Tag Archives: karen freeman-wilson

NIRPC Passes Illiana, Lowell Residents Outraged, Union Members Cheer

12 Dec

by Ken Davidson

In perhaps one of the most contentious public meetings of the year, a room full of people who face losing their farms and family homes squared off with union members looking for temporary jobs.  Union members cheered as NIRPC voted to approve the Illiana Toll Road while farmers cried.  Perhaps the best comment was from a Lowell resident who said “move the road closer to Cedar Lake and Crown Point since they want it so bad.”  That comment clearly points out the irony of communities who have nothing to lose weighing in on the fate of people’s homes in rural south county Indiana.

Christine Cid stood up to the machine once again and voted against the Illiana.  You will recall that Cid was the lone democrat on the County Council standing against the income tax.  This time Cid was joined by County Chair Thomas McDermott.  McDermott, acting as Mayor of Hammond, clearly stated that communities along the 80/94 corridor may be harmed by the southern corridor.  Thus, the question as to why Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson decided to support the controversial plan.  Freeman-Wilson would appear to have the most to lose with the construction of the tollway as she has pinned Gary’s revitalization hopes to the plan to be a transportation hub.  The Illiana Toll Road is expected to be a catalyst for the proposed Peotone Airport as well as a truck route to avoid congestion.  The primary economic growth Gary has seen in recent years has been along the 80/94 corridor.  In the event the Illiana is successful in removing even 20% of the truck traffic from the area, that could be a large loss in jobs and tax revenue for Gary.

The real story here is Governor Mike Pence.  Pence chimed in today praising the Board for passing the plan.  Pence would do well to remember his base if he plans to run for re-election.  It seems that he was outmaneuvered politically during this entire process.  Maybe we will see a Governor McDermott after all.

Transportation Committee Approves Illiana; Gary Abstains

3 Dec

by Ken Davidson

The Transportation Committee of the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission voted 18-8 this morning to add the Illiana toll road project to the 2040 comprehensive plan.  The controversial vote moves the issue forward to the full NIRPC Committee where the fate is uncertain.  The major surprise was the abstention by Gary.  Opponents of the plan had hoped that Gary would vote against the project because it will adversely affect Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson’s plan to make Gary a transportation hub.

The meeting was strongly attended by union members who support the construction jobs the project will bring. Proponents have argued that the project would bring thousands of jobs to the region.  Residents of the affected region voiced their opposition to the plan via comments online.  Dan Blankenship, a vocal opponent of the plan who lives in Lowell commented:

Nov 19, 2013

I oppose the Illiana for reasons shown in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan from NIRPC that states we need to upkeep roads and highways and infrastructure in the northern part of Lake County and keep intact our farmlands, our wetlands and our wooded areas. It would be a great move if NIRPC turned down this road to nowhere. It will not benefit Indiana in any way. There is no way there will be 16,000 jobs created. Crains’ Chicago Business magazine quoted that the actual belief is it will create only about 900 jobs and that would be over a 10-15 year period. The toll road is not needed, it is a fiasco and I hope all NIRPC members will vote against it. Thank you.  Dan Blankenship, Lowell

All of the comments received by NIRPC are published on their website and you can view them <a href="http://nirpc.org/illiana-expressway-project/public-comments.aspx"Here.

The proposal will now go to full Commission.  At full Commission any member may call for a “weighted vote.” Under the rules, a weighted vote will allow communities to vote based on population. This means that the northern county cities of Gary, Hammond and East Chicago would have a much larger say in whether the plan moves forward.

Gary Airport Authority Fails to Comply with Davis-Bacon; Other Legal Requirements

21 Nov

by Ken Davidson

The Indiana State Board of Accounts has issued a comprehensive report indicating that the Gary Chicago Airport Authority (GCIA) failed to comply with the Davis-Bacon Act which requires prevailing wages be paid on public works projects. The stunning finding was just one of many findings by the Board. In so finding the Board stated:

Davis-Bacon Act

Airport Management relies upon paid consultants to ensure compliance with the Davis-Bacon Act
(payment of prevailing wages).

1. The contractors submitted payment applications to the Project Engineers. Before the Project
Engineers approved the payment, the Project Engineers must receive the certified weekly
payrolls from the Contractor. The Project Engineers stated that they ensured the wages paid
equal or exceed the applicable prevailing wage rates. However, no indication was made on
the copies of the certified payrolls or other forms of documentation maintained as evidence
that such reviews were conducted.

2. A system of controls to ensure all certified payrolls were received did not exist.

3. The management of the Airport Authority did not receive any correspondence from the paid
consultants to ensure compliance with the Davis-Bacon Act.

Additionally, the Board pointed out that the GCIA was required to repay nearly $10 million to the Regional Development Authority because it failed to properly account for the money. It appears that this finding may result in an additional $10 million in Federal and State grants requiring repayment. The Board found that the Authority billed invoices to the RDA, the US Department of Transportation and the Indiana Department of Transportation and received reimbursement from each. The system was supposed to provide a total of $9,917,559.93. Instead the GCIA received that amount from both Federal and RDA coffers.

The Board also found that the GCIA awarded change orders totalling over 20% of the bid price. The law states that change orders cannot exceed 20% of the total bid price.

The report goes on and on, reporting a litany of violations. This report covers the time period before the current board took over. You will recall that the Gazette has reported that Nathaniel Williams was President of the GCIA Board at this time. Nathaniel Williams was also in charge of maintaining the records at the Gary Housing Authority when they lost hundreds of properties to tax sale, failed to make repairs with grants that had been awarded and failed to utilize insurance proceeds to repair burned out properties. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson appointed Williams to the Airport position after many of the issues at GHA were discovered.

Good News for Gary, 10 New Police Officers Sworn In

6 Nov

Gazette staff

 

Gary swears in ten new police officers

Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram addresses 10 new recruits today.

(Gary, Ind.) - Today at Gary City Hall, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson swore in 10 new
officers bringing the force up to a total of 232 officers. Scores of family and
friends crowded into the Gary Room to show their support.

"I am proud that you have chosen to be a part of our family," said Freeman-Wilson
after administering the oath."You are laying your lives on the line for us each day,
and we salute you for this major commitment you have made."

Police Chief Wade Ingram and his command staff were there to welcome the officers to
the force.

"This is a dangerous job where you will be working alongside us to get the bad guys
off the streets," said Ingram. "We are here to support you as mentors and to provide
comprehensive training so that you will have a long and productive career in law
enforcement."

After going through more aggressive training, the recruits are expected to hit the
streets in early spring.

See names of the officers listed below:

Diego Alvarez
Nickole Cobb
Keith Dowdell
Michael Franks
Andrew Germonprez
Brandon Hernderson
Keith Hojkicki
Nicretia Jones
Nicholas Sanchez
Curtis Stiles

Please Like Us on:
Facebook

Forgotten Neighborhoods . . .

30 Oct

by Ken Davidson

 

The Topic was to be abandoned homes and what to do about them, but when the question and answer session began,  one term was used repeatedly: forgotten neighborhoods.   Several Gary residents, from nearly all sections of the City, got up and referred to their area as forgotten.  The descriptions that followed detailed a complete breakdown in the provision of city services.

One resident stated she was a lifelong Gary resident and had no desire to move.  She stated she had bought several other properties near her Ralston Avenue home because they were abandoned and she just wanted to maintain them.  “I don’t know how much more I can do” she stated with frustration after describing sidewalks that children could not walk down because of overgrown weeds.

The problems were echoed by residents from Tarrytown, Glen Park, West Side, Aetna, Small Farms, Black Oak and Horace Mann.  A Glen Park woman described how nice her neighborhood once was.  She described a block of abandoned homes and overgrown vacant lots.

But there was no buck stopping anywhere near Earline Rogers or Karen Freeman-Wilson.  The politicians pointed fingers everywhere but at themselves.  Earline Rogers said only two sentences;  in one she referred to Indianapolis as the “Hoosier Holyland.”  Mayor Freeman-Wilson pointed to the foreclosure crisis, out-of-state landlords,  and general economic conditions as root causes of the problems in Gary.  Although selective code enforcement was cited as a tool to be utilized to gain title to the abandoned homes which are not owned by the City, no one  was willing to address the numerous complaints of lack of basic city services including code enforcement and police protection.  The Mayor did state that they know where all of the abandoned homes are located.

To his credit, Lake County Treasurer John Petalas was the only County official to show at the meeting.  The County Treasurer and Auditor’s office have as much to do with the abandoned housing crisis in Gary as anyone else.  That folks, is the teaser for the next article.

Get the Bose Soundlink Mini, its on everyone’s Christmas list:

IHCDA Outlines $60M Plan to Demolish Abandoned Houses

28 Oct

by Ken Davidson

 

Karen Freeman-Wilson

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson addresses a crowd at IHCDA informational session

Representatives of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Agency tonight announced a plan to divert $60M from the Hardest Hit Fund to demolish abandoned homes throughout the state.  Under the plan, Indianapolis and Lake County would share in approximately $16M in federal funds.  The packed house at the Gary YWCA was led by State Senators Earline Rogers and Jim Merritt, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and IHCDA representatives.

IHCDA Coordinator Ryanna Binder presented a matrix to be used by local governments to request funds under the program.  Criteria such as habitability, number of police calls and potential uses for the vacant land would all be weighted and utilized to determine which houses are scheduled for demolition.

Lake County Treasurer John Petalas was present and stated that there are more than 10,000 vacant or abandoned homes in Gary which are in need of demolition.  This statistic may be flawed, however, as it apparently comes from a statistic prepared by the County which includes vacant lots.  Mayor Freeman-Wilson has stated it would cost approximately $6,600 per home for demolition.  The program would allow up to $15,000 for acquisition and demolition of properties.  Under the formula, Gary could demolish approximately 300 homes if the funds are distributed based on population.   Mayor Thomas McDermott, the Chair of the Lake County Democratic Party, has suggested the State provide $65M to Gary to demolish abandoned homes.

Officials stated the Federal Government would still have to approve the use of funds.  Submissions for demolition could begin as early as January if all approvals are obtained.  There were no representatives from other cities or towns in Lake County at the meeting although they would be eligible to vie for the funds.

During question and answer sessions, the comments primarily centered on city enforcement of codes and maintenance of abandoned properties as well as rights of way.

Indiana Housing Agency to Host Forum on Abandoned Homes

23 Oct
Gazette Staff


The Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority and a group of bi-partisan elected officials including Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and State Senator Earline Rogers will host a public forum to address blighted, vacant and abandoned homes.  The forum will be held October 28, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. and the public is encouraged to attend.
Public forum to be held October 28, 2013 at 6 p.m. in Gary.  The event will be held at the YWCA of Northwest Indiana, 150 West 15th Avenue, Gary, Ind.

The Hardest Hit Fund is a national program available in 18 states and the District of Columbia. Indiana was awarded more than $221 million under the Hardest Hit Fund and is targeting low- to moderate-income homeowners whose primary residence is in any county in Indiana. The State of Indiana, through IHCDA, is exploring the use of a portion of the Hardest Hit Funds to demolish blighted and abandoned homes that are beyond repair. The goal is not simply to demolish abandoned homes, but to stabilize property values in Indiana communities. The proposed partnership between IHCDA and Indiana municipalities would allow communities to demolish blighted properties and offer a variety of end uses for the newly cleared properties including green space and redevelopment. IHCDA, Lt. Governor Sue Ellspermann, IHCDA's Board Chair, Mayor Freeman-Wilson, Senator Rogers and Senator Merritt believe that the demolition of abandoned and blighted homes would be a significant step toward rebuilding Hoosier communities. Since IHCDA's announcement that it was exploring the use of Hardest Hit Funds to eliminate blighted and abandoned properties, many have expressed concern that doing so might detract from the mission of helping struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. IHCDA would like to reassure the public that it is committed to using the majority of Hardest Hit Funds to help individual homeowners in need. As of September 30, 2013, more than 2,250 homeowners have received approximately $24 million in Hardest Hit Fund mortgage payment assistance; and another $49 million has been set aside to provide mortgage payment assistance to approved homeowners currently enrolled in the program.
If you are unable to attend the public hearings, please submit written comments to feedback@ihcda.in.gov<mailto:feedback@ihcda.in.gov> by Monday, Dec. 2, 2013.