark Rd."  He said it could be a more environmentally friendly way to address the problem, as well.

The city is applying for a $28 million U.S. Department of Transportation Transit Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant for improvements at the Miller South Shore station.  Kemp said the RDA's share would be $4.5 million.  The city's share would be $1 million, while the Northern Indiana Commuter Transit District would contribute $800,000.  The money will be combined to make up the local match for a federal grant the three organizations will apply for, according to the RDA.  If the grant application succeeds, the U.S. Department of Transportations Transit Investment Generating Economic Recovery program would contribute $21.05 million to the project.  If the application is rejected, the RDA will not appropriate the funds.

NICTD general manager Mike Noland said the railroad's portion of the grant would be used for the engineering to establish a double track system and high-level platforms from "Tennessee St to Randolph" in Gary, enabling more trains with faster times, Noland said.  The goal, he said, realizable perhaps in a decade, would be provide commuters with 90 minute trips from South Bend, 60 minutes from Michigan City, 50 minutes from Dune Park, 40 Minutes from Ogden Dunes, 30 minutes from Gary and 25 minutes from Hammond.

"We want to stop the outflow of young professional couples with faster commutes," Noland said.  Planned improvements and enhancements to the rail commute should raise the South Shore's current ridership of 12,000 annually to 18,00 to 20,000 annually.

Hanna said TODs allow communities to extract maximum value from commuter trains.  They create high-density housing, retail shops and a streetscape all connected to Marquette Park, where the RDA has already invested $28 million.


Great Lakes Steel Output Ticks Up Slightly
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[19 May 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose slightly to 613,000T last week.

Great Lakes steel production rose by a piddling 3,000T, or 0.4% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output rose by 2.4% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which encompasses the mini-mills across the American South, rose to 575,000T last week, up from 556,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.705 million tons, up from 1.665 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.1% last week, up from 70.4% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 77.3% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 33.2 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.3%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.

Steel output remains much lower than normal amid an inundation of imports that now account for a record one-third of the total market share.  Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 7.2%.


Steel Shipments, Exports Both Increased in March
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[19 May 2015]

The steel industry continues to struggle as was recently evidenced by ArcelorMittal's shuttering of a South Carolina wire rod mill where 226 people had worked and U.S. Steel's layoffs of 285 more workers at Gary Works over the last few weeks.  But shipments are improving, and exports are also up slightly.

U.S. steel mills shipped 7.2 million net tons of steel in March, a 5% increase over the previous month, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Cold-rolled sheets and hot-rolled sheets both big products at Northwest Indiana's mills were up 10% and 5%, respectively.

Shipments, or steel the mills have actually sold, were still down 12.8% in March as compared to the previous year.  The demand for steel has been growing but imports have captured a record third of the U.S. market share this year, which industry leaders have blamed for wave after wave of plant idlings and layoffs.

So far in 2015, U.S. mills have shipped 21.9 net tons, or about 7.9% less than during the same period in 2014.  They exported 896,027 net tons in March, the American Institute for International Steel estimates.

Exports, or shipments that steel mills send abroad, were 2% higher in March than in February, but they were still down about 13.8% as compared to March 2014. Much of the gain came from trading partners within North America. Exports to Canada increased 4.2% in March, while exports to Mexico rose 2.9%, or about 4.9% more than the previous March. China imported about 10,644 net tons of American-made steel, a tiny fraction of what Canada and Mexico bought from U.S. mills but a 45.5 increase over February.

Gains were offset however by a 36% plunge in exports to Europe, the AIIS estimates.  Over the first three months of the year, steel exports are down 7.1%, due largely to a 16.6% decline in exports to Canada.

"The drop in exports from 2014 to 2015 is unsurprising, given that the U.S. dollar is significantly stronger now than it was a year ago," the American Institute for International Steel said in a statement.  "The pickup in exports from February to March, meanwhile, may simply be a function especially in the case of Canada of getting past the coldest and snowiest part of the year.  An expensive dollar, combined with stagnant or weak economic activity in much of the world, appears to leave little room for optimism on the part of exporters for the rest of 2015."


Grimes v. City of Gary et al:  A Comedy of Errors in Federal Court
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[16 May 2015]

The City of Gary has increased spending on outside contractors, including attorneys, by almost double in the past 3 years.

The City of Gary spends more on attorney fees than nearly any other City in the State of Indiana including retainers for high priced attorneys to represent Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson individually.  The Citys contracts with politically connected attorney Jewell Harris, Jr. have been the subject of much debate, but this case involves the Citys beleaguered legal department.

Now the City is facing sanctions after dragging a case out for over two years in United States District Court.  The comedy of errors includes an appearance by an attorney who was suspended from the practice of law in addition to the usual delay and obfuscation tactics employed by the Freeman-Wilson administration.

In the most recent filing the City "recognizes that it has not handled this case as it should have" but pleads for mercy from the Court.  The City "acknowledges the propriety of an award of costs and attorney fees" is appropriate in the case.  The unusual recognition of mishandling the case comes on the heels of US Disctrict Court Judge Philip Simon threatening to enter judgment against the City of Gary and the Gary Community School Corporation for utterly and completely failing to comply with requests for information filed by Plaintiff.  Complicating matters, the City of Gary has gone through three attorneys in the matter.  It now has hired the firm of Tolbert and Tolbert to try to clear up the mess.

The real irony in the matter is that the primary case is against the Gary Community School Corporation and the City probably has little, if any, liability in the matter.  Now it may have to pay attorney fees and other costs associated with the mishandling of the matter.


2 Killed in Separate Gary Shootings
#18 and Counting

#19 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell and Carrie Napoleon
[16 May 2015]

Overnight shootings in Gary leave at least two dead.  Gary police are investigating two separate overnight shootings that left two men dead.  A suspect is in custody in one of the shootings.

Deonte Ballard, 22, was shot at his home in the 1200 block of Aetna St, in the Aetna neighborhood.

An investigation team from the Lake County coroner's office was dispatched just after 11 p.m. Ballard was pronounced dead at the scene at 11:59 p.m., according to a news release from the coroner's office.  Responding officers found another shooting victim with Ballard, but that person survived the injuries, Gary Police Sgt. Thomas Decanter said.  Detectives Cpl. Edward Gonzalez and James Bond are investigating.

Detective Alexander Jones, meanwhile, is investigating the shooting of George Blackmon Jr., 58.  Blackmon was shot at about 1 a.m. at his home in the 1600 block of W 10th St, in Gary's Tolleston neighborhood.  He died about an hour later at Methodist Hospital Northlake.

A suspect in the shooting was arrested while driving a van with his wife and three children in White County, going south on I-65, police said.

Sgt. Thomas Decanter, a Gary police spokesman, said the two men knew each other, but their relationship is unclear.  He said it appears the two were arguing over money when the suspect pulled out a weapon and shot Blackmon.  The suspect is in custody at the Lake County Jail pending charges Monday by the Lake County prosecutor's office.

Lake County police Deputy Chief Dan Murchek coordinated with state police and a cell phone provider to ping the suspect's cell phone, which led to his apprehension by Indiana state troopers.  Lake County police returned the suspect to Gary and escorted the suspect's wife and three children ages 6 and younger back to Lake County, where the van was seized for evidence.


Friday Night Shootout
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[16 May 2015]

It was a particularly violent Friday night in Gary.  In addition to two homicides,a call came in stating that there was a shootout at 22nd and Carolina.  The caller reported that at least 25 shots were fired by multiple people.  An as yet unidentified man was shot in the shoulder and transported to Methodist Hospital Northlake.


Father Killed After Fight with Son Turns Into Shootout
#17 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell and Carrie Napoleon
[15 May 2015]

An argument between a father and son turned violent quickly Thursday evening as the two men both began shooting at each other inside the family home, police said Friday.

Hours later, Clifford Flemming Sr., 59, was pronounced dead at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood of gunshot wounds to his head and leg, police said.  A spokeswoman for the Cook County medical examiner said an autopsy will be performed Saturday.

Flemming's 32-year-old son was taken into custody at the scene, but later released, police said.  Investigators say the son's actions appear to be justified.  The case will be presented to the Lake County prosecutor for a final decision.

Shortly before 6 p.m., patrolmen Nicholas Sanchez and Michael Mitchell went to the Flemming home in the 700 block of Tyler St for "a violent disturbance that involved shots fired," the police report states.

The victim's ex-wife told Sgt. Brock Brnicky that her son had shot her ex-husband.  Police found the wounded man on the floor outside an upstairs bathroom.  Investigators found a second handgun under the victim.

Her son, whose clothing was covered in blood, was not wounded and told officers he was trying to help his father.  He was wearing a handgun on his hip, the report states.

Police described the father-son relationship as "contentious."  Detective James Bond said that like so many violent crimes, this family tragedy could have been avoided.  "It's an unfortunate situation.  If people would just take time to calm down, just walk away, before things escalate."

Flemming is the 17th homicide victim of the year.  At this time in 2014, the city had recorded 10 homicides.  Gary didn't experience its 17th homicide last year until July 7.


U.S. Steel Laid Off Another 285 at Gary Works
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[15 May 2015]

GARY | U.S. Steel, one of Northwest Indiana's largest employers, has laid off 285 more workers in yet another round of layoffs at Gary Works over the last few weeks.

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker laid off 270 hourly union-represented workers three weeks ago, but then recalled 52 of them the following week, bringing the total number of current hourly layoffs to 218.  U.S. Steel laid off another 67 salaried managers at Gary Works on Friday.

"The reason is, as with other layoffs throughout the company, the extended challenging market conditions that are impacting the company," spokeswoman Courtney Boone said.  "Those affected have been determined through a comprehensive analysis of our operational and maintenance needs as well as our staff levels as we continue to adjust production across the entire company."  The layoffs are supposed to be temporary, and the laid-off workers could be called back if sales and production pick back up.

So far this year, U.S. Steel has warned about a fourth of its total workforce 9,000 workers in all they could be laid off because of challenging market conditions.

The steelmaker turned its first annual profit in five years in 2014, but then saw its lucrative tubular business vaporize when the price of oil suddenly plummeted in half, effectively killing demand for new drilling.  Then a historic onslaught of cheap imported steel got even worse, going from a record 28% market share last year to 33% of the market share this year.

U.S. Steel disappointed analysts by losing a worse-than-expected $75 million in the first quarter.  Sales have plunged by 26%, and the steelmaker has been forced to cut production at all its plants.

The damage has been severe in Northwest Indiana, where U.S. Steel has had such an outsized influence that its name can be found on everything from deli sandwiches to a minor league baseball stadium.  Earlier this year, U.S. Steel idled East Chicago Tin, where a skeleton crew of around 100 workers is running only two lines part of the time.  The steelmaker plans to lay off as many as 323 workers when it permanently shutters the coke plant at Gary Works.  In March, the mill laid off 83 workers who had been there for six months or less.


State Police Seize Records at Gary City Hall
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[15 May 2015]

The Gazette has learned that the Indiana State Police have seized phone records from Gary City Hall.  The seizure comes amid an investigation into purchasing by the Department of Information Technology which was formed under the administration of current Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.  Indiana State Police spokesperson First Sergeant Al Williamson confirmed that "there is an ongoing investigation that began about three weeks ago" in a telephone interview with the Gazette on May 4, 2015.  Since that time we have learned that purchases at the IT Department went largely unchecked.

The Gazette will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest details as they break.


Haymon Gets Probation in Tax Fraud Scheme
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Christin Nance Lazerus
[15 May 2015]

U.S. District Judge James Moody sentenced Jerry Haymon Jr. whose father served a federal prison term for mortgage and tax fraud to two years probation and payment of $20,349 in restitution to the IRS for his involvement in an income tax fraud scheme.

Last summer, the Gary man plead guilty to funneling clients to Lake Station tax preparer, who was filing fraudulent tax returns in order to defraud the U.S. government.  The plea agreement states that Haymon received $1,000 for each client who he referred to Michael Nash, who is also facing federal charges, and allowed Nash to use his bank account for the refund deposits, which the pair would share.  Nash has admitted that the scheme yielded anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million, according to federal court records.

Haymon's attorney John Cantrell said Thursday that he thought the sentence that the judge handed down was "very fair."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Bell did note that Haymon has assisted the government in the case against Nash.  Nash has plead guilty to falsifying tax returns and depositing the additional money into a bank account that he had control over.  He is set to be sentenced at 10 a.m. Tuesday in U.S. District Judge Philip Simon's court.

In November 2011, Haymon's father Jerry Haymon pleaded guilty two separate cases where he used money from the city of Gary to renovate a house and enriched himself with $1 million from his charity without reporting the income to the IRS.  He was released from prison on Aug. 22, 2014, after serving almost 29 months in prison.


Man Charged in Brutal Gas Station Attack
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[14 May 2015]

Bright yellow shirt leads to arrest in gas station attack

That bright yellow T-shirt worn by a suspect in last week's brutal group attack on a gas station attendant helped police obtain felony charges against the man they said appeared to be an aggressor.

Andrew A. Jackson, 23, who has addresses in Gary and Salt Creek Commons in Porter County, was charged Thursday with robbery resulting in serious bodily injury, aggravated battery and battery resulting in serious bodily injury.  He is not in custody, but when he is arrested, he will be held on $65,000 bail, court records show.

Video surveillance obtained by police shows a young man in a yellow T-shirt inside the Clark gas station at 2395 Grant St about 10:40 p.m. May 7, just minutes before a swarm of young men descended on the store's clerk outside the business.

The video shows a group of at least eight young men in the lot and several beating the 42-year-old man.  Others climb up and jump on the roof, hood and trunk of his car.

"It shows the man in the yellow T-shirt striking this man in the head, knocking him to the pavement," the probable cause affidavit states.

Within seconds of the assault, Lake County Cpl. David Marshall saw a group of men running west from the station and then saw the victim on the ground with a bleeding head injury, the affidavit states.  Marshall told Sgt. William Fazekas that he noticed one of the men running was wearing a bright yellow T-shirt.  Lake County Detective Victor Zamora heard Marshall's description and located Jackson by identifying his clothing.  He took identification information from Jackson and at least one other person, the affidavit states.

The clerk suffered a fractured skull. He was released from the hospital and is recovering in Chicago.


Man Fatally Shot in Glen Park
#16 and Counting
Compiled From a Chicago Tribune Staff Report
[13 May 2015]

A 45-year-old man was shot to death late Tuesday in northwest Indiana, authorities said.

Therical Gassion, of the 3600 block of Van Buren St in Gary, was wounded by multiple gunshots on the block where he lives.

He was taken to Methodist Northlake Hospital, according to a statement from the Lake County coroners office.  There, Gassion was pronounced dead at 9:49 p.m.  His death was ruled a homicide.

No other information about the shooting was immediately available.

From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[14 May 2015]

Therical Gassion was still in his white painter's clothes Tuesday night when his friend dropped him at home after a long work day.

"We were all inside," Gassion's sister, Lytonya Gassion, said Wednesday.  "We heard five or six shots.  We all fell to the floor because it was so loud and so close."

When the shooting stopped, she looked out the front and saw "something white in the distance."  It was her 45-year-old brother, Therical, shot in the chest at 8:40 p.m. outside the home where he lives with his sister and parents in the 3600 block of Van Buren St.

Gassion died at the Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus about an hour later.

A painter by trade, Gassion loved music and spent his free time in a studio.  "His name meant to make things better and that's what he tried to do, make things better.  He always had a good word for people," his sister, five years his junior, said from the family home.  "He was a very low key person."

Family members are baffled why anyone would want to kill him.  His sister made an appeal to anyone who has the smallest bit of information that could help police identify the shooter.  "If they have any information at all, it would be greatly appreciated," she said.

Detectives Cpl. Edward Gonzalez and James Bond are investigating the homicide.  Police had no one in custody in connection with the homicide Wednesday morning.  Investigators were uncertain if Gassion was an intended target.  Anyone with information can reach Gonzalez at (219) 881-4750 and Bond at (219) 881-4751.


New 2nd Job Restrictions for Gary Cops Causes Stir
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[12 May 2015]

A long-anticipated but hastily issued order has some Gary police officers and local bar owners wondering and worrying what it means.

Perhaps intended to halt security jobs at bars, the rule, as distributed, doesn't allow officers to work at the Majestic Star Casino, Rail Cats games or functions at the Genesis Center where alcohol is served.  The order states that "outside employment is prohibited when . . . employees work for any establishment that serves alcohol."

The police administration handed down the new order hours after Patrolman Brandon Gildon was grazed in the side and not in his leg as originally reported in a shootout outside Shaw's Bar early Friday.  Police spokesman Sgt Thomas Decanter said Monday the rule became effective immediately.

Decanter said the order was supposed to refer to businesses that "solely" serve alcohol.  But the copy posted last week to all officers does not include that word.  And more than one police officer noted that even the tiniest neighborhood bar sells some kind of snacks.

As news of of the rule spread, some bar owners who occasionally hire Gary officers said they are not happy to lose the help.  Willie "Russell" Gregory, owner of Chop's Lounge at 5th & Chase, noted that the salaries for Gary officers are very low, and they need the extra work.  "I feel safer with a Gary police officer," Gregory said.  "I rarely have any problems here, but when I do, they can quell it quickly."  "Now, I'll just do the security myself," he said.

Tonia Hayes, owner of the Zanzibar Lounge at 5th and Tompkins Street in Brunswick, took over the business when her uncle died in 2008.  Like Gregory, Hayes said she has an older clientele and rarely experiences a problem, but when young people come in and see a police officer there, it sends a message that they must behave.

"My customers feel very comfortable here any time of the day or night," Hayes said.  For three months, the street light at her corner was broken, and she worried about people leaving in the dark, but with police as security, there were no issues, she said.

Fraternal Order of Police President Samuel Abegg said Tuesday that representatives from his association have met with the administration over proposed changes to department rules and he was surprised at the restrictive wording.  "When we discussed the modifications, it was that places that serve alcohol but not primarily would be acceptable."

Decanter noted that officers working any second jobs must complete a form and submit it to the police chief for approval.  "He will decide on a case-by-case basis," Decanter said.


Great Lakes Steel Output Plunges to 610,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[12 May 2015]

Steel output remains much lower than normal amid a record deluge of imports that account for about a third of the total market share.

Local steel production fell by 40,000T, or 6.1% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.   Overall U.S. steel output dropped by 2.3% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second-biggest steel-producing region, rose to 556,000T last week, up from 546,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.665 million tons, down from 1.712 million tons a week earlier.  Overall U.S. production lags 2014 by 7.1%.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 70.4% last week, down from 72.4% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 77.3% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 31.5 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.3%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.


Gary IT, Prof Services Spending Up; Police, Fire Down
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[10 May 2015]

In the wake of allegations that employees of the City of Gary Department of Information Technology were selling computer equipment on the black market, we decided to look at spending in various departments over the past several years.

It should come as no surprise to Gazette readers that spending on professional services contracts is up dramatically.  In fact, from 2011 to 2014, spending on professional services rose by 82%.  During the same time period, spending on police dropped from $12,794,894.30 in 2011 to $10,727,474.83 in 2014 (16.16%).

Under Mayor Rudy Clay, no fiscal conservative himself, the City spent $877,149.88 on no-bid professional services contracts.  By 2014 that number had risen to $1,603,086.60 under Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Professional services contracts are difficult to track and, although we have requested information on each, we do not have accurate numbers for every recipient.  We do know that insiders such as Bo Kemp, Curtis Whittaker, Dan Vicari, Chelsea Whittington, and Mary Cossey all have professional services contracts.

The Department of Information and Technology was created in the Freeman-Wilson administration.  Prior to that time, information technology was handled by the Department of Finance in the division of management information systems.  The Department of Information Technology budget jumped by nearly $300,000 in 2014 to $1,028,939 according to records filed with the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance.


Hensley Files Complaint Over $5 "Christmas" Gifts
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[9 May 2015]

As reported exclusively in the Gazette, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson visited several senior citizen housing locations and handed out "Christmas" cards containing $5.00 in the days leading up to the primary nomination.  Dean Hensely, who was a candidate in that primary race, has now filed a complaint with the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration.  In the Complaint Hensley states "I am requesting that the Board investigate this matter fully and refer the case to the Lake County Prosecutor."

The Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration is scheduled to hear complaints from two other candidates, Jim Nowacki and Robert Buggs on May 19.  Those complaints allege, among other things, that Freeman-Wilson failed to itemize expenditures totalling over $200,000.  Candidates are required to itemize expenditures when they total over $100 during a year.  Nowacki is also asking that the Board refer the campaign finance reports to the Indiana State Board of Accounts for review.

The complaint process with the Board is a two stage inquiry.  The first stage is for the Board to determine if there is a "substantial reason to believe that a violation of election law has occurred."  For the Hensley complaint, the substantial belief determination is expected to take place at the May 19 hearing.  The Board has already found a "substantial reason to believe that a violation of election law has occurred" with regard to the Nowacki and Buggs complaints.  Those matters are scheduled for full hearing on May 19.
[COMMENT -GDY]:  I am glad someone had the courage to file a complaint.  I also hope the Board of Elections has what it takes to find a violation and refer it to the prosecutor for action.  As I stated when this story broke, I cannot believe da' Mayor did such a stupid thing!


Gas Station Worker Attacked by Mob
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[8 May 2015]

A 42-year-old Merrillville man suffered a fractured skull when he was knocked down, beaten and robbed Thursday night as he left work, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said Friday.

The victim is shown on surveillance video leaving the gas station at 2295 Grant St about 10:45 p.m.  As he walked out, he was surrounded by about a dozen young teens "who came from all directions," Pawlak said.  The mob knocked the man down, went through his pockets and took his wallet.  His skull was fractured and he had other injuries, Pawlak said.  He was initially treated at the Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus, but was later flown to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, IL.

Some of the attackers could have been as young as 10 to 12 years old, Pawlak said

The surveillance video shows the teens had been inside the gas station earlier that night, then apparently returned and watched for the clerk to exit the building, Pawlak said.

Lake County Detective Jeff Minchuk, who is assigned to the Gary Violent Crimes Unit, is investigating the robbery and battery. Anyone with information can call him at 881-1210.


Blue Chip Shows Area's Biggest Casino Gain in April
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Karen Caffarini
[8 May 2015]

Two Northwest Indiana casinos showed increases in year-over-year revenues and visitor count in April, while the local industry as a whole saw a slight dip in both.

The five casinos took in a total of $83.6 million in revenues, a 2% drop according to the monthly casino revenues report issued Friday by the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City had the biggest gain at 3%, raking in $13.4 million.  Visitor count increased from 188,203 to 196,543, according to the IGC report.

Revenues at Ameristar Casino in East Chicago increased 2.9%, to just under $20 million, while its turnstile count jumped from 201,551 to 211,143.  Ameristar recently announced it will be opening a new $3.5 million Stadium Sports Bar and Grill that will feature 40 flat-screen TVs, nostalgic sports memorabilia, and 21 draft and 50 craft beers.  It opened a new poker room last July.

Horseshoe Hammond raked in $36.15 million in revenues, a 6.8% drop from April 2014.  "We need to re-trench and determine where we are in the market and get back in," said Horseshoe Senior Vice President and General Manager Dan Nita.

Majestic Star I Casino in Gary took in $8.1 million, a 4% drop, while Majestic Star II raked in $6 million, a 2.5% decline.  The casinos recently received the General Assembly's blessing to build a land-based casino, provided it's located on its same footprint in Buffington Harbor.

Nita said the total Chicagoland market, which includes casinos in northern Illinois and Northwest Indiana, had a 1.6% drop in year-over-year revenues in April.  "It's just a continuation of the saturation in the market," Nita said.  "We're continuing to scratch our heads to see why some think there's a pent-up demand (for more gaming choices)."  Chicago continues to consider having a casino open there and South Bend could be getting a tribal casino.  "It's like adding a third Starbucks at the same intersection," Nita said of the possible new competitors.


Gary Officer Grazed in Overnight Shooting
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[8 May 2015]

A Gary Police officer drove himself to the hospital after being grazed in a shootout early this morning.

The call "officer down" came across the scanner just after 3:00 a.m.  Gary Police Spokesperson Sgt Thomas DeCanter confirmed that an officer was wounded when he stopped at Shaws 11th & Virginia.  A patron came in and said shots were fired outside according to Sgt. DeCanter.  "The injured officer and another officer who was working at Shaws went outside and the suspects fired upon the officers.  The officers returned fire and the officer shouted out that he was hit and the subjects fled eastbound.

Nobody is in custody at this time."  The officer was in full uniform according to Sgt. DeCanter.  Officers converged on the scene and stopped several vehicles matching the description but it is unknown if any arrests were made in the shooting.

Users took to social media to express concern for the officers safety immediately following the shooting.  Sue Dahlen posted "Hearing the dreaded words, "Shots fired! Officer down!" and hearing the shots over an officers radio, is beyond words.  My heart is still pounding,  I cant even imagine how the officers feel."

The incident capped a particularly violent night in which Gary Police responded to numerous shots fired calls.  Ambulance crews arrived and followed the as yet unidentified officer to the hospital.  The current condition of the officer is unknown.


Gary Man Charged with Killing 2 Told Faces Death Penalty
Compiled From an Associated Press Report
[6 May 2015]

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) A judge on Wednesday formally informed a Gary man charged with murder in the deaths of two women and suspected of killing five others that he could face the death penalty.

Darren Vann, 44, told Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Boswell that he understood the cases involving the deaths of Afrikka Hardy and Anith Jones had been joined and that he could be sentenced to die if hes convicted, The (Munster) Times reported.

Police have said that Vann confessed to having killed seven women whose remains were found over three days in October.  He has only been charged in the deaths of Hardy and Jones, though.

The judge also vacated the June 22 trial date she set earlier because Vann now faces the death penalty.  She said she would set a new trial date at a hearing on May 22.


Gary School Referendum Rejected
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[5 May 2015]

Gary voters rejected a tax hike for the Gary Community School Corp. in unofficial totals Tuesday. YES votes of 5,037 (44.5%) lagged behind NO votes totalling 6,285 (55.5%).

The Gary Community School Corp. was seeking a $51.8 million tax increase over a seven-year period.

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.  It's changed health insurance carriers, reducing its costs but it's been forced to issue judgment bonds to pay its transportation company and utility bills.

"If it doesn't pass, we'll continue to make sure our children are educated," said Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt last month.  "We will look at public and private funds to make sure our children have the best education opportunities possible."

Gary's referendum was controversial as some residents have criticized spending by school officials.  The district's former business chief, who was fired last month, said it's mired in about $80 million worth of debt.  A bill authored by Gary state Sen. Earline Rogers will allow the state Distressed Unit Appeals Board to hire a fiscal manager to straighten out the district's shaky finances.

Unlike River Forest where the school referendum did pass, Gary didn't form a political action committee to stump for votes.  School board president Antuwan Clemons and Pruitt have been speaking to community and business groups.

Gary is expected to lose about $4.5 million in state funding over the next two years, based on the state's recently approved budget.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Who knows what the financial wizards will come up with now to keep the woefully underperforming schools open?  The fact, sad to report, is that 14.2% of the residents made this determination for 100% of those living in Gary.


Freeman-Wilson Gets Vote of Confidence
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[5 May 2015]

In unofficial totals Tuesday, Freeman-Wilson swept her challengers aside with ease.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson appears to have vanquished four Democratic challengers in her bid for a second term in this heavily Democratic city.   Freeman-Wilson held a commanding lead (9,026 - 76.4%) over Robert L. Buggs Sr. (869 - 7.4%), Dean Hensley (127 - 1.1%), Jim Nowacki (1,108 - 9.4%) and Joe L. White (688 - 5.8%).

Freeman-Wilson said the results reflect that voters are satisfied with her performance in moving the city forward.  "I think it's a tempered approach of saying you know there are certain things we have to focus on and emphasize, but it's a combination of progress and planning," she said.  "People respect that there has to be plans.  They also want to see concrete steps being taken as a result of those plans."

Freeman-Wilson greeted her supporters at the Genesis Center after the polls closed.  "It is very humbling and reflective of a team effort," she said.  "It is not easy, and it's an honor to continue doing it."

This fall she faces Republican Charles R. Smith, who ran unopposed.  Republican Smith is the same opponent she smashed four years ago by an 11,000-vote margin.

In city council races 6th District incumbent Ronier Scott lost to challenger LaVetta Sparks-Wade by a resounding 10%.  Incumbent Scott was convicted of income tax fraud and served time in the federal penitentiary duringl his last term in office.


Freeman-Wilson Hands Out $5 to Senior Citizens
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[5 May 2015}

In the days leading up to the election, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson visited senior housing centers within the City and handed out Christmas cards with $5 in each of them according to several seniors we spoke with today.

The seniors all said that the cards were given to everyone in attendance at the events.  They displayed a photo of the Mayor, here husband and their daughter.  The cards were received by senior citizens at the Gary Housing Authority high rise building at 100 W 11th St.  Seniors at GHA properties at 650 Jackson also reported receiving the cards and the "gift."

Indiana Code provides that it is a felony to give any money to a person to induce them to vote for or against a candidate.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The above reference to " Christmas cards" is not a misprint.  This stunt certainly smacks of impropriety and deserves investigation.  It was a more than stupid thing to do, given that it made no difference whatsoever in the election results.


Local Steel Output Surges Back to 650,000T
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[5 May 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region surged to 650,000T tons last week, the second straight week it's gone up after bottoming out to a new low last month.

Local steel production shot up by 39,000T, or 6.38% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second-biggest steel-producing region, plummeted to 546,000T last week, down from 579,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.712 million tons, up slightly from 1.707 million tons a week earlier.  Overall U.S. steel output increased by just under 0.3% over the same period.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.4% last week, up from 72.2% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 76.6% at the same time a year earlier.  Overall U.S. production still lags 2014 by 6.9%.

Year-to-date output was 29.8 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.4%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output last week was down 7% year-over-year.


Pence Ends Gary Gun Lawsuit
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Dan Carden
[4 May 2015]

INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mike Pence rejected Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's pleas for a veto and instead signed legislation Monday terminating the city's 1999 civil lawsuit against alleged participants in illegal gun sales.

Senate Enrolled Act 98 retroactively prohibits Gary from filing its court case seeking damages from various gun manufacturers and retailers.

In what must be one of the oddest effective dates in legislative history, the new law officially took effect Aug. 26, 1999, when Pence, the Republican who signed it, was a talk radio host and two-time failed congressional candidate still more than a decade away from becoming governor.

Freeman-Wilson, a Democrat who in 1999 was one year from becoming Indiana's attorney general, said such use of a retroactive law to interfere in a pending court case is unprecedented and violates the separation-of-powers between branches of government.  Freeman-Wilson also said, "This bill is essentially placing potential profit over the real loss of people's lives.  When police officers and other sons and daughters of this state are killed with guns that are obtained illegally, we will see that the Indiana General Assembly has ignored this system."

Supporters of the measure claim ending the lawsuit, which has idled in court for the past six years, will improve the state's perception as gun-friendly and perhaps lure gun manufacturers to locate in Indiana.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Hopefully, we have not heard the end of this, as there is a vital and revered legal principle being obliterated by this legislation.

INDIANA CONSTITUTION, Article  1 - Bill of RIghts, Section 24 - Ex post facto laws
No ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts, shall ever be passed.
ex post facto. adj. Latin for "after the fact," which refers to laws adopted after an act is committed making it illegal although it was legal when done.


Gary Cop Injured on Duty Highlights Understaffed Force's Frustration
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[4 May 2015]

GARYAt first, the woman suspected as an aggressor in a disturbance wouldn't roll down her car window early Monday for the officer standing there.  But then, according to police, she stepped out, screamed an obscenity or two and started swinging.

Patrolman April Brown was alone on the call, which was described to her as a report on a disturbance.  Before it was over, Brown needed lots of back up and four stitches over her left eye, police said.  A 23-year-old Gary woman is in jail facing a host of charges, including felony battery on law enforcement, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

On Monday, Detective Robin Bolde was taking statements from witnesses and participants in the incident while Brown, 32, of Gary, recuperates at home.  The police report states that shortly after midnight Monday, a 36-year-old man called Gary police, saying he was being harassed by a woman who was following him.  He made it to his Glen Park home and told radio dispatchers he wanted to make a report about the incident.  While two officers were originally sent to the call, one was disregarded when it became a simple report call, police said.

As Brown arrived at a residence in the 1200 block of E 36th Av about 12:30 a.m., the man pointed to a maroon car passing by and said the driver was the woman involved in the alleged harassment.  Brown signaled for the car to stop, but the driver wouldn't roll down her window immediately.  Brown asked for identification and began to place the woman in custody, but the woman punched Brown in the eye, according to the police report.  Additional officers arrived and struggled until the woman was under control and cuffed, police said.

The incident was a topic of conversations Monday around the Public Safety Facility on the department's manpower shortage, low morale and the safety of police officers in any situation.

Although a contract between the city and Fraternal Order of Police requires a minimum of 12 officers working patrol duties on the midnight shift, on the Sunday night/Monday morning shift, there were 11, according to the shift log and confirmed by Cmdr. Samuel Roberts.  That includes two traffic officers doubling as patrol units and one officer who must stay at the Adam Benjamin Metro Station.

Sgt. Samuel Abegg, president of the FOP Local 61 said patrol supervisors who are also lodge members can and should prepare grievances when staff shortages occur, but said that even an abundance of police on the street can't guarantee any officer's safety.

Roberts said that a recent administrative memo limited supervisors to adding only one overtime officers per shift.  "We're going to have review the overtime expenses and find way to add some slots on all shifts," Roberts said.

The department has lost several officers this year.  Most recently, Daryl Gordon, a Violent Crimes Unit investigator, took a job at Lake Station police department.  Others have gone to area railroads, but not all in law enforcement work.  Gary is the lowest paid department in the county, while the busiest with more than 22,000 calls for service this year, records show.  The roster is about a dozen less than the budgeted 235 officers.


Two in Custody in Connection with Gary Homicide
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Giles Bruce
[2 May 2015]

GARY | Two people are in police custody in connection with a homicide in Gary on Friday night, police said.

Police were called to a report of shots fired in the area of 13th and Virginia at around 11:15 p.m., said Gary police Sgt. Thomas Decanter.  In the 1300 block of Virginia St, an officer with the Lake County gang unit reportedly observed a male subject standing over and shooting another male subject at the Sin City Motorcycle Club parking lot.

London Clayton, 49, of the 4800 block of W. 23rd Av Gary, suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was transported to Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus, where he was pronounced dead early Saturday morning, according to the Lake County coroner's office.

The alleged shooter, Michael "Puerto Rican Mike" Rivera of Gary was arrested for murder, and a female accomplice was charged with aiding and abetting, police said.


Gary Man Shot and Killed Overnight
#15 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report [2 May 2015]

GARY | A 49-year-old Gary man died early Saturday from multiple gunshot wounds, the Lake County Coroner's Office reported.

The victim was identified as London Clayton of the 4800 block of W 23rd Av.

According to Gary Police, officers responded to a shots fired call at 11:17 p.m. Friday in the vicinity of the 1300 to 1500 blocks of Carolina St.

Clayton, who was shot multiple times in the 1300 block of Virginia St, was transported to Methodist Hospitals Northlake campus where he was pronounced dead at 12:15 a.m. Saturday, according to the coroner's office.

Clayton's death has been ruled a homicide. The Gary Police Department is investigating.


State Police Probe Possible Pilfering at Gary City Hall
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[1 May 2015]

First Sgt. Al Williamson of the state police Lowell post confirmed that his department was contacted by Gary police in April.

Sources told the Post-Tribune that Chicago police contacted Gary police regarding a shipment of printers that had been recovered as part of a criminal investigation in that city.  Williamson said the investigation began "two to three weeks ago" but he could not estimate how long it will take to obtain all the facts.  "We are in the infancy stages," he said Friday.

City Hall employees said that at least two workers in the information systems department were sent home and told they were on "hiatus" while the investigation is ongoing.

City spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington declined comment because it involved a personnel matter, which are confidential.  Gary police Investigations Cmdr. Del Stout also declined comment.  Other Gary police available to release information have been unavailable Thursday and Friday because they are in a two-day training session on media relations.


New Garage, Cop Cars Considered in Gary
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[29 Apr 2015]

GARY | A proposal to spend $1.9 million to build a new garage for municipal vehicles and to purchase new police cars is expected to come before the Common Council next week.

The finance committee on Tuesday reviewed plans for the $1.2 million expansion to the General Services Building at 900 Madison St, and $700,000 for an unspecified number of vehicles for the police department.  No opposition to either project surfaced.  A final vote by the full council is scheduled for Wednesday's meeting, which is one day later than usual because of Tuesday's election.

City Comptroller Celita Green said adding on to the building used by the Public Works Department enables services to be kept together geographically.  Existing buildings were used by the city for vehicle maintenance, but Green said they've become impractical due to their age.  "We can't use them anymore," Green said.  "There's so much work that would need to be done on those buildings that we might as well do a new building."

Few details, including when the new vehicles to be purchased would be available to police, were shared on that project.  The resolution calls for a lease purchase agreement with Fifth Third Bank with a maximum of $5 million and an interest rate of no more than 6% annually.

The council also will be asked on Wednesday to sign off on a Choice Neighborhoods Initiative planning grant of $500,000 to develop a plan over the next two years for improvements to the University Park community.  Federal officials have said the money will be provided to pay for consultants, but that Gary still must apply.

The council also is expected to consider a proposed ordinance to allow Gary to receive funds from the state's Municipality Set-Aside Program.  Insurance companies contribute funds to provide for demolition of properties damaged by fire or explosion.  The measure is meant to help Gary pay to remove damaged structures rather than leaving them in place.


Gary Poised to Offer Tax Breaks to IL Businesses
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[29 Apr 2015]

GARY The Common Council is expected next week to approve special taxing districts to attract a pair of Illinois-based businesses that have indicated they want to relocate to the city.

The companies are Edsal Manufacturing Co., located in Chicago's Back of the Yards neighborhood, and T&B Tube, which has been in south suburban South Holland for 33 years.

On Tuesday, the council's finance committee reviewed proposals to designate the Gary sites as Economic Revitalization Areas to ensure the moves really happen.  A final vote is likely at the council's next meeting on Wednesday.

David Wojtowicz, an operations director for Edsal, a manufacturer of industrial furniture which supplies Home Depot, Menards and others, said his company wants to locate its plant to the former Chicago Steel Building at 700 Chase St.  It also has facilities in California, Pennsylvania and Tennessee, along with China, and Wojtowicz said officials considered relocating their Chicago facilities to those locations.  But he said they chose Gary because of its proximity to Chicago, and because of the tax abatements the city offered for the new location's designation as the Chase Street Industrial Center.  The company has signed a five-year lease, with options to renew for another 30 years.

Some 30 to 50 jobs would land in Gary from Chicago with the move later in May, Wojtowicz said, adding that 300 or so jobs will be created by July 1.  He emphasized a willingness to cooperate with Gary officials to ensure that many of those jobs go to local residents.  A job fair has been set for Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the JWA Boys and Girls Club, 2700 W 19th Av.

T&B Tube Co. Inc. also wants an Economic Revitalization Area designation.  Company owner Jack Jones said the tax breaks for moving to a former lumber business location at 4000 E 7th Av were too good to pass up.  "This is our opportunity to grow the business," said Jones, of the company that makes steel tubes.  "We've outgrown our space."

Council members were supportive of the revitalization areas, even though several candidates in Tuesday's municipal elections expressed concern over the propriety of the tax breaks to the Finance Committee.  Part of their objection was due to the Edsal facility's proximity to the Gary/Chicago International Airport that also is a special taxing district.  Third District Councilwoman Mary Brown said city officials already have reviewed those concerns.  "We've gone there, we're comfortable with what they're offering," she said.  "There's no need to go through this again."


Steel Production Finally Rebounds
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[29 Apr 2105]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rebounded to 611,000T last week after bottoming out a week earlier to 555,000T, the lowest it's been in years.

Local steel production shot up by 56,000T, or 10% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second-biggest steel-producing region, fell to 579,000T last week, down from 593,000T the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.707 million tons, up from 1.655 million tons a week earlier.  Overall U.S. steel output increased by 3.1% over the same period.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.2% last week, up from 70% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 76.6% at the same time a year earlier. 

Year-to-date output was 28.1 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.4%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 6.9%.


1 killed, 1 Wounded in Separate Gary Shootings
#14 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[28 Apr 2015]

GARY | One man was killed and another was wounded in two separate shootings Tuesday in Gary, police said.

Alfred Wiley, 46, of the 6300 block of E 3rd Av, was pronounced dead at 9:24 a.m. at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary.  He was shot in the 5900 block of E Third Av in the city's Miller section, according to the Lake County coroner's office.

According to witnesses, the 46 year old man was shot in the face while riding his bicycle near 4th and Hancock this morning.  The shooter reportedly fled in a vehicle with multiple occupants.

Responding officers found Wiley at the scene.  He was taken to the hospital by the Gary Fire Department.  Residents told police Wiley knocked on several doors asking for assistance after gunshots were heard.

No one was in custody Tuesday afternoon in connection with Wiley's homicide, police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Decanter said said.  This marks Garys third homicide in less than a week and the second daytime homicide in that time period.

Police responded to another shooting about 7 p.m. in the area of 44th Av and Connecticut St in the city's Glen Park section.  A man was shot twice, police said.  Further details about the second shooting were not immediately available Tuesday night.


Fifty-seven Laid Off as ArcelorMittal Exits Trucking Business
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[27 Apr 2015]

GARY | More than 50 workers will lose steady jobs with good health benefits after ArcelorMittal decided to get out of the trucking business at its East Chicago steel mill.

P.T.O. Services, an Oak Brook, Ill.-based driver leasing firm, notified the Indiana Department of Workforce Development that it plans to lay off 57 workers in Gary.  Burnham Trucking, an ArcelorMittal subsidiary in East Chicago, notified the staffing company it was cancelling its contract on May 31.

As a result, P.T.O. Services warned the state it would lay off 47 truck drivers and 10 clerical workers.  The affected truck drivers hauled steel out of ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, including to the I/N Tek and I/N Kote finishing facilties in New Carlisle.

"ArcelorMittal has made the decision to close Burnham Trucking, a subsidiary trucking company which operated 50 leased truck tractors to transport steel products from ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor to customers," spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford said.  "The lease agreement expires in May 2015 and will not be renewed.  The decision to consolidate freight partners is part of ArcelorMittals continued focus on increasing the efficiency of our facilities and the productivity of our workforce."

The steelmaker had brought trucking in-house about two decades ago after problems with independent contractors, but is now severing ties with Burnham Trucking because it doesn't want to buy new trucks, said Larry Regan, business agent with Teamsters Local 142.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The hits just keep on a comin'! 


Woman, 23, Fatally Shot in Gary
#13 and Counting
Compiled From a Chicago Tribune Report by Quinn Ford
and a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[26 Apr 2015]

A 23-year-old Gary woman residing at the Oak Knoll Renaissance apartments on the city's west side died Saturday after she was shot, authorities said.

Breona Major was pronounced dead about 8:15 p.m. Saturday.  She was shot several times in the 2300 block of Clark Rd, according to the Lake County coroner's office.  Her death was ruled a homicide, according to a statement from the coroner.  Investigators were dispatched to the home just before 7:15 p.m. Saturday.  Officials said Major lived on the same block where she was killed.

Police believe Breona was dead for 12-24 hours prior to the time the homicide was discovered.  This makes finding leads all the more difficult.  Pawlak states that the first challenge will be determining who came and went from the residence over a 24 hour period.

Breona Major is the sister of Ronnie Major who owns and operates Affordable Towing and Hughes Towing in Gary.  Both companies have contracts with the City of Gary to tow vehicles and have been large contributors to the campaign account of Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

The Gary Police Department, Lake County Sheriff's Office and Lake County Major Crimes Task Force are investigating.  Gary police could not be reached early Saturday and details surrounding the fatal shooting were not immediately available.


Gary Man Killed in Drive-by While Walking Dog
#12 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[24 April 2015]

GARY | A 48-year-old Gary man was shot to death in a drive-by shooting while walking his dog near his home Friday morning, officials said.

Keith Dumas of the 200 block of W 41st Av in Gary was found dead on the street near railroad tracks at W 40th Av and Adams St in Gary's Glen Park neighborhood, Lake County coroner's office investigators said.  The cause of death was gunshot wounds suffered in a homicide.

Lt. Thomas Pawlak of the Gary Police Department said a Gary police officer was on a traffic stop at 10:05 a.m. at W 41st Av and Broadway and heard the gunshots.

The dog also was shot and survived, police said.  The dog, which was believed to be a Rottweiler, was shot in the groin.  Pawlak said animal control officers transported the dog to an animal clinic in Portage for treatment.

No one was in custody in connection with the crime early Friday afternoon.


U.S. Steel Starts Layoffs of 323 at Gary Works
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[24 April 2015].

GARY | U.S. Steel started laying off as many as 323 workers at its Gary Works mill Thursday as it shuts down the coke plant, marking the end of an era thats lasted more than a century.

The steel mill on Lake Michigan's southern shore has made its own coke a purified form of coal thats used in steelmaking since it first started cranking out steel in 1908.  Gary Works once operated 838 coke ovens, back when it fed much of a thriving nations demand for steel for railroads, cars and skyscrapers.

Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel has decided to source its coke from elsewhere, including the Clairton Coke Works in Western Pennsylvania where it recently invested $1.2 billion in environmental upgrades.  "We have adjusted operations at Gary Works due to ongoing global market conditions," spokeswoman Sarah Cassella said.  "These adjustments resulted in WARN notices being issued regarding layoffs.  Those layoffs have commenced as operations and maintenance warrants."

The steelmaker is struggling after the collapse of oil prices killed its lucrative tube and pipe business, and because steel imports are capturing a record 33% market share.  Roughly 30% of Americas steelmaking capacity has been sitting idle as imports have surged.

U.S. Steel notified the Indiana Department of Workforce Development that it will lay off up to 323 workers, including 284 production and maintenance workers.  A total of 12 office workers and as many as 27 managers could be affected.

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker had been in talks with the United Steelworkers union about whether any of the employees could keep their jobs by being transferred elsewhere within Gary Works.  All units of Gary Works coke operations will be affected by the permanent shutdown. On Thursday, security escorted managers from the massive integrated mill, which remains the largest in North America but which went to employing around 5,000 today from about 30,000 workers in the 1970s.

"This action is the result of multiple factors, including market conditions, the companys long-term coke position, and anticipated changes in the company's future steelmaking operations such as the use of the electric arc furnace," the company said in its WARN notice.

U.S. Steel has laid off more than 6,000 workers nationwide so far this year, including nearly 300 at its East Chicago Tin facility, which has been indefinitely idled.

Locally, more than 1,000 steelworkers have been laid off in 2015.  ArcelorMittal, Northwest Indianas other large steelmaker, had been idling operations and plans to shut down the No. 1 aluminizing line in Indiana Harbor in December.


Freeman-Wilson Targets Second Term as Gary Mayor
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[24 Apr 2015]

Wearing jeans and gym shoes, she strode up to the tidy brick ranch home on Illinois St and knocked on the door.  "Hi, I'm Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson," she told homeowner Elizabeth Earl.

She's got a second term in her sights.  Freeman-Wilson toted her own campaign signs, walking up and down the east side streets, waving at children and telling adults about an upcoming job fair.  Freeman-Wilson isn't taking the May 5 mayoral primary for granted.

The first-term mayor and former Indiana attorney general is facing four challengers in her bid to win the Democratic nomination for a second term.  Opponents include vocal administration critic Jim Nowacki, Robert Buggs Sr., Joe L. White and Dean Hensley.

Nowacki has tossed the most mud at the mayor's campaign finances, saying some of the contributions are evidence of "pay to play" politics.  He and Buggs filed complaints last month with the Lake County Board of Elections claiming the mayor's campaign received improper contributions and it failed to itemize receipts and contributions.  A hearing is scheduled for May 19.

Citizens she met on the campaign trail stood behind her leadership.  "She's more action," said Michael Williams.  "Buildings are getting knocked down, streets are getting fixed.  She's keeping her word."  Would-be detractors gain little political capital from criticizing an incumbent mayor seeking re-election.  "I think that having been placed in the unenviable position of having to make bricks out of straw, she's done a pretty good job," Rev. Dwight Gardner said.


Death Penalty Sought in Serial Killings Case
Compiled From an Associated Press Report
[18 Apr 2015]

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) Indiana prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against a Gary man charged in the slayings of two women and suspected in the deaths of five others.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter filed a request Friday seeking the death penalty for Darren Dean Vann if hes convicted in the deaths of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy of Gary and 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville.  The Post-Tribune of Merrillville reports Vann didnt attend Fridays hearing.  Lake Superior Court Judge Diane Ross Boswell also granted prosecutors motion to combine the two murder cases.

Vanns attorney, Teresa Hollandsworth, opposed the motion, arguing that joining the two cases would be highly prejudicial to her client.  She said Jones strangulation appears to be a murder-for-hire and not a rage killing as prosecutors contended in their filing.


Dunbar-Pulaski to Stay Open as Williams Annex
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[24 Apr 2015]

The school will open this summer, but under a different name Williams Elementary annex.

On March 12, the State Board of Education voted to close the citywide Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School that houses about 700 students in grades 7 and 8.  The move came after six years of F grades.

On April 14, the Gary School Board approved a restructuring that extends the grade levels at four successful elementaries, including A-rated Williams, from grade 6 to 8.  School officials plan to house grades 7 and 8 at the former Dunbar-Pulaski site at 920 E. 19th Av., immediately west of Williams at 1320 E. 19th Av.

State Board of Education member Tony Walker, who represents Northwest Indiana and voted to close Dunbar-Pulaski, seemed surprised the building would stay open, essentially with the same students.

Asked if renaming the school rendered the state board's decision moot, Walker said it's a local decision.  "I would have hoped they would have tried to consolidate their resources so they would have more money to put into instruction and academics," Walker said.  "If they want to sink more money in that facility, then so be it.  As far as I'm concerned they don't have to come to us."


Gary Cop Arrested, Charged with Domestic Battery
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[23 Apr 2015]

Patrolman Jason Johnson, 32, is charged with domestic battery, a Class A misdemeanor, according to charging documents.

When police first arrived at Johnson's Glen Park home shortly before 1 a.m. after receiving reports of a disturbance there, his wife denied she had been assaulted, court records state. Her husband was also at their home at that time.

After Johnson left, however, his wife and her mother told Lt. Dawn Westerfield they had more information.  Westerfield and Sgt. Michael Barnes heard a detailed account of the incident.  Johnson's mother-in-law had called police because she heard parts of the fight after her daughter called her while the couple argued, the probable cause affidavit states.

Johnson's wife said she was asleep in bed when he came home and told her he wanted her out, saying, "I'm not going to live in a house like this no more.  You need to get your stuff and leave," the probable cause affidavit states.  She told him she wouldn't leave, and he pulled her out of bed, wrapped his hands around her neck and forced her into the bathroom.  By this time, she had called her mother, who could hear the activity, the report says.  At some point, Johnson took the phone from her, the report states.

After throwing a drinking glass at her husband "to keep him back from her," the woman said she was able to run to the living room, where he "tackled her," then walked out of the house, court records state.  She said she followed him and tried to get her phone back while he looked for his keys, but he pushed her down.  She tried again to get her phone but he closed the car door on her hand, the charging information states.

While police spoke to the woman at the scene, Jason Johnson returned and was arrested.  Police noted his wife had marks on her neck. Although she refused medical treatment Thursday, the charging affidavit states, "This is not the first episode of violence between the two of them.  She stated on prior incidents she required hospital attention but did not file any police reports as she is afraid of Jason Johnson and what may come of her involving the police."

The case is filed in Lake Superior Court, County Division, and will be heard by Judge Jesse Villalpando in Hammond, court records show.  A protective order will be requested by prosecutors when Johnson makes his next court appearance, Lake County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Barbara McConnell said Thursday.

The couple were married in December 2013, court records state.

Johnson has been on sick leave since early this month.  When he is released to return to work, he will be reassigned from his regular patrol duties, Cmdr. Samuel Roberts said.

Johnson joined the department 2009.  In November 2012, he participated in recording a rap video while on duty. The video included shots of Johnson and his squad car.  He was suspended for 60 days without pay in 2013 after admitting he violated four police commission rules.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   One must wonder, and ask, is Johnson one of "Rudy's Reprobates;"  hired even though known full well not to be qualified to protect and serve?


Steel Production Plummets to Lowest Level in Years
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[23 Apr 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region plummeted to 555,000T last week, the lowest it's been in years.

Local steel production dropped by 30,000T, or 5.1% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output however rose by 2% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second-biggest steel-producing region, jumped to 593,000T last week, up dramatically from the 541,000T produced the week before.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.655 million tons, up from 1.621 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 70% last week, up from 68.6% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 76.6% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 26.4 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.4%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 6.9%, while capacity utilization lags last year by 10.1%.


Did Calumet Twp Rig Budget to Hit Target?
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Charles F. Haber
[22 Apr 2015]

GRIFFITH | Griffith officials said they are looking into the possibility Cal Twp may have cooked the books to reduce its reported budget to avoid a Griffith referendum on leaving the township.

In 2013 the state Legislature passed a law saying Griffith voters could hold the referendum if the township failed to reduce its budget from 23 to 12 times the state average.  Last month, the state announced the township's budget had met this requirement for this year.

"We have discovered some interesting things the township has done" with its numbers to get below the average, Council President Rick Ryfa, R-3rd, said Tuesday.  Ryfa said the township assistance fund needed to be around $4 million to meet the requirement.

"It looks like there is $375,000 worth of salaries that were transferred out of the township assistance fund ... to other funds outside of the threshold governed by the new law we fought to get passed," Ryfa said.  "If those had remained in the township assistance fund, they would be above the cap that they need to be at."  Ryfa said Griffith's attorneys and financial experts will be examining the situation this week.  Ironically, it appears that the total sum of $375,000 is what they needed to cut to get under the threshold spelled out in the new law."

The town would probably have to file a lawsuit claiming the salaries were moved before current Trustee Kimberly Robinson took office, he said.

Robinson on Wednesday acknowledged the salaries were moved and that it happened before she took office.  "What I can confirm is that we did also make this finding because of the way the levies were split out, that the threshold was only meant for one, which was the administrative levy."  Robinson explained Cal Twp is the only one in the state with a tax levy split into three categories:  administration, recreation and civil.  Robinson said the administrative levy was the one affected by the new law.  "And that's when they (previous administration) became a little bit creative, I guess, as they could and they moved some employees from the administrative to the civil."

However, Robinson said the prior administration was justified in moving those salaries because they "are employees which are deserving to be in the civil because they sort of do work that encompasses" all three categories.

Robinson said she also wants to turn the township around to its original purpose of helping people with emergency situations and not to provide lifestyles.  "I've reached out to Mr. Ryfa" to meet and work together, but have not had any response yet, she said.

Ryfa said state Rep. Hal Slager, R-Schererville, and state Sen. Brandt Hershman, R-Buck Creek, are looking into the allegations.  Ryfa said the town will do what it can as the General Assembly nears the end of its current session.

Griffith has been trying to escape from the township for the past seven years after paying as much as $3.5 million per year and receiving only $11,000 in benefits.  Under the township's reported 2015 budget, Griffith would pay about $1 million this year.


Council to Use HUD Grant to Bolster University Park
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[22 Apr 2015]

The Common Council gave its support this week to a measure that allows the city to accept a $500,000 grant from the federal Housing and Urban Development Department to cover the cost of developing a plan for improvements to the part of the city between the IU Northwest and Ivy Tech Community College campuses.

Council members voted 7-0, with 2nd District Councilman Michael Protho and 4th District Councilwoman Carolyn Rogers absent, in favor of an ordinance that provides a detailed budget for how money from the HUD Choice Neighborhoods grant will be used.  "This is about developing a transformation plan," Community Development Director Arlene Colvin said.  "We're talking about demolishing some structures and trying to determine what should replace them."

The city will receive $500,000 split between the next two years.  Colvin said Gary city government will have to contribute $200,000 in local funds.

The ordinance approved Tuesday was introduced last month, but city officials wanted HUD officials to review the document before they approved it.  Colvin said the money is meant to create a long-range plan by which the residential community from Broadway to Interstate 65 and from 33rd Av to Ridge Rd can be improved.  HUD officials could follow up the two-year grant with more federal funds to enable any plan to be implemented.  But Colvin said city officials may also be able to find other funding sources to help pay for future improvements.

Two candidates in the upcoming municipal primary expressed objections to the ordinance.  Jayson Reeves, running for a council at-large position as a Republican, said he thinks the city needs a full-time engineering department before any serious change could be made.  "The absence of a department is an obsolete way of doing things," he said.

James Nowacki, who is running as a Democrat for mayor, said he thinks improvements to the University Park community could be as simple as proper neighborhood maintenance, and that spending time to develop a plan could be wasteful.  He also cited what he called trips to New York and Washington, D.C., by consultants hired by Gary to develop a plan as being paid for at city expense, although Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said such statements were "lies."

Of the process, Freeman-Wilson said, "I'm just as impatient as anyone else, I want to see results.  But to get results, we have to plan for them."


Fate of Gary Gun Lawsuit in Hands of Gov
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Dan Carden
[21 Apr 2015]

INDIANAPOLIS | Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is urging Gov. Mike Pence to veto legislation that retroactively terminates the city's 1999 lawsuit against gun manufacturers and retailers who allegedly sold handguns illegally.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted 37-10 on Tuesday to accept changes made by the Republican-controlled House to Senate Bill 98, sending the proposal to the Republican governor who is likely to sign it into law.

The measure essentially goes back in time to prohibit Gary from filing its still-pending lawsuit in the first place.

Freeman-Wilson, a Democrat who previously was Indiana's attorney general, believes that is an unprecedented violation of the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of state government.

State Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, the sponsor, said he's been told gun manufacturers consider Indiana unfriendly to gun companies due to Gary's lawsuit.  He claims ending the case will lure more gun businesses to the state.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   While I do not believe this lawsuit has a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding, I definitely feel the legislature is abusing its authority by passing this law.  I would also point out that the legislation amounts to a prohibited ex post facto law.


Woman Found Dead in Gary Home
#11 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell and Michelle L. Quinn
[18 Apr 2015]

Anderson police who came to Gary on Friday afternoon in search of a young mother and her newborn daughter who had been missing since early April believe they found them.

The body of a woman was found at about 3 p.m. Friday at a home in the 1900 block of Cleveland St.  The body was wrapped in plastic, stuffed in a plastic storage bin and doused with bleach, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.  An autoposy is scheduled for Saturday in Crown Point to determine the identity of the body.

The 3-week-old infant, who was in the care of a suspect's sister, appears to be fine and will be returned to relatives in Anderson, Pawlak said.  But the story of how the woman came to Gary is bizarre, police agree.  Investigators from Gary and Anderson will sort through the events in the days ahead.

Anderson police asked for the public's help in finding Samantha Fleming and her daughter, Serenity, who left April 5 with a woman who said she was from the IN Dept of Child Services.  The woman claimed Fleming had a hearing in Lake Superior Court.  Investigators believe the woman posed as a Child Protective Services worker and lured Fleming to Gary.  "She knew a lot about this mother, enough to convince her she was with CPS," Pawlak said.  Detectives will have to determine how she was able to gather information about the woman.

Soon after, relatives stopped hearing from her.  Fleming's boyfriend reported her missing, police said.

Gary police found Fleming's wallet about two weeks ago at Woodlake Village apartments in Miller, and her cell phone had "pinged" on 15th Av near I-65, Pawlak said.

In the meantime, a 36-year-old Gary woman who lives at the Cleveland St home set up a room in her home for a baby girl, police said.  "There was everything you would buy for a new baby.  A crib, changing table, diaper bag, carrier, new clothes," Pawlak said.  She passed off this baby as hers, police said.  "It appears that she had been planning this," he added.

At some point, the Gary woman asked her sister to care for the infant.  The alleged kidnapper was later located in a hospital in Texas, Pawlak said.

The suspect's sister had come to the house to pick up more items for the baby Friday and surrendered the child to police.  Pawlak said the baby was examined at the hospital and is in good health.

A neighbor of the suspect is now questioning the relationship she had with her.  The young woman, who asked not to be identified, said the last time she heard from her neighbor was around Easter.  The neighbor, who moved to Cleveland St about a year ago, said she and the suspect were friendly but distant until January.  Pregnant at the time, the two became close after the suspect helped her when she gave birth to her daughter at home.

"My phone was dead, so one of my sons went to go call the ambulance from a neighbor's house," the young woman said.  "(The suspect) stayed with me and went to the hospital with me, and from then on, we were very close."

The suspect was pregnant at the time and said she was expecting twins, the young woman said.  Around Easter, the young woman said the suspect told her she had given birth, but one of the twins had died.  The suspect also told her that she hadn't told her family that she had given birth because they had been harassing her doctor.  The second baby, the suspect told the young woman, was in the hospital recovering from jaundice.

A short time later, the young woman saw the suspect and a baby.  The suspect was wearing sunglasses and had a bandage on her hand.  The young woman said she thought the baby was "lighter-skinned" than she expected.

The suspect told her at that time she was leaving town and asked the young woman to watch the house while she was away.  The young woman said she and the suspect texted regularly, though.  Friday was the first time the young woman had seen anyone at the house in weeks.  When she texted the suspect Friday to let her know what was going on at the house, the suspect didn't reply.

"(The suspect's) sister was at the house and then left, and then a police car came by," the young woman said.  "The sister came back, and then several police officers showed up.  "When I saw them bringing the body out, I thought it was (the suspect) for a second."

The neighbor said a night or two before the suspect left, she saw her going back and forth to the garage from the house with little plastic grocery bags.  There was also a night when she and a couple of other people left around 9 p.m. and didn't come back until late the next day.

"She was an amazing woman, and I don't want to place judgment," the young woman said, visibly shaken.  "But her not responding today has made it more weird."


GARY, IN (AP) A body found wrapped in plastic in a Gary home has been identified as that of a central Indiana woman who vanished with her infant daughter in early April, apparently lured away by a woman claiming to be a child-welfare worker, authorities said.

The Lake County coroner said Saturday the body had been identified as that Samantha J. Fleming, 23, of Anderson and an autopsy showed she died from stab wounds.


Council Approves Bond Notes; Critic Says Gary Delaying Debt
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[17 Apr 2015]

The Common Council gave its support Friday to the issuance of special bond anticipation notes as a short-term reduction in the municipality's debt.

The Council voted 6-0 during a mid-day special meeting that lasted all of 20 minutes.  It related to the sale last year of $17.5 million in bonds that helped to pay the cost of capital improvement projects in Gary.

Financial adviser Curtis Whitaker told council members the anticipation motes were the equivalent of a refinancing agreement that would benefit city government financially.  He said city officials expect to eventually use income from casino taxes to repay the debts from the bond sales.

James Nowacki, a Democratic candidate for mayor in the May 5 primary, who was the only spectator for the Friday special meeting, was skeptical.  He said the agreement could cost Gary an additional $1.4 million over the long-term, and said it was similar to the high interest rates that payday loan businesses charge their customers.

Whitaker said Nowacki exaggerated the circumstances of Friday's actions.

Council President Kyle Allen said Gary government in the past paid off bonds that built a baseball stadium for the South Shore Rail Cats ball club and are paying off bonds for improvements to the Gary/Chicago International Airport.  "If we're such a bad credit risk, why do the lenders think we're worth it," he asked.


Gary School Board Fires Finance Chief
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[15 Apr 2015]

The action happened after Michael Washington was suspended with pay last month, according to school spokesman Michael Gonzalez.  No reason was given for the suspension.

Washington held the job since 2013.  The board named accounts payable supervisor Mary Comer as the district's treasurer, replacing Washington.

Washington's firing was shrouded in secrecy on the school board's consent agenda, which is usually approved quickly with little discussion.  The item was listed as "termination material attached for the board."  Dan Friel, the school board's labor attorney, named Washington as the employee who was terminated after the meeting, saying his name should have been listed on the agenda in conformance with Indiana's Open Door Law.

Board member Nellie Moore attempted to pull the "termination" item out of the consent agenda because she said she wanted to oppose it, but not the rest of the items on the agenda.  They included a district reconfiguration and an alternative school.  Her motion failed by a 4-3 vote, but elicited a scathing response from board member Robert Campbell who asked whether the termination listing was a "mistake or on purpose.  If it's a dictatorship, then you usually end up in bad shape."

Moore mentioned Washington's name in her closing remarks, thanking him for his work.  "It's very easy to point a finger at one person and let that person absorb the brunt of all the negatives," she said.

Washington's name appears on two liens, totaling $6.8 million, filed by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service last year in the Lake County Recorder's office.  The IRS contends the district failed to pay payroll taxes for part of 2012 and 2013.  The documents state that taxes, including interest and penalties, have been assessed against the Gary Community School Corp. and Washington, as chief financial officer.  The IRS joined a chorus of creditors including the Illinois Central Bus Co., the Northern Indiana Public Service Co. and the Gary Sanitary District.

In December 2013, Washington warned the school board of its difficulty meeting payroll and standing bills.  "This isn't new.  It's been going on for a while.  Information has been presented a number of times.  A plan to reduce operational costs has not been put forward and adopted.  We're at the point in my professional opinion that we can't go past this year or we'll end up having someone come in and do it for us," he said.

Washington's words are ringing true.  The General Assembly is considering a bail-out measure within its budget bill to relieve the district from some of its debt, but it will come with financial oversight for one year.


Weekly Steel Production Falls Again
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[15 Apr 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region declined again to 585,000T in the Great Lakes region last week.

Local steel production dropped by 6,000T, or 1% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second-biggest steel-producing region, jumped to 541,000T last week, up significantly from the 511,000T produced the week before.

Overall U.S. steel output rose by 1.3% over the same period.  Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.621 million tons, up from 1.6 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 68.6% last week, up from 67.7% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 76.6% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 24.7 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.6%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 6.7%, while capacity utilization lags last year by 12%.


Gary Mail Carrier Charged with Leaving Mail in Vacant Lots
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[15 Apr 2015]

Gary letter carrier Mark S. Sharp has been charged with a felony count of official misconduct after postal inspectors alleged he left boxes of mail in empty lots in Gary.

According to a sworn affidavit filed in the case, "On February 24, 2015 . . .Mark Sharp gave a voluntary statement to me and admitted that he had abandoned some of the mail in the alley of Kentucky St . . . he identified that location as one of three separate spots where he would store mail in Gary" the affidavit states.

A search of Sharp's personal vehicle turned up additional mail according to federal authorities investigating the incident. " . . .in total 4028 pieces of mail were recovered from the above alley, Sharps personal vehicle and his postal vehicle" the affidavit states.  An additional 1004 pieces of mail were recovered later in a vacant lot at the intersection of Kentucky and Tennessee Sts.

Sharp was charged with one count of official misconduct, a level 6 felony, in Lake Superior Court on April 7.


3 Charged in Death of Gary Man Found Wrapped in Rug at Bottom of Pit
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[14 Apr 2015]

A night of drinking in early January led to an assault on a handicapped man found dead more than a month later.  Marshall was "physically disabled as a result of substance abuse issues and a stroke," the probable cause affidavit states.  His body was found wrapped in a blue shag rug and left at the bottom of a steep abandoned sand pit just (2015 Murder #5 and Counting) blocks from home.

Two women and a man were charged in the death of Nathan Marshall, 31, in early April, but the case was sealed until all three were in custody, police said.  Stephanie Serrano, 29, and James Willingham, 32, both of the Black Oak neighborhood where Marshall lived and died, are charged with murder and assisting a criminal.  Cheyanne Evans, 20, also of Black Oak, is charged with assisting a criminal.  She is in custody in Orlando, Fla., awaiting extradition to Indiana, police said.

The investigation into Marshall's death required detectives to piece together evidence and interviews with partial information about the incident that began in early January when Marshall and the three defendants were drinking at Marshall's home in the 3000 block of Gerry St.  Marshall apparently touched Serrano in a way she found inappropriate and a fight ensued, court records state.

After the fight, Marshall was placed in the back bedroom of his home and witnesses later told police they heard conversations with the defendants and understood that "Nathan was being abused," the affidavit states.

In late January, a relative reported Marshall missing.  In early February, after receiving an anonymous call that Marshall may have been beaten to death, Lake County Sgt. Edward Jenkins went to Marshall's home with the landlord.  There they found damage to the walls and learned a blue rug was missing from a bedroom, the affidavit states.

On Feb. 25, a boy riding his ATV in the J-Pit, an abandoned sand mine in Black Oak, saw what he first thought was a dead deer.  His father came to the scene and called police when he realized it was a human body, police said.

Serrano told Jenkins that during the drinking session, "she felt violated" by Marshall and fought with him.  She said Marshall was placed in the back bedroom and "laid on the floor of the back room injured for several days," and the trio "despite efforts to assist him ... realized they went too far," the affidavit states.

Willingham called Serrano when Marshall died, and she, Evans and Willingham drove Marshall's body to the site where it was found, according to court records.


Rookie Gary Canine Cop Gets First Collar
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[13 Apr 2015]

The newest member of the Gary police K9 unit got his first collar late Sunday night.

Nero, donated by the Gary Canine Association and formally accepted by the Gary Common Council last week, caught a 16-year-old Gary teen who fled from police as they chased occupants of a stolen car about 11:30 p.m.

The teen was apprehended in an overgrown lot near 27th Av and Pierce St.  The 16-year-old tried to fight off Nero's efforts to hold him until Nero's handler, Cpl. John Artibey, could release him.  The teen was bitten in his arm and two other places during the arrest, Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.


Indiana's Highest Paid Mayors?
Compiled From an Indianapolis Star Report by John Tuohy
[11 Nov 2014]

[Ed Note:  Dated but still relevant]  One might assume the mayors of the biggest Indiana cities would be paid the highest salaries. Larger city, more employees, more responsibilities, more problems more money.

But it doesn't work that way.
Greg Ballard, mayor of the state's largest city by far is just the 8th highest paid mayor in the state.  In fact, mayors in cities nearly 10 times as small make more money than Ballard.

At the top of the list is Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, a former state attorney general and Harvard Law School graduate elected in 2011 as the the first black woman mayor in the state.

1. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson
Salary per year:  $129,922.
Took office:  2012.
Gary population:  79,170.
Size rank:  Ninth.
City employees:  1,100.
Income per person (per capita):  $15,764.


Gary Int'l on Schedule for June Takeoff
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Keith Benman
[13 Apr 2015]

Planes will be able to land and takeoff on the extended Gary/Chicago International Airport main runway by June 25, according to airport officials.Gary Int'l. Airport Runway

More than a decade in the making, and under construction for the past eight years, the long-awaited day is almost here when the main runway will be a full 8,900 feet, Project Manager Dan Vicari informed the airport authority at its regular meeting on Monday.

Negotiations are still ongoing with environmental agencies, but there is agreement on key aspects of the cleanup and containment plan, Vicari said.

A key component of that plan will be the placing of a clay cap over portions of the contaminated Conservation Chemical property that will not be covered by the concrete of the runway extension, Vicari said.  That area was once the site of an oil refinery, an asphalt plant, and various other chemical processing operations.

New aviation equipment installed at the end of the new runway extension must also be tested before planes can land on the new portion of the runway, Vicari said.

Some 1,500 feet of the runway extension was completed last year.  All that is left to do is fill the 400-foot gap between the existing runway and the new extension.

The current runway is just 7,000 feet.  That has limited the size of airliners and cargo planes that can use the airport.  At times it has led to limits on fuel and passenger loads for those that do.  The project will also add mandated 1,000-foot safety areas at each end of the main runway.

Vicari said he believes even with the environmental cleanup and containment measures still to be implemented, the project can remain within its current $174.1 million budget.

When the airport expansion project began in 2006, airport officials estimated it could be completed by 2010. The projected cost was about $90 million. That price tag surged at regular intervals over the years, until it reached the current price tag of $174.1 million last year.

Also at Monday's meeting, Airport Manager Delbert Brown, of Avports, told the airport authority takeoffs and landings and the revenues derived from them were all up sharply in March.  There were 2,125 landings and takeoffs at the airport in March, which was a 50% increase over the same month in 2014.  That increased traffic boosted landing fees 58% and parking fees for aircraft 41%.


Gary Officials Turn Eyes to Future
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Meredith Colias
[13 Apr 2015]

GARY | Hoping for a renewed vision, Gary city officials presented a plan at the Genesis Center Monday evening it hopes can revitalize three of its neighborhoods.

A crowd of 50 residents were asked for their input on the citys "Livable Center Plan 2025" for downtown Gary, Emerson and Horace Mann.

The initial study and planning is being funded by a $150,000 grant from the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.  The presentation was the first step in a year-long discussion city officials will have with residents.

At least one was skeptical it would ever come into reality.  "Its an exercise we engage in time and time again," said mayoral candidate Jim Nowacki, 60.  "The results of this will be another plan, more consultants being paid, but no follow-through or execution."

Gary's challenges for redevelopment include a population down 55% from 1960, a tough economy and pockets of vacant and abandoned buildings scattered across the city. Across the three neighborhoods stretching south from the Indiana Toll Road to 9th Ave, planning firm The Arsh Group estimated Horace Mann bounded from Monroe to Chase St. holds 22% of vacant land and 12% vacant buildings; downtown Gary from Delaware St. to Madison St. has 47% vacant land and 11% vacant buildings; and Emerson from Broadway Ave. to Interstate 65 - has 30% vacant land and 21% vacant buildings.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The cited figures are quite sobering, to say the least!


Pig Iron Casting Plant Could be Built at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[13 Apr 2015]

EAST CHICAGO | A contractor filed plans to build a pig iron casting plant at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor at a time when steelmakers are generally cutting back on operations.

Hoosier Pig Services LLC has requested the Indiana Department of Environmental Management's permission to construct a new facility to cast pig iron that U.S. mini mills have typically obtained from countries like Russia, Venezuela and Ukraine.  They use it as a feedstock to make flat-rolled steel.  The permit request says the proposed facility could produce up to 175,000 tons a year, or about 200 tons an hour.  Natural gas would power two tundish heaters, and two baghouse pollution control machines would capture emissions.

ArcelorMittal, a global steelmaker with its own electric arc furnaces in Europe and the Middle East, said nothing has been decided yet.  "There is no final agreement in place with a new pig iron operator and an existing vendor continues to provide services at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor," spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford said.

The addition of pig iron casting operations would shore up ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor's financial position and make jobs there more secure.  An additional product at the mill could create the demand to keep more blast furnaces running, Bradford said.  Such a project also would have a ripple effect throughout the industry that could, for instance, create more jobs in the Minnesota Iron Range, where workers mine iron ore.

"ArcelorMittal might be in a situation where it has extra iron and wants to produce pig iron to keep the furnaces running efficiently and stable-ly," Bradford said.  "A lot of the pig iron today comes from places of questionable legitimacy.  Who wants to buy it from Russia when there are sanctions?  There have been articles over the last several years about Brazilian pig iron including timber from deforested rain forests.  Having a domestic source so you don't have to pay freight could be attractive.  They wouldn't be doing it if there wasn't a legitimate demand."

More than 5,600 people work at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, a century-old steelmaking complex that sprawls over 3,100 acres on the Lake Michigan coastline.


Illinois Man Shot and Killed Buying Cigs in Gary
#10 and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[13 Apr 2015]

A 21-year-old Calumet Park, IL, man was "just at the wrong place at the wrong time" when he was shot and killed at a gas station late Sunday night, police said Monday.

Donald Fuzzell had dropped off some friends in Gary and stopped at the gas station at 24th Av and Broadway shortly before 11 p.m., Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.

On the store's surveillance video, investigators saw Fuzzell return to his car and approached by two men dressed in all black clothing.  They had walked from the north side of the gas station and appeared to be trying to rob or carjack the victim, , Pawlak said.  "They tried to open the car door and as they did, he tried to drive away."  The assailants then began shoot into the car, striking Fuzzell in the chest and leg.

As the assailants ran back from the direction they had come, Fuzzell tried to reach the door of the business, but collapsed outside, where he was pronounced dead at 11:50 p.m., a news release from the Lake County coroner states.

"He didn't do anything wrong," Pawlak said.  "He was an innocent victim."

Fuzzell was driving his girlfriend's 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer, which was towed to the Lake County police crime lab to be processed for evidence, police said.


Redevelopment Department Falling Apart-Literally
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[11 Apr 2015]

The Gazette has done a few stories about the problems at the Gary Department of Redevelopment.  Nothing could be more telling of the failure of the Department however, than to have their own building literally falling down.

Gary Redev Comm BldgIn the photo one can see a large piece of the building located at 839 Broadway falling off.  The issue is one of safety as the stone-like material could fall on a passerby on the sidewalk.  It could not have gone unnoticed by Redevelopment, Sanitary District and other City employees who enter and exit the building on a regular basis.




Gary Sees Back to Back Fires for Second Time Today
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[11 Apr 2015]

Gary Firefighters were just finishing up with a residential structure fire in the 700 block of Virginia St when the call came in for a vacant commercial building ablaze in the 4300 block of Georgia St.  This is the second time today that fire personnel were dispatched to one fire directly from another.  In this case, the fire was at an abandoned grocery store (Ed. - The former Stanley's IGA, back in the day). That structure burned approximately a year ago and has been closed since that time.

At this point, we can only assume there is a serial arsonist on the loose.  Fires have been called in from both ends of the City nearly one after another for a total of nine in less than 24 hours.  The Northwest Indiana Gazette will keep you updated as to what is going on with the situation.


Gary, Two Other Fire Agencies Battle Six Blazes in Two Hours
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[11 Apr 2015]

GARY | The Gary Fire Department fought six fires within a two-hour period Friday night.

Mark Jones, the department's chief of operations, said all of the buildings damaged by the fires appear to be abandoned structures.  There were no reported injuries.

The first blaze was reported at 7:20 p.m., and Jones said the fires continued until after 9 p.m.

Firefighters extinguished fires at buildings near the intersections of 17th Av and Tyler St, 10th Av and Durbin St and 17th Av and Madison St.  Another fire was fought in the 100 block of W 53rd Av.  There were two fires at different buildings within the 3400 block of Kentucky St, Jones said.

The cause and origin of all the fires remains under investigation.  Though it is usual for the department to respond to six fires within a two-hour period, Jones said some of the fires could have been caused by the changing weather.  "It can happen for several reasons," Jones said.

The Merrillville Fire Department and the Lake Ridge Volunteer Fire Department assisted Gary firefighters throughout the night.


New Tax Lien for Gary School Corporation
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[10 Apr 2015]

As the beleaguered Gary Community School Corporation reels from the controversy over the Lew Wallace auction, a new federal tax lien has been filed in the office of the Lake County Recorder.  The notice, filed on March 31, 2015 but still not available to the public, states:

There is a lien in favor of the United State on all property and rights to property belonging to this taxpayer for the amount of these taxes.

The amount due under this tax lien is just $153,85.32.  The lien is for taxes due and payable in the first quarter of the year 2014.  Prior tax liens, filed in the year 2014 for 2013 taxes, totaled nearly $7 Million.

The Gary Community school Corporation held an auction at the abandoned Lew Wallace High School last weekend.  It is unclear whether the school corporation received approval from the IRS prior to the auction, but sources tell me that agents are looking into the sale.


Art Work Forgotten in Shuttered Gary School
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[10 April 2015]

GARY A tip from an art collector led auctioneer Jonathan Kraft to look for a half-dozen paintings by prominent artists that were left behind in Lew Wallace High School when it closed in June.

He found one by popular Dunes landscape artist Frank V. Dudley and two by Adolph Schulz, who is credited with developing Brown County's artist colony.  Kraft, of Kraft Auction Services in Hobart, estimates each is valued at between $2,000 and $6,000.  They were held out of last week's auction of school equipment.  Dudley's "Butterfly Weed" and the others, most of which were inside the school's office suite, were given to a security officer for placement in a vault that contains valuable art works.

Michael Gonzalez, spokesman for the Gary Community School Corp., said officials thought all paintings had been removed.  "We believed we had everything in value and put them in a vault.  Frankly, we may have missed some," he said.

Ten years ago, the district had 121 works of art, valued at about $511,850, according to an inventory.  The collection is shrinking and officials in the past have been unable to explain what happened to the art.  In 1993, Nikol Fine Arts of Bremen estimated the collection, then at 133 works, to be valued at $534,450.

William A. Wirt, Gary's first superintendent, began the collection in 1906 to teach fine arts and instill culture to students from various ethnic backgrounds.  There once were more than 200 works of art.  The paintings hung on the walls of now-closed Emerson, Horace Mann, and Lew Wallace high schools and some were donated as gifts from senior classes.  Gold name plates indicated the donors.

The collection has been loaned out for exhibits, but is now stored in a vault.  Officials have declined requests to show the works to reporters.  Gonzalez said the district is cataloging its art collection. "At some point, we'll have them appraised," he said.

Several large cities adopted Wirt's academic plan, displaying works of art in school hallways across the country.


Gary Man Shot and Killed
#9 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[10 Apr 2015]

GARY | A Gary man was shot and killed on his block early Friday, officials said.

Johnnie Dixon III, 22, of the 2000 block of Carolina St was pronounced dead at 2:05 a.m. at the scene of the shooting, Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said.  The cause of death was gun shot wounds suffered in a homicide at 2253 Carolina St, Frey said.

Cpl. Damon Bradshaw and Patrolman Deawn Kimble were the first to arrive after a resident of the 2200 block of Carolina Street told police she heard "18 to 20 gunshots," the police report said.  Cmdr. Del Stout said investigators are looking for witnesses to try to gather more information about the homicide.  Police are asking anyone with information to contact Detective Alexander Jones at (219) 881-1210.


Church Withdraws Bid for Lew Wallace H.S.
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[9 Apr 2015]

A local church has withdrawn its $100,000 offer to purchase the shuttered Lew Wallace High School, dashing plans to transform it into a community center.

The move came after five months of negotiations with the cash-strapped Gary school district that never led to a sale.  Since expressing interest in buying Lew Wallace last year, Rev. Philip Endris said he's jumped through endless hoops, seemingly at the whim of the school board.

Endris of The Rock Church said the last straw came when it learned of the district's April 4 plans to auction off the school's contents.  It retained the Kraft Auction Service, in Hobart, for the sale.  "The last thing we wanted was what's happened a bunch of people going in there and damaging the building," said Endris.  "It's a free-for-all in there right now.  Everyone is taking whatever they want, it's sad."

Police were called to the school on Monday in an apparent dispute over items.  The police report said a 68-year-old Beverly Shores man was at the loading dock when three other men attacked him, and one struck him with a chair.

Endris said he saw a woman fall during the auction because the electricity wasn't working and the school was dark.  "There was no lights, no power, and no restrooms.  I saw at least two rooms with urine on the floor."  Endris said the auction gutted the building of desks, chairs, scrap metal, scoreboards and useable materials, rendering it less desirable to the church.

School district spokesman Michael Gonzalez said, "We received a proposal from The Rock Church, and we were working on an appropriate response ...  I understand the sense of disappointment on the part of the church's leadership, but we're working with the City of Gary and other partners to determine the value of our property, the best uses for the community and to generate revenue for our district."  Gonzalez said the district is considering issuing a request for proposals on all its vacant property.  "We will work in good faith with anyone submitting reasonable proposals."

Back in February, at the district's urging, the church invited the community to a meeting to gain input on its plans.  City Councilman Ronier Scott, D-6th, attended the meeting and supported the church project.  He learned recently it had withdrawn its bid.  "Yes, I am disappointed.  Very much so," said Scott.  "This is a wonderful community and Lew Wallace is pretty much the heart of Glen Park."  Scott likened The Rock Church project as similar to the conversion of Tolleston school to a Northwest Indiana Boys and Girls Club.

Scott said the numerous school closings take a toll on neighborhoods, changing them for the worse.  "Families surround themselves around schools where their children go and once schools go, they move away to an area that's more accessible."  Scott, a 1990 Wallace graduate, said he's already starting to see changes in Glen Park since Lew Wallace closed last June.  "I personally would not like to see it look like Emerson, Beckman or Norton," pointing to dilapidated schools gutted by vandals.  Firefighters responded to a fire at Norton last week.

In his withdrawal letter, Endris said the church, in conjunction with Urban Reach, Educating to Excel, planned to offer year-round after-school mentoring, enrichment and athletic programs for children.  Scott said the Gary Steelers Pop Warner youth football team planned to play at the school.  With the athletic fields stripped out of the sale, Endris said the church's efforts would be crippled.

When it bid on the building last year, Endris said the church asked for a quick decision.  He said during a walk-through, there was water leaking in several spots captured in empty containers and plastic bags, and there was standing water in the basement.  He said the district discontinued insurance on the building last year and vandals had already struck at least twice.

"It's disappointing to say that the actions of the school board are nothing short of unethical," said Endris.  "The fact is, the building is vacant and is falling into disrepair the longer it take the board to do something.  Lew Wallace is soon to become another sad statistic for the city of Gary."

[Per Auctioneer Jonathon Kraft -]  So everyone knows, yes the church pulled their offer of $100,000 but you need the rest of the story.  The offer was for everything in the school and the school.  That is why they retracted it and now they are going to make a new offer based off what they spent Saturday.  They are still seriously interested.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Sad to say/see, but did I not predict this very turn of events?

[10 Apr 2015]
Steven O -

I posted this Sunday for a select few to see. I was looking for opinions as to the situation:

"OK.... Something has been bothering me since I saw this painting at the high school yesterday.  There were a few areas in the school which were locked and being an ex-student there, I was aware of most of the layout of the school.  I also was there 8 hours and needed something to do while waiting for my table to come to auction.  I found totally unsecured access to one of the "locked" areas and found this painting (approx 4 ft wide and 5 ft tall) leaning in the furthest back room facing the wall.  It was in probably the most secluded portion of the building, in the way back room, in a closet, leaning between a bookshelf and the wall, facing the wall.  Perhaps someone wished to assure that the painting did not disappear.  Or perhaps there is some shenanigans going on.  I know that this painting is not mine, but the possibility that this painting, which was probably donated to our school, will disappear to parts unknown kind of bothers me.  The artist is world famous and her art is highly prized.  I took a few photos with my phone and replaced it to it's previous spot."

Even when I posted this I was vague in describing where this painting was for fear of someone taking things into their own hands (so to speak).  I tried unsuccessfully to contact folks sympathetic to the cause and did not hear back from anyone until late Monday evening.  There was a journalist and an art historian who were willing to meet me there and confirm the existence of this painting.  The journalist said that he had arrange for a school admin to meet us there as well, but once there he said that he wanted to be able to get to this room and see what was there without worrying about being blocked from access.

Once into the secluded room, I saw that the painting was gone.  The art historian stated that he was aware of this painting and knew the name (The Musician), but there are no images of it.  As far as we know, the only images of this painting are the ones that I snapped in haste with my camera phone.  There was another piece of art, a sitting Chinese dragon/lion type statue that I confirmed today is now missing as well.  The statue was still there when I was there with the 2 gentlemen.

Sorry for the lengthy post, but I believe that there may still be hope of recovery if we all spread this image and let it be known that there are shady circumstances surrounding this painting.  The artist was Pauline Palmer.  Look her up and I'm sure you will be as shocked as I was.

Perhaps the piece still remains with the Gary School system, but I doubt it.

Comments -

Marian N - Thanks, Steve for documenting the existence of "the Musician".  I hope he is now in a safe, secure place, away from dampness and mold.  If he is not in the possession of the School Board, or even if he is, the parties who have the right to be the most interested in him are the School Corporation's creditors (NIPSCO perhaps) and the current school children of Gary.  We alums have received everything we are entitled to - a great education.

Tim G - I was at the auction on saturday and collected the things I bought on Monday Tuesday and Wednesday.  The lack of security was crazy on Monday.  The police showed up and left because nobody knew who bought what.  It was positively ridiculous.  Many people carrying out things and they weren't even at the auction!

Diana R - So, I'm assuming that the auction house was contracted to be present during the auction only.. not for any later pick ups.  So who's responsible?  Again.. my guess is the owner(s) of the property itself.


IRS Looking into Painting Fiasco at Gary Schools

Compiled From a niwGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[9 Apr 2015]

If the people of Gary cant do anything about the neglect of valuable artworks by the Gary Community School Corporation, perhaps the IRS will.

The Gazette received an e-mail today from a concerned citizen who reported the issue to the Internal Revenue Service.  "I am a Lew Wallace graduate and I am sickened by this" the tipster who did not want her name used stated.  "I contacted the IRS office in Merrillville hoping that someone would do something to save this artwork.  The agent was very interested.  I would be surprised if they are not out there in the next day or two to see what is going on" the tipster stated.

As reported exclusively in the Gazette, several paintings valued in the tens of thousands of dollars each were left in the abandoned Lew Wallace High School.  Among the works reportedly in the abandoned building were paintings by Frank V. Dudley, Gerald Cassidy and Pauline Palmer.  At least two of the paintings were purchased by the school corporation in 1930.  The School Corporation hired Kraft Auctioneers to sell off personal property in anticipation of an offering of the building.  The paintings were not listed as auction material.

Gary Community School Corporation spokesperson Mike Gonzalez stated that one painting was secured on Saturday.  Several sources have reported seeing multiple paintings in the building.  Gonzalez did not have information as to which painting was secured.  The Gary School Corporation has an extensive art collection valued in the millions of dollars.

Mayoral Candidate Jim Nowacki has tried to obtain an accounting of all of the artwork held by the Gary Community School Corporation without success.  "Gary had the finest art collection of any public school corporation in the nation" Nowacki told the Gazette tonight.  "I have compiled inventory lists going back years and no one is talking about this" Nowacki continued.

The Gazette has now learned that there was little oversight during the time that auction purchasers removed items from the school.  When we visited yesterday there were multiple people removing items from multiple doors with little oversight.  Individuals were sliding heavy items down the terrazzo stairs and causing damage to the building.  We did not witness it personally, but there were reports of individuals removing fixtures, presumably for scrap value.  Items which were in desks and file cabinets were thrown about the school and there was no accountability as to who purchased what items.  In short, it was a free for all.

The Internal Revenue Service has placed liens on all property of the Gary Community School Corporation.  In 2012 and 2013, the IRS alleges that the Corporation failed to pay withholding taxes which were taken out of employees checks.  The liens total nearly $7M.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The vultures are now swooping down on the carcass of what was once a noble structure to pick its bones clean.  When they are finished the building(s) will not be desired for purchase by anyone.  Hail to Lew Wallace ... .


Gary Reserve Officer Suspended for 60 Days
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[8 Apr 2015]

The Gary Police Civil Service Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to suspend reserve officer Joe Franklin's police powers for 60 days for violating procedures while taking a prisoner to the Lake County Jail.

Franklin, whose police powers allow him to make arrests while working his full-time job at the Gary Community School Corp. and any other security job within the city, did not attend the brief special meeting held to issue the board's decision.

The commission conducted a hearing at its regular monthly meeting last week.  After a 45-minute executive session, the board quickly approved a recommendation by attorney Rinzer Williams, who said the city "did not meet its burden of proof" that would justify a permanent suspension.

The suspension is retroactive to Feb. 25, the day Chief Larry McKinley filed his complaint against Franklin, the board ruled.

The chief's complaint stated that on Jan. 3, Franklin delivered Hakeem Kennedy, 28, to jail, but not the bulk of Kennedy's money more than $300.

Kennedy was arrested on a Lake County warrant.  The property sheet prepared by the arresting officer showed he had jewelry, cash and coins, among other items.  A jail transport officer is responsible for making sure all the listed items are taken to the county jail when the prisoner is moved from the Public Safety Facility.

At the Lake County Jail, a video recording of Franklin's actions shows him with Kennedy's property envelope that contained less than one dollar in change.
Proof of armed robbery (stealing from a prisioner by a cop) is not sufficient "to justify a permanent suspension"? 


Casinos Report 18% Increase in Attendance
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Karen Caffarini
[8 Apr 2015]

Northwest Indiana's five casinos saw an almost 14% increase in revenues from February to March and a 2% hike in the first quarter over the first three months of last year.

Year-over-year numbers for March weren't as favorable.  Revenues for the five casinos slid a total of 4.6% year-over-year in March.  There was a total of $95.43 million revenue in March 2014, while revenues last month were $90.86 million according to the monthly revenue report issued Wednesday by the Indiana Gaming Commission.

"With significantly better weather in January 2015 over 2014, we would have thought we would have a bigger increase (for the first quarter).  The end of February and all of March were pretty clean," said Steve Cox, director of finance for Horseshoe Hammond.

Ed Feigenbaum, editor of Indiana Gaming Insight, said that casino operators last year primarily blamed the frigid weather and heavy snowfalls that occurred almost every weekend in January and February for weak performances.  "They said it was an anomaly and the numbers should be better this year," Feigenbaum said.  Cox said competition from IL, including video poker machines in IL restaurants and bars, continues to be another factor affecting revenues at Northwest Indiana's casinos, in addition to weather.

Still, he said the region's casinos fared better than some of those in Illinois.  He said revenues were down 5.7% for the entire Chicagoland region, including Northwest Indiana.  Cox said month-over-month attendance for the casinos was up 18% from February to March, but dropped just under 2% for the first quarter.

Overall Northwest Indiana casino revenues were down in March 2015 as compared to the same month in 2014.

Ameristar:  $20.2 million, up 0.6%
Blue Chip:  $14.5 million, down 3.7%
Horseshoe:  $41.5 million, down 4.1%
Majestic Star I:  $8.6 million, down 12.4%
Majestic Star II:  $6.1 million, down 9.6%
Total:  $90.9 million, down 4.3%
- Source:  Indiana Gaming Commission March revenue report.


Sparks-Wade Alleges Dem State Rep Using Charity to Campaign for Opponent
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[8 Apr 2015]

Gary City Council Candidate LaVetta Sparks-Wade says she was shocked and saddened to see State Rep Vernon Smith using a van owned by a not-for-profit corporation putting out yard signs for her opponent.  The van, clearly marked "African American Achievers" is owned by the African American Achievers Youth Corps, Inc.  According to public records, the corporation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization headed by State Rep Vernon G. Smith-D Gary.

LaVetta Sparks-Wade says she will file a complaint with the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration today.  In addition to the allegation regarding the use of the van, LaVetta says the Glen Theater marquee is being used to promote her opponent.

Representatives of African American Achievers Youth Corps, Inc. did not return calls from the Gazette seeking comment.


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

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region normally about 100,000T higher in better times ticked up to 591,000T in the Great Lakes region last week.

Local steel production rose by 12,000T, or 2% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output declined by 1.7% over the same period.

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second-biggest steel-producing region, fell to 511,000T last week, a decline of 8% from the 556,000T produced the week before.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.6 million tons, down from 1.628 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 67.7% last week, down from 68.9% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 77.1% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 23.1 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 72.9%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 6.3%, while capacity utilization lags last year by a steep 13.7%.


While Election Board Hears Pay to Play Allegations, Gary Sanitary District Awards $20M, No Bid Contract to Republic Services
Compiled From a nwiGazette Repot by Ken Davidson
[7 Apr 2015]

The Gary Sanitary District approved a 5 year, $20M contract for residential waste collection yesterday without comment or question.

The move came at the very same time that the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration was hearing complaints from two candidates for mayor regarding the campaign finance statements of Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.  In 2014, the committee, Karen About Gary a/k/a Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson received the following contributions from residential waste haulers:

March 14-Waste Management, Inc. $1,000.00 received by R. Cossey

March 14-Republic Services, LP $5,000.00 received by R. Cossey

(NOTE: This is from an Amended Report filed after the complaints from Candidates Buggs and Nowacki.  In the original 2014 report this contributions was listed as $1,000 from Republic Services from Crown Point, IN taken by R. Cossey)

March 14-Republic Services of IN, LLC $5,000.00 received by R. Cossey

On September 23, 2014, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson appeared on WLTH am 1370 radio where she abruptly announced the cancellation of the contract with Waste Management, Inc.  That contract was in the third year of a 5 year agreement.  Republic Services received an emergency, interim contract to provide residential trash collection in the City of Gary.  The interim contract was to be for no longer than 6 months while the Board found a new contractor.  At the time, Republic Services spent an estimated $1M providing new trash cans for the entire city.

Now Republic Services of Indiana, LLC has been awarded a 5 year deal to collect trash in the City of Gary.  The Board was told that the collection would be "at the same rate" that residents are paying.

However, the major issue with the residential trash collection contract is the house count.  Because prior contracts called for the trash collectors to be paid based on a set number of houses which was grossly inflated, an $11M shortfall had to be paid by the Gary Sanitary District.  In this case, Republic will be paid to collect trash from 22,000 houses in Gary.  There is no indication in any documents as to where that fictional number came from and the sanitary district is likely to end up with a shortfall in the millions of dollars over the term of the 5 year contract.
[COMMENT -GDY]:   I am more than a bit taken aback by the fact that there are only 22,000 houses in Gary requiring trash pickup services.  It is also noted that the report states this "fictional number" may well be over inflated. 


Steelmakers Warn Millions of Manufacturing Jobs at Risk
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[7 Apr 2015]

WASHINGTON D.C.| The United States has lost a staggering 5.6 million manufacturing jobs since 2000, and could lose millions more.

Steelmakers say more aggressive pro-manufacturing policies are needed.

The American Iron and Steel Institute, the lobbying arm of the U.S. steel industry, recently announced its public policy agenda for 2015.  The AISI is calling upon the federal government to save jobs by cracking down on unfair trade, reducing heavy industry's taxes, encouraging shale and natural gas production, and investing in infrastructure.  The association also asks that federal environmental and workplace safety regulations don't create a competitive disadvantage and discourage investment in U.S. steelmaking.

"A strong manufacturing sector creates significant benefits for society, including good-paying jobs, investment in research and development, critical materials for our national defense, and high-value exports," the AISI stated in its 2015 Public Policy Agenda.  "Yet manufacturing in North America faces significant challenges to its international competitiveness due to a host of factors, including burdensome tax rates, inadequate investment in infrastructure, increasing regulatory burdens and foreign unfair trade practices."

"U.S. manufacturers and their workers can compete with anyone in the world on a level playing field, but they cannot compete against government," the AISI stated.  "Trade-distorting foreign government policies ... create a distorted playing field in international trade and lead to unfair trade and import surges."

The AISI is lobbying for aggressive action that includes strong trade laws, strict enforcement and even lawsuits through the World Trade Organization when needed.  Steelmakers say new laws are needed to reflect current economic realities, such as allowing the federal government impose tariffs to offset foreign currency manipulation, such as when China keeps the Yuan artificially low to ensure its goods are cheaper than everyone else's.


Lake Co. Population Loss Slows, but Still Leads State
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[6 Apr 2015]

Lake County again posted the largest population loss in Indiana last year, but the rate of decline slowed down in what was heralded as a move in the right direction.

The second largest county in the state now has 490,228 residents, or about 1,175 fewer people than in 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.  The drop of 0.2% in 2014 was lower than Lake County's average decline of 1,550 fewer residents in each of the past three years.

More people moved out of Lake County than moved in last year, reflecting a national slowdown of migration from big cities like Chicago to surrounding counties, said Matt Kinghorn, a demographer with the Indiana Business Research Center.  About 1,977 more people moved out of Lake County last year than moved in.

The cooling off extended to Porter County, which had been one of the fastest-growing counties in Indiana during the 2000s.  The ninth largest county in Indiana averaged 1,754 more residents between 2000 and 2010, but only added 650 more people last year, Kinghorn said.  LaPorte County bucked the national trend, adding an estimated 188 residents in its second straight year of population growth.

The state gained about 26,140 more residents last year, a 0.4% increase over 2013.  "Indiana saw an uptick in population in 2014, but we took a step back with slower growth," he said.  "We need a few years of consistent economic growth, and more people thinking about buying a house or thinking about moving up into a larger house."

"It's not just a Northwest Indiana trend," Kinghorn said. "There's been slower movement across the country since the Great Recession."


Slow Progress Finding Killer in Latest Homicide
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Lori Caldwell
[6 Apr 2015]

GARY | Police knocked on doors Monday morning at Woodlake Village, hoping to find witnesses who saw a car, a suspect, an accomplice anything that would lead them to Juble Hairston's killer.

Hairston, 36, well known to many Gary police officers and federal agents as well, was shot and killed at his girlfriend's apartment before dawn on Saturday.

His girlfriend told police she and Hairston were out until about 2 a.m., then returned to her apartment.  About 5 a.m., a man kicked in the door and immediately began to hit Hairston in head with a gun, the police report states.  She ran out of the apartment and went to her mother's home, which is nearby, to call for help, Sgt. Dan Callahan said.

When she returned, Hairston was dead.  He died at the scene from gunshot wounds, the Lake County coroner's news release states.

Callahan said police have a general description of the assailant, but no information about any vehicle or possible accomplice that might have been involved.

Hairston was a member of the "Bronx Boys" street gang that waged a lengthy, deadly war with another gang, CCA, located in Concord Commons apartments in the late 1990s.  The FBI-led Gang Response Investigative Unit broke up the two gangs and sent multiple members to federal prison.

In 2004, Hairston was charged with dealing cocaine.  In 2011, Hairston was charged with more than three dozen crimes related to dog fighting.  Two years later he pleaded guilty and agreed to terms that included 18 months of probation.  More recently, he was facing a violation of that probation and was scheduled to appear in Lake Superior Court in May, court records show.


Valuable Artwork Sits in Abandoned Lew Wallace School
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[5 Apr 2015]

Jim Nowacki has been talking for years about the "lost" art collection of the Gary Community School Corporation.  He has meticulously catalogued the works and traced them as far as he could.  So imagine his surprise when he went to an auction at Garys abandoned Lew Wallace school yesterday to find paintings from artists Gerald Cassidy and Frank V. Dudley.

According to Nowacki, both artists are very collectible and the paintings are worth in the tens of thousands of dollars each.  "One Dudley sold at Christies recently for over $200,000.00? Nowacki stated.  "For these paintings to just be left in this school, unprotected, is a travesty."

Gerald Cassidy is known for southwestern and Native American artwork.  His work is displayed in art galleries around the country including the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis.  According to the website GeraldCassidy.com, several Cassidy works have sold for in excess of $100,000.

Frank V. Dudley is known to region residents for his series of paintings of the Indiana Dunes.  Dudley had a cabin at the Dunes when the park was created in 1923.  Dudley arranged to keep his cabin at the Dunes in exchange for one painting per year.  Those paintings now hang in the Indiana State Museum.

School officials were notified.

UPDATE:  Jim Nowacki contacted the Gazette and said the paintings have been removed from the auction and the building by school officials.  We will update this story as more information becomes available.


Merrillville Man Shot to Death in Gary
#8 and Counting
From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[4 Apr 2015]

A 36-year-old Merrillville man was shot to death early Saturday morning in Gary, authorities said.

Police officers found Juble Hairston Jr., of the 2800 block of West 64th Av, dead at a residence in the 500 block of South Vermillion Pl at 5:40 a.m., the Lake County coroner's office said in a release Saturday afternoon.  Hairston was pronounced dead at 6:10 a.m.

The coroner's office ruled the death a homicide.  Gary police Cmdr. Del Stout said the shooting appears to be an isolated incident and that Hairston didn't appear to be the target.

RELATED -  Someone living a block away contacted the Gary P.D. and to report a stolen handgun.


Gary Dem Challengers Criticize Freeman-Wilson
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
and a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[3 Apr 2015]

Four Gary Mayoral Candidates took the historic step of coming together to push for a criminal investigation into the campaign finances of Mayor Karen Freeman Wilson. 

The candidates, Dean Hensley, Joe L. White, Robert Buggs and Jim Nowacki state in a written release that "the Committee has for years filed campaign finance reports with such callous disregard of the law that we believe a criminal investigation is in order."  Nowacki, a longtime critic of Freeman-Wilson's administration, also accused her of "pay-to-play" politics.

The candidates outline three specific areas they would like to be investigated:

That Karen About Gary received contributions, paid expenses and generally operated under a defunct committee name, Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson, from 2010 until an election board complaint was filed in 2014.  When a complaint was filed, Karen Freeman-Wilson acknowledged that the committee had been operating fraudulentlyby filing an amendment changing the name of the committee to Karen About Gary a/k/aFriends of Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Several corporations have repeatedly donated more than the amount allowed by law.  Additionally, contributions which are not capped can be clearly traced to the awarding of contracts.  For example, Gateway Partners LLC made typical donations to the Committee in the years 2011, 2012 and 2013.  In 2014, Gateway Partners LLC received $2.875 million in city bond money to purchase a building.  At precisely the time the bond was being issued contributions to Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson began pouring in.  Similarly, Republic Services LLC donated $7,000.00 to Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson in 2014.  In September 2014, Karen Freeman-Wilson, in her capacity as Special Administrator of the Gary Sanitary District, abruptly and without reason announced that she was terminating a 5-year contract held by Waste Management, Inc.  A no-bid contract was awarded to Republic Services, LLC.  Although that contract was said to be interim, Republic Services spent over $1 million to meet the demands of the contract.

In 2014, an old loan from a prior committee showed up on the campaign finance reports of Karen About Gary a/k/a Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson.  Karen Freeman-Wilson then paid herself $10,000.00 from her campaign fund in repayment of that loan.

Last month, 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.

Freeman-Wilson denied any wrongdoing.  She said her 2014 campaign report is more detailed than required by law, including contributions of under $100.  "Certainly, if there was something there, the election board wouldn't need any political impetus for doing anything.  Frankly, the election board, the Lake County prosecutor, the U.S. District Attorney if there were any indication something illegal, it's all there for the world to see," she said.

Freeman-Wilson said she filed a document saying "Karen About Gary" and "Friends of Karen Freeman-Wilson" are the same organization.  "My campaign number is the same and has been for 20 years," she said.  As for the "pay-to-play" allegation, Freeman-Wilson said she receives campaign contributions from people who do business with the city and from people who don't.  "There are clearly people who do business with the city who contribute to my campaign, but it's not a requirement, nor a prerequisite," she said.

Freeman-Wilson returned the fire, asking when the candidates would talk about substantative issues.  "My question for all the candidates is when are they going to talk about substance?"  They aren't saying anything about paving, demolition, and private foundations like Knight Foundation, which recently announced a project in Gary."


Gary Man Dies After Drive by Shooting at His House
#7 and Counting
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[2 Apr 2015]

Police were called to the 4400 block of Connecticut St just after 7:00 pm last night.  The caller reported a man had been shot in a drive by shooting.

29 year old Robert Armstead of the 4400 block of Connecticut St was pronounced dead at Methodist Hospital Northlake at 12:30 am on April 2 according to the Coroner Report.  Armstead was in the intensive care unit at the time of his death.  A gun shot wound was listed as the injury sustained.  The manner of death is being investigated as a homicide.


Steel Output Drops Sharply in Great Lakes Region
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[2 Apr 2015]

Welcome to the new normal.

Raw steel production plunged to a yearly low of 579,000T in the Great Lakes region last week.  For context, it's normally closer to 700,000T when demand is strong and the industry is humming along.  Local steel production fell by 33,000T, or 5.39% in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute.

Production in the Southern District, typically the country's second-biggest steel-producing region, rose to 556,000T last week, up about 20,000T from the week before.

Overall U.S. steel output declined by 0.6% over the same period.  Capacity utilization was 68.9% last week, the lowest it's been since Dec. 2010.   Overall U.S. production trails 2014 by 5.7%.

Total domestic raw steel production last week was about 1.628 million tons, down from 1.639 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 68.9% last week, down from 69.3% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 77.7% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date output was 21.5 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 73.3%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Production so far this year trails the 2014 rate by 5.7%, while capacity utilization lags last year by an dramatic 12.8%.

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