Monday, January 10, 2011

Sparks-Wade joins race for mayor


GARY -- Businesswoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade, a former division manager for the state's Child Protective Services, on Saturday threw her hat into the increasingly crowded race for mayor.

Sparks-Wade told several dozen followers at a West Side church she is not a politician, which separates her from the pack, and she promised to revitalize the city.

"We'd like to return to the days of old when one could graduate high school and get a job here in the city," she said. "In my administration, our No. 1 priority will be jobs."

Sparks-Wade, who grew up in Gary and attended public schools before attending Tuskegee University in Alabama, was a 15-year CPS employee and manager before leaving to run her own consulting business, Integrity Solutions Inc.

She spoke of a "leadership void" in the city and claimed the city's budgetary woes, including, most recently, laying off 34 fire fighters, is due to poor fiscal management.

"Poor fiscal management has gotten us into this boat, and good government is going to get us out," Sparks-Wade said.

She also promised to draw businesses and jobs back to the city by expanding Gary/Chicago International Airport, improving public safety and "eliminating the digital divide."

Sparks-Wade described that divide as the gap between the technologically competent and those who are not comfortable with the Internet and other technology. She promised to provide citywide, free Internet access and laptops to public school students.

Between proclaiming the importance of her belief in God and her campaign promises, Sparks-Wade joined the other candidates in criticizing Mayor Rudy Clay. She specifically focused on Clay's and Deputy Mayor Geraldine Toussant's acceptance of salaries from the Gary Sanitary District along with their regular salaries while many city employees lost their jobs.

According to Sparks-Wade, Clay gets $81,000 from the city and $54,000 from GSD, while Toussant receives a $57,000 salary from Gary and an additional $23,000 from GSD.

Others who have announced their intention to run include City Councilwoman Ragen Hatcher, former city judge Karen Freeman-Wilson, Lester Lowe, Jack Lieske and Richard Nash.

The official filing period opens the third week in January.

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