Mayor     On the "Come Up" with Karen               City Seal GDYNets Logo
2016 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
 
Employment at the mills is nowhere what it once was.  30,000 people worked at Gary Works alone, before everything became more automated.

Today, U.S. Steel and ArcelorMittal together employ around 17,000 workers in the Calumet Region.  That's 5.3% of the total jobs held by residents in the Gary metropolitan area, according to Department of Workforce Development figures.

The steel mill jobs also are among the best-paying in the region.  Economic studies by the American Iron and Steel Institute have found a single steelworker job at the mill supports another seven jobs, such as at restaurants and convenience stores.  By that metric, the steel industry supports 119,000 jobs in Northwest Indiana, or about 37% in the Gary metro area.
  
                 - Joseph Pete, nwiTimes 2015

*** The July 2015 unemployment rate in Gary is 40%! ***
                   
- Gary Crusader

"Gary is a great and storied city whose contributions to the state are too numerous to count."
                    - Gov. Mike Pence, 21 Oct 2015

Gary, Home of Gary Int'l:  "Chicago's third busiest airport!"
                    - Anonymous, 2016

   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 2016 report on the running of the City of the Century - Gary, IN - by its elected officials.  This is the fifth year without Rudy at the helm, as well as the fifth year KF-W has occupied the Gary Chief Executive office.  There can be little doubt but Karen Freeeman-Wilson does indeed still have her work cut out for her!

QUESTIONS FOR 2016 -
Will Gary set another record for murders (53 in 2015 by GDYNets count)?
Will Gary Int'l. ever 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. still be standing at the end of 2016?

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


BREAKING:  Man Finds Body in Garage on W 11th Av
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson and Sue Dahlen
[31 Mar 2016]

A Gary man discovered a body in a garage earlier today.  Police are on the scene at this hour, but sources confirm that an unresponsive male was discovered in the 2300 block of 11th Av.  Neither the condition nor the identity of the victim are not known at this time.

 

Great Lake Steel Production Soars to 2016 High
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[29 Mar 2016]
 

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region soared to 670,000T last week, a new high for 2016.

Local steel output has been recovering this year after imports grabbed a record-breaking 29% of total market share last year.  Imports were down to only 26% of the market share last month, and Great Lakes production has risen in nine of the 13 weeks so far this year.

Great Lakes steel output rose by 45,000T, or 7.2%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output increased by 0.4% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, fell to 536,000T last week, compared to 591,000T a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.675 million tons, up from 1.688 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.6% last week, up from 71.3% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 67.7% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date steel output in the United States has been 21.5 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 70.3%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 22.2 million tons at the same time in 2015.

 

Gary's Thea Bowman Loses Charter Bid
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[29Mar 2016]


The Indiana Charter School Board rejected Thea Bowman Leadership Academy's bid for charter authorization Tuesday, leaving the city's oldest charter and its 1,300 students facing an uncertain future.

After a two-hour meeting in Indianapolis, the state board voted 5-2 to reject the charter application that was submitted earlier this month by school officials following Ball State's non-renewal decision in January.  Board members asked pointed questions to Thea Bowman officials, who included three new board members who joined the Bowman school board Monday night.

In the end, concern over governance questions shared by Ball State seemed to sway the state board.  "I'm not convinced the board understands what it takes to avoid mistakes that happened before," said M. Karega Rausch, state board chairman.  "Part of the responsibility of this board is to vet and understand the capacity of the governing board, that's who's accountable to kids and the community."

Rausch also voiced concern over the academic performance at the elementary school.

Taryl Bonds, one of the parent group leaders, said it will hold a meeting quickly.  "Right now, we don't want to comment.  The group wants to convene and then we'll make a statement," he said.

The school bond holders sent a foreclosure letter to Thea Bowman after Ball State's non-renewal.  About $18 million is owed on the junior-senior high school at 3401 W 5th Av.

Many expected Thea Bowman would win charter authorization, including Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.  State Charter Board Executive Director James Betley, who chaired last week's public hearing in Gary, recommended the charter authorization after his staff completed an exhaustive examination of the application.  Betley said the deficiencies outlined by Ball State had been addressed.

Thea Bowman opened in 2003 after the Drexel Foundation launched it in the site of the former Holy Angels Elementary.  Its board members included former mayor Thomas Barnes and former Gary Community School Corp. administrator Anne Thompson.

In recent years, Ball State wanted term limits set on the board, but it failed to comply.  Some of the other problems included Title 1 compliance issues raised by the Indiana Department of Education and Ball State, which cited the governance issues in its provisional renewal last year.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   The presence of ex-mayor Barnes and former Gary school administrator Thompson on the board just might be part of the problem?

 

Lake County Population Drops
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[29Mar 2016]


Lake County lost the largest number of residents in the state last year.

Lake County lost 2,709 residents in 2015.  This continues a downward trend that's cost the county 1.6% of its population since 2010.  However, Lake remains the second-largest county in the state with 487,865 residents.

There's good news on the horizon though, suggesting the region's population will rebound.

Drew Klacik, a senior policy analyst with the Indiana Policy Institute, said Tuesday that Lake communities with walkable downtowns are becoming desirable to the aging boomer population and to millennials.  "Both want to move back to walkable, sustainable urban neighborhoods.  They don't want to hop in their car and drive to a strip mall."  Communities like Highland, Griffith and Hammond hold a lot of promise to those groups, Klacik said.

He also cited Gary's Miller community as a strong neighborhood that residents can enjoy for its diverse offerings within a walk to Lake Michigan.  "Gary is on a huge chunk of a gift that almost no one else has.  In the best world, Broadway becomes a sustainable core."

Demographer Matt Kinghorn, of the Indiana Business Research Center, said housing growth in Northwest Indiana is still rebounding from the recession that began in 2008.  From 2000 to 2007, he said Lake County averaged about 2,400 new building permits a year for housing.  Since 2008, the average dropped to about 830.  "Fewer people are moving in and there's less suburban growth," he said.

Many believe most of the state's attention is unfairly focused on the Indy metro area.  Northwest Indiana recently lost out on its bid for a Regional Cities state grant to establish 18 miles of double tracking along the South Shore line.  But since 2013, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. has provided support for 49 businesses in Lake and Porter counties, said IEDC spokeswoman Abby Gras.  Together, she said these businesses have committed to investing $871.3 million in their Indiana operations and creating up to 3,283 new jobs in the coming years.

Northwest Indiana (Lake County) Population Trends
2015 – 487,865
2014 – 490,574
2013 – 491,560
2012 - 493,192
Source:  U.S. Census Bureau; Indiana Business Research Center

 

GEO Trying Again for Gary Detention Center
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[25 Mar 2016]
 

Four months after withdrawing a variance request for a controversial immigration processing and detention center near the Gary/Chicago International Airport, the GEO Group Inc. is back.

GEO spokesman Armando Saleh confirmed Friday the company is returning for the variance request to build a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility.  On April 12, it will ask the Board of Zoning Appeals for a use variance for the same property, northwest of the airport.  The meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. at City Hall, 401 Broadway.

"The GEO Group is excited and optimistic by the opportunity to partner with the City of Gary.  Through the city's approval process we will be able to provide accurate information about the project and its significant benefits to the residents of Gary.  The construction and operation of the new facility in Gary will create more than 200 good-paying jobs — with hiring preference given to local residents — and provide significant direct investments in the city's economic development programs and public safety initiatives," said Pablo E. Paez, vice president of GEO corporate relations in a statement.

UPDATE -

Mayor Freeman-Wilson said Monday (28 Mar) nothing has changed in regard to her opposition to the project. "I believe that we can do better," she said.  Some groups have been critical of the facilities for alleged human rights violations, although the GEO group has contended it is committed to protecting the rights of people in its care.

Councilman at large Herbert "Herb" Smith, however, said he thought the proposal made good business sense.  "How do you turn down $65 million worth of investment in the community and 200 jobs," he asked.  "I don’t know how you do that."

 

Transformation Zone Touted to Assist Roosevelt Academy
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[24 Mar 2016]
 

GARY | Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt of the Gary Community School Corp. and the president/CEO of EdisonLearning presented a daring plan to work together, along with the Indiana Department of Education, to continue improving Roosevelt College and Career Academy.

The Indiana State Board of Education held a public hearing Wednesday night at the high school to give residents an opportunity to comment about the school’s future and how to improve the academic performance of students.  Members of the SBOE made no comments, and will make a decision at a later meeting.

After six consecutive years of failure, the Indiana Department of Education, led by former state Superintendent Tony Bennett, selected Tennessee-based EdisonLearning in 2011 to improve educational opportunities at the high school.  Although the law had been on the books since 1999, the state had never taken over a school before.

Pruitt and EdisonLearning President/CEO Thom Jackson stood united and said they wanted to create a Roosevelt that was "reflective of the voices of all stakeholders."  They recommended a collaborative plan that would allow the Gary schools, EdisonLearning and the Indiana Department of Education to work together.  Pruitt and Jackson talked about creating a transformation zone, allowing the district to look holistically at school improvement by forming a transformation zone where other schools would feed into Roosevelt.

Ivy Tech Gary Campus President Marlon Mitchell and Purdue University Northwest’s Roy Hamilton said they supported the collaborative plan.  Mitchell said there was an opportunity to use the 427,306-square foot building for a variety of services.  He said the community supported additional services in the vast building including the GCSC administration relocating to Roosevelt, an integrated arts program, an alternative school, a sports hall of fame and the Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and retiring Gary Sen. Earline Rogers both supported the idea of collaboration.

Jackson also talked about the challenges EdisonLearning faced when it took over Gary Roosevelt in 2011.  He said 75% of students did not read at the appropriate grade level, and 87% were not at their appropriate grade level in mathematics.  He said in the last two years, student achievement has increased 26% in mathematics and 12% in English.

He said some of the challenges have included a 65% attendance rate and more than 100 instances a month of disciplinary and truancy cases.  He said attendance is now up 25% and discipline and truancy cases have been reduced by nearly 70%.

Jackson said this plan is just the beginning, and he and Pruitt have been working together for 18 months.  He said there are still numerous issues to work out.  If the state board approves the proposal, Jackson and Pruitt said they would clearly identify roles and responsibilities, hire a transition officer, develop a transition and implementation plan, a strategic timeline and a communication plan.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Who in their right mind would want their middle school students to be fed into a high school which has been failing for over a decade?  A civil rights museum?  Does Richard Gordon Hatcher know of this plan?  Would not such kill what little hope exists of Hatcher using the closed  school building he owns for his own civil rights museum?  I mean, how many civil rights museums can the "Steel City" support?  Just askin' ... .

 

Mayor Now Backs Bowman Charter Bid
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[24 Mar 2016]


A day after trying to broker a compromise between competing factions at the Thea Bowman Leadership Academy, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson changed course and asked the Indiana Charter School Board to authorize a charter to the existing school board.

On Tuesday Freeman-Wilson said at a hearing on the matter that there were too many "uncertainties" to take a stand on the charter application.  The state charter board held the hearing to receive public input on the application.

 

EDITORIAL:  Steel Layoffs Abroad Warn of Need to Diversity Region Economy
Compiled From a nwiTimes Editorial
[24 Mar 2016]
 

U.S. Steel recently announced 770 layoffs within its company.  The layoffs were effective at mills in Texas and Alabama, not Northwest Indiana.  There may have been a collective local sigh of relief that Region workers weren’t among the trimmed workforce.

That would be the wrong response.  The long-running declines in the steel industry should embolden the Region to continue diversifying its economy beyond the bygone days when steel was truly king in Northwest Indiana.

There is no doubt steel remains an important part of our Region economy, with scores of local residents still working for Region mills.  But our Region already has seen steep declines in the steel industry in recent decades, with a mere fraction of the jobs remaining compared to Northwest Indiana steel’s heyday.

The recently announced U.S. Steel layoffs — or revelations such as ArcelorMittal’s $15.7 billion in debt after losing $8 billion last year — are continued warning signs we need far more than steel in our economic backbone.  We need a full skeleton of diverse fields — something that provides structure when individual pieces of the local economy falter.

We’ve seen far too many examples of what happens to communities that put all of their eggs in one industrial basket.  Look no further than the desperate blight of Gary or other parts of the Region’s urban core, where an economic storm has left abandoned buildings, crime and poverty in its wake.

But the Region also has plenty of examples of innovation upon which a sustainable, diverse economy can grow.

Tri-State Industries, a Hammond-based pipe company, reportedly spent a decade looking for an entity that could install robotic systems to automate part of its Hammond factory.  When what the company sought never surfaced, it found a way to create its own spin-off robotics company, Tri-State Automation, to fill the need.

Region initiative Ready NWI is making tireless efforts to enhance the quality of education and prepare students for practical careers.  But we need to give those students reasons to live and work in Northwest Indiana after they achieve college degrees or vocational job training.

Steel is just a commodity.  Factories that make use of steel to produce goods and services also would enhance our Region’s economic strength in meaningful ways.

Northwest Indiana can’t afford to relax.  The layoffs elsewhere are a blaring siren, warning us of potential disaster in our own future.

 

Great Lake Steel Production Slides
Compiled From a nwiTimes report by Joseph S. Pete
[23 Mar 2016]
 

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region slid to 625,000T last week after hitting a yearly high the previous week.

Local steel output has been recovering this year after imports grabbed a record-breaking 29% of total market share last year.  Imports were down to only 23% of the market share last month, and Great Lakes production has risen in eight of the 12 weeks so far this year.

Great Lakes steel output fell by 31,000T, or 3.13%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output fell by 3.1% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, fell slightly to 591,000T last week, as compared to 592,000 a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.688 million tons, down from 1.722 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.3% last week, down from 73.6% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 67.7% at the same time a year earlier, and some industry analysts say it wouldn’t be healthy unless it were over 90%.

Year-to-date steel output in the United States has been 19.8 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 70.2%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 20.6 million tons at the same time in 2015.

 

Local Steel Used in Navy Ships
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[22 Mar 2016]


ArcelorMittal USA plate was used to make the USS Illinois submarine, a 377-foot-long vessel that can travel at more than 25 knots while submerged.

The $2.7 billion Virginia-class submarine, which weighs 7,835 tons, was commissioned in December and can be used against submarines, surface ships and mines, as well as for surveillance and covert strike missions.  A Virginia-class is a nuclear-powered attack submarine.  ArcelorMittal plates are used throughout the hull, including the nuclear reactor, of a ship that's capable of being submerged to extreme depths for months on end.

"We have supplied steel plate to virtually every submarine in the Navy’s existing fleet," ArcelorMittal USA plate sales manager Matt Habenicht said in the news release.  "As the only 'made and manufactured in the USA' producer of Navy armor plate, we are currently the sole qualified U.S. supplier of these grades of steel to the Navy, especially on these Virginia-class submarines."

Plate made at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor in Porter County goes into many Navy vessels, including the new aircraft carrier CVN 78 Gerald R. Ford, Littoral Combat Ships, and DDG Destroyers like that used to rescue Captain Richard Phillips from Somali pirates.

The steel mill in Burns Harbor makes half of the 50,000 tons of steel needed for an aircraft carrier.  American steelmakers make armor plate, ball bearings and mooring chains, among other products, for the Navy.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   In my day (1964) armor plate for subs, tanks, etc. was rolled by U.S. Steel at the mill where I worked, the "World's Largest Plate Mill," the 210" of Gary Works. 

 

Mayor:  City Could Not Stop Brewer From Moving to Hammond
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[18 Mar 2016]
 

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said there was nothing the city could do to prevent the 18th Street Brewery from moving its production city from Gary's Miller neighborhood to a one-time furniture store in downtown Hammond.

Earlier this month, Drew Fox, owner of the 18th Street Brewery, said he was moving its production facility that has been in Miller since 2013 to 5417 Oakley Av in Hammond.  Ceremonies marking the move were held earlier this month, and officials said the move will increase the company's capacity to brew its beer to locations across Indiana from South Bend to Elkhart.

Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade, D-6th, was critical of the move Tuesday.  She said it is a blow to the Gary business community, even though the company is keeping open a brewpub at 5725 Miller Av.

But Freeman-Wilson said Gary did everything it possibly could to try to keep the production facility within the city limits.

 

Hatcher Plan Remains Decades Later for Museum
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
[18 Mar 2016]


For almost four decades former Gary Mayor Richard Hatcher has worked on a plan to bring a Civil Rights Hall of Fame to the city.

The project has come in and out of focus during that time, even going so far as to secure potential Lake County Council and Gary City Council funding in 2000.  That funding never materialized.

Now 82 years old, Hatcher's resolve to build remains. "I feel that we are closer to our goal today than we ever have been before," Hatcher said.  "I don't think it's unrealistic to think we will be able to bring construction on the Civil Rights Hall of Fame at some point this year."

So what is different this time around?

Hatcher, who is known as one of the first black mayors of a major U.S. city, said there has been a lot of speculation over the years regarding his plan for a Hall of Fame in Gary.  "I'm sure it was in part because I was associated with it," he said.  "Of course, my whole history has been a little bit controversial."

Much has changed since the idea was first proffered.

Hatcher,told the Lake County Council earlier this month that the hall of fame is expected to cost $9.1 million and draw 500,000 visitors each year  "We see it as an economically beneficial project," Hatcher said.

A grassroots fundraising effort over the past several years has brought in close to $500,000 to the project's coffers, largely through $50 and $100 individual donations and a handful of $10,000 donations from a few corporate sponsors, he said.  The funds enabled organizers to purchase the old Banneker school, 10 acres at 23rd Av and Garfield St, in 2008 from the School City of Gary for $50,000.

But the hope for more money to come in bigger numbers is also in the works.

The state legislature tweaked what projects the Regional Development Authority can fund in its latest session.  House Bill 1290, supported by State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-3, gives the RDA the ability to help fund "destination projects," something Bill Hanna, the group's executive director, said would pave the way for the RDA to consider Hatcher's Hall of Fame project.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson also stands behind the project.  She is disappointed there are people holding on to the past when this project represents an opportunity to move the city forward and serve as an economic development tool.

"I am very supportive of the project," she said.  She has committed to bring the project, along with several others, before the Economic Development Administration in Chicago to see if the city can secure federal dollars for construction.  "The whole point of that money is to assist cities in projects that would enhance economic development.  We believe certainly that this would," Freeman-Wilson said.

Past details on how the proposed museum would move from concept to construction have been sketchy at best.  This time around, Hatcher said he has all the information potential financial backers, such as the Lake County Council, the EDA and RDA need.  "We feel confident whatever questions anyone has, not just the (Lake County) council but anyone has, we can answer it without hesitation," said Hatcher, a Valparaiso University Law School graduate.

Hatcher himself is a tough sell for some in the region, but being the first African-American elected as mayor of a major U.S. city is a significant accomplishment that should be recognized along with the contributions of so many others, he said.  "Some people do not like him, but good, bad or indifferent, he is a piece of history," Lake County Councilman Jamal Washington, D-Merrillville, said.

 

Gary Schools Eye More Budget Money 
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[17 Mar 2016]
 

The Gary School Board amended its 2016-18 capital projects budget Tuesday and the move could be a costly one for other units of government in the city and Lake County.

Upon the recommendation of Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt and Jack Martin, the district's state-appointed financial manager, the board agreed to increase its capital projects budget from about $15 million to $22 million.  Board member Marion Williams was the lone dissenter.

Courtney Schaafsma, commissioner of the Department of Local Government Finance, told the board the appeal of the property tax levy isn't that uncommon and other school districts have filed similar amendments.

Taxpayers may not be impacted if their tax bill is already at the allowable 1% cap, she said.  However, other taxing entities could be impacted.  "It's a matter of where the dollars are going, it's not increasing the overall tax bill," she said.  "You have a set pie.  We ultimately determine if there's a higher level and more of the pie would go to the school corporation and not the city, library or township."

Schaafsma, who's also a member of the Distressed Unit Appeals Board that's overseeing the district's finances, said the DLGF would begin reviewing the school district's amended capital projects plan quickly.

The capital projects plan outlines improvements for schools, many of which have leaky roofs and boilers in need of repair.  Pruitt outlined budget deficits the district has coped with since 2010, in part because of a low rate of tax collections and a declining enrollment.  "The state is helping us find additional dollars so our children won't be rained on or have plaster coming off the buildings," she said.  Making all the repairs would cost about $33 million, she said.  "We are trying to lift the standard and give our children what they deserve."

Because of its large deficit, the district has had to subsidize other funds, such as transportation, from its general fund that's intended for payroll and operating expenses.  "If we can stop the bleeding in the capital projects, we can stop the bleeding in the general fund," Pruitt said.

Board member Nellie Moore supported the appeal, but said the district would be lucky to get the full $22 million.  "We know we'll be fortunate to get 42% of $22 million.  We haven't gotten even $10 million in the last few years…  The reality of the situation is we won't realize half of what we have here, it's really more of a wish list."

Meanwhile, the board also voted 5-2 to reduce its transportation fund budget by $835,000.  Martin said the district is seeking a refund from the Illinois Central Bus Co. because of compliance issues.  He said the district will be seeking a new bus transportation vendor.  About 3,800 students ride the buses, Martin told the DUAB in October.  The district made a $750,000 payment to Illinois Central at the end of last year after it received a $15 million state Common School Fund loan.

Pruitt said the district is also exploring running its own transportation system.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Is this a game of smoke and mirrors?  Taxes will not be raised, but we will redistribute the available funds?  It sounds like a "pay me now or pay may later" scheme?

 

Will Gregg Turn to NWI for Running Mate?
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[17 Mar 2016]
 

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson is downplaying speculation she's on the short list to be Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Gregg's running mate.

Freeman-Wilson, who endorsed Gregg in August, said earlier this week that she's heard the rumors, too.  "I believe I need to finish what I started," said the mayor who's been in office since 2012 and easily won re-election last year.  "I have work to finish here."

Pundits and bloggers have been conjecturing about who Gregg might select as his lieutenant governor running mate since Gov. Mike Pence appointed Eric Holcomb last month.  Freeman-Wilson has statewide experience, serving as attorney general for 11 months in 2000.

An Indianapolis Star columnist dropped Freeman-Wilson's name in a column last week, along with State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, as a choice for Gregg, who may be seeking diversity on his ticket.  Other names mentioned were young Indianapolis Democrats.

 

Former Cal Twp Trustee Elgin Wants Trial Delayed
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Teresa Auch Schultz
[15 Mar 2016]
 

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

Elgin and her co-defendants are set to go on trial in April on charges that they used the township office to help run election campaigns for Elgin, Ethel Shelton and Alex Wheeler.  Elgin is also accused of lying to investigators, trying to solicit a kickback from a township vendor and not filing her federal income tax return.

According to the motion, the evidence has been voluminous, and Elgin's attorney, Kevin Milner, needs more time to prepare.  He has proposed that the trial be continued until the fall.  The request says none of the other attorneys object to a delay.

 

Local Steel Output Jumps to Yearly High
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[15 Mar 2016]
 

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region hit a new high for 2016, rising to 656,000T last week.

Local steel output has been recovering this year after imports grabbed a record-breaking 29% of total market share last year.  Imports were down to only 23% of the market share last month, and Great Lakes production has risen in eight of the 11 weeks so far this year.

Great Lakes steel output rose by 25,000T, or 3.9%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output rose by 2.9% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, rose to 592,000T last week, as compared to 576,000T a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.722 million tons, up from 1.673 million tons a week earlier. Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 73.6% last week, up from 71.5% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 67.7% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date steel output in the United States has been 18.1 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 70.1%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 19 million tons at the same time in 2015.

 

Black Lives Matter to Hold Forum with Gary Mayor and Police Chief
Compiled From a Times Staff Report
[14 Mar 2016]
 

GARY | Black Lives Matter NWI-Gary will meet Wednesday with Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Police Chief Larry McKinley to discuss developing an independent civilian review board that will evaluate the actions of police in the city.

This public forum is a part of Black Lives Matter NWI-Gary's ongoing discourse with Freeman-Wilson and McKinley about its list of demands on police power.  Demands include an end to the police sweeps, an end to predatory fines on citizens for low level offenses and the creation of an independent review board.

The forum will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Roosevelt Pavilion, 2145 Harrison St.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Is this not a solution in search of a problem?  A) There were no police shootings in Gary in 2015.  B) If the nearly all black administration in a city where nearly all the residents are black does not appreciate that black lives matter, well ... ?

 

Indiana Remains National Champ of Steel Production
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[12 Mar 2016]
 

Indiana remained the nation's leading steel-producing state last year, continuing a 35-year run at top.

After automation and foreign trade gutted American's steel industry in the 1970s, Indiana emerged as the leading steelmaking state in 1980.  It hasn't relinquished the top spot since.  American Iron and Steel Institute Director of Statistics Robert MacDonald said Indiana made 23.2 million tons of steel in 2015, more than any other state.

However, that is down about 8% compared to the 25.5 million tons Hoosier steelworkers cranked out in 2014.  The fall in production came about because of the steel import crisis that afflicted steelmakers around the globe.

Indiana has 23,000 steelworkers and nearly a quarter of all steelmaking capacity in the United States.  Nucor has a mini-mill in Crawfordsville and Steel Dynamics, the fourth largest producer of steel in the United States, is based in Fort Wayne, but the overwhelming majority of the steel made in Indiana is forged in Lake and Porter counties.  More than 18,000 people work in the industry in Northwest Indiana.

The Region is home to Gary Works, the nation's largest steel mill, and ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor, the nation's largest integrated steelmaking complex, as well as ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor, which was the last integrated mill ever built in the United States more than a half century ago.

Indiana made more than 25% of all steel in America last year.  U.S. steelmakers produced more than 85 million tons of steel last year, down from more than 95 million tons a year earlier as cheap and often illegal imports snatched a record 29% market share.

 

Crown Point Man Charged in Deaths of Cal Twp Mother, Daughter
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michelle L. Quinn
[11 Mar 2016]

 


A Crown Point man who fought extradition from Ohio has been charged in the January murders of a local political activist and her daughter and could face the death penalty.

 

James A. Lohnes, 44, has been charged with two counts of murder in the Jan. 17 deaths of Velia Taneff, 86, and her daughter, Lana Taneff, 63, both of Gary.  He was also charged with auto theft, a Level 6 felony, according to the probable cause affadavit filed against him Friday.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter said that the death penalty "will definitely be on the table" for Lohnes.

Lohnes was arrested in Montpelier, Ohio, after he was stopped while driving a Cadillac belonging to Velia Taneff, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said Friday.  Lohnes was subsequently charged with Operating While Intoxicated and kept in custody there.

 

Local Steel Production Slips by 1%
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[11 Mar 2016]
 

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region slipped slightly to 631,000T last week, only the third time it's dropped in the first 10 weeks of 2016.

Local steel output has been recovering after imports grabbed a record-breaking 29% of total market share last year.  Imports were down to only 23% of the market share last month.

Great Lakes steel output fell by 7,000T, or 1%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output slipped by 1.1% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, fell to 576,000T last week, as compared to 581,000T a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.673 million tons, down from 1.692 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.5% last week, down from 72.4% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 68.9% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date steel output in the United States has been 16.4 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 69.7%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 17.4 million tons at the same time in 2015.

 

Gary Roosevelt May Get Consistent Heat
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Dan Carden
[10 Mar 2016]

 


INDIANAPOLIS | State lawmakers have approved a plan taking up to $500,000 they appropriated last year for the Indiana Department of Education and using the money to replace the failing boilers at a Gary high school.

 

Students at Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy missed multiple days of classes this winter because the building was not heated, due to a lack of repair parts for decades-old equipment.

House Enrolled Act 1179, which received unanimous final approval by the Legislature Thursday, authorizes Gov. Mike Pence and the State Budget Agency to spend the funds to repair the school's boilers.

Roosevelt is a somewhat unique situation because the building is owned by the near-bankrupt Gary Community School Corp., but classes are provided by EdisonLearning, a private management company, following a State Board of Education takeover of the low-performing school five years ago.

State Rep. Donna Harris, D-East Chicago, a sponsor of the measure, said regardless of who is running, students deserve to go to school in a heated building.

"You see the children out there freezing and they say, 'Please give us a furnace,'" Harris said. "I know Gary Roosevelt High School will appreciate this."

The legislation, which is awaiting Pence's signature or veto, also was sponsored by state Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, and state Sens. Earline Rogers, D-Gary; Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago; Frank Mrvan, D-Hammond; Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes; and Jim Arnold, D-LaPorte.

 

Gary Adult Bookstore Robbed for 5th Time in 5 Weeks
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
and a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[10 Mar 2016]
 

GARY | Armed robbers apparently have a thing for an adult bookstore in Gary's Miller section.

The Romantix at 8801 Melton Rd was robbed about 11 p.m. Tuesday for the fifth time in five weeks, police said.

A man wearing a hoodie and ski mask entered the store, told a clerk to give him money and pointed a gun at the clerk, Lt. Dawn Westerfield said.  He was described as a black male, about 5' 7" inches tall.

The suspect took money from the register and from two customers before leaving.  The take from the register amounted to $95. 

The book store was robbed four times in February by a gunman matching the same description who apologized to the cashier for taking money.  Two of those occurred before daybreak, one was in the afternoon and two were at night, police said.

 

Body Found inside Glen Park Home
Compled From a Post-Trib Report by Sarah Reese
[9 Mar 2016]
 

GARY | A body was found in a home Tuesday night, and neighbors said a man who lived there had not been seen for months.

Gary police were dispatched about 5 p.m. to the home in the 1200 block of E 35th Ct for a death investigation.  Birds chirped and the sun set about 6 p.m. as more police officers and Lake County sheriff's crime scene investigators arrived at the scene.

The front door to the house stood ajar, but the front windows were boarded up.  Police found a body in a bedroom of the house.  The person was pronounced dead at the scene by Lake County coroner's investigators.  The person's identity and cause of death have not yet been determined.

Debor Carter and her sister Daphne Carter said a man in his 50s lived in the home, but they had not seen him since sometime last year.  Daphne Carter lives down the street.

The Carters said the home's resident was friendly but kept to himself. He moved in about 10 years ago and worked for a security company, they said.  "He'd have his security uniform on, going to or coming from work," Debor Carter said.  "We'd wave, but we never talked."  Debor Carter said she and the man both graduated from Lew Wallace High School in 1979.  It was unclear if the man who lived at the house is the same person found inside.

Some of the neighbors who gathered at the corner of East 35th Ct and Tennessee St said they had assumed the house was abandoned, because windows in the front and on the bottom level were boarded up.  "It looked like this when he lived in it," Debor Carter said.

She said she was approached Tuesday night by a man asking about the home's resident.  The man had keys to the house and had to work to open a security door before going inside, she said.  "He came back out very upset," she said.

 

Bo Kemp Announces Gary Redevelopment Move-at Bid Opening
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[9 Mar 2016]

 


The City of Gary Department of Redevelopment issued a request for proposals for the lease of office space earlier this month.  The request for proposals is among the first steps in determining what is available and the price when a municipal body engages in purchasing.  Sealed bids were received by the City of Gary Department of Redevelopment at a public meeting last week.  While not stated in the public meeting, the statute cited in the request for proposals provides for a maximum lease term of 25 years:

 

City of Gary Consultant Bo Kemp was late to the meeting.  He was not present at the sealed bid opening, so he did not know that there were two bidders.  In fact, he should not have known who the bidders were at all.  Nonetheless, Mr. Kemp congratulated the Redevelopment Commission on the "decision to move to the 504 building."  The 504 building is located at the corner of 5th and Broadway and is currently owned by 504 Redevelopment, LLC.  504 Redevelopment, LLC is managed by politically connected Vance Kenney.

The 504 building was purchased in 2014 entirely with proceeds from a municipal bond.  That means the purchaser did not put one dime into the project.  In fact, the taxpayers of Gary provided the entire $250,000.00 purchase price and an additional $2.25M in renovation costs. 

Immediately after the funding was secured, the three entities involved in the transaction-Gateway Partners, 504 Redevelopment, LLC and Anderson Partners-began making large contributions to the campaign of Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.  Now the Redevelopment Commission wants to pay $15 per square foot to lease space in the building which they paid to purchase and rehabilitate.

The Gary Sanitary District also plans to rent space in the building.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   It sure sounds like one heck of a deal for the principals of tghe 504 Redevelopment, LLC?

 

Suspected Serial Killer Now Facing Death Penalty in 7 Homicides
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Elvia Malagon
[8 Mar 2016]
 

GARY | Suspected serial killer Darren D. Vann is accused of targeting women who lived near an area of Gary known as "Hoe Stroll," engaged in prostitution near there or did drugs in that area, according to court records.

"Hoe Stroll," or the "Block," is an open drug and prostitution market stretching from the 1500 block through the 2500 block of Broadway, according to court records.

In an affidavit filed Monday in Lake County Criminal Court, Vann, 44, of Gary, is accused of strangling to death five women whose decomposing bodies were found in vacant buildings in Gary.  The women are Teaira Batey, Tracy Martin, Kristine Williams, Sonya Billingsley and Tanya Gatlin.

Vann already was facing murder charges and the death penalty in the strangling deaths of Afrika Hardy, 19, of Hammond, and Anith Jones, 35, of Merrillville.  He is being held without bail in Lake County Jail pending a July 25 jury trial.

In total, Vann now faces seven murder charges.  The Lake County prosecutor’s office is seeking the death penalty for each homicide.  In Monday’s filing, the state listed the pending murder charges as aggravating factors for why each homicide warranted a death sentence.

In a separate case, Vann was charged with 10 counts of rape, attempted murder and criminal confinement stemming from incidents that happened in Gary, according to the Gary Police Department.  Additional information about those charges was not immediately available.

Vann moved back to Gary after he was released in July 2013 from a Texas prison.  He had spent time there on a charge of sexual assault, which involved a prostitute.  When asked by Hammond detectives why he started killing women in Northwest Indiana, Vann allegedly said, "Just I guess, anger.  'Cause I feel I shouldn't have went to prison the first time. You see what I'm saying."

 

Gary Shines in Demolition Program
Compiled From a nwitimes by Ed Bierschenk
[6 Mar 2016]
 

GARY | City officials hope its demolition program, outperforming those in other Indiana communities, will help it snag a larger share of federal funds as Gary continues to knock down empty structures.

By the end of 2015, the state had paid claims for the removal of 270 structures in Indiana through the Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program.  More than a third of those were in Gary.

Gary stands out from the rest of the state when it comes to using the funds to remove blight.  It was one of the achievements Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson pointed to during her recent State of the City address.  "Our team worked together and used the local data survey and other tools to develop a plan, so as the money becomes available, we can have a detailed reconstruction process," she said.

In February 2015, the city released the results of an 18-month survey done with the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy that concluded more than a third of the structures in Gary were deemed blighted, and nearly 6,800 were vacant.  Gary anticipated it would knock down 379 structures with the $6.6 million it was authorized to receive in 2015.

The state recently received another $28.5 million in Hardest Hit Funds, although how much will be allocated to eliminate blight still has to be determined.  "We're going after the money," Freeman-Wilson said at her state of the city address.

Illinois, which used 100% of its Hardest Hit cash, only allocates a small portion to eliminating blight.  Indiana by comparison received permission in early 2014 to use about a third of its allocation for such a program.  As of January, Indiana had used about 66% of its initial Hardest Hit allocations.  Because of that, it didn't get as much money in the current funding round as several states with similar populations.

Gary has knocked down a total of 211 structures with another 13 in process with the Hardest Hit Fund money, Van Dyk said.  This does not include the 53 structures removed in 2015 with other sources.

On Thursday, the city's redevelopment agency awarded bids to demolish another 67 structures using Hardest Hit dollars.  In addition to those, Van Dyk said the city will advertise for bids to demolish another 35 in the next 30 days, and 41 more in April.  Another 12 homes are being deconstructed -- taken apart in a manner to save some features.

Van Dyk said once these are demolished, the city will seek release of the remaining $2 million of the $6.6 million allocated to Gary for elimination.  The city, however, will be a long way from demolishing the thousands of abandoned properties in Gary.

 

Woman, 56, Fatally Shot in Gary
#10* and Counting
Compiled From Chicago Tribune and nwiTimes Staff Reports
[6 Mar 2016]

 


A 56-year-old woman was discovered shot to death inside an apartment building in Gary Saturday evening.

 

Gary police officers responded to a call for service on the 2100 block of W Fifth Av around 6:10 p.m.  The scene revealed multiple bullet holes in the hallway

A woman was found dead at the rear door of the apartment building, according to a news release from Gary Police Department and the Lake County coroner’s office.  She suffered several gunshot wounds and was pronounced dead at the scene at 7:21 p.m.  Her death was ruled a homicide.  The victim has been identified as Donether Barnes.

This same building in the 2100 block of W Fifth Av had a fire earlier in the day.  Firefighters responded to a call of a fire in the first floor of the three story building.  There were no injuries and no information regarding the cause of the fire was available as of the time of this report.  Officials are unaware of any connection between the shooting and the structure fire.

 

Burns Harbor Mill Sets Record, Boosts Productivity
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[4 Mar 2016]
 

The Burns Harbor ArcelorMittal steel plant increased productivity and set a on-time delivery record last year.

The 950-acre mill in Porter County, the company’s second largest in the U. S., ran the hot strip mill at 20-tons per-hour more than the business plan.

"It’s all just a matter of velocity and time," Hot Rolling Operations Division Manager Jay Koch said in a press release.  "Delay reduction is just basic, good maintenance and targeted projects that reduce down-time."

The plant employs around 4,000 workers, most of whom are represented by United Steelworkers Local 6787.  Bethlehem Steel built the mill – the last integrated steel mill ever constructed in the United States – in 1964.  It now makes hot-rolled, cold-rolled, hot-dipped galvanized, galvannealed sheet and plate for a wide range of industries, including automotive.

The mill in Burns Harbor also boosted productivity in finishing lines, including the pickle, tandem and annealing units.  "There’s no point in discussing productivity improvements, if the quality isn’t built into our finished products as well," Finishing Operations Senior Division Manager Jean Louis Muller said in a press release.  "In 2015, we saw improvements in both quality and productivity, which benefits our customers and reduces costs."

 

Hearing Set for Roosevelt College and Career Academy
Compiled From a Gary Crusader Staff Report
[3 Mar 2016]

 


The Indiana State Board of Education will hold a public meeting to decide on the fate of Gary’s storied Roosevelt College and Career Academy.

 

The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. in the school’s auditorium on the second floor on Wednesday, 23 March.  Roosevelt is located at 730 W. 25th Av.

The meeting is part of the state’s effort to determine what to do with the school, which has received failing grades for 10 years.  The last four years the school has been under state control with the EdisonLearning Corporation.  The contract is set to expire at the end of the school year, but with Roosevelt’s poor academic performance, there is concern on whether the state will close the school or return it to Gary’s overburdened and financially strapped school district.

Roosevelt is Gary’s only school that was specifically built for Blacks during segregation.  Many Gary natives graduated from the school, whose alumni includes a Who’s Who in politics, entertainment, sports and business.  If it closes, an important chapter in Gary’s history will come to an end.

One state official is optimistic that Roosevelt can be saved.

"Roosevelt College and Career Academy is showing great progress," said Eddie Melton, State Board of Education Member representing Indiana’s 1st Congressional District.  "This meeting will provide educators, parents, students, EdisonLearning, Gary schools and the community the opportunity to collaborate and discuss strategies for the continued improvement of students attending Roosevelt College and Career Academy."

State law requires the Board to hold a public hearing at a school that has operated as a turnaround academy for five consecutive years in order to hear from community and school leaders about ideas to help students improve their educational performance.

According to state law, the Board can select among many options concerning future operation of Roosevelt College and Career Academy.  Some of the options include:  continue work with EdisonLearning under a new or extended contract to operate the school, assign a new operator for the school, or return the school to Gary Community School Corporation as an innovation network school with a third-party operator.  Closing the school altogether is another option, but perhaps, a last resort.

The public meeting is designed for members of the State Board of Education to listen to voices in the community.  The meeting will include presentations from the Department of Education, EdisonLearning and the Gary Community School Corporation, followed by general public comment.  No decision will be made at the meeting.

 

Police Trying to ID Man Shot to Death in Gary
#9* and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[3 Mar 2016]

 


UPDATE [4 Mar] -   The deceased man has now been identified as Randall Knefel, 43.  He lived in the 4600 block of Arthur St. in Gary.

 

Investigators tried Thursday to identify a man who was found dead was found inside an automobile with a gunshot wound to his chest.

The man, believed by police to be about 43 years old and white, was found in a car at about 9:50 p.m. Wednesday in the 3400 block of Grant St.

Police were called to the Subway restaurant, and the man was discovered by officers in the car.  Officials with the Lake County coroner's office were contacted, and they pronounced him dead at the scene at 10:20 p.m.  His death has been determined to be a homicide, the coroner's office said.

Gary Police Department officials said in a prepared statement they believe the man was shot elsewhere, with his body then being left at the Grant Street location.  The investigation continued Thursday and police said they want anyone who knows anything about the incident to contact the Lake County Metro Homicide unit at 219-755-3855.

 

Gary Officer Charged with Domestic Battery
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Ruth Ann Krause
[2 Mar 2016]

 


A Gary police officer has been charged in Lake Superior Court with two counts of criminal confinement, domestic battery, battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, and misdemeanor domestic battery and battery.

 

Gary police Patrolman Damon Lamar Bradshaw, 38, was charged Monday in connection with an incident that occurred on the morning of Nov. 2 at the family home in Hobart.  Bradshaw is free on a $5,000 cash bond.

The incident came to light after the couple's oldest daughter told Hobart High School Principal Angela Patrick that domestic violence had occurred at home and that her father drinks a lot and fights with her mother, the probable cause affidavit states.

A school resource officer visited the home and spoke with Bradshaw's wife and Bradshaw, who acknowledged that he and his wife had argued and that the children had gotten scared.  The incident occurred in the presence of the couple's two youngest children, who were 6 and 7 at the time, court records state.

Bradshaw's wife told a case manager with the Indiana Department of Child Services that an argument between the couple turned physical and that Bradshaw had been drinking before the fight.  The woman said she slapped Bradshaw, who grabbed her, dragged her into another room and began punching her repeatedly, according to the probable cause affidavit.  Bradshaw's wife suffered a broken rib and swelling and bruising on her biceps, the affidavit states.  She told police she had never seen "that look on his face before," referring to Bradshaw, and that his drinking was becoming problematic.

The DCS case manager removed the children from the home, the probable cause affidavit states. The two youngest children told the DCS representative that they didn't feel safe as a result of the incident.

Bradshaw was hired as a patrol officer 10 years ago and had been a reserve or auxiliary officer for three years before that.

One of the charges against Bradshaw is a Level 5 felony, which is punishable by one to six years, and three of the charges are Level 6 felonies, which are punishable by six months to 30 months.

 

Local Steel Production Continues Upward Trend
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[1 Mar 2016]
 

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rebounded to 638,000T last week, which is the seventh time it’s risen in the first nine weeks of 2016Local steel output has been recovering after imports grabbed a record-breaking 29% of total market share last year.

Great Lakes steel output rose by 8,000T, or 1.3%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output slipped by 0.5% during the same period.

Midwest Region production was 189,000T, down 1%.  Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, fell 2.4% to 581,000 tons last week, as compared to 595,000 a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.692 million tons, down from 1.699 million tons a week earlier.

Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.4% last week, down from 72.7% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 72.4% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date steel output in the United States has been 14.7 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 69.5%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 15.8 million tons at the same time in 2015.

 

Diocese, Bishop Issue Statement on Andrean, Noll Controversy
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[29 Feb 2016]
 

MERRILLVILLE | The Diocese of Gary and Bishop Donald J. Hying on Monday issued a statement regarding controversial behavior by some Andrean High School students at Friday's game against Bishop Noll High School.

A group of Andrean students decided to adopt an "American" theme at a high school basketball game Friday night.  One student, who asked to remain anonymous, stated that she learned of the "American theme" prior to going to the game.  She says she didn’t think much of it until she got into the gymnasium.  "Andrean students were chanting ‘We Speak English."  Noll students responded with "We are Bilingual."

Another spectator, Ashley Howard, was at the game to support family members who go to Bishop Noll.  Ashley said there were also other racist chants.  This is not the first time that there have been chants geared toward hispanics according to Ashley. I n the past she says Andrean students have chanted "No Comprende" during games between the Catholic rivals.

Perhaps most disturbing was a picture of Dora the Explorer.  In the photo, Dora the Explorer is pasted with an arrow pointing to a hispanic character who is a maid in the television show Family Guy.  "They are implying that Dora is going to be a maid" one Bishop Noll senior stated.

Also at Friday's game, an Andrean student brought a large photo of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.  During the game, some Andrean students began chanting to the Bishop Noll students across the gym "Build A Wall," which was followed by the Noll students chanting "You're A Racist."

The following is the statement issued by the Diocese of Gary on Monday regarding the incident:

"On Friday evening, Feb. 26, two of our Catholic high schools played a basketball game at Andrean High School in Merrillville.  During the course of that game, a group of Andrean students produced signs and images of presidential candidate Donald Trump and began to chant ‘Build that wall,’ at the Bishop Noll team and fans, who are heavily Hispanic.

Andrean school administration addressed the matter as soon as they realized what was going on and confiscated derogatory signage.  They were greatly distressed by the inappropriate actions of a small group of their students and continue to investigate the event.

In a statement, Bishop Donald J. Hying expressed the following:

"The incident continues to be under investigation by school officials and is being taken very seriously.  Any actions or words that can be perceived as racist or derogatory to others are antithetical to the Christian faith and will not be tolerated in any of our institutions.

It was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind that such actions would be happening at a gathering of two of our Catholic high schools.  This is not what we teach our students.

 

Rep. Smith Loses Property at Tax Sale, Pushes Legislation to Take Property from Others
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[28 Feb 2016]

 


Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) is pushing a bill that would make it much easier for cities to take properties from delinquent taxpayers without the necessity of a tax sale as property owned by a corporation he controls "cycles through the tax sale process."

 

Under SB310, co-authored by several local Republicans, a city that wants to take property from a "serial tax delinquent" no longer will have to wait until property goes on a tax sale list to be subject to summary taking proceedings.  Even more drastic, the bill removes any possibility that the owner of the property or lien holders will ever recover any money if the property is later sold for more than the taxes owed.  Under current law, the penalty is 25% of the taxes due for being adjudged a serial tax delinquent.  Under the bill this money could go to judgment creditors, which may even include the State of Indiana.

Smith made reference to owning tax sale property at the Committee hearing on the bill.  What he did not say is that a company he owns, I.U. Dons, was subject to not only a tax sale but also a City of Gary demolition order.  I.U. Dons owned a building at 700 Broadway that owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes.  The building sold at tax sale in 2011 and was demolished at taxpayer expense.  Hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes were wiped out at that point in time.

Two adjoining lots, 712-14 Broadway and 716-18 Broadway are still owned by I.U. Dons.  They are tax delinquent in the amount of $171,869.06 according to Lake County records.  It is noteworthy that, although the properties are held in the name of I.U. Dons, the statute which Smith is pushing would pierce the corporate veil looking to the owners of the corporations rather than the name in which title is held.

SB310 passed the Senate and will be voted on by the full house.

 

5 Gary School Administrators Laid Off by Board
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report byCarole Carlson
[27 Feb 2016]
 

The Gary School Board voted to lay off five administrators at a special meeting Saturday as the struggling school district pares down spending to cope with a multimillion budget crisis.

Attorney Dan Friel said the administrators were notified their contracts would not be renewed a month ago and they had the option to seek a hearing with the school board.  The board had until March 1 to take action on their contracts, according to state law.  The contracts expire June 30.

Among those laid off were Watson Boys Academy Principal William Roberts.  It appears likely that Watson, at 2065 Mississippi St, could be in line for closure by the school board.  While Watson enjoyed academic success, its enrollment is less than 200 students.

The school board has not publicly discussed a plan for school closings yet, but state-appointed financial manager Jack Martin has said some schools will be closed to save money.

Other administrators laid off were Dwayne Belle, assistant principal at Beveridge Elementary; Earl Smith III, a secondary dean, and Dwight Pointer and Sharmayne McKinley, school transformation specialists.

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said the federal grants that supported Pointer's and McKinley's jobs were expiring, but could be funded again next year.  She said the other layoffs were based on enrollment numbers.

 

ArcelorMittal Closes No. 1 Aluminizing Line at Indiana Harbor
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[24 Feb 2016]
 

EAST CHICAGO | After months of warning that there’s just too much steelmaking capacity in the U.S., ArcelorMittal has shut down the No. 1 aluminizing line at Indiana Harbor West.

The Luxembourg-based steelmaker had been planning for more than a year to idle the line in the former LTV steel mill in East Chicago in order to shift production to its newer and more modern AM/NS Calvert plant in Alabama.

"ArcelorMittal is considering all options to optimize our assets in the United States and beyond, including those within Indiana Harbor," spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford stated in an emailed response to The Times on the closing.  Asset and cost optimization efforts, as well as an improved portfolio of high added value products, will ensure ArcelorMittal is uniquely positioned with a strong technical and product portfolio to serve customer requirements."

About 60 to 80 workers worked in the No. 1 Aluminizing Line in the West Side No. 2 Sheet Mill, which applied a coat of aluminum to steel that is used for car mufflers, furnaces and commercial rooftop HVAC units, among other things.  No one lost their jobs because ArcelorMittal restarted the galvanizing line that’s just yards away in the No. 2 Sheet Mill in East Chicago.  That line, which was once the most productive in the world, had been idled in late 2014.

The idling of the No. 1 aluminizing line was originally scheduled to take place in December, but it didn’t take place until this month.  Steelworkers say the line has been stripped, and all the coil has been removed.

 

Gary Takes Fresh Look at Nepotism
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Gregory Tejeda
[24 Feb 2016]

If some members of the Gary Common Council get their way, relatives of council members on city boards or commissions might need to dust off their resumes.

New members of the Common Council favor instituting restrictions on appointing their own relatives to city posts, with one, Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade, D-6th, sponsoring an ordinance that says all appointees must be Gary residents and cannot be a council member's relative.

The council's newest member, Herb Smith, was all for approving the ordinance and immediately removing assorted appointees who are related to council members.  Smith was elected by a Democratic Party caucus 18 Feb to fill the term of Kyle Allen Jr., who was elected in a Democratic Party caucus 3 Feb to fill out a term on the Lake County Board of Commissioners.

"This ordinance is right on point," said Smith, while waving a copy of Sparks-Wade's ordinance in the air during a council ways and means committee hearing Tuesday.  "We should pass it now, and it should take effect right on passage."

Longer-serving members of the Common Council said that while they can see the need for some restrictions, they also don't want an absolute ban – contending that it would cause the removal of some qualified people from Gary municipal government.

Council President Ronald Brewer was quick to point out that many of the people appointed by council members to these committees are volunteering their time and services, since the positions are not salaried.  "We'd be holding up to a certain standard those people who volunteer," he said.

Sparks-Wade disagreed, saying, "Even for volunteers, we should require a certain standard of excellence."

Brewer suggested that perhaps restrictions should be imposed in the future, allowing current appointees to finish out their current terms – an idea Smith, in particular, rejected.  "Maybe we need to do a serious review of some of the people we have," Smith said, although he later was accepting of the idea that an ordinance could take effect 90 days after it received final approval from Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Council Vice President Carolyn Rogers suggested that an immediate dismissal of political appointees could hurt the city because, "We may not have people to replace them.  Do we have resumes on file of possible replacements?"

Ways and Means Chairwoman Ragen Hatcher said there will be discussion among the council's nine members, as she wants to get a sense of where the majority of the panel stands on the issue.  She said it was possible the full council would send the issue back to the committee for further study next month.

Hatcher also said officials would need to compile a comprehensive list of all the appointees to various council committees to determine exactly how many of them are relatives of Common Council members and how many actually live outside of Gary.  "We need to put together a complete list so we know who we're talking about," she said.

While Brewer admitted to knowing of a few instances, he could not say how complete his mental list was.  "We do have some who are kin," he said.  "We need to research this better."

 

Local Steel Production Dips
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[23 Feb 2016]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region slid to 630,000 tons last week, only the second time so far this year. 

Local steel output has been recovering after imports grabbed a record-breaking 29% of total market share last year.

Great Lakes steel output slipped by 5,000 tons, or 0.78%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output dipped by 0.2% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, rose to 595,000 tons last week, up from 592,000 a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.699 million tons, down from 1.703 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 72.7% last week, down from 72.8% a week earlier.

Year-to-date steel output has been 13.1 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 69.2%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 14.1 million tons at the same time in 2015.

 

Missing Gary Man Found Dead with Gunshot Wound
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[23 Feb 2016]

GARY | An man who suffered from dementia who went missing Sunday morning was found dead with a gunshot wound in a wooded area near his home Monday night, officials said.

James Thompson, 63, of the 1500 block of Porter St, was pronounced dead at 8 p.m. in a wooded area of the 1700 block of Williams St, Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said.

Frey said Thompson suffered a gunshot wound.  Whether the death was a homicide, suicide or accident remains under investigation.

Thompson had dementia and left his home around 6 a.m. without his medication, police said.  Police canvassing the area looking for him discovered his body around 6:45 p.m. Monday.

 

Calumet Region Could Get National Designation
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Christin Nance
[19 Feb 2016]
 

The Calumet Region in Indiana and Illinois has been home to heavy industry, sand dune landscapes and a cultural melting pot for more than a century, and there is an effort afoot to link those unique qualities into a National Heritage Area.

The designation wouldn't result in any land acquisition or control, but it would help link both public and private sites across the region, such as parks, cultural festivals and museums.

"A national heritage area is not the taking of land," said Field Museum Chicago Region Program Director Mark Bowman.  "It's a way to think about the landscape in general and shine a light on it."

Bowman gave a presentation on the proposed heritage area at Thursday's meeting of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.

In order to get Congressional approval, National Heritage Areas must have nationally distinctive natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources that help tell a nationally important story.  There are currently 49 National Heritage Areas, including two in Illinois — the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area and the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor.

President Barack Obama established the Pullman National Monument last spring, and Bowman said it now serves as a second anchor for the proposed heritage area alongside the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016.  Bowman said the designation can have benefits including spurring conservation efforts and economic development opportunities near the area.  Bowman is encouraged about the project's future, as it was mentioned in Rep. Pete Visclosky's 2015 Marquette Plan.

The Calumet Heritage Partnership is currently conducting a feasibility study to determine what is national significant about the area.  Some of the sites included in the study include the historic Marktown neighborhood in East Chicago, Pierogi Fest in Whiting, Wolf Lake, U.S. Steel in Gary, and the Indiana Dunes.

"We want to know how much support there is," Bowman said.  "There's the diversity and the juxtaposition of industry, people and environment here that you see coming together nowhere else in the country.  And the solutions that have happened over time, like half billion spent on the Grand Calumet River for restoration. It makes it an amazing place."

 

Gary Board Rules City Wrong in Efforts to Dismiss 4 Firefighters
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[18 Feb 2016]

In a unanimous decision, the Gary Fire Civil Service Commission ruled Thursday that four firefighters cannot be fired, despite the city's efforts to remove them.

The four, Martin Delgado, David Herman, John Nelson and Larry Tillman, were part of a larger group of 34 firefighters laid off Dec. 31, 2010.  When the city later received a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant, city officials told them they must obtain emergency medical technician certification to continue employment.  Some did, but Delgado, Herman, Nelson and Tillman did not, arguing that they had been employed before the grant was implemented.  The four were called back, with others, in July 2011, and later the city filed a verified request with the commission seeking to terminate them.

The board conducted a hearing at a previous session, then issued its ruling after Commission attorney Rinser Williams said the grant did not specify EMT training and that the firefighters' status as first responders was adequate to meet SAFER grant requirements.  Indiana allows first responders to work on an ambulance with an EMT, Chief Paul Bradley said.

Bradley told the board supported the board's ruling but had problems with firefighters who balked at working on ambulances and said the ruling would further complicate challenges of keeping five ambulances staffed every day.  With 191 men and women on his roster, Bradley said the fifth ambulance requires "overtime every day."  He said "young officers" don't want to follow orders from their superiors.  Commission Chairman Norman Hairston told Bradley, "They don't have a choice except to do what you say."

As the discussion turned to challenges with the department's trade agreement rule, which allows firefighter to switch half of a 24-hour shift with a co-worker, Bradley said that he would simply suspend all trade agreement activity.  Williams corrected him quickly, saying that the chief does not have authority the ignore a written rule.

Commissioner Randall Williams said the measure was adopted to assist young firefighters who didn't have vacation time accrued and needed a day to perhaps work another job.  Bradley said supervisors must be consulted and give approval of each trade and his visits to various stations convinced him that wasn't happening.

"I had to get involved," Bradley said.  "At this point, my command staff wants total elimination of trade agreements…until I see the policy is corrected by my staff all the way down the line, I'm going to stay involved."

Commissioner Juana McLaurin reminded him that chain of command works both down and up.

"I understand the chief's emotion," Rinser Williams said. "But he does not have the authority to terminate trades."

The board voted to hold a special session on March 3 to explore the issue.

 

City of Gary Bungles Resolution
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[17 Feb 2016]

If someone gave you $2,000 would you remember their name?  Apparently, Karen Freeman-Wilson gets so much cash in her campaign coffers that she did not see a check for $2,000 with the name National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The City of Gary passed a resolution at last night’s meeting of the Common Council which was meant to recognize the civil rights organization which has a local chapter.  The Chapter is very active in politics throughout the region and there are not many who have not heard of it.  In fact, among the issues in the recent campaign finance complaint regarding Karen Freeman-Wilson was that the not-for-profit was listed as a donor.  The name was abbreviated NAACP on the campaign finance statement.

The Resolution was passed to recognize Black History Month and the contributions of the NAACP to civil rights.  Unfortunately for the Council, the name of the organization was badly bungled-listing it instead as the National Alliance for the Advancement of Colored People.

As stated above, the NAACP is the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  The Gazette almost immediately received texts and calls from citizens who noticed the error.  Oh well, I am sure that campaign cash will keep flowing.  After all, Roosevelt Haywood misspelled his own name on a $10,000 check, right?

 

Man Found Dead in Burning, Abandoned Gary House
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[17 Feb 2016]

GARY | A man was found dead inside a burning, abandoned Gary home early Wednesday, officials said.

The unidentified man was pronounced dead at 5 a.m. at the scene of the fire in the 4900 block of W 11th Av Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said.  The man suffered extensive burns, Frey said.  His official cause of death is pending additional investigation.

Mark Jones, chief of operations for the Gary Fire Department, said crews were called to the scene at 3:14 a.m.  As they were working to battle the blaze, firefighters discovered the man's body in the northwest corner of the home, Jones said.

Crews had the fire under control by 4 a.m., he said.

The initial investigation indicates the fire was accidental.  [Subsequent investigation confirmed the fire was a result of smoking in bed.]

 

Great Lakes Steel Output Rises for 6th Time This Year
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[16 Feb 2016]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes region rose to 635,000T last week, the sixth time it’s risen out of seven weeks so far in 2016.

Great Lakes steel output rose by 6,000T, or 0.9%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output rose by 1.06% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, rose to 592,000T last week, up from 587,000T a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.7 million tons, up from 1.68 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.  Year-to-date steel output has been 11.4 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 68.7%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 12.4 million tons at the same time in 2015.

 

Weekend Gary Robbery:  Miller Business Hit Twice
Compiled from a Post-Trib Staff Report
[16 Feb 2016]

A gunman struck twice at an adult book store in Miller during the three-day weekend, taking cash from the clerk, Gary police said Tuesday.

After the first stick-up, the masked gunman told the Romantix employee, "I'm sorry, man, I gotta eat," the police report states.

Both robberies occurred about 4:20 a.m., Saturday and again Monday, police said.  Wearing a mask and carrying a handgun, the robber demanded money from the cash register, then left in an unknown direction, police said.

Romantix is located on U.S. 20 just east of Indiana 51.  Sgt. Jon Basaldua is investigating both robberies.  Police declined to comment on whether the two were committed by the same suspect.  In both robberies, about $100 was stolen, police said.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Is this what  one  would  call easy pickin's?

 

Struggling Gary Schools Outsource HR
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[12 Feb 2016]

The Gary School Board has awarded a $65,000 no-bid contract to a Merrillville firm to manage the district's troubled human resources department for four months.

The move came after the district's state-paid financial specialist Jack Martin detailed a high level of dysfunction in the human resources department following the retirements of director William Cook and assistant director Diana Groce in January.  "Groce, who retired with Cook, was the one who essentially ran the human resources department," said Martin.

"The three or four clerical employees who remain have no idea what to do in managing that department," Martin said.  He said there are forms and personnel data not being done.  "Essentially, we need to get someone in there now.  The process is not moving and it's causing severe issues with payroll."

CorePlacement Personnel Services was recommended by Martin and Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt.  The board approved the contract Thursday by a 4-2 vote.  Pruitt was not at the meeting and Martin spoke to board members via telephone.

Martin said the $65,000 would likely come out of the district's general fund, but could come from federal funding.  "We are negotiating with the Department of Education to have the costs paid by Title 1.  We're trying to get the state to pay some fraction of the HR procurement," he told the board.

GlenEva Dunham, president of the Gary Teachers Union Local 4, said she spoke with CorePlacement owner Connie F. Martin earlier in the week.  "In my opinion, her knowledge of school corporation HR is very limited," said Dunham.  "I'm just not sure what she can do."

Connie Martin, who's not related to Jack Martin, couldn't be reached for comment.  Her website describes her as a "people strategist and payroll expert."  It states she founded the company and ran it from her home in 2001.  It's now located in the Garden Plaza Center, 3608 W. 80th Ln in Merrillville.  The website says she received a bachelor's degree in marketing and human resources from IU and an MBA from U of I.

Board member Nellie Moore voted against the contract along with Robert Campbell.  She said information on CorePlacement wasn't provided until Wednesday.  "We need someone who knows the GCSC and how we function.  We need someone who knows about human resources and school law."  Moore also said the urgency of the district's plight was not conveyed in the contract.  "We do not need a consultant who's going to spend eight weeks analyzing and assessing," Moore said.  The school board, which often favors hiring from within, now seems to lean toward outsiders.

"We need an unbiased eye to come in and clean up the HR department," said board president Antuwan Clemons.  "There's no organization, no foundation. The right hand doesn't know what left hand is doing."  Clemons said CorePlacement will restructure the department and put measures in place so it can function.  "There were some things going on that no one knew about until these outsiders like Jack Martin came in and brought light to the mess," he said.

Board member Rosie Washington said the contract with CorePlacement isn't intended as a permanent fix.  "We have not been sitting on our hands.  We knew something had to happen," she said.

The Gary district has been battered in recent years by a declining enrollment and reduced state funding that led to layoffs and the closing of schools.  It's battling a huge budget deficit and last year the state agreed to pay for a financial expert to try to turn it around.  The school board hired Jack Martin, former emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools.

Frustrated board member Darling Pleasant summed up the situation:  "We're in trouble.  We need some help.  We've been doing the same thing for a long time and we've been getting some messed up results…  We are bleeding profusely.  It is painful to know what's ahead."

 

Woman Killed in Double Homicide a Loving Mom
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese
[12 Feb 2016]

A Gary woman was shot by the father of one of her children during an argument early Thursday and fired back with an assault rifle, killing him while her four kids were in another room at their Gary home, police said.

Nicole Handley, 31, was a good mother and likely saved her children's lives, her aunt Kim Roby said.  "It's sad that the only consolation is that the person who killed her — she killed him and saved her children," Roby said.

Police were called about 1:30 a.m. Thursday to the residence in the 5200 block of Adams St in Gary's Glen Park section for a gunshot victim and found the bodies of Handley and Larry Bray, 35, of Gary.  Roby said the two had an on-and-off relationship but that Handley ended it about a month ago.

Bray and Handley were arguing when an adult witness told them to stop because the children were in the house, police said.

Bray pulled out a .40-caliber handgun, and Handley picked up an assault rifle.  The witness got the children into another room before Bray fired the first shot and Handley shot back, police Lt. Thomas Pawlak said.  Handley was struck in the stomach and died at the scene, according to police.  Bray was shot twice and also died at the scene, Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said.

Bray had a permit for his gun, and no permit is necessary to own an assault rifle, Pawlak said.

Roby said Handley's four boys are ages 11, 10, 8 and 6.

She said Bray never had much to do with his son.  He promised to step it up at one point, but Handley eventually ended the relationship, she said.

Handley recently started a cleaning business, she said.  "She was heading in a new direction," Roby said.  "She was trying to do more for her children."  Bray didn't like it when Handley's business began to take off, she said.  "It just spiraled out of control, with him not being able to control her," she said.  "It's really pathetic."

Roby said Handley had not told of any recent abuse by Bray.  Police said Handley had not filed any complaints against him.  Bray's family could not immediately be reached for comment.

Roby said the shooting was senseless.  "It's a very traumatic situation that's taken our family to the brink," she said.  "These children have no mother," Roby said.  "My sister has four children she now has to raise.  It is a lot, so as a family we're all going to have to step in and play a role."

Roby said she pays attention to the news and is dismayed by all of the shootings.  "All this senseless violence, it has to stop," she said. "It's like people are out of control."  Handley and Bray's deaths are the fifth* and sixth* homicides in Gary this year.  The city had logged four homicides at this time last year and ended 2015 with a total of 51*.

 

Cop Dodges Bullets; Gary Man Charged
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[11 Feb 2016]

A speeding white Toyota without working taillights caught Gary Lt. Jack Hamady's attention Monday night.

He stopped the car on Harrison St just north of the Borman Expressway overpass at about 27th Av in Gary and stepped out of his marked squad car to speak to the driver.  But he heard three gunshots, and saw someone was shooting from the driver's seat, police said Tuesday.

Hamady "jumped back into the police car for cover," as the Toyota sped south on Harrison St, court records filed Tuesday state.  He was not wounded.

Hamady and other members of the Multi Agency Gang task force (MAG) detectives chased the car, which crashed into a retaining wall at 37th Av and Pierce St when the driver tried to turn, police said.

After the car crashed, the driver ran east toward Fillmore St where Sgt. Sam Abegg and Detective Brian Rodziewicz apprehended him.  Court records state that Charles L. Reed III, 21, of the Miller section of Gary, is in Lake County Jail in Crown Point charged with two counts of felony resisting law enforcement and one count criminal recklessness, also a felony.

The MAG unit was working a special assignment with saturation patrols in the Delaney Community Housing Development.  The unit uses crime data from previous days to determine where and when police will focus attention.  Hamady had been sitting at a gas station at 19th Av and Harrison St when the incident began.

Later, police learned the car had been stolen during an apparent drug deal that ended when the sellers took the buyer's car earlier Monday evening at Pine Village mobile home park in Lake Station, police said.

 

Gary Double Homicide Investigation Underway
#7 & #8* and Counting
Compiled from a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[11 Feb 2016]

GARY | A woman and a yet-to-be identified male were shot to death in Gary early Thursday morning, officials said.

Nicole Handley, 31, of the 5200 block of Adams St, was pronounced dead at an address in the same block at 2:31 a.m., Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said.  The cause of death was listed as a gunshot wound suffered in a homicide.

A male, listed as a John Doe by the coroner's office, was pronounced dead at the same location at 2:30 a.m.  Frey said his cause of death was also gunshot wounds suffered in a homicide.

Coroner's office investigators said they know the identity of the male, but were withholding it pending notification of family.  His age was not released early Thursday.

Mark Back, spokesman for the Lake County Sheriff's Department, said the Lake County Metro Homicide Unit is investigating.  No details were released Thursday morning.

 

Great Lakes Steel Output Keeps Trending Up
Compiled From a nwiITimes by Joseph S. Pete
[10 Feb 2016]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes continued its upward trend, rising to 629,000T.

Great Lakes steel output rose 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 rose by 1.69% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, rose to 587,000T last week, up from 563,000T a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.68 million tons, up from 1.65 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 71.9% last week, up from 70.7% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been 72.4% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date steel output has been 9.6 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 68%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 10.7 million tons at the same time in 2015.

 

ArcelorMittal Aims to Lose Some EC Finishing Lines
Compiled From a nwiITimes by Joseph S. Pete
[10 Feb 2016]

EAST CHICAGO | ArcelorMittal is looking to close finishing lines at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor to address the overcapacity that’s been nagging the domestic steel industry.

Nationally, only 72% of the nation’s steelmaking capacity was used last week, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Overcapacity worldwide, adds costs, depresses prices, and makes it hard for steelmakers to turn a profit.

Most of the cutbacks ArcelorMittal is proposing would take place in East Chicago, United Steelworkers District 7 Director Mike Millsap said.  The steelmaker employs more than 5,000 workers at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor.  The massive steel mill has numerous finishing lines, including five continuous casting machines, a slab dimensioning facility, 80-inch and 84-inch hot strip mills, a pickling line, a five-stand tandem mill, batch annealing, continuous annealing, a temper mill, two hot-dip galvanizing lines and an aluminizing line.

ArcelorMittal wants to close several lines and make a major multimillion-dollar investment in the remaining ones so they can run around the clock, Millsap said.  The idea is to save money by running fewer operations more efficiently.  No layoffs would take place, Millsap said.  Any displaced workers would be transferred to other areas of the mill, which sprawls across 3,100 acres on the Lake Michigan shoreline.  "Some operations get idled, others get capital," he said.  "Nobody gets laid off."

The USW and ArcelorMittal are discussing what operations would be idled as part of their contract negotiations, and nothing is final until a new contract is agreed to.  The union has a vested interest in the company's success, Millsap said.  He said there’s largely a conceptual agreement on the restructuring, though the union has other unresolved issues, such as with the increased out-of-pocket expenses on health insurance ArcelorMittal wants workers to pay.

"We need the company to be able to sustain itself in the future," he said.  "It has to be profitable in order for us to do our jobs.  The type of investment they’re talking would protect our members."

 

Mayor Grilled on Gary IT Thefts/Double Dippers
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[9 Feb 2015]

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson was grilled tonight over adding a second job title for at least two employees.  During the exchange, the Mayor defended her handling of the $1.8M in computer thefts which came to light last year.  The heated exchange occurred when Committee Chair LaVetta Sparks-Wade stated, "I just want to make sure we are protecting the City of Gary.  $1.8M [in computers] walked out the door and nobody was held accountable."  Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson quickly responded "people will be held criminally responsible."

To date, only one person has been the focus of attention over the thefts.  Gary IT Department employee Monique S. Bowling-Boyd was sued by Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller.  In the lawsuit, the Attorney General seeks $4M in damages for missing computer equipment including 878 iPad Air tablets.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson adamantly denied that the items were purchased with "open" purchase orders although the State Board of Accounts repeatedly referenced the practice of distributing signed purchase orders as a contributing factor in the thefts.  City Controller Celita Green admitted to the State Board of Accounts that she issued open purchase orders.

Nor did Sparks-Wade back down when the Mayor attempted to explain away a budget line item that would grant 60 hours worth of pay to a fireman and a police officer.  Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson admitted that she directed Fire Chief Paul Bradley to withhold employee time sheets that Sparks-Wade had requested and, in fact, had been promised by the Chief.  Freeman-Wilson stated that an "employee has a right to the privacy of his employment records."  Sparks-Wade responded that time sheets were public records and she was entitled to them.

"I don’t know whether its been covered up or not, but it feels like it" Sparks-Wade told the Mayor.  Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade at one point said the situation looked like "ghost payrolling" may be occurring.  "I want to make sure we are not in a situation where we are paying one person for two jobs during the same amount of hours," she said.

The incident began after the last council meeting when the council received testimony that Gary Firefighter Raynard Robinson would serve as a full-time firefighter and a part-time director of vehicle maintenance.  At the council meeting, there was testimony that Robinson worked a 24 hour firefighter shift and that he would perform the duties of director of vehicle maintenance during the 48 hours he was off from the fire department.  Council members later learned that was not true.  Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson stated "I apologize for that inaccurate information."

Council Member Rebecca Wyatt questioned why the council was not informed of this when the City budget was approved last year.  "We didn’t hear about this when we passed the fire budget" Wyatt told the Mayor.  Council Member Carolyn Rogers questioned why the job could not go to someone else.  "I get calls from constituents every day asking why can’t I get one of those jobs" Rodgers stated referring to people within the administration who hold two lucrative positions.  Council Member Ragen Hatcher added that "No one person should hold two positions."  She was concerned about the "perception of something being done … of somebody getting money for a position that he should not be getting.

Records maintained by the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance show that Raynard Robinson was the third highest paid firefighter in 2014, earning $94,000.  In 2015 Robinson was the second highest paid firefighter, earning $83,561.70 according to DLGF records.

The Mayor is asking the Council to approve an additional $15,000 per year for his duties as a part-time head of vehicle maintenance.  The Mayor explained that Robinson would be required to work 60 hours per week to fulfill the duties of both positions but stated "its not that he will be here at this time or there at that time … it has flexibility."

Raynard Robinson was present at the meeting but declined to comment.

At the conclusion of the meeting, a budget item for a police officer who would be working two positions was also brought up.  The parties agreed to defer both positions.  The police department employee was not named.

 

ArcelorMittal Cutting Costs as Steel Struggles
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[7 Feb 2016]

ArcelorMittal has been cutting costs at its U.S. operations, where it's looking to close finishing lines, including at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor in East Chicago.

The Luxembourg-based steelmaker said it's been scaling back at a time when imports have captured a record 29% of the U.S. market share and prices are depressed.

About 12,000 steelworkers in the United States lost their jobs last year, due to the unprecedented import crisis, according to the Alliance for American Manufacturing.  A flood of cheap imports was largely blamed on China, throwing world steel markets into turmoil.

The United Steelworkers union says the company has been using market conditions as leverage during ongoing contract negotiations.  ArcelorMittal says it is essential to cut costs in North America after five straight years of losing money here, when capital expenses are factored in.  To that end one step it has taken has been a "revised  health care plan for salaried employees," the company said.

 

Two Boys Shot to Death in Gary
#5 & #6* and Counting
Compiled 
From a Chicago Tribune Staff Report
[6 Feb 2016]

GARY | Two teenage boys were found shot to death inside a vehicle Friday evening in Gary in northwest Indiana, authorities said.

About 8:30 p.m., while on patrol a Gary police officer saw a vehicle parked in the 800 block of Burr St with its driver’s side door open, according to a news release from the Gary Police Department.

The officer discovered 15-year-old and 16-year-old boys, both shot to death, inside the vehicle, according to the Lake County coroner's office and the release.  Both victims suffered single gunshot wounds.  Both were pronounced dead at the scene around 9:30 p.m., the coroner's office said.

The 15-year-old was identified as Mark Skipper of the 6600 block of South Kentucky Av in Hammond, and the 16-year-old was identified as Kasreeyal Hester of the 800 block of Burr St in Gary, according to the coroner's office.

This is the second time in less than a week that a body was found in an abandoned car in the area.  On Monday, Police found 26 year old Fernando Verduzco stabbed to death in the back seat of a 2009 Acura in the 200 block of Hobart St.

 

Gary Cop Wins Bid to Keep Job
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[5 Feb 2016]

In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Gary Police Civil Service Commission rejected a hearing officer's recommendation to fire a police officer.

Instead, Sgt. Jason Davis, who has been on unpaid administrative leave since 2014, must serve another 60 working days as unpaid suspension before he can return to his duties.

"This was a very difficult case," commission attorney Rinzer Williams said before the vote.  The hearing officer cited possible issues with Davis' mental health, which Williams said was not a part of Chief Larry McKinley's formal complaint.  He told the board the hearing officer should not have cited that in his recommendation.

The charges stemmed from two incidents at Davis' home in the city's Black Oak section in the fall of 2014.  Twice, during domestic altercations, Davis allegedly threatened to kill himself and Gary police were called to the scene.  His wife, who was estranged at the time, told Sgt. Anthony Hawkins that "she had to wrestle" his gun from him, the verified complaint states.

Violations against Davis include failing to abide by moral and professional standards, conduct unbecoming an officer, failure to respect other officers and unauthorized use of department property.

Christopher Cooper, representing Davis, attempted to introduce testimony regarding his client's mental condition, which the board decided was not relevant.  Davis has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission alleging the city's attempt to fire him violated the Americans with Disability Act.

After the meeting, Cooper said, "I applaud the commission for doing the proper thing in not terminating Sgt. Davis' employment."
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   So cops with acknowledged mental disabilities cannot be removed from the force?

 

Sobering:  ArcelorMittal Lost Nearly $8 Billion Last Year
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[5 Feb 2016]

CHICAGO | ArcelorMittal, one of Northwest Indiana's largest employers, ended 2015 with a catastrophic fourth quarter, losing a stunning $6.7 billion over the last three months of the year.  The Luxembourg-based steelmaker, which employs around 10,000 workers in the Calumet Region, lost $7.9 billion last year.

The 2015 net loss of $7.9 billion included $4.8 billion of impairments, primarily due to mining impairments, and $1.4 billion of exceptional charges, primarily related to the write-down of inventory following the rapid decline of international steel prices, according to the company's earnings release.

Chief Executive Officer Lakshmi Mittal called the results "sobering" in a conference call with investors.  ArcelorMittal attributed the massive loss to the global import crisis that's widely blamed on China, which went from exporting 90 million tons of steel in 2014 to 120 million tons last year.  ArcelorMittal has tried to adjust to the difficult market conditions, such as by forcing salaried employees to pay more out-of-pocket for health care

The steelmaker, the largest in the world by volume, now hopes to raise $3 billion in new capital from shareholders to get its debt down to $12 billion.  The company hopes to cut $1 billion in expenses in 2016 by reducing capital spending, not paying a dividend for 2015, and reducing interest expenses.

"2015 was was a very difficult year for the steel and mining industries," Mittal said in a statement.  "Although demand in our core markets remained strong, prices deteriorated significantly as a result of excess capacity in China."  Industry analysts say China has more than 500 million tons of steelmaking overcapacity.  China's economy has slowed but it continues to make just as much steel, dumping it abroad with the help of government subsidies U.S. steelmakers don't get.

"Regrettably we have announced a disappointing net loss which includes non-cash impairment charges on our mining assets as a result of the very considerable fall in iron ore prices," Mittal said.  "Looking ahead, although we have started to see a recovery in Chinese steel spreads, from 2015 lows, 2016 will be a very difficult year for our industries."

 

Analysts Question U.S. Steel's Future
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[5 Feb 2016]

U.S. Steel lost a staggering $1.5 billion in 2015, and analysts are questioning whether it will continue to burn through cash in 2016.

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker projects it will break even on Earnings Before Interest, Taxation, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) this year if market conditions don't deteriorate further.  But an analyst, Axiom Capital's Gordon Johnson, has questioned whether that's realistic.

Business intelligence firm Argus downgraded U.S. Steel stock to a hold from a buy after it announced its sixth annual loss in seven years.  Most analysts give it a buy or hold rating, and there's been a 9% increase in investors shorting, or betting against, U.S. Steel stock this month, according to MarketBeat.  Analysts are suggesting it might get dire for the 115-year-old company if market conditions don't get better soon.

The steelmaker says it has $2.4 billion in liquidity and that it's in a strong position.  Steel production has been picking up in 2016 as new tariffs take effect on foreign steel, but analysts remain skeptical.  They've begun to question the viability of the business because of the ongoing weak market conditions the domestic steel industry has been facing.

Matt Vittorioso, an analyst with Barclays, said during the fourth quarter conference call with the company that U.S. Steel's liquidity was strong now but questioned what would happen when the company reduced its working capital and inventory.  In November, Vittorioso told Bloomberg, "Folks are beginning to question the viability of the business, just given how weak steel fundamentals are."

U.S. Steel executives say they are confident after the company cut $815 million in operating expenses last year, as a result of its ongoing Carnegie Way initiative to cut costs.  "Our company is headed to a position that we are comfortable with," U.S. Steel CEO Mario Longhi said during the conference call.  "I mean, many of the new products we are launching are geared to be more valued-added.  If you look over time, there has been more penetration in automotive.  When we look at the competition and our facilities and what we're investing, right now we're operating at a good level."

U.S. Steel was on the defensive during the conference call.  "We got this," Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Dave Burritt said.  "We are managing cash extraordinarily closely.  We look at it daily.  We have rolling forecasts.  We are on it, we got this.  We are going to adapt to whatever the economic circumstances are, and we will have the trigger points that will tell us what we need to do.  We are still in great cash position."

 

Marquette School Has Sewage Backup
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[3 Feb 2016]

GARY | Parents in Gary's Miller section were concerned about a sewage backup at Jacques Marquette Elementary School in the Gary Community School Corp., which caused the school to have a bad odor Tuesday.

Gary school Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said she was contacted about the sewage backing up Tuesday, and immediately contracted a firm to make repairs.

On Tuesday afternoon the elementary students were moved to nearby Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Center.  "We didn't want to send the children home by bus, because some parents are working.  It was an emergency situation, and I believe the school administrators notified parents," she said.

"It appears that the Marquette sewers were backing up.  There is a manhole near the school.  We contracted with Teirra Environmental Industrial Services to fix the problem," she said.  "Another crew came in and sanitized the entire building.  They worked through the night.  I received a message about 11:11 p.m. (Tuesday night) that they were done."

Pruitt said she asked contractors to check all sewers and drains throughout the building to ensure there were no clogged areas.  Pruitt estimated the cost for the repairs and cleanup at less than $5,000.

Marquette students were in class Wednesday.

 

Gary Schools Say 10 Laptops Missing
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[3 Feb 2016]

Gary school officials said a preliminary investigation into electronics equipment has determined that 10 laptops and two desktop computers are missing.

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said in a statement the depreciated value of the computers was $3,186.

"A stringent corrective action plan will be implemented to ensure that computers are made available for student usage.  Anyone found guilty of unauthorized removal of equipment will be subject to termination," Pruitt said Tuesday.

Pruitt said the equipment apparently went missing after it was moved from the shuttered Lew Wallace High School to the Williams Annex, formerly known as Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School.  Pruitt said the equipment followed the students after Lew Wallace closed.

Before the Gary School Board voted to close Lew Wallace in 2014, the school had received a $6 million federal school improvement grant and part of that money went toward technology.

 

School District Grades Unchanged From 2014
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[3 Feb 2016]

State accountability grades for school districts in Lake and Porter counties remained unchanged from 2014 based on data released Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Education.

The State Board of Education approved the grades at a meeting in Indianapolis. The Gary Community School Corp. received the lone F grade in Indiana.

Gary officials expressed disappointment with the grade, questioning its accuracy.  "We are concerned that the district grade was not calculated according to the grades received by buildings in consideration of the legislation," said Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt in a statement.  "With West Side Leadership Academy scores increasing, we believe that GCSC district grade should be recalculated accordingly."

The Gary district has received a grade of F since 2011.  It had a D in 2010.

Pruitt said the district has made significant gains in recent years.  Seven schools received a passing grade this year, compared to just three schools passing in 2012, she said.  "We are excited about the direction we are moving.  Banneker, Williams and Frankie Woods Girls Academy all received an "A", while West Side Leadership Academy received the highest score in the history of the school," said Pruitt.  West Side received a C, escaping a state intervention.

 

Vehicle Shot in Apparent Random Incident on Borman
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[3 Feb 2016]

GARY | A Chesterton woman told police someone shot at her vehicle as she was driving on the Interstate 80/94 in Lake County on Saturday night, leaving a bullet lodged inside.

Indiana State Police Sgt. Ann Wojas said officers were called at 8:47 p.m. for a report of a vehicle struck by gunfire on the eastbound side of the Borman Expressway.  The victim said she was driving a Nissan near the Grant St exit in the center lane with a friend in the passenger's seat when she drove into the left lane to pass a slower vehicle in front of her.

"I went into the left lane to pass and a car came speeding up from behind," she told The Times on Wednesday.  "He was very close to my bumper, flashing his lights, the whole nine yards."  The woman changed lanes and the driver of the other vehicle sped past her, crossed all lanes of traffic and slowed down in the far right lane "like he was going to exit," she said.

The woman said she and her passenger looked at the vehicle and saw the driver's side window was down.  The passenger said -- jokingly -- "He's going to shoot us."  Shortly thereafter, the women heard a gunshot and a bullet hit the car.

The passenger called 911 and a dispatcher instructed the driver to continue to the Porter exit and meet state police at that location.  "Officers found the bullet actually inside my car," the driver said Wednesday.  "It went all the way through the door, the plastic, everything and lodged in the carpeting in the front seat."

The passenger provided officers with a description of the vehicle, describing it as a silver car, possibly a Chrysler or a Dodge, with a partial IL license plate number.

"It was so scary because it was so random," she said.  "There wasn't an interaction."

Wojas said detectives had no leads on the case as of Wednesday.

 

Great Lakes Steel Output Bounces Back
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[3 Feb 2016]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes rebounded last week, jumping up to 625,000T from the prior week’s 609,000T.

Great Lakes steel output rose by 19,000 tons, or 2.6%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output fell by 0.77% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, fell to 563,000T last week, down from 594,000T a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.65 million tons, down from 1.67 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 70.7% last week, up from 69.8% a week earlier.

Year-to-date steel output has been 8 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 67.3%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 9 million tons at the same time in 2015.

 

Judge Freezes Former Gary Worker's Assets Pending Lawsuit
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Elvia Malagon
[2 Feb 2016]

CROWN POINT | A Lake Superior judge froze the assets of a former Gary worker who is accused of misappropriating city funds as part of a scheme involving nearly 900 iPad Air tablets.

Monique S. Bowling-Boyd, of Merrillville, appeared Tuesday in front of Lake Superior Judge Diane Kavadias Schnieder days after the Indiana attorney general's office filed a civil lawsuit seeking she pay Gary nearly $1.4 million plus damages.  Bowling-Boyd did not have an attorney with her during the hearing, but she told Kavadias Schnieder that she intends to hire one.

Jacob Butz, deputy attorney general, said in court the state was seeking the preliminary injunction, because Bowling-Boyd has already sold this past year some vehicles she owned.  He said Bowling-Boyd has other vehicles she could sell, which could hamper their intentions of recovering the funds.  "The state feels it will be harmed if she dissipates her assets," he said.

Kavadias Schnieder granted the state's motion and told Bowling-Boyd she couldn't sell, transfer or put any liens on any property she owned.  She can still use the property.

The case was scheduled for a March 8 status hearing

 

One Hospitalized after Drive-by Shooting on Van Buren in Gary
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[1 Feb 2016]

GARY | The Gazette has confirmed that one man was shot in the face tonight in what was reported as a drive-by shooting in the 600 block of Van Buren.  Police and EMS were dispatched just before 6:00 p.m. after several residents reported a man shot in the face.  When paramedics arrived, they discovered that a friend had driven the man to the hospital.  CSI arrived and processed the scene which had multiple shell casings.  The condition of the gunshot victim is not known at this time.

 

Man Found Stabbed to Death in Vehicle in Gary
#4* and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle
[1 Feb 2016]

GARY | Police are investigating the death of man found with stab wounds in a vehicle Sunday night.

Lt. Dawn Westerfield, spokeswoman for the Gary Police Department, said police were called at 9:25 p.m. to the Ivanhoe Nature Preserve in the 200 block of Hobart St, in the city's Brunswick neighborhood late Sunday, for a report of a suspicious vehicle.  When officers arrived, they found a man dead in the back seat.

Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said the man was stabbed in a homicide.  He was pronounced dead at the scene at 11:02 p.m.

The identity of the man was not yet known Monday morning, coroner's office investigators said.

 

Roosevelt:  A Rich Past, But a Bleak Future
By Crusader Staff
[28 Jan 2016]

For nearly a century, it stood on West 25th Av producing a distinguished crop of prominent alumni who built powerful careers in politics, business, music, sports and entertainment. Back then, it was Roosevelt High School.

Today, the school is known as Roosevelt College and Career Academy.  By next year, the most famous Black institution in Gary could be history after years of failing grades and the state's failed efforts to turn the school's academic problems around.  The historic school is not closing, but the state's effort may have been the last hope for Roosevelt.  Its future looks bleak.

Most Blacks in Gary attended Roosevelt or knew someone who graduated from there.  Before she returned to Gary with two degrees from Harvard, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson graduated from Roosevelt at the top of her class.  Roosevelt D. Allen Jr., who recently died, received his diploma there before he was a household name with his family-owned business, Guy & Allen Funeral Directors.

Charles Adkins, another famous alumnus, defeated boxers from all over the world and became an Olympic gold medalist in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, and siblings from the royal family of pop music, the Jacksons, graduated from Roosevelt, as did basketball star Dick Barnett, actor Avery Brooks and scores of Black doctors, lawyers and professionals.

Since it opened nearly 93 years ago, Roosevelt, Gary's oldest Black institution that grew out of Gary's racist past, has built a rich history that started with Gary's oppressed Blacks trying to achieve the American dream during the tumultuous Jim Crow era.  Over time, the school's legacy became a beaming symbol of pride for many generations.

— FAILING GRADES

But in recent times, the school that was the bedrock of Gary's Black community is no longer the pride of the community.  In the past ten years, the school has received an F grade by the state for low academic achievement and test scores.

According to newly-released figures, Roosevelt's 44% graduation rate is the lowest in the Lake County and far below the state average of 90%.  Roosevelt's handsome Colonial Revival edifice is only half utilized with only 670 students enrolled as opposed to 1,600 students who were enrolled during Roosevelt's glory days.

In the past two weeks, Roosevelt has been in the spotlight after one of the boilers in the school's building broke leaving classrooms cold and students frustrated.  Similar maintenance problems have plagued the aging school in recent years.  On Jan. 25, students returned to school after a group of them led a protest demanding school officials to correct the school's lingering infrastructure problems, but Roosevelt's infrastructure problems are the least of the school's worries.

Roosevelt has been failing for years and its academic problems have left the school with an uncertain future.  The IN Dept. of Ed. has given the school an F accountability grade since George W. Bush was president of the United States.

On Jan. 26, the state released the grades from 2015, and Roosevelt was among 3% of schools that received a failing grade, which is based on the state's streamlined ISTEP standardized exam.  The results came after the state switched from Common Core to the newly-developed ISTEP, leaving educators little time to prepare for the exam.

For many of Roosevelt's alumni, getting an F grade has become a sad tradition and a stain on the school's legacy.  After six consecutive years of F grades, in 2012, the state took Roosevelt away from the GCSC and placed the school under EdisonLearning, a for profit education management corporation.  EdisonLearning renamed the school Roosevelt College and Career Academy and hope to turn the school around.  But even while under state control and EdisonLearning, Roosevelt still earned "F" grades for four more years.  Now, the failed turnaround has placed state officials in an embarrassing spotlight, years after it blamed GCSC for Roosevelt's academic problems.

Questions remain about the state's efforts to improve Roosevelt's academic achievement or if enough was done to turn the school's fortunes around.  Now, many wonder whether Roosevelt can be saved.  One fact that remains clear is that it would take a massive effort or a miracle to turn the school around.

Complicating Roosevelt's problem is the growth of charter schools in Gary.  As more students seek better academic opportunities in charter schools, boosting enrollment at Roosevelt may be difficult.

With EdisonLearning's contract set to expire at the end of this school year, the School Board must decide on whether to return a failing Roosevelt back to the school district.  State officials remain mum on the subject.  In one news report, Pruitt said the GCSC haven't decided whether to keep Roosevelt open if the school is given back to the local school system.

"I'm hopeful that Roosevelt would be turned back over to the Gary Community Corporation," said Roosevelt alumni Reverend Jerry Protho.  "I think effective leadership is needed to help Roosevelt get back on its feet.  It's going to take a lot of great minds to come together and take a hardcore look at where Roosevelt is at."

— FEW OPTIONS

GCSC is already overwhelmed with crumbling schools, dwindling enrollment and a $95 million debt.  Roosevelt, a 400,000 square foot building, would be an expensive liability for the GCSC, which has been unable to pay all of its vendors.  There are questions whether the state would return Roosevelt to a cash-strapped, overburdened school system.  In October, the state granted the GCSC a $15 million loan, but school officials say that amount is just enough to keep schools open for the rest of the year.

It could be the end of an era for the first and only school built exclusively for Blacks.  Few schools, including Froebel High School in Gary, admitted Black students, who were treated like second-class citizens and barred from participating in extracurricular activities.  Roosevelt was opened in 1923 after 600 white students led a four-day strike to protest the transfer of 18 Black students to the all-white Emerson High School.  To settle the strike, the School Board approved $600,000 to build Roosevelt after much heated debate.

Calumet historian and author James B. Lane wrote, "With the institution of segregation in the public schools (established), Gary's Black people were forced to make the best of a bad situation.  They took pride in Roosevelt High School.  Roosevelt became a key center for the African-American citizens in Gary."

While many students excelled academically, Roosevelt athletes won two city football championships in 1947 and 1948 and five National Negro Basketball championships in the 1930s.  Named after Theodore Roosevelt, the nation's 26th president, the school was listed on the National Register of Historic Places last year.

The school has an active alumni association who continue to boast about their alma mater.  One Roosevelt alumnus, Lloyd Fisher, an attorney, said the school is victim of charter schools and changing trends in public school systems across the country.  He also said racism is part of the reason for Roosevelt's decline.  "It's interesting how Roosevelt got to this point," he said.  "It's going on all over the country.  Anytime we have an important Black institution, it becomes a target of those who want to tear it down."

 

Gary Police Involved in Zero Shootings in 2015
http://www.teamgaryindiana.com/
[29 Jan 2016]

Gary, IN | While many communities are dealing with the repercussions of a number of Police Officer-involved shootings last year, the Gary Police Department's crime statistics include zero (0) police officer-involved shootings in 2015.

Additionally, the department's end-of-the-year crime statistics show a significant decrease in all categories of reported crime over the past three years.  The three-year comparison monitors stats related to Criminal Homicide, Rape, Robbery, Assault, Burglary, Larceny-Theft, Motor Vehicle Theft, and Arson. (See chart below.)

Gary, like many U.S. cities last year experienced a spike in violent crime during the summer months resulting in the city's violent crime rate to escalate in 2015.

Gary Police have been working diligently to combat violent crimes in the city.  Chief Larry McKinley has reiterated numerous times, "We know the identity of the top violent offenders in our community and (referring the city's Gary for Life initiative) we continue to send the message we will help you if you let us and we will stop you if you make us."  Gary for Life is a partnership with the National Network for Safe Communities.  The program works with at-risk individuals and potential offenders to offer an opportunity to change.  The program has realized some successes as it relates to a decrease in Gary's crime statistics.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson praised the work of the men and women of the Gary Police Department for their untiring service to the Gary community.  Nearly all Police and Fire personnel received pay increases in 2015 and 2016.

Freeman-Wilson continues to serve as Chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayors and Police Chiefs Committee on Community Policing and Relations and Chair of the National Leagues of Cities Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee.

 

CRIME 2013 2014 2015
Homicide     55     51     50
Rape     47     44     25
Robbery   327   278   204
Assault   463   354   181
Burglary 1454 1249   990
Larceny - Theft 2533 2253 2027
Motor Veh. Theft   732   461   380
Arson    73     63     52
Officer Involved Shootings      0       2       0

 

State Sues Former Gary Worker in Computer Fraud Scheme
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[28 Jan 2016]

The state is seeking nearly $1.4 million from a former city of Gary information technology worker, who carried out an elaborate fraud scheme for more than three years, according to the lawsuit filed Thursday by Attorney General Greg Zoeller.

Zoeller said the scheme involved fraudulent purchases of electronics and duplicate or falsified invoices.

The civil complaint was filed in Lake Superior Court against Monique S. Bowling-Boyd, of Merrillville.  She has not been charged in criminal court, but an investigation is ongoing by the Indiana State Police.

Zoeller's office has received a temporary restraining order, which prohibits Bowling-Boyd from selling, transferring or concealing any of her financial assets or property.  It's in effect until Lake County Superior Court Judge Diane Schneider holds a 1:30 p.m. Tuesday hearing on the state's motion for a preliminary injunction that would freeze Bowling-Boyd's assets indefinitely.

Zoeller is also asking the court to triple the amount of damages awarded to the state.

Bowling-Boyd's alleged wrongdoing was uncovered by a special investigative audit by the State Board of Accounts last year.  She was fired last spring when the investigation began.  The Information Technology department office in the basement at City Hall was abruptly moved to the Gary police station and it was moved to the jurisdiction of Commander Sarita Titus.

"What is alleged here is that this individual violated the public trust through a fraud against the city that squandered the taxpayers' funds.  Most public servants are honest and provide good services, but the audit concluded this defendant exploited the city's purchasing system, misappropriating funds at taxpayers' expense," Zoeller said in a statement.

Bowling-Boyd could not be reached for comment. No attorney for her was listed on the complaint.

The State Board of Accounts initiated the audit after the state police reported that Apple laptops and other computer equipment, whose serial numbers indicated they were owned by the city, had been discovered in Illinois by authorities during a traffic stop.

The fraud occurred in multiple ways, the audit found:

The state investigation led to sweeping changes in how the city purchases goods.  The city has halted its practice of open purchase orders.

The audit found the city frequently issued open purchase orders when it expected to make multiple purchases from a vendor.  "The use of 'open' purchase orders also allowed for extensive purchasing of items not in the possession of the city, and without detection by city officials," the audit stated.  The city has also established an internal controls team to examine procedures across departments, as well as implementing a centralized inventory system.

"Part of it was she utilized technology to create what appeared to be an original invoice," said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

"The best thing is that she will be held criminally responsible.  It's unfortunate.  It makes me sick to my stomach," Freeman-Wilson said.

 

Gary Man to be Released from Prison after Almost 24 Years
Compiled From a nwiTimes AP Report
[28 Jan 2016]

CROWN POINT, IN (AP) | A 47-year-old Gary man will walk free after spending nearly 24 years in prison for robbery and murder convictions.

Lake County Prosecutor Bernard A. Carter said Wednesday afternoon that he dismissed all of the pending charges against Willie T. Donald.

His convictions were vacated Monday after the court ruled that a woman's identification of Donald in the 1992 case was flawed and that Gary police hid that from Donald and his trial attorney.  The prosecutor's office was ordered to decide whether to retry Donald or let him go when he's brought from the Indiana State Prison on Thursday.

His attorney told The (Munster) Times that Donald was still being held in jail Wednesday under a routine protocol to ensure he isn't wanted by any other court.

 

U.S. Steel Lost $1.5 Billion Last Year
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[26 Jan 2016]

Just a year after turning its first annual profit in half a decade, U.S. Steel is back deep in the hole, with a $1.5 billion loss for 2015.

The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker lost $10.32 per diluted share, including $1.2 billion in non-recurring items such as restructuring costs.  U.S. Steel's annual results were so dismal one market observer said the 115-year-old company, the first in American history to make $1 billion, must present a survival plan.

Wall Street however was pleased because U.S. Steel's net loss of $999 million or $6.83 per market share in fourth quarter beat analysts' expectations.  U.S. Steel stock shot up 85 cents per share to around $7.77 a share within an hour of announcing the result, because of the better-than-expected performance in the fourth quarter.

The steelmaker made a profit of $275 million during the same period in 2015, but has been beset by a surge of cheap, often subsidized imports that have dragged down prices and damaged the entire domestic steel industry.

U.S. Steel, the second largest domestic steelmaker after Nucor, says it still has strong liquidity and positive cash flow despite the harsh market conditions.

"The $815 million of Carnegie Way benefits we realized in 2015 show that we continue to make significant progress on our journey toward our goal of achieving economic profit across the business cycle," Longhi said.

Excluding one-time items, U.S. Steel lost $262 million, or $1.79 per share, in 2015. The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker, which has been idling mills and laying off workers nationwide, reported a cash flow of $359 million and total liquidity of $2.4 billion, including $755 million in cash.

The company's flat-rolled segment, which includes the Gary Works mill, lost $116 million last year, including $88 million in the fourth quarter. Flat-rollled had been U.S. Steel's most profitable division in 2014, earning a net income of $709 million. Flat-rolled prices dropped by $30 a ton in the fourth quarter because of imports U.S. Steel says are dumped or subsidized.

U.S. Steel is forecasting break-even earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation or amortization (EBITDA), in 2016, unless market conditions improve.  We are facing significant headwinds and uncertainty in many of the markets we serve but remain focused on continuing to improve our cost structure, developing differentiated solutions for our customers and creating more reliable and agile operating capabilities," Longhi said.

 

Gary Roosevelt Open and Heated
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[25 Jan 2016]

GARY | Gary Roosevelt College and Career Academy is open and ready for students a few days early after contractors worked all weekend to fix the heat.

Gary Roosevelt is operated by Tennessee-based EdisonLearning Co., a private management company appointed by the state about five years ago due to poor academic performance under the Gary Community School Corp.  The Gary school system still owns the building, and EdisonLearning is considered a tenant.

Gary Roosevelt students and teachers protested the frigid temps inside the building earlier last week.  There have been problems with the boiler system, and students have lost multiple days of learning.

 

Feds Tap Gary for Urban Ag Program
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[25 Jan 2016]

GARY | The Steel City is one of 27 cities nationwide chosen for a federal initiative to eliminate food deserts, where people do not have access to healthy fresh food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has selected Gary for the Local Foods, Local Places initiative, which aims to make healthy locally-grown food more accessible, especially for children.

Federal assistance is especially needed in Gary, where many people live five to eight miles away from a grocery store with fresh produce, said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in an interview with the Times.

"That's unacceptable," Vilsack said.  "The reality is, the more miles away fresh, healthy food is, the harder it is to access.  It's a serious issue."

The federal government will give Gary technical assistance on how to turn vacant land into gardens, and identify how food hubs could revitalize downtown.

"What financial assistance the city receives will depend on the technical assessment and what meets the needs of the community," Vilsack said.  "Greater access to fresh food will mean healthier choices."

 

A Pocketful of Clichés for the Region's Future
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
By Tom Dabertin, originally printed in The Write Stuff, a publication of the Whiting-Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce.  Reprinted with permission.  All rights remain with the source.

[24 Jan 2016]

First let me apologize for using so many Clichés in this column.  For clarification, the term Cliché describes a trite phrase or opinion that is overused.  I personally avoid such sayings, but the fact that the definition of the word cliché states that it is a phrase that betrays a lack of original thought, which seems to fit the point of this column perfectly.

For years, the Region (aka Northwest Indiana) has banked on a series of "making the big score" (Cliché #1); projects that at times have been unrealistic, pie-in-the-sky (Cliché #2) or simply ridiculous.  It is as though the Region is playing the lottery, as the Region dreamed for, gambled on, or pursued:  stadiums for the Chicago Bears and Chicago White Sox, the Lake Calumet Airport, the Saturn General Motors Plant, a facility that would turn trash to ethanol, and even a monorail circling Wolf Lake (that one was clearly the most ridiculous idea, as no one ever explained where the monorail would be going to or from).

With every one of these projects, the Region seemed to dream that all of our problems would go away if we just landed that big score.  In each of these situations, the Region was as mesmerized as the folks in River City were by Professor Harold Hill, only to be disappointed later.

Yes, over the years, we've been fed so many false promises, banked on so many projects that went absolutely nowhere, that one has to wonder if PT Barnum's "There's a sucker born every minute" (Cliché #3) refers to the Region (Note:  Barnum actually did not say it; David Hannum was the most likely source).  There is nothing wrong with dreaming, or even dreaming big, but you cannot that just because you bought a lottery ticket that you can start shopping for mansions and fancy cars.

Perhaps our penchant for grandiose plans are part of our storied past.  After all, our economy was built on two industries:  petrochemicals and steel.  These are industries that have profound impact, both good and bad, on the Region.  Let's not forget that Standard Oil only built in Whiting after being chased out of South Chicago after the rupture of an oil storage tank full of rotten egg smelling Lima Crude.  Rockefeller came here because it was a bit of a no-man's land, free of regulation.

The steel mills largely located here in part because the State of Indiana turned a blind eye to what the mills did as long as they sent millions in tax dollars downstate.  In fact, regulation of industry only occurred when the federal government created OSHA, the U.S. EPA and adopted the Clean Water and Air Acts in the early 1970's.

If Gary Airport ever takes off, great.  I flew out of Gary to Florida in the 1990's and loved the convenience.  Regrettably, it's very unlikely that Southwest, United, or American are going to move operations there, and the trend continues towards larger not smaller airlines.  So most likely Gary Airport could possibly become a cargo/freight terminal which will generate far less employment than as a passenger facility.

The extension of the South Shore Railroad; well again, if it happens great for Dyer, Munster and potentially points south, but let's not overstate the impact that the project will have on the majority of residents in Northwest Indiana.  I also think it's also important that any expansion plans focus on making the areas around the existing South Shore more enticing, attractive and open to investment (officially known as Transportation Oriented Development).  A quick look just south of Gostlin Avenue demonstrates that the railroad is not the panacea or development generator that some make it out to be.

If our area is to become a better place to live, we need to balance our dreams with a focus on more mundane issues; the things that improve the quality of life like reducing crime, creating more efficiency in government, investing in streetscapes and beautification efforts, demolishing blighted buildings, improving our streets and parks, making education a priority, a steady focus on protecting or increasing property values, and attracting new business and investment.  We cannot fall prey to the premise that it is someone else's responsibility to make our communities a better place by placing all the responsibility on local government, elected officials, and a very small group of citizens willing to volunteer.  Instead, we need to accept that responsibility, which starts with the care, maintenance and investment in our own properties, taking the time to vote- a right we supposedly hold so dear, but most rarely exercise as evidenced by abysmal voter turnouts; and spend some time volunteering, whether it is through a local organization (like the Whiting Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce, Studio 659, the Marian Theater Guild, The United Citizens Association, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus to name a few), a church, or offer your time to make a difference.  The change that our community needs really starts with each of us.

So as we begin 2016, let's hope that this is the year that makes our area a place to be proud of.  Who knows?  Maybe this is the year that we will once again "wait for our ship to come in" (Cliché #4).

Tom Dabertin is President of Shared Resource Solutions, LLC.  He is a former Board Member of the Regional Development Association and is the Past President of the Whiting-Robertsdale Chamber of Commerce.

 

Gary Roosevelt Students to Return Wednesday
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[22 Jan 2016]

INDIANAPOLIS | An Indiana State Board of Education member expressed concern about the lack of heat at Gary Roosevelt College and Career Academy causing 670 students to miss school this week.

Eddie Melton, of Merrillville, a new member to the board, also a NIPSCO manager of governmental and community relations, said every Hoosier student has the right to a quality education in a suitable learning environment.  "The ongoing situation involving lack of heat and adequate facilities at Roosevelt is extremely troubling," he said in a statement released Thursday by the State Board of Education's office.  "This simply cannot continue," Melton said.

"I am in communication with Dr. Cheryl Pruitt (Gary school corporation superintendent) and have been assured the school will be ready to reopen sometime next week.  I also stand willing to work with all parties, including the State Board of Education and state lawmakers, to ensure the best interests of Roosevelt staff and students are met moving forward."

The school is not scheduled to reopen until Jan. 27.

 

Gary School Board Eyes Outsource Plan
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[22 Jan 2016]

The cash-strapped Gary School Board is weighing a controversial recommendation to eliminate its in-house maintenance, custodial and building grounds staff in favor of an outside contractor.

Its workers are fighting the move and say they're willing to make concessions.  "We just want some transparency," pipefitter Dell Battle said.  "Give us the opportunity to make concessions.  We haven't had a raise in 12 years.  I know we can do the job better.  Those contractors out there make double what we make here."

The board is holding a special meeting at 11 a.m. Monday in the administration center, 1988 Polk St, to discuss the recommendation. It could vote at its 6 p.m. Tuesday meeting at Marquette Elementary.

Jack Martin, the state-appointed financial consultant for the district, made the recommendation to help the district save money.  "One way or another we'll have to reduce costs, whether it's outsourcing or layoffs," Martin said last week at a committee meeting attended by several maintenance workers.  "If we don't do something, one day there won't be any paychecks, and that will essentially be the end of the school corporation," Martin added.

The district was in such dire financial shape last year the state hired Martin to shore up the finances.  Crippled by a shrinking enrollment and reduced funding, the district is mired in about an estimated $95 million hole.

Martin said the only place the district can cut costs is in compensation and fringe benefits.  "Some of our vendors haven't been paid for months.  If we don't do something, we're looking at asset sales," he said.

Given the district's slowness in paying vendors, Martin said there may not be any response to a request for proposals for maintenance services.  Martin said if the services are outsourced, the district will ask for its employees to get the right of first refusal for the jobs.

"If we do this RFP, it's the kiss of death to those people sitting back there. You have been written out," said board member Marion Williams, who opposed the recommendation.

 

Gary Schools Chief:  Report of Missing Equipment Wrong
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[22 Jan 2016]

A Gary police report citing the disappearance of nearly $47,000 worth of computer equipment was inaccurate and the employees who filed the police report Wednesday will be reprimanded, a Gary Community School Corp. official said Friday.

Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said most of the equipment, including 10 PolyVision whiteboards, valued at $3,132 each, has been accounted for in the district.

An employee at the Williams Annex, 920 E. 19th Av, told police the whiteboards, 21 Dell laptops and six HP desktop computers were missing after a Jan. 7 inventory.

Pruitt said administrators are in the process of reviewing the equipment reports as it pertains to laptop and desktop computers.  It wasn't clear whether they had been located.

Pruitt issued this statement late Friday:  "Equipment inventory is a continuous initiative in the district.  We take the education of our students and the use of federal dollars very seriously.  Central office and building administrators are responsible for the accurate monitoring and reporting of equipment.  Employees who filed the incorrect police report will be reprimanded.  Anyone found guilty of unauthorized removal of equipment will be subject to termination."

Pruitt said she's conducting a review of the district's inventory process.

 

Gary Police Investigate School Theft
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[22 Jan 2016]

GARY | Gary police are investigating the theft of thousands of dollars in computer equipment from a Gary school.

Nearly $47,000 worth of computers and equipment has disappeared from the Williams Annex, a Gary middle school located at 920 E 19th Av.  Among the missing items are 10 PolyVision whiteboards valued at $3,132 each; 21 Dell laptop computers valued at $547 each and six HP desktop computers valued at $667 each.

School employee Dwight Pointer reported the equipment missing after a Jan. 7 inventory at the old Dunbar-Pulaski Middle School building.  The school was closed last school year by the Indiana Department of Education as a middle school because of poor academic performance.  The Gary Community School Corp. continues to use it as a middle school, renaming it the Williams Annex, housing middle school students who are enrolled at Williams which is now a kindergarten through eighth-grade school.

Gary school superintendent Cheryl Pruitt was unaware of the police report Friday morning, and said she would look into the issue.

 

Frustrated Gary Roosevelt Students Protest Cold School
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carlson
[21 Jan 2016]

Roosevelt College and Career Academy students donned coats, hats, and scarfs as they marched in front of the school Wednesday to protest conditions inside the venerable school that closed again because of a lack of heat.

Students wear outerwear when they're inside the school too because it's so chilly, they say.

School officials hope Roosevelt can reopen next week.

"It is ridiculous. It's their second week out of school.  How are they supposed to learn?" asked parent Tiffany Riddle, whose son Tyre Sanders is a freshman.  "I'm thinking of finding another school."

Several staff members and parents joined the students who stood along 25th Av in front of the iconic school that opened in 1923 to house blacks so they couldn't integrate the city's white schools.

"Students and the staff are tired" of the cold environment they've endured so far this year, said senior Mark Williams, 17.

The scene frustrated State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, too.  "This is disappointing to see.  Students need to be in a school that is safe and appropriate for education.  I am encouraging all sides to work together to get this issue resolved so that our students can be back in the classroom where they need to be."

— Roosevelt student to lead protest over conditions

After missing most of last week while workers struggled to fix a broken boiler, students returned Tuesday.  Some areas still weren't sufficiently heated and classes were canceled Wednesday.  They're off Thursday and Friday because it's the end of the grading period.

The students say enough is enough.  Student council president Cary Martin had organized a sit-in Wednesday inside the school cafeteria to protest the conditions.  Instead, they moved outside.  "I'm trying to make this a movement.  It's an unhealthy environment in there," he said.

Martin said it's really bad inside the building.  "Some of us have come to expect not being in the building because it's too cold," he said.  "This happens every year, but it's time for a change.  This is affecting our education. This is really sad."

He said there are also problems with water inside the building, with few water fountains working and none of the showers in the locker rooms.  "Some of my colleagues and friends stink after class because they can't wash up," Martin said.

Food is also an issue, along with mold and damage in the school's band room.

A statement on the school's website said the repairs could be completed by Jan 27.

Meanwhile, EdisonLearning Inc., which runs the school under a contract with the state, is working with the Gary Community School Corp. on a tentative plan to move students to another building if the repairs aren't done.

"It's a hard situation, but we have other days on our calendar we can substitute in," said Sabrina Davis, school superintendent, of the missed days.  "We're just closing the building off to give workers the opportunity to work uninterrupted," she said.  Davis said the district has contracted the work out to Arctic Engineering of Merrillville.

Students and teachers say missing school isn't new.  Since 2012, a rash of boiler problems has led to burst pipes and cold conditions that have closed the school for days at a time.

While it doesn't operate the academic side of Roosevelt, the Gary Community School Corp. still owns and is supposed to maintain the building under an agreement with EdisonLearning Inc.  The state tapped the private company to run Roosevelt after the state took it over in 2011 under a state accountability law.

— Gary school officials say they may not be responsible.

"It's important that every child receives a top quality education in a building conducive to learning," said district spokeswoman Charmella Greer in a statement.  "Although it has not been determined who is responsible for repairs at Roosevelt, the Gary Community School Corporation is ready to support for the sake of the children."

The Gary school district is battling a $95 million deficit and has been slow to pay vendors so many no longer respond to requests for repairs.  A state-hired fiscal manager is developing an array of staffing and other cutbacks to stem the tide.

Dee Murphy, director of bands, said the band wing still hasn't been repaired since burst pipes flooded it back in 2013.  Ceiling tiles line the floor in a hallway and insulation hangs from the ceiling in a practice room.  Murphy's students can't use the band room or the classrooms in the wing, he said.  Even so, he said the band is growing. "We have over 50 members now and students are buying back in.  They want to compete."

Murphy said his band traveled to Hobart High School recently and were amazed at the surroundings and amenities of the school.  "Why can't we have that?" Murphy asked.  "It angers you and makes you shake your head."

 

Gary Mayor's Campaign Flunked at Math
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Bill Dolan
and a  Post-Trib Report by Carrie Napoleon
[19 Jan 2016]

CROWN POINT | Lake election officials fined Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's re-election campaign $2,200 Tuesday for late and erroneous financial reports.

However, the county elections board refused on a 3-2 party-line vote to request the prosecutor's office to conduct a criminal investigation.

Mayoral critics Robert L. Buggs Sr. and James Nowacki denounced the decision as a cover-up.  "I've not been allowed to present my case."  Buggs said he does not understand how his complaints have been resolved without him ever having a chance to testify.  "I think it's wrong. I think I been denied due process.  The (board) majority is sweeping this under the rug," Buggs said.

Nowacki said residents have a right to know how and where campaign funds are coming from and being spent.  "I assure the board this matter will not be dropped by the citizens of the city.   This matter will be taken before the circuit court," he said.

Justin Murphy, chairman and a Democratic elections board member, said the board addressed the complaints with a 10-month examination of campaign finance violations and the largest fine he could remember being levied against any candidate.

Michael Mellon, a Republican board member, said he and his fellow Republican member believed there was enough information of potential election law violations intentionally committed to warrant a possible prosecution, but were outvoted.  Mellon unsuccessfully sought first to have the matter referred to the prosecutor's office.  "We have been working on this case close to a year now.  The committee has been doing its best to gather info.  Numerous attempts by the board to subpoena bank records have been unsuccessful, he said.  The mayor has declined to turn over bank records.

"We are still spinning our wheels," Mellon said of efforts to understand how cash balances could have been wrong by tens of thousands of dollars.  A change in the 2013 report that shows about $60,000 cash on hand more than originally reported alone warrants further investigation, he said.  "At this point we don't know for certain if there is a violation of campaign finance law, but every indication is there is the potential," Mellon said in moving the matter be referred to the prosecutor.

The mayor, who attended but didn't address the board, said afterward her campaign did issue reports with "sloppy record-keeping and inaccurate calculations," but she said calls for a criminal prosecution were simply political partisanship.

After the ruling, Freeman-Wilson said she hired political consultant Kennard Taylor, who specializes in campaign finance reporting, to get the campaign's reporting issues resolved.  "They were sloppy records.  I'll be the first to acknowledge that," Freeman-Wilson said, adding substantial time and effort has been spent rectifying the records.  She said nothing presented to the board justified the release of the campaign's bank records.  The campaign filed a motion to quash the subpoena requests.  Freeman-Wilson said releasing bank records would "open a Pandora's box" that would give political rivals access to strategic information.

Freeman-Wilson said there was no money missing, only untrained campaign workers who didn't communicate well about money matters.  She said Taylor is now her campaign treasurer.  Taylor said complex campaign finance laws have confounded other area political campaigns as well.

Freeman-Wilson said it wouldn't have been appropriate to turn over bank records to the elections board, since that would set a precedent for political opponents to delve into candidates' financial strategies by filing frivolous election board complaints.

The mayor's campaign is still working on its 2015 reports.

 

Great Lakes Steel Production Rises Again
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[19 Jan 2016]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes rose for the third straight week in 2016, climbing to 628,000T

Great Lakes steel output rose by 9,000T, or 1.45%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate. Overall U.S. steel output jumped by 6.3% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, shot up to 559,000T last week, up from 514,000 a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.65 million tons, up from 1.59 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 69.1% last week, up from 66.7% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 76.4% at the same time a year earlier.  Year-to-date steel output has been 4.68 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 65.3%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 5.4 million tons at the same time in 2014.

 

Person of Interest Held in Deaths of Mother, Daughter Near Gary
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michelle L. Quinn
and a nwiTimes Report by Sarah Reese, Bill Dolan and Ed Bierschenk
and a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[19 Jan 2016]

A person of interest in the deaths of a mother and her adult daughter in NWI was being held in an OH jail after he was stopped while driving a Cadillac belonging to one of the women, according to police.

Jmes Andrew Lohnes, who is 44 and has a violent criminal history, was arrested on an unrelated misdemeanor charge in Montpelier, OH.  Lake Co. Sheriff Buncich said the man is considered a person of interest in the deaths of Velia Taneff, 86, and her daughter, Lana Taneff, 63.

Lake County court records show Lohnes was charged Mar 17, 2015, with felony sexual battery in a Crown Point case.  The charge was dismissed three days later.  He was charged Jan 25, 2015, with misdemeanor invasion of privacy in a Schererville case.  That charge was dismissed June 9.  He also faced misdemeanor public intoxication, misdemeanor disorderly conduct and resisting law enforcement charges last year in two separate Crown Point cases.  Lohnes entered into a pretrial diversion agreement Dec 15, court records show.

Buncich said Crown Point police received a call Sunday afternoon from a relative, claiming Lohnes had stolen his wallet.  The relative told police the man had done handyman work in the past for Velia Taneff and he was concerned for her safety because he couldn't reach her Sunday.

Lake County sheriff's police officers went to the property to conduct a welfare check.  They found Lana Taneff's body on the basement stairs.  Officers then went to the building adjacent to the residence and found Velia Taneff's body in the bedroom of an upstairs apartment.  Both had been strangled.

Through contact with some of Velia Taneff's tenants and a relative of the Taneffs, officers learned that one of Velia Taneff's cars, a dark blue 2003 Cadillac, was missing.  The department, using the car's navigation system, discovered it was in Montpelier, OH, impounded after the man driving it was arrested on an unrelated charge Saturday night as he walked along the Ohio Turnpike.

Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Michael Zirhr said he located the Cadillac on eastbound I-80/90, about 5 mi northeast of Montpelier, OH, after receiving reports of a disabled vehicle.  The vehicle had run out of gas and was locked, he said.  He noticed a few items inside, but "nothing odd."

Zirhr located the man stumbling along the highway about a mile east of the vehicle, he said.  The man, who was slurring his speech and smelled of alcohol, said his friend had been driving and he was walking to get gas, Zirhr said.  The man said he and the vehicle's owner had been to a gas station, but staff at the gas station said they had not been there, Zirhr said.

The man also said the vehicle's owner had been picked up by someone else.  When asked for his friend's name, the man allegedly hesitated.  He later said Vel Taneff's first name, but mispronounced it several times before saying it correctly, Zirhr said.

Ohio State Highway Patrol dispatch was unsuccessful in several attempts to contact Val Taneff about the vehicle, he said.

Zirhr said information the man gave to police indicated he had not had a valid driver's license since 1992.  He arrested the man on charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and driving under suspension.

It was not until Sunday, when Zirhr took his paperwork to a local police agency, that he learned Lake Co. sheriff's police had contacted local authorities about the man, he said.

Buncich said detectives have been in contact with the Montpelier police and have briefly spoken to the man.  Officers were expected to travel to OH late Monday.

 

2 Women Found Strangled to Death in Cal Twp
#2* & #3* and Counting
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Lauri Harvey Keagle, Keith Benman and Bill Dolan
and a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[18 Jan 2016]

CAL TWP | A former radio talk show host involved in local Democratic politics and her daughter were found strangled to death Sunday night.

Velia "Val" Taneff, 86, and Lana Taneff, 63, both of the 2300 block of W 44th Av were found dead Sunday, Lake County Coroner Merrilee Frey said.  The cause of death for both was listed as ligature marks to the neck suffered in a homicide.

Lake County Sheriff's Police were called to the home for a welfare check at 5:24 p.m., police reports indicate.  Lana Taneff's body was found inside the home.  She was pronounced dead at 6:47 p.m., Frey said.  Velia Taneff's body was found in the 4400 block of Taft St.  She was pronounced dead at 9:04 p.m., Frey said.

Mark Back, spokesman for the Sheriff's Department, declined additional comment on the case but stressed there is no threat to the public associated with the case.  Lake County Sheriff John Buncich plans to release details on the homicides at at 3 p.m. press conference.

 

Her husband, James, died in 1993.  Her daughter, Lana Taneff, was born with severe vision problems and was declared legally blind.  She recently lost her job at a local bank and was seeking disability benefits at the time of her murder.

Roosevelt Students Could Return Tuesday
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[17 Jan 2016]

School officials hope classes can resume Tuesday at the Roosevelt College and Career Academy in Gary after another boiler breakdown forced the cancellation of classes last week.

The school is owned by the Gary Community School Corp., but operated under an agreement between the state and EdisonLearning Inc., an education turnaround company.

"The same stuff happening last year is happening now," said Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt.  "We've called in an outside contractor to make sure we repair the problem."

Pruitt said she toured the school last week with Thom Jackson, president and CEO of EdisonLearning.  A Roosevelt school official said students are angry and frustrated over the repeated cancellation of classes at the school which has about 650 students in grades 7-12.

After six straight years of F grades, the state took over operation of Roosevelt in 2011, hiring EdisonLearning to manage it.  The state paid EdisonLearning with tuition support money taken from the Gary Community School Corp.  This is the final year of EdisonLearning's contract.  Roosevelt is expected to return to the school district at the end of the school year. Pruitt said school officials haven't decided whether they will keep Roosevelt open.

Roosevelt has been plagued by boiler problems since the takeover, shutting down classes for weeks at a time.  Repairing the boilers became a contentious issue between the school district and EdisonLearning, which sued the district in 2012, in part, for failing to respond to maintenance needs.

Earlier in January, a boiler problem at the Wirt-Emerson School for Visual and Performing Arts, caused the cancellation of classes for two days.

 

Griffith Again Makes Push to Leave Cal Twp
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michelle L. Quinn
[17 Jan 2016]
 

Griffith is again betting on being able to leave Cal Twp, but it'll still take the Cal Twp Board of Trustees to pull the trigger.

The Town Council last week voted to write a resolution that calls for it to be reorganized into St. John Twp, Town Council President Rick Ryfa said.  The council originally thought North Twp would be the one to which they could attach but found out before the meeting that because the southeast side of town resides in St. John Twp, it would have to be St. John Twp instead.

In a "perfect world," Cal Twp Trustees would vote to release Griffith to St. John Twp, then St. John Twp would have to vote to accept the town into its fold, Ryfa said.

"St. John Twp and North Twp are run very well, and we'd do well to be in either," Ryfa said.  "We don't necessarily expect Cal Twp to approve the resolution, but that won't stop us from pursuing options that become available under the law passed in 2013 to leave."

This is the second time Griffith has tried to put the resolution into effect, Ryfa said.  The first time was in 2013.  "At the time, we offered Cal Twp an additional $6 million to leave, and that was when we were paying close to $3 million to them.  This year, with law that took effect, we're paying $1 million, but if their tax rate goes up, we can trigger a referendum without their approval," Ryfa said.  "The only advantage Cal Twp has now is, they can negotiate terms for our leaving if they choose to adopt the reorganization."

Cal Twp Trustee Kim Robinson said Friday she has no idea how the township board will vote, but she's "frustrated" that Griffith is still contemplating action.  "I take great exception about how (Griffith leaders) are concerned about the previous administration's actions when we help plenty of people in the Mansards and plenty of people in town," Robinson said.  "And now, with this pending House Bill 1065 by Hal Slager where they're trying to change the calculation the (Department of Local Government Finance) presented because they still don't believe we're doing everything they've asked, it's frustrating.

"He (Ryfa) won't meet with me, so don't talk at me like I don't exist," Robinson said.  "I signed up to work for the people, so we're trying to get this worked out for everyone," Robinson said.  "I wish we could all sit down and talk about it, though.  And if they do vote for the reorganization, it's going to affect others, including North Twp.  It's going to be a mess for everyone."

Robinson said she's working with her team going over all the figures again.  If the township can't maintain services without Griffith, the board won't accept the reorganization.  If it can, however, she doesn't rule out exploring the idea.

 

Gary Charter Bill Dead
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[17 Jan 2016]

GARY | Proposed legislation to give Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson the ability to authorize charter schools is dead.

State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, was the co-sponsor of the measure sponsored by Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville.  Brown said the bill was designed to serve as a conversation piece to get communication flowing between the mayor, Gary school leaders and legislators.

"There has been a big void for a while in communication between the school system to the legislators and from the school system to the mayor's office in regards to their status," he said.  He said lawmakers don't know the "financial status" of the Gary Community Schools Corp.  "The legislature holds the lifeblood of the school system in its hands, and yet there is limited communication.  Most of the time, the only knowledge I have about the school system is what I read in the newspaper," Brown said.

He said state Rep. Vernon Smith shares concerns about the Gary district.  Brown said he wants to be more involved in what is going on with the school system, and there needs to be more communication.  "Perhaps the Gary Superintendent (Cheryl Pruitt) thought it was enough to communicate with Sen. (Earline) Rogers (D-Gary) but it is not," Brown said.

Rogers, who serves as the ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, has served in the Legislature for 38 years.  She isn't seeking re-election after the end of this session.

Brown said he met with Rep. Tim Brown and Freeman-Wilson to discuss the legislation Thursday.  "I asked that the bill not be advanced, and during our conversation, Tim Brown said he would not move that legislation," Brown said.

Freeman-Wilson said they talked about the need to focus on strengthening the Gary Community School Corp. and how any work in the legislature this session ought to be directed to that goal.  "I am not interested in being able to authorize charter schools at this time," she said.  "This was simply authority that would allow us to diversify education. ...  It's just a matter of timing, and the timing is not right, right now."

Pruitt said she is glad everyone will be able to come together and focus on improving the schools.  "We will continue to meet and bring everyone to the table as we have been doing," she said.  "If we have omitted anyone, we will try to reach out to everyone."  Pruitt said she is "thankful" the legislation is dead.

The mayor of Indianapolis is the only mayor in Indiana with the power to authorize charter schools.  He has authorized 39 charter schools in Indianapolis, serving about 13,000 students.  In 2014, 65% of mayor-sponsored schools earned an A, B or C. The remainder had a D or F.

 

Angry Parents Organize to Stop Bowman Closure
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Michelle L. Quinn
[16 Jan 2016]

Parents and teachers jammed Bowman Leadership Academy's junior-senior cafeteria Saturday morning to hear the school board's plan to keep the charter schools intact in the wake of Ball State University's decision to revoke the schools' charter for "internal structuring issues."

School board President Keisha White said the board has been "tugging and pulling" over various issues with Ball State for a while, but they would need to pull out all the stops given the university's announcement.  A year ago several of the school's administrative leaders were fired, including Gwen Adell, who led the school from when it opened in 2003.  She's now a consultant for Ball State, according to Ball State Charter Director Bob Marra.

White, a board member since the school's inception, went through the issues point by point with those in attendance.  One of the biggest bones of contention is tied to the school's decision to end its contract with education manager American Quality Schools, replacing the company with the Leona Group LLC.  The move saved $500K and allowed the board to give its teachers a 2% raise, their first in three years, White said.  "They are not happy with the company we selected for oversight" board member Barnes stated.

However, because American Quality Schools was in charge of the school's 2014-15 audit, the move resulted in the academy being put at the bottom of American Quality Schools' work list; something over which the academy has no control, White said.

White said she'd been asking for the report for months.  It was delivered just five minutes before she received an email announcing the schools were having their charter revoked.

The Ball State report said there were mandatory documents missing from the academy's files, something White said she could disprove immediately simply by reviewing a program into which the reports are filed.  Further, the report cited the eight-member school board's lack of term limits as an issue.  White said she found the accusation insulting given that board members are professionals and some are retired educators.  She said it discounts the school they've built.  "That's personal," White said.

In particular, Ball State pointed to two founding members of the school being on the Board; former mayor Richard Barnes and former Gary Community Schools administrator Anne Thompson.  We spoke with both after the meeting.  Barnes said he never had any information that his position on the board was a problem until Friday when the school received the notice of non-renewal.  "Not one time has anyone ever said that they have a problem with me on the Board" Barnes stated.

The school was working on the changes requested by the IN Department of Education, board member Ann Fisher said.  All of them were public and none of them were drastic, Fisher said.  "To say we were 'noncompliant' is an out-and-out lie," she said.

With regard to the school's plan for self-management, White pointed to Ball State officials' statement about "self-managed" schools representing some of the best the university has in its charter program.  "Can someone tell me what the issue is?  It's not about academics," White said.  "If you can find somewhere in this document that we are not the best charter in the city, I'll buy your next Powerball ticket.

"They wanted to create hysteria so we'd give up, but we're not.  We have too much invested."

Academy Principal Sarita Stevens said Charter of the Dunes School reopened when it found a new charter backer, so the idea that the schools have to close is not necessarily true.  "No, we don't have to close," Stevens said.  "Ball State's rules might say we have to, but the IN Department of Education doesn't give it that authority."

 

Woman in Custody in Gary Shooting Death
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[15 Jan 2016]

A Gary woman is in custody in connection with the Wednesday shooting death of April Bailey.

Gary and Lake County detectives served a search warrant at the apartment of Kevin Riley, 37, on Thursday.  Riley, a convicted sex offender with a lengthy criminal history, was arrested after police learned he had failed to notify law enforcement of his new address.  The woman who was there is described by investigators as a person of interest in the homicide, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich said.

Bailey, 39, was shot in the head outside her home in the city's Glen Park neighborhood about 4:40 p.m.  She died in her teenage son's arms moments later.  The joint task force of Gary and Lake County detectives is investigating her death, Gary's first homicide in 2016.

Police released no details of the arrest Friday, but Buncich confirmed a search warrant was served in the 1100 block of Connecticut St in Gary.  Riley was charged Friday with failing to register his change of address.  Court records state he had established a Facebook account as Archie Cason and failed to report his social media activity, which is also required.

Riley, who police said had a relationship with Bailey previously, completed his 31-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter and criminal deviant conduct in 2014 and is required to register any change of address for 10 years after his release.  He was charged in 1995, when he was 16 years old, with molesting and beating a 10-month-old child to death.  Prior to that, he was convicted in South Bend for molesting young children, but that record was sealed.

Lake Co. Det. Joseph Hardiman is leading the investigation in Bailey's death.  Buncich said he expects criminal charges will also be filed soon against the woman in custody.

 

Thea Bowman Charter Not To Be Renewed
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[15 Jan 2016]

GARY | The charter for Thea Bowman Leadership Academy will not be renewed at the end of the school year.

The Office of Charter Schools at Ball State issued a statement Friday morning saying Thea Bowman Leadership Academy is not in compliance with various governance and operations requirements set forth in the one-year provisional renewal letter the charter school received last year.  The statement said the board also is not in compliance with various requirements pertaining to federal and state laws.

Executive Director Bob Marra said the charter school previously was run by the Drexel Foundation, which holds the charter, and a school board.  It was asked to combine the two boards into one, as well as get state board training, which was done.

"We also asked them to look at their bylaws and term limits and the positions.  They did not change any of that.  The non-renewal had to do with governance issues and organization," he said.  "It's not so much about the school grade," Marra said.

Bowman High school Principal Sarita Stevens said Ball State isn't the only body that can authorize charter schools.  "That's their opinion not to renew our charter, and that's OK," she said.  "We will have to look for another authorizer.  We had to wait for the decision, and now we will explore other options.  We have to make plans and move forward."

"The problem is that this disenfranchises 1,400 students.  We outperform every other charter school academically.  Our high school earned a B and the elementary school earned a C.  They gave us a D overall, and we are appealing that," Stevens said.

 

It's Official:  219 Day Now a Real Holiday
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[14 Jan 2016]

HAMMOND | Region Rats everywhere, listen up:  'Da Region now has its own official holiday.

Last year, at the urging of beloved local Twitter humorist Region Rat Rants, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. proclaimed Feb. 19 "219 Day" to celebrate Northwest Indiana.  His 219 Day proclamation was the most viewed document in Hammond history, McDermott said.

219 is of course the area code for Lake, Porter LaPorte, Newton and Jasper counties, while 2/19 is Feb 19; hence 219 Day.  The day now219 Day Logo has its own  logo, which was unveiled on Thursday.  

This year, Hammond is going to throw a big party celebrating 219 Day at the Hammond Civic Center.  Expect bands, craft breweries, a bean bag tournament and more festivities that will be announced later.  McDermott plans to close all city offices at 2:19 p.m. so employees can go the the Civic Center to celebrate.  McDermott was described on Twitter on Tuesday as "no doubt the coolest mayor in America" for staging the event,

Last year, NWI users of the social media site Twitter celebrated 219 Day with jokes, such as that they "missed the stank air and adult superstore billboards," that their "love for the Region burned with the fire of 1,000 oil refineries," and that they wished "your day would be filled with cold weather, trains and potholes."  It was also reported that "in honor of 219 Day the South Shore was running 219 minutes late today instead of the normal 218 minutes."

 

Gary Woman Shot to Death Near Home
#1* and Counting
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[13 Jan 2016]

A 39-year-old woman was discovered in the 4700 block of Delaware St with a gunshot wound to her face following a call about 4:40 p.m. Wednesday, police in Gary said in a news release.

April Bailey was declared dead at the scene by the Lake County coroner's office.  Her identification was released by the coroner about 8 p.m.  Her address was listed as being in the same block where she was found by police.

 

Gary School Board Wants Ban on Charters
Compiled From a Post-Trib Report by Carole Carlson
[13 Jan 2016]

The Gary School Board has called for a moratorium on new charter schools in the city.

The resolution, approved Tuesday, came in response to the filing of a House bill allowing the mayor of Gary to authorize charter schools.  The bill stunned some board members who also lashed out at a House bill that would reduce the size of the Gary School Board from seven to five members.  That bill, filed by State Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, also calls for two of the members to be appointed by the mayor.

Board members and Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt are headed to Indianapolis Thursday to voice their concerns to state lawmakers.

Brown voiced surprise at the moratorium resolution.  "That and a quarter will get you a cup of coffee in Istanbul," he said Wednesday.  "Why can't they pick up the phone and meet with us?  It's mind boggling to me with all the issues they have that they wouldn't be in communication with the body that has 90% control over everything they do."

Brown said the HB 1115 is just enabling legislation in case the mayor decides to establish a charter.  "Since it was a Gary bill only, that's the only reason I said I'd go on it.  It also helps to get the attention of the corporation. There's absolutely no communication with the school corporation, whether it's the superintendent or board of trustees.  I never hear from them."

The board talked about Brown, and his bill to downsize it, plenty Tuesday.  "It's a slap in the face to constituents of the community to say the citizens of Gary are not competent enough to elect the school board," said board president Antuwan Clemons.  "The same citizens vote for state representatives," he said.  We will continue to find why this legislation is on the docket and why we can't work together with the municipal government in City Hall," Clemons said.

The school board has also added a legislative committee to its makeup.  Board member Nellie Moore is chairing the committee that will keep an eye on legislative issues.  Moore questioned the rationale in Brown's bill to downsize the school board while his other bill allowing the mayor to create charters calls for a nine-member all-appointed charter school board.

 

Great Lakes Steel Production Continues Strong Start
Compiled Fom a nwiTimes Report by Joseph S. Pete
[12 Jan 2016]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes jumped up by 37,000T last week, continuing a strong start to 2016.

Great Lakes steel output rose by 37,000T, or 6.35%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output soared by 10.6% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, rebounded to 514,000T last week, up from 417,000T a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.59 million tons, up from 1.44 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 66.7% last week, up from 60.2% a week earlier.  The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 76.4% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date steel output has been 3 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 63.4%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute.  Output had been 3.6 million tons at the same time in 2014.

RELATED - is the situation faced by ArcelorMittal.  It is exploring the possibility of having to idle more operations at its steelmaking operations at Indiana Harbor in East Chicago.

"ArcelorMittal is considering all options for optimizing our assets in the United States," spokeswoman Mary Beth Holdford said.  "We are internally discussing the optimization of some operations, including those within Indiana Harbor, our largest integrated facility in the U.S., as an indication of how we might reshape the business to become more competitive and sustainable for years to come."

Over the past year or so, ArcelorMittal has already idled the electric arc furnace at Indiana Long Carbon Plant No. 4 and the No. 2 galvanizing line at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor West.  The steelmaker also notified the union it wants to idle the No. 1 aluminizing line at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor West, which is the former LTV steel mill.

The Luxembourg-based steelmaker has said it won't idle blast furnaces in America because it doesn't want to lose market share to competitors, but could take finishing lines down at a time when the steel industry is struggling with close to 40% underutilization of mills in the United States.

 

Gary Mayor Could Get Power to Authorize Charter Schools
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Dan Carden
[11 Jan 2016]

INDIANAPOLIS | Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson soon could gain the power to authorize charter schools in the city, under legislation awaiting action at the Indiana House.

House Bill 1115 empowers the Democratic mayor to approve the creation of new charter schools upon the recommendation of a to-be-established nine-member Gary Charter School Board.  State Rep. Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville, is sponsor of the proposal, along with state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary.

Gary already leads the state with more than 1/3 of its children attending charter schools.  Most of those schools are authorized by Ball State University, Indiana's primary teacher's college.

If the measure becomes law, the mayor of Gary would join the mayor of Indianapolis as the only municipal leaders in Indiana with the power to authorize charter schools independent of any state or university authority.

Tim Brown, who is chairman of the budget-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said it just makes sense for the mayor to have more control over the city's charter schools, especially given the $92 million debt outstanding at Gary Community School Corp.  "I think the mayor needs a say. ...  The mayor is responsible for economic development, the mayor is in charge for infrastructure, roads, parks, sidewalks in the city," Brown said.  "I want there to be excellence so we can continue to champion businesses leaving Illinois."

The proposal would quickly transfer tens of millions of dollars per year out of the troubled Gary Community School Corporation.

The incentive to operate charter schools is pretty clear-tens of millions of dollars in state and federal funding.  If the Mayor could attract 2,000 students to her charter schools, that would mean control of about $20M annually.  That $20M, however, would come directly out of the Gary Community School Corporation budget as each student would bring his or her stipend to the new school. 

Gary schools Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt condemned the legislation in a message posted on the district's website, but said she's still willing to work with the mayor and state lawmakers to improve Gary schools.  "GCSC had no knowledge that this was in someone's plans.  I am not in support of this bill," Pruitt said.  "I believe we need to all come together.  Further separation makes for less educational opportunities for our children."

 

Wirt-Emerson Closes Because of Heating Problem
Compiled From a nwiTimes Staff Report
[10 Jan 2016]

GARY | Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Academy will be closed Monday because of a lack of heating, officials said.

The Gary Community School Corp. said on its website that it made a decision to close the school as it works to restore heating.  "It is important that our students, faculty and staff are in buildings conducive to learning," a statement on the website said.

District officials hope to reopen the school Tuesday. Officials said last week that one of the aging building's three boilers was being repaired, resulting in some classrooms being chilly.

Check the district's website for updates on the closure.

 

Former Gary Councilwoman Krusas Dies Following Legal Battle
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Elvia Malagon
[9 Jan 2016]

GARY | Former Gary Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas died Friday.

Scott King, her attorney, said Saturday that Krusas, who had cancer, died at her Gary home.

"She was just a very good person," King said.  "She was a very dedicated person to the community.  I got to know her well in politics and while representing her. She's going to be missed."

Krusas, 72, had served on the Gary City Council from 2000 until she resigned in April 2013.  She represented the city's 1st District, which includes the Miller neighborhood.

Her political career ended after she pleaded guilty to federal charges of tax evasion stemming from her failure to file tax returns for years.  According to court records, she also was accused of failing to pay taxes on a $232,680 inheritance.

On Jan. 8, 2014, she was sentenced to one year and a day in prison.  Her sentence was supposed to be followed by two years on supervised release.  According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons website, Krusas was released last February.

While her federal case was pending, Krusas' underwent medical treatment for cancer.

Before she was sentenced, various Gary politicians wrote letters in support of Krusas.  One of the letters was written by Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who described how Krusas undertook causes for the good of the community even if it was seen as unpopular at the time.  "There are times when we engage in activities that do not truly reflect our character or life's work," Freeman-Wilson wrote.  "I believe that the circumstances that bring Marilyn before this court illustrate this fact."

 

It's Chilly at Wirt-Emerson
Compiled From a  nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[9 Jan 20116]

Students in the Gary Community School Corp. returned to school Jan. 4 after the two-week Christmas holiday to find chilly temperatures in some classrooms but not chilly enough to dismiss school.

Wirt-Emerson Principal Adrian Richie said the building is old and has three boilers, one of which is being repaired.  "Hopefully, they will get fired up for next week," he said.

"The students just came back to school and it took a couple of days for the boilers to warm the school.  It was a little chilly on Monday and Tuesday. Some of the classrooms, some parts of the building, were not as warm as others.  We told the students they could wear a jacket or coat if needed."

Richie said there were other classrooms where it was hot and teachers wanted to open windows.  "It's an old, old building.  You just never know.  We tell the students and teaches to play it by ear and use their professional judgment," he said.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   While the building may  indeed be old, I  believe  it  is the newest high school building in the district?

 

Gary Community Schools Mired in Debt
Compiled From a nwiTimes Report by Carmen McCollum
[8 Jan 2016]

GARY | A financial consultant for Gary Community School Corp. contends the school district's deficit is closer to $35 million to $40 million than the $23.7 million previously reported.  The district's total debt is $92 million, according to the state.

Jack Martin; with Martin, Arrington, Desai & Meyers P.C. Certified Public Accountants and Consultants of Detroit; said the school district is overstaffed when one considers the declining enrollment.  He said there is not enough revenue coming in to cover the payroll and benefits every two weeks.  "We will make payroll, but it's a struggle every two weeks," he said.

He has said Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt has trimmed the staff but to expect more personnel cuts.  "As a general proposition, for a school district of this size, there are too many employees.  But also in making that statement, we want to be sure that we don't just start laying people off wholesale without analyzing what they are doing and how efficiently they are operating," he said.

He said the district is using a recent $15 million no-interest loan from the Common School Fund to make payment arrangements with critical vendors.  "When you look at all the vendors to which the school corporation owes money, the deficit is higher," he said.  "The obligations go back years.  The corporation has entered into a payment agreement with NIPSCO, Illinois Central Bus Co., the IRS and Gary Sanitary District.

"There are smaller vendors like law firms, professional firms, suppliers of trade materials, office supplies and everything it takes to run a business who are owed smaller sums, like $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000.  These are people we will begin looking at in the new year."

Martin said his company is in the "diagnostic" stage right now, and 80% complete.  He said when findings are presented to the state, he also will recommend a working group to create the deficit-elimination plan.  "We're calling them the vision working group, and they will help determine the future of the Gary school corporation, given its financial challenges," he said.  That group will include educators and community members.

Martin also didn't rule out the Gary school district's trying for another general fund referendum.  "It's my understanding the earliest we can do that is May.  That would be our target assuming all of our ducks are in order," he said.

Last year, the school district asked voters for a tax increase of 41 cents per $100 of assessed valuation to raise a total of $51.8 million over seven years.  The referendum was designed to help the general fund, that is, the operating budget, which mostly pays for salaries and benefits and some programs.  It failed.

"If you just say to the community, give me more money and they don't know, understand or can see how that money will be used to improve education, then the natural reaction of taxpayers will be, 'I don't want any part of that,' " he said.

Pruitt said she believes there is a correlation between the test scores and the finances.  "As the test scores drop, that equals declining enrollment, which also equals economic decline because no one wants to attend an F school," she said.  "If a school district has an F, it affects the community and the economics of that community," she said.
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   Correct me if I am wrong, but in the interim does not the size of the debt just keep getting bigger?

 

Mayor Attends President's Gun Law Address
http://www.teamgaryindiana.com/
[6 JAN 2016]

Gary, IN |Today, President Obama made the case for executive branch actions to promote common sense gun control.

Leading the measures was the effort to require all individuals who deal in guns to run background checks on potential purchasers under the threat of prosecution.  This would cover gun show and Internet sales.  President Obama emphasized that he was not attempting to negatively impact the second amendment, but wanted to ensure that U.S. citizens also have the right to worship, shop, attend movies and pursue their education in accordance with the U.S. Constitution.

In reacting to President Obama's speech, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson applauded the President's action and highlighted the way that Indiana's weak gun laws play out in the streets of Gary.  Mayor Freeman-Wilson concluded, "I was compelled to attend this ceremony on behalf of all the families in Gary, Indiana whose loved ones have lost their lives as a result of gun violence."  Mayor Freeman-Wilson chairs the Crime and Social Justice Committee with the US Conference of Mayors.

 

Great Lakes Steel Output Starts 2016 on Upswing
Compiled From a nwiTimes Reort by Joseph S. Pete
[5 Jan 2015]

Raw steel production in the Great Lakes started the new year on a positive note, increasing from 568,000 in the last full week in 2015 to 582,000 in the week that ended on the first Saturday of 2016

Great Lakes steel output rose by 14,000 tons, or 2.4%, in the week that ended Saturday, according to an American Iron and Steel Institute estimate.  Overall U.S. steel output fell by 1.09% during the same period.

Production in the Southern District, which spans mini-mills across the South, fell to 417,000 tons last week, down significantly from 448,000 a week before.

Total U.S. raw steel production last week was about 1.44 million tons, down from 1.456 million tons a week earlier.  Nationally, domestic steel mills had a capacity utilization rate of 60.2% last week, down from 60.9% a week earlier. The capacity utilization rate had been a much more robust 75.1% at the same time a year earlier.

Year-to-date steel output has been 1.4 million net tons, at a capacity utilization rate of 60.2%, according to the American Iron and Steel Institute. Output had been 1.79 million tons at the same time in 2014.

 

Ex-cop Accused of Pointing Gun on I-94
Compiled From a Post-Trib Staff Report
[3 Jan 2016]

A Gary man with a history of working in law enforcement has been charged for allegedly pointing a gun at a truck driver he thought cut him off on I-94 in October.

Andrew Cuevas, 32, of the 4560 block of Van Buren St, faces up to two years and six months if convicted of Level 6 felony pointing a firearm and is to be held on $1,000 bail bond when arrested, according to the charges filed by the Porter County Prosecutor's Office on Dec. 23.

The incident happened about 4:45 p.m. Oct. 28 when a truck driver passed Cuevas on westbound I-94 near the 28 mile marker.  Cuevas began to tailgate and then pulled up alongside the cab and pointed a handgun at the driver, the driver told Indiana State Police troopers, according to court records.  The driver called 911.  Police pulled Cuevas over at the Portage exit and found two handguns on the passenger's seat, court documents state.

Cuevas denied pointing the gun and claimed to be a New Chicago police officer, but police determined he'd resigned before that date and worked as an officer for Indiana University Northwest.  Police confiscated both guns and his New Chicago badge.

 

K-911-Dogaholicks Get New Year's Day Rescue Fix
Compiled From a nwiGazette Report by Ken Davidson
[2 Jan 2016]

A new year brought a new beginning for a Gary dog that had been living in the abandoned Palace Theater building in the 700 block of Broadway.

According to Sheri Minkema Lopez, one of the founders of Dogaholicks Rescue in Dyer, she first learned of the plight of the dog now known as Buster from social media.  After being contacted Sheri and crew headed out on New Year's Day to see if they could bring Buster in from the cold.  "We went out and drove around for about 45 minutes" Lopez explains.  When they couldn't find Buster, they decided to check the Palace Theater.  "We had heard he may be in there . . . there was a small hole and my son and a friend crawled in" Sheri told us.  Success!  They found Buster.  But that was not the end of the story.

"Buster had crawled into a hole [in the floor] and we needed an ax to get to him" Sheri related.  That's when she reached out to a friend in the Gary Police Department.  The police officer got the Gary Fire Department involved.  A Gary Fire crew showed up and assisted in the rescue.  "This was a collaborative effort, I could not have done it without all involved" Lopez explained.

Although many worked to save Buster, Sheri said she wanted to especially acknowledge the work of Letty Zepeda.  Zepeda was the first person who noticed Buster and reached out for help according to Sheri.  "Had she not been so determined, it would not have happened" Sheri stated.

Buster is now with a foster family who wants to make him a permanent family member.  "She [the foster mom] has followed the story of Buster on social media and wanted to help" Lopez says of the unnamed benefactor for Buster.  Buster will now go to the veterinarian to be checked out, although Sheri says he is in pretty good shape for a dog living on the streets.  "We estimate he is about 3 years old. . . . someone had been feeding him" Sheri explained.  "We found about 100 bowls of food inside the theater."
________________
[COMMENT -GDY]:   It now appears that the fate of a one time Gary showplace is to be not only a doghouse, but a doghouse for stray dogs?

 

Gary Airport Charges Ramp Up Controversy
Compiled From a nwiTimesReport by Keith Benman
[1 Jan 2016]

GARY | The battle over fees at Gary/Chicago International Airport continues, with the airport apparently backing off hiking ground rents on existing hangars while sticking to requiring tenants to hand over 1.5% of their gross revenues.

In the meantime, the authority this week put the finishing touches on hiking more than a dozen fees at the airport, including a 194% increase in landing fees and a 50% increase in an airport fuel tax.

All of that action follows a federal judge's dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the new 1.5% fee on gross revenues brought by the Gary Jet Center, which services aircraft at the airport.

However, that dismissal left the door open on bringing the lawsuit back in either state or federal court.  Lawyers for the Gary Jet Center have now asked for clarification of the judge's order.  "I just can't run a business this way," said Gary Jet Center owner Wil Davis.  "I can't back away from this.  I'll take it as far as I have to."

The lawyer for the Gary Jet Center, Paul Harold, said the new 1.5% fee on gross revenue would effectively more than quadruple the Gary Jet Center's lease payments.  Under the terms of its 2007 lease, it already makes an additional lease payment of 10% of all revenues it collects for the airport.

"While no business likes protracted lawsuits, the exorbitant amount of the new tax threatens Gary Jet Center's very sustainability as a business," Harold wrote in a email to The Times.  He said the Gary Jet Center will continue to pursue the case in the courts if a settlement cannot be reached.

The Gary Jet Center seemingly won a small victory on Monday, when the airport authority approved new ground lease rates, but exempted those tenants with existing leases.  Davis said the simple solution now is to also exempt those with existing leases from the new 1.5% fee on gross revenues the airport is demanding.

Airport Authority lawyer Michael Tolbert said the federal judge's dismissal of the Gary Jet Center lawsuit was vindication for the airport authority's efforts to reform airport rates and charges.  "The authority always tries to do the right thing for the taxpayers, and as it stands now I think this case was a victory for taxpayers," Tolbert said.

Gary Airport Interim Director Daniel Vicari on Thursday stated via email the increases in rates and charges will allow the airport to cover increasing costs.  Vicari maintained even with the increases, Gary's rates remain lower than industry standards.  At Midway and O'Hare, the gross revenue fee ranges from 4% to 7%, he said.

Gary Jet Center Owner/Operator Davis said he understands the need to update rates and charges at Gary, but he urged the authority to keep in mind the airport operates in a competitive environment.  "Our competition is Midway and this is not Midway," Davis said.  "So we need to do other things to get people in here."


* There are discrepancies among the various reporting agencies of the total number of Gary murders.  My higher number is based solely on my compilation of homicide reports from all available sources and does include homicides that occur in unicorporated Cal Twp.  By any measure, the actual number of murders in Gary is appalling!
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Created 31 Dec 2015 - 11:59:19 Hrs. 

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