Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mayoral candidate claims he's a target :: Lake County :: Post-Tribune

Mayoral candidate claims he's a target :: Lake County :: Post-Tribune: "Mayoral candidate claims he's a target -Jack Lieske coming under fire by ex-worker

January 15, 2011

BY JON SEIDEL, (219) 648-3068
GARY -- A man running for mayor says he's become a political target after a campaign worker slammed him in a resignation e-mail this week.
Jack Lieske also said someone tried to burn down his home on Christmas Day. Lieske said he now lives in the city's Miller neighborhood but won't say where, citing safety.
'I'm a target,' Lieske said. 'I'm continuing to be a target. This is just crazy. I'm trying to do the right thing.'
Traci Bismonte, whom Lieske said was a 'strategist' for his campaign, wrote in an e-mail Lieske 'has never spent one night' in the home that burned.
'Mr. Lieske is not officially a resident of Gary,' Bismonte said.
She also said she is owed $500, that no bank account has been set up to collect Lieske's campaign funds and that he called her inappropriate names.
Lieske said Bismonte is 'disgruntled' and has a personal vendetta against him. He said he'll file charges and sue.
'There is nothing that is true in this e-mail,' Lieske said."

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Clay to seek another term as Gary mayor


GARY -- A spirited Mayor Rudy Clay cited his experience and the "need for continuity in Gary" in announcing Thursday he will seek a second full term in office.

Clay, 75, who headed the city through some of its most daunting fiscal challenges, described his job as among the toughest in the country and told a roomful of supporters and department heads that Gary needs experience like his.

"Gary needs a continuity, needs a mayor that's been in the cockpit with financial turbulence over here or one financial wing operating over here," he said to applause.

"There is no training school for mayor. The best training school I know is to be the mayor of Gary for four or five years."

As he has often done over his four years in office, Clay pointed to problems he said were left over by his predecessor, former Mayor Scott King, citing a $4.5 million Northern Indiana Public Service Co. electric bill, a $900,000 water bill and other bloated expenditures.

Clay also said expansion plans for the Gary/Chicago International Airport and a $22 million plant expansion for U.S. Steel are under way.

He also said his advisers plan to roll out a long-term property tax restoration and intermodal transportation plan in the next month.

And, without mentioning a state mandate to cut costs in return for relief for property tax caps, Clay also said his administration has enjoyed success in cutting budgets and trimming expenses.

"We instantly began reducing spending, reducing salaries and using cost-saving measures all around," he said. "We've been working, and the fact of the matter is we never stop working for the people of Gary."

Just one day before going on his second trip to the state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board to seek relief, Clay called his administration's pleas to the board "creative," adding the city will be prepared to deal with "a streamlined government" when it can no longer seek relief in 2012.

Clay also dismissed rumors and questions about his health circulating throughout the city.

"God has blessed me to look and feel and gave me the energy of when I was 33 years old," he said to applause. "I enjoy a wealth of health and plan on a vigorous campaign."

Just as in the last mayoral election, Clay will face a full slate of opponents.

City Councilwoman At-Large Ragen Hatcher and former city judge Karen Freeman-Wilson have announced plans to run against him.

Jack Lieske, former Child Protective Services supervisor LaVetta Sparks-Wade and Lester Lowe have also jumped into the mayor's race.

The filing period opens later this month.

View the original article here

Unusual career path works out for public relations specialist

Taroue W. Brooks, a 1987 graduate of Roosevelt High School in Gary, has nearly 20 years of proof that when opportunity knocks, it is best to open the door.

Brooks is public relations specialist and event planner for not-for-profit organizations and for a "who's who" of political, entertainment, cultural and corporate clients.

His self-taught expertise has earned him a longtime client in veteran film actor and activist Danny Glover and a resume full of fundraiser and social event planning, such as a recent Black Academy of Arts and Letters program featuring actress Ruby Dee.

Brooks' career came as a fluke; his original plan was to be a lawyer.

"I went to Indiana State University and Texas Southern University, but I did not finish," he said. "I began an internship with the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, and that led to a writing and research position for then-U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun in 1994. My experience there led to two years as a production consultant for Black Entertainment Television."

He was with BET from 1995 to 1997 and worked on special projects for syndication, including "A Tribute to Black Music Legends" and a program for Robert Townsend.

But it wasn't until he did volunteer work for a not-for-profit organization that he realized his talent in public relations and event planning.

"Even though I volunteered, I was paid for my work because they were that impressed with what I did," he said.

That experience gave Brooks the ultimate opportunity in 1996, when he planned former President Bill Clinton's African American Inaugural Ball.

Four years later, Brooks was an event planner for then-Vice President and presidential candidate Al Gore.

Brooks said he has learned over the years to be prepared always for opportunities.

"While I did not finish college, I do not advise young people to do as I did," he cautioned. "Get your degree and be open to where the path can take you.

"I took a risk 20-plus years ago and discovered God opened my eyes to my abilities. My job allows me to travel and work with a lot of people from all backgrounds. I work hard for every event I am asked to do, and I work hard for my clients."

His latest client is a fellow Gary native, mayoral candidate Lester Lowe.

"I am in charge of the event planning and fundraising for his campaign," he said. "I hope to do more things for Gary one day. Just because I no longer live there does not mean I've lost interest. I want to see Gary do great things."

View the original article here

Gary may OK abatements on 4 business properties - Gary Post Tribune

GARY -- The City Council appears likely to approve soon its first set of commercial tax abatements in more than two years.

Munster-based developer Allan Fefferman is asking for abatements on four properties in Gary where he's planning new businesses. He said he has the written endorsement of council members who represent the political districts where the properties are found.

"They all are in favor of it," Fefferman said.

No council member voiced strong opposition when the matter came up at a Finance Committee hearing this week, either.

"I am very excited," Shirley Stanford, who represents the 2nd District on the council, said.

If the abatements are granted, full taxes will be paid on the current value of the properties. The discount will be applied to any improvements on those properties, and it will be phased out over 10 years.

Fefferman proposed the following:

* A day care center at 634 E. 21st Ave.

* A storage facility and window assembly company at 4120 W. 5th Ave.

* A fast-food restaurant at 3910 W. 5th Ave.

* A convenience store at 1715 E. Dunes Highway.

In all, Fefferman said, the projects will create more than 20 permanent jobs and several construction jobs. Broken-down, vacant buildings and empty lots are found on the properties today.

Fefferman told the City Council's finance committee Tuesday the properties' tenants will benefit from the abatement, which gives them an incentive to rent.

"I have to get these tenants and sort of sell them on moving in," Fefferman said. "No one is really interested in moving in without that type of deal."

Two of the properties are in the 2nd District, represented by Stanford, one is in the 1st, represented by Marilyn Krusas, and one is in the 4th, represented by Carolyn Rogers.

"You're taking abandoned structures, you're renovating them and you're providing jobs and you are paying some taxes," Rogers said. "He would not be free from paying taxes. It would be increments. I think that that's one way to start building up the city."

Though Fefferman has benefited from tax abatements in the past, Rogers said Fefferman has developed other properties without asking for that discount.

"I think it'll be an important development, and it'll clean up one of the most garish corners as you go headed toward I-65," Krusas said. "I'm looking forward to it, in fact."

The council isn't unanimous in its support, though. Ragen Hatcher, D-at large, said she will likely oppose Fefferman's request.

"I'm glad that business owners want to invest in the city of Gary," Hatcher said. "However, the city is in a position right now where we can't afford to lose one dollar in property tax revenue."

The council could take a final vote on Fefferman's request during its meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

View the original article here

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Emergency manager would run bankrupt municipalities - Gary Post Tribune

Republican state Sen. Ed Charbonneau said he filed a bill this week to reinvent the state board Gary City Hall has relied on for years of budget relief.

His proposal would give the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board power to appoint an "emergency manager" to help distressed Hoosier taxing units. It would also offer local governments a path to bankruptcy not available now.

"Hopefully it will never be needed," Charbonneau, of Valparaiso, said.
Though Charbonneau said his Senate Bill 105 is not aimed at Gary, no other city has sought help from that board. Budget relief offered for two years by the DUAB to Gary has come in the form of higher tax caps for property owners.

Because Hoosiers passed a referendum to write those caps into the state's constitution, though, the DUAB will become powerless to raise caps in 2012.

When that time comes, Charbonneau suggests the DUAB should be reduced to a three-member board made up of the director of the state's Office of Management and Budget, the commissioner of the Department of Local Government Finance and the examiner for the State Board of Accounts.

The new DUAB could only declare a government unit distressed if that unit or a qualifying creditor files a petition.

As proposed, the emergency manager would be able to "exercise the authority and responsibilities of the executive and fiscal body of the distressed unit." That includes reviewing budgets and salaries, developing a written financial plan and renegotiating labor contracts. It could also recommend a bankruptcy filing.
Municipal bankruptcy is governed by federal law, but that law requires states to pass an authorizing statute. It's been seen as a possible path for Gary after 2011.

Rep. Vernon Smith, D-Gary, said he supports the bankruptcy provision of Charbonneau's bill and he said previously he might file bankruptcy legislation himself. He said he'd need to review the other details before commenting.

Both lawmakers said Hoosier governments other than Gary might one day need to file for bankruptcy.
"Yes, it's Gary now," Smith said. "But there's going to be a whole lot of people in trouble before it's over with."

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels has said he'd entertain the idea of a municipal bankruptcy bill and Charbonneau's bill will be considered first in a Senate where his party holds a supermajority.
Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said his city's trips to the DUAB mean it won't need to take advantage of the bankruptcy option.

"We're better prepared as it relates to administrating the government under these tax caps," Clay said.
Indiana's property tax caps were lifted by the DUAB for Gary in 2009 and 2010, and the city filed a petition for similar relief in 2011. Those caps limit tax bills to 1 percent of a property's assessed value for homeowners, 2 percent for landlords and farmers and 3 percent for commercial properties.

A fiscal monitor said last year that, if Gary were forced to operate under the caps, it would only have enough money to pay the salaries of its police, firefighters and EMS workers.

Gary Controller Celita Green said last week the city would be forced to operate with a levy of $30 million if it didn't seek DUAB help. It's seeking approval for a levy of $41.1 million.

The combined 2011 budget for Gary's police, fire and EMS departments is about $25.6 million.
Clay's administration has balked for years at the idea of filing for bankruptcy, but it's not clear who will be mayor when the caps go into effect. Several people are already vying to take over Clay's job that year.
Among them is attorney Karen Freeman-Wilson, who said she will attend hearings where Charbonneau's bill is considered. She questioned whether an emergency manager should take over the duties of the city's elected officials.

"You just become a ceremonial mayor," Freeman-Wilson said. "Who wants to do that?"

Another is City Council member Ragen Hatcher, D-at large, said she has a proposed budget of about $40 million she said can be implemented in January 2012 with the tax caps in effect that will satisfy Gary's creditors.

"We won't be going back down to the DUAB," Hatcher said.
View the original article here

Bidding farewell to blight and Sen. Bayh -

GARY | The demolition of two abandoned homes in the 500 block of Georgia Street on Monday displayed progress toward revitalizing the city, U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh said.

"I've been privileged to fight for this community." -- U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, who is retiring Jan. 2 after two terms

Bayh and Mayor Rudy Clay used a sledgehammer to strike one of the buildings prior to excavation equipment tearing through the homes.

"Gary will be a better place because of it," Clay said of the demolition work.

He said Gary has razed about 100 abandoned structures since August and there are hundreds more that need to be demolished.

In September, the city was awarded $2.7 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program to eliminate vacant and dilapidated structures in Gary. Bayh, who will retire from the Senate on Jan. 2 after deciding not to seek re-election, was instrumental in obtaining the funding.

"I've been privileged to fight for this community," Bayh said.

More than a year ago, Bayh and Clay toured the neighborhood where the demolition occurred.

Bayh said he almost fell through the floor when he walked into one of the homes during the tour. Since then, the abandoned structure was heavily damaged by fire.

Bayh said the demolition should benefit residents of the neighborhood, noting he saw children playing in the area during the 2009 tour and heard from homeowners who were struggling to improve their property values.

Clay said razing abandoned structures also could promote economic development and decrease crime in Gary. He said drug dealing often occurs in vacant buildings.

Clay thanked Bayh on Monday for his assistance to the city and indicated it would be difficult to rebuild Gary if the dilapidated structures aren't removed.

Bayh said Gary leaders can contact HUD officials to show Gary's dedication to improving the community through the demolitions, which could lead to more investment in the community.

View the original article here

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Toy giveaway brings smiles to youngsters 'Santa forgot' - Gary Post Tribune


GARY -- Devyn Dotson, 6, of Gary, sat on her brand new bicycle Saturday during the annual "Toys for Children Santa Forgot, but God Remembered" at the Genesis Convention Center.

Devyn and her big sister, Lexus Dotson, 15, were also surrounded by other free toys they were given.

"Our grandmother told our mom about the giveaway and mom woke up this morning asking if we wanted to go," Lexus said.

The two-hour giveaway included more than 100 bicycles and tables stacked with toys, board games and dolls that filled the Indiana Hall.

Volunteers had tables lined assembly-style to make it easier for families to choose their gifts.

Even the adults got an opportunity to get some free clothing, boots and shoes.

Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said this is the 11th year for the giveaway, which always takes place in January after the Christmas hoopla.

"We have a nice, big crowd here. Families were standing outside two hours before the doors opened," Clay said. "Each family gets one bicycle and to carry out of here all of the toys and clothes they can handle. It is really about giving to the community, to the people of this great city."

Families were entertained by a DJ and a visit from Gary SouthShore RailCats mascot Rusty the RailCat.

Michelle White of Gary came to the giveaway with her daughters, Carah Lockwood, 9, and Chairel Lockwood, 11. All three loaded up with toys and games.

Carah said she was also getting some toys for cousins who could not make the event.

"I got some things for me too," she said.

White said she was happy to come to the event.

"We are getting as much stuff as we can carry," she said.

View the original article here

Gary's demolition derby: 101 buildings down, 300 to go - Chicago Public Radio

 Gary Mayor Rudy Clay and U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh stand before a building set for demolition. (Photo by Scott Bort/Post-Tribune).
It’s not every day you see a sitting U.S. senator take a sledgehammer to a building, but that’s exactly what Evan Bayh did Monday on his last visit to Gary, Indiana, as a senator.
Like a kid hitting a piƱata, Bayh gave four good swings at wooden planks of an old, burnt-out home on the city’s northeast side.
“There we go!” Bayh said as the sledgehammer struck the plank with force.
Bayh said he wants the structure to come down so neighborhood children could have a better environment to live in.
The house Bayh helped demolish represents the city’s 101st to come down, thanks in large part to more than $2 million HUD provided the city in recent months. Back in June 2009, Bayh had visited the same neighborhood with Ron Sims, Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The two toured abandoned houses and storefronts to see what more can the federal government do to turn around decades of disinvestment and decay. The answer they came up with, like so many times before in Gary’s history, was money.
“I was very touched to see those children growing in an environment like this. I was touched to see some of the homeowners trying to do the right thing but struggling because they were living next to abandoned properties,” Bayh said. “Those are the people we need to help.”
Gary officials hope the HUD money can be used to tear down up to 400 structures and, eventually, make way for new development.
Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said the city appreciates the efforts of Indiana’s outgoing senator.
“(Bayh) lit the spark to make all of this happen. He realized that Northwest Indiana can’t be all that it can be without Gary, Indiana, being all it can be,” Clay said.
The mayor said tearing down the abandoned structures reduces crime and makes it easier to attract new development.
“Gary’s going to become a better city because of this,” Clay said.
Bayh’s visit to Gary caps off more action than just tearing down buildings in Gary. This was the Democrat’s last visit to Northwest Indiana before retiring from the U.S. Senate on Jan. 1. The visit comes just days after senators voted to repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell law, which barred gays from serving openly in the military. Bayh voted in favor of the repeal.
“My attitude was if somebody wants to give their life to this country and defend America, that’s good enough for me,” Bayh said. “Their personal life is their own. I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
Bayh said his relationship to the people of Northwest Indiana will not change because he’s leaving the Senate.
“I’ve come to Northwest Indiana since I was a little boy and that’s not going to change. I’m just going to be doing it in a different capacity,” Bayh said. “I love the people of Northwest Indiana and I’m going to be looking forward to that continuing for a long time.”
Republican Dan Coats will replace Bayh in the Senate.
View the original article here

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Longtime Gary school advocate dead at 53 - Gary Post Tribune

Longtime Gary Community School Corp. board member Michael Scott died early Tuesday in his sleep from a heart attack, according to family members. He was 53.

Scott served as a member of the Gary Community School Corp. Board of School Trustees for 16 years and also served time as president of the board. He lost a bid for re-election and left the board in June of last year.

"He loved being a board member," said Scott's wife, Sharon Scott. "His whole thing was fighting for children. He always said it wasn't about the board. It was always about the children."

Friends and family members remembered Scott on Tuesday as a man who cared deeply about Gary schools and seeing children succeed. As a board member, Scott helped oversee the construction of three new schools, including Glen Park Academy for Excellence in Learning.

"He had a commitment for children that was unswaying," said Jesse Morris, who served on the board with Scott. "He had a deep commitment to children and a very, very deep commitment to education."

Morris called the new schools part of Scott's legacy.

"That was a very large project and the last time schools have been built in the city," Morris said. "That's a legacy many people have forgotten about. It was very good for our district to put children in schools that are modern. Their ISTEP scores and the rest are showing results for us."

Scott's nephew and Gary City Council President Ronier Scott will remember his uncle for his great, big smile.

"He spoke with a loud voice and the children all remembered him because he was a former PTA president," Ronier Scott said. "He was very instrumental in school improvements and not just the district but the entire community as a whole."

Gary Mayor Rudy Clay said he thinks it was God's will for Scott be a community servant in Gary. He offered condolences to Scott's family not just from himself but from the people of Gary.

"His love for Gary is, should I say, unapproachable," Clay said.

A visitation for Scott will be held from noon to 8 p.m. Friday, with family hour from 6 to 8 p.m., at Bethel Temple Church of God in Christ, 110 W. 43rd Ave., Gary. A celebration of his life will be held Saturday at Bethel Temple at 11 a.m. He is survived by his wife Sharon Scott and children Sharonne, Michel and Michael Jr.

View the original article here

Verdict out on Gary mayor's first-term accomplishments - Gary Post Tribune

GARY -- When the mayor of Gary abruptly resigned in 2006, Rudy Clay had the chance to fulfill a lifelong dream. He campaigned and won the right to succeed Scott King.
His prize was stewardship of a city starved for economic development, derided for decades as the country's "murder capital." Northwest Indiana's largest city was also spiraling into a deep financial crisis.
His administration's cost-cutting measures earn little praise from constituents, who more often accuse it of corruption and ineffectiveness.
Clay wants four more years of this.
He confirmed Thursday he'll run for a second full term. He has never hinted he'd do otherwise, despite recent rumors. But at least five competitors are lined up against him, including attorney Karen Freeman-Wilson and
City Council member Ragen Hatcher.Candidates have until Feb. 18 to file with the county. For now, here's a look at the Clay administration so far.
When Clay announced his bid for re-election Thursday, he boasted of more than four years of experience as the city's chief executive. One of his team's biggest selling points is the way it managed this unprecedented budget crisis, and it's the most familiar with Gary's fragile finances.
But in the eyes of some voters, the way the crisis has been handled could be his biggest fault.
Gary had money trouble when Clay became mayor. The property tax caps passed by the Indiana General Assembly, and written into the state constitution by Hoosiers statewide, exacerbated the problem. City Hall officials also complain that tax breaks for major industry mean U.S. Steel isn't paying its fair share into Gary's tax base. And Clay pointed a finger Thursday at spending by former Mayor King.
The General Assembly created the Indiana Distressed Unit Appeals Board to help cities such as Gary, which are severely hindered by the tax caps. So far, Gary is the only city that petitioned the board, which creates budget relief by raising tax caps for local property owners. Clay and his staff will be before the DUAB again today, and the mayor says his city is better off for it.
While attempting to reduce costs, Clay's administration cut utility and phone bills, shut down credit cards, put restrictions on city-owned gas pumps, laid off staff, consolidated departments and enforced furlough days and pay cuts for higher-level employees.
It also outsourced trash collection to Allied Waste in one of the most controversial moves of Clay's term so far. More than 50 garbage collectors lost their jobs in the deal. The Miller Citizens Corp. sued because Allied's contract wasn't subjected to public bidding. A judge agreed with that and other motions by the MCC. Trash collection stopped for 10 days in 2009 while the legal battle dragged on.
Clay has refused to cave on concessions residents commonly complain about. He continues to accept $54,075 as special administrator of the Gary Sanitary District in addition to the $81,175 he makes as mayor. Once, when asked at a town hall meeting about his GSD salary, he simply said, "God is good."
He takes heat for riding in a city-owned Hummer H3, which he calls economical when compared to his predecessor's Ford Expedition. He also gave city and GSD contracts to his son for videography. The latter earned a rebuke from Gov. Mitch Daniels, and they were eventually terminated.
None of those, as a concession, would fix Gary's budget problem, which continues to be dire. This is the last year the DUAB can raise local tax caps, as it did in 2009 and 2010. If the caps are fully implemented in 2012, studies have shown, Gary will only have enough cash to pay the salaries of its police and firefighters. The winner of this mayoral campaign could take Gary to bankruptcy court.
The best way for Gary to survive the tax caps is to expand its tax base. For years, Clay has proudly sought a grand-slam economic development project that could save his city. So far, he has struck out.
Clay campaigned in 2007 on a promise to rehabilitate the former Sheraton Hotel into a senior-citizen high rise powered by corn and heated with geothermal heat. He introduced the New Gary Development Group, led by Chicago architect Phil Kupritz, which promised it would do the job. Clay even called it a "done deal."
New Gary managed to clean 98 percent of the asbestos out of the building using a federal brownfield loan, but today the Sheraton remains empty and crumbling. It's back in the possession of the city, which could be on the hook for $728,000 of the loan used by New Gary to clean it out.
Gary's redevelopment commission also offered several acres of property south of Interstate 80/94 to a development group that promised to build a new teaching hospital by Indiana University Northwest in 2007. The developers were exposed as lobbyists for the Miami Indian Tribe of Oklahoma, who wanted to build a tribal casino on the site. Clay never signed the paperwork for the land transfer.
Today that same area has been promised to the Jackson Family Foundation, which says it will build a $300 million center honoring the family of late pop star Michael Jackson, a Gary native. The singer's estate is not endorsing the idea.
Some promises have been broken, and the verdict is out on others, but quiet progress has been made on some fronts. Most notable is the ongoing renovation of the Dalton Arms building in the 100 block of East 5th Avenue. The state recruited a Mishawaka-based developer last summer to finish work on the building. Lance Swank of The Sterling Group said units should be ready there this spring.
The City Council also offered a personal property tax exemption last year to a Chicago-based investor who promises to build a data center at 13th Avenue and Broadway.
Joined last month by then-U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, Clay said his city is using millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to tear down more than 100 abandoned homes around the city, creating new opportunities for investment.
That appearance with Bayh, though covered by Chicago media, didn't get nearly the same attention as Gary's layoff last week of more than 30 firefighters. The decision to do so was announced months ago. Clay defended it at the time by pointing to a suggestion by a state-imposed fiscal monitor to lay off 57 firefighters instead.
Still, it underscored a perception that Clay isn't concerned with public safety. He has tried in the past to counter that image by riding along with police officers and rallying them at roll calls. The city sought a grant last year to build a new fire station, but it never came through. Many of Gary's current fire stations have been crumbling since before Clay became mayor.
His staff did, however, secure a grant to purchase nearly 100 new energy efficient squad cars for the police department.
But that department has also been overseen by nine police chiefs in less than five years, including interims. They continue to be confounded by Gary's homicide rate, which hovers around one a week.
Residents called for former Chief Thomas Houston's resignation in 2007 after officers left the bodies of two teens behind at the scene of a fatal accident on Chase Street. Clay stood by his chief at the time.
What ended Houston's tenure as chief was his indictment, along with two other officers, of violating the civil rights of suspects. Houston was convicted in 2008 after he admitted kicking a suspect. The other defendants were acquitted. Houston died late last year.
His was the first federal indictment to touch Clay's City Hall, but it wasn't the last. Community Development Director Jacquelyn Drago-Hunter is charged with fraud in an indictment unsealed in October. Drago-Hunter is responsible for handling millions of dollars in federal stimulus dollars, and Clay refuses to suspend her. Her indictment doesn't involve her duties as community development director, though.
It's not clear if the investigation that snagged Drago-Hunter is over, though. And there are others. Federal agents have delivered subpoenas to Gary City Hall seeking information about former attempts to renovate the Dalton Arms apartment building. The records they're seeking predate the current effort to fix the building.
The feds have also taken a long, close look at the Gary Sanitary District, recently indicting former operator United Water and two of its employees. GSD officials say they weren't targeted in the probe.
View the original article here

Mayor asks fire chief to step down Friday - Gary Post Tribune

Gary Mayor Rudy Clay will start searching for a new fire chief this week after asking Chief Jeff Ward to step down, Clay said Friday.
Clay did not give details about the move but said that Ward was amicable when told about the decision. "I just thought it was time to pass the baton to another firefighter," Clay said. "Otherwise we'll keep it in the personnel files."
The move came on the last day for 30 Gary firefighters, who had been scheduled to be laid off because of budget problems. Four other firefighters had already been laid off on Dec. 18. Clay said the timing had nothing to do with his decision to replace Ward.
"There really is no good time to say to department heads to pass the baton; it's not a good feeling," Clay said.
The search will start immediately this week and Clay said he plans on hiring a new fire chief from within the ranks soon. Until then, Deputy Chief Bonearl Black will serve as chief. Clay said that Black has already told him that he does not want to remain chief.
Ward served as chief since October 2006, shortly after Clay took over as mayor of Gary. The 41-year veteran will return to serving as division chief, the rank he held before being named chief.
Clay said that he is still looking at several options to try and bring back the laid-off firefighters, including a federal grant, and assured citizens that firefighters will still come when needed.
View the original article here

Monday, January 10, 2011

Gary murder defendant skips court appearance - Gary Post Tribune

A Gary man wanted for murder in a Dec. 12 shooting has missed some court dates stemming from his probation revocation for a burglary in Missouri.

William Bradford Key III, 20, who was charged in Lake Superior Court on Monday with murder in the shooting death of Vincent Wren, failed to appear in court Tuesday on a petition to revoke his probation in a case transferred from Missouri in which he was placed on probation for five years.

Probation officer Kimberly Collins had filed for a probable cause hearing, which was set for Tuesday before Magistrate Natalie Bokota. Tuesday's warrant is one of two issued in the probation revocation proceeding in the last two months. The last warrant was recalled Nov. 23 after Key appeared in court with defense attorney Karen Freeman-Wilson.

Wren, 20, of Gary, was found at about 9:25 a.m. in the 4800 block of Maryland Place in Gary by a resident. Key also was charged with criminal recklessness and two counts of pointing a firearm in the wounding of a 17-year-old in the hand prior to Wren's homicide. Witnesses told police Key had been showing off a .22- or .25-caliber semi-automatic pistol and had fired it inside a friend's mother's home.

View the original article here

Clay says he's right man for the job -

GARY | Rudy Clay will ask Gary voters to give him another term as their mayor.

"Gary needs a mayor that's already been in the cockpit and flew the plane. You've got financial turbulence on one wing over here, lightning over here. ... We have the best mayor right here now. I don't even know what all the fuss is about." -- Gary Mayor Rudy Clay

Clay made the announcement at a Thursday morning news conference in a meeting room adjacent to the mayor's office at City Hall.

"I work 24/7 to make Gary a better city," Clay said. "That renders me the best qualified person to bring jobs, hope and quality of life (to Gary). ... We are prepared, we are experienced, we are proficient, and we are ready."

In a speech rich with the metaphors the career politician is known for, Clay said he plans to make job creation and restoring the tax base priorities.

"Gary needs a mayor that's already been in the cockpit and flew the plane," he said. "You've got financial turbulence on one wing over here, lightning over here. ... We have the best mayor right here now. I don't even know what all the fuss is about."

The 75-year-old mayor was first won election to the post in 2007.

Clay has come under fire for the city's dire financial situation throughout his tenure as mayor. Most recently, city officials delivered layoff notices to 34 firefighters Dec. 27, blaming the move on 2011 salary budget cuts they expect will be required by the Distressed Unit Appeals Board.

The state board granted the city $21 million in relief from tax caps in each of the past two years. Still, the city's property tax revenue has been cut in half since the tax caps were instituted.

"We've been able to streamline city government," he said. "I think that's great. I think that in 2012, we will be one of the few cities that'll be prepared for property tax caps because we were one of the few cities creative enough to go to the (board) and get help."

The city plans to appear before the board again Friday.

In addition to property tax revenue losses, the city also has lost revenue because of the bankruptcy of the Majestic Star Casino.

Clay was quick to point the finger of blame at previous administrations for the city's financial woes.
"After the abrupt resignation of the former mayor (Scott King), we inherited a city that was financially drained," he said.

Clay said on his first day in office, he was handed a $4.5 million NIPSCO bill, $900,000 water bill and $30,000 cell phone bill.

"A small city like Gary, Ind., reduced spending $62 million," he said. "There is no city in America the size of Gary that could reduce spending $62 million and still keep the doors open, but we did."

Other successes Clay pointed to included using federal funds to demolish 101 abandoned buildings, paving 22 streets with $2.8 million in state funds and putting 96 police squads on the street with federal dollars.
There have been five police chiefs since Clay took office, including the late Thomas Houston, who died in prison in November after being convicted of violating the rights of a man accused of burglarizing his home.
Clay insists that in spite of the turnover in the top cop's seat, firefighter layoffs and a high crime rate, "public safety is the No. 1 priority in our community."

Clay previously served as a Lake County commissioner and chairman of the Lake County Democratic Central Committee. He lost the chairmanship to Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. in 2009.
Many said the tides turned in the party during the 2008 presidential primary. When Indiana's returns were delayed by a long wait for Lake County's vote returns, the two sparred live on CNN. Clay supported Barack Obama, and McDermott backed Hillary Clinton.

McDermott accused Clay of holding back the returns. Clay said it was a computer glitch. The exchange was parodied by Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show."

Among the close to 30 people in attendance at Thursday morning's announcement were Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, who hugged Clay after he finished his speech.

City Councilwoman Ragen Hatcher; attorney Karen Freeman-Wilson, a former city judge and former state attorney general; and Gary businessman Jack Lieske are among a number of candidates who already have entered the Democratic primary.

"We're going to run a vigorous campaign," Clay said. "This will probably be the most vigorous campaign I've ever run in my life."

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Clay to announce bid for 2nd term as mayor - Gary Post Tribune

GARY -- Mayor Rudy Clay's office says he will announce plans for re-election at a news conference Thursday.

Clay has long said he wants another term in City Hall's executive suite, where he has presided over one of the most financially tumultuous periods in Gary's history.

To keep his job, Clay likely will need to best several challengers in this year's campaign. Local lawyer Karen Freeman-Wilson, City Council member Ragen Hatcher and businessman Jack Lieske are just a few of the people expected to run against him. The deadline to sign up is noon Feb. 18.

Clay has already served more than four years in the mayor's office. He was selected in a precinct caucus to finish the term of Mayor Scott King, who resigned in 2006. Clay won his first popular vote in 2007, besting Freeman-Wilson and a handful of others.

The next year, the Indiana General Assembly passed new property tax caps that severely limited Gary's revenue. The Clay administration has been steering the city through a financial crisis ever since by eliminating jobs, consolidating departments and forcing high-level staffers to take pay cuts.

But it isn't clear how many cost-cutting measures would have taken place without the tax-cap crisis. And Clay also takes heat for where he has decided to cut.

For example, the city laid off more than 30 firefighters last week. Meanwhile, Clay continues to accept an annual compensation totaling $135,250. That includes $81,175 he receives as mayor and another $54,075 he receives as special administrator of the Gary Sanitary District.

Clay is expected to announce his plans for re-election at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in City Hall's Gary Room.
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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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