Tag Archives: Mayor

‘Cop Killer’ Manhunt Goes Nationwide

29 Dec

user24036-1388187688-media1
The manhunt for a “cop killer” was expanded today to a nationwide dragnet to find the suspected bank robber who fatally shot a Mississippi police officer two days before Christmas, according to the FBI. Tupelo Police Department officer Gale Stauffer and another officer were hit by gunfire Monday when they confronted suspected bank robbers during their getaway in the city. As the officers approached suspects in a vehicle, which was stuck in traffic at a railroad crossing, at least one of the suspects opened fire at close range, according to an account posted online at the Officer Down Memorial Page. The suspects fled, leaving Stauffer fatally shot and another officer critically wounded Stauffer “has made the ultimate sacrifice for his community,” Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton said, urging the public to help “so that the criminal or criminals responsible for this horrendous act can be brought to justice.” After reviewing bank surveillance video from the robbery of a BancorpSouth bank in Tupelo, authorities are looking for a thin, possibly African-American man with light complexion, standing between 5-feet-9 and 6-feet tall, according to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. The suspect seen in the surveillance video was wearing khaki or cargo-style pants, white Converse tennis shoes, a long-sleeved jacket and a blue ski mask, the state public safety department said. A charcoal-colored, medium-sized sedan might have been used as a getaway car. As part of the investigation, authorities also released a photo (shown below) of a “person of interest” standing in what appears to be a convenience store minutes before the robbery at the bank. Police did not discuss any possible connection to the bank shooting.More than 100 agents, officers, deputies and marshals worked through Christmas to track down the suspects, an FBI official said. The FBI, BancorpSouth and others are offering more than $152,000 for information leading to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI’s tip line at 1-800-CALL-FBI (1-800-225-5324).
Stauffer was a combat veteran of the Louisiana Army National Guard, and he had served with the Tupelo Police Department for eight years, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.
He was married with two young children.

Illinois Says to Indiana: Keep Your Petcoke and Take Ours Too

22 Dec

by Ken Davidson

Hammond corporation George J. Beemsterboer, Inc. is known to many Indiana residents as the operator of the J-Pit in Gary and a contractor at local steel mills and refineries.   As operator of the J-Pit, Beemsterboer has long been known for bringing  waste into the state of Indiana.  Now Beemsterboer is under fire for allegedly moving Petcoke out of Indiana and into Illinois.

Beemsterboer recently entered into an Agreed Interim Order with the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago.  According to a release issued by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Order was designed to thwart a serious public health issue:

“The actions we are taking today mark a critical step forward in putting a stop to the
serious public health threat facing the residents that live near these facilities, but we will
continue to push for the strongest possible protections to ensure these conditions can
never happen again here in Chicago and across the state,”

Earlier in the month, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel requested that citizens experiencing any problems with petcoke call the City’s 311 number.  Citizens reportedly complained of dust so thick they could not open their windows last summer.

The petcoke which was stored in Illinois by Beemsterboer came from a local refinery.  There are several refineries in the area which produce petcoke including BP in Whiting.  There are also refineries in Joliet and Lemont IL.  The most likely scenario now will be that petcoke from all of these refineries will be stored and shipped somewhere in Indiana or Wisconsin.

Petcoke is a byproduct of petroleum production.  The material is similar to coal in appearance.  The substance has been a byproduct of refining since the 1930’s.  It has become a national issue lately for several reasons.  The sheer quantity of petcoke has grown as local refineries have expanded.  The market for petcoke now lies outside the US, so it is primarily shipped overseas.  China is the main purchaser of petcoke products as many countries no longer allow the burning of petcoke as fuel.   Because shipping is the primary source of transporting the product, petcoke must be stored near water-in this case Lake Michigan or a local tributary.  Conveniently, Beemsterboer announced the purchase of the vacant State Line Energy plant after the Illinois Attorney General filed suit against them seeking to have the product removed from Illinois.  It has been reported that Beemsterboer will develop the State Line Energy site into condominiums.

One thing is clear, Beemsterboer is not storing petcoke in Chicago anymore.  So far officials have been mum as to future plans for storage of the material.

petcoke loaded onto barge in chicago

Petcoke is loaded onto a barge for shipment overseas

petcoke mountain in chicago

Petcoke Mountain on Chicago’s southeast side.

 

 

 

City of Gary Says Sheraton Project is Neighborhood Stabilization

19 Dec

by Ken Davidson

At last night’s meeting of the Gary Redevelopment Commission, the Board approved a contract for environmental monitoring of the Sheraton Hotel project. The contract was awarded to Shrewsberry and Associates, LLC of Indianapolis. Shrewsberry and Associates has strong ties to State democrats, including former Chairman of the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee William Crawford. Crawford came under fire for not disclosing his financial interests with the Firm when he was appointed to Ways and Means. Shrewsberry no longer lists its Board of Directors on its website or in public filings that are readily available.

The original Request for Proposals for the demolition called for the contractor to include asbestos remediation and monitoring within the proposal. This additional cost was calculated into the bids submitted by others who were not aware that the Board would later hire another firm and pay that firm separately.

All of this is not unusual for Gary. Although the above is questionable, at best, the Gazette receives reports of such irregularities on a semi-consistent basis. What makes this proposal astounding is how the City apparently plans to pay for the additional cost. The Gazette has learned that the City has included the Sheraton Property in the 2014 Neighborhood Stabilization Plan.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) was established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the purpose of stabilizing communities that have suffered from foreclosures and abandonment. Through the purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed, abandoned and short-sale homes, the program’s goals is being realized.

The grant information provided by the City appears to reference this purpose:

[NSP] appropriates $2,717,859 for the purpose of assisting in the redevelopment of abandoned and foreclosed homes.The grant program is commonly referred to as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP).

The Times of Northwest Indiana Legal Notice 12-19-2013

The Notice goes on, however, to list the “neighborhood surrounding the old Sheraton Hotel and its adjoining garage located at 465 Broadway” as an area of additional need. The Sheraton is not only a commercial property, it lies in the major commercial zone of the City. Sitting between City Hall and a Township owned office building, the structure is blocks from any residential structure. The neighborhoods that SHOULD receive relief under the program will not receive the funding intended for them. In fact, it seems likely that Gary will end up repaying another very large grant to the Federal Government.

With 10,000 abandoned homes, one would think that every cent of the NSP funds would go toward rehabilitation of residences.

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.

Mayor McDermott Attempts to Quash Investigation into Campaign Finances

6 Dec

by Ken Davidson

In a filing with the Lake County Election Board today, Mayor McDermott, by his attorney David Westland, asked the board to dismiss the complaint filed by Eric Krieg. You will recall that Krieg filed a complaint asking the board to investigate payments of over $300,000 from the campaign to the Mayor’s wife; non-payment of rent to Pyramid Development Corporation for office space; and a one-time payment of $6,000 to David Woerpel from the campaign.

In the filing the Mayor states “there is no substantial reason to believe that a violation of election law has occurred.” The Mayor argues that Indiana law does not require a written contract between a candidate and his wife for payment of services to the campaign. In support of this argument, the Mayor cites the fact that the advisory opinion was never codified and the statement of Brad King, co-chair of the Indiana Election Commission, which was obtained by The Times of Northwest Indiana for their article on the issue.

As to the rent issue, the Mayor argues that rent was paid and the Board should not look to the fair market value of any such agreement. Finally, as to the one time payment to David Woerpel, the Mayor points out that the payment was made three weeks before his arrest and states that Woerpel performed services for the campaign. The nature of the services are not outlined in the reply.

The Gazette would like to hear your thoughts. Should the Election Board investigate the above issues?
You can read the full response here:
12051302 (1)

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.

Van Til Rants About Air Show, No Word on Corruption

26 Nov

by Ken Davidson

Fair Oaks to host South Shore Air Show

South Shore Air Show moved from Gary, IN to Fair Oaks Farms.

Only in Lake County, Indiana does an airshow warrant a comment from a politician facing numerous felony counts for abusing his position. In a facebook post, indicted yet still working county surveyor George Van Til criticizes the South Shore Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for moving the Air Show from Gary to Fair Oaks Farms for 2014:

The Air Show is not about whats good for Lake County, its citizens and taxpayers. Its about the massive ego t of Spiros (sic) B. that constantly needs to be ministered to , his continuous financial advancement into the upper reaches, and his lust for power. He is so very insecure so he has picked fights with so many Public Servants through the years, to try to massage himself, along with his relentless self promotion in the media, NOT the promotion of Lake County! Last I looked his contract , with unreal perks was at 168,000 yearly, plus a car, plus all the fuel, plus unlimited food reimbursement here and in Indianapolis for his girlfriend there, unlimited dining with legislators , night after night, year after year and anything else he feels like to advance HIMSELF ,The mohey is probably much, much more by now .Now the pig has come out of the poke. ! He has snaked our elected Mayors, and slapped them and every citizen of our county , we pay him, what a quarter million dollars a year, to spend huge amounts of our money to promote himself, big bussiness, and couhties south of here, Using our money to hurt our county and cost us losses. Mayor McDermott you are so rightvon (sic) this one, All other Mayors join hands , asPublic Servants against this self serving self promoter who desperately wants to become th Tourism Czar of all of Northwest Indiana or more. ? Combining area efforts might even be a good idea, done right, but it will NEVER work or nefer hapoen until Spiros (sic) is GONE. Too many people know him too well, and now with his newest Flyin Pig Circus his crass opportunism is open for all to see. ? And theres so much more, personal , political, financial thats coming out now if he pushes. Talk about time for a change! Its today.

Logic tells us that, if the Chair of the Democratic Party wanted the Air Show in his city, it would be there. Apparently, logic has no place in the thinking of George Van Til as his rant appears to indicate that Mayor McDermott was somehow left out of the loop in this decision. If George Van Til has anything worthwhile to say, maybe he should save it for his change of plea hearing. He may get a month or two off his sentence.

Shop Amazon – Black Friday Deals Week – Big Savings, No Waiting

Krieg Calls for Feds to Investigate McDermott Campaign Finance Issues

26 Nov

by Ken Davidson

In the wake of recent FBI activity in Lake Station, political activist and former county surveyor candidate Eric Krieg planned to call on the Lake County Board of Elections to refer Mayor Thomas McDermott’s campaign finance reports to the office of United States Attorney David Capp. Krieg will have to wait until the Board meets in December to present his allegations as this month’s meeting was cancelled.  In a statement provided to the press prior to the planned meeting, Krieg compared McDermott’s payments to his wife with the recent conviction of Former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. He outlines several allegations of impropriety in the reports including:

-Payments to Kelly Consulting, Inc. of over $300,000.  The payments ranging from $3,000-$4,000 per month span a period of over ten years. Krieg alleges that Kelly Consulting, Inc. is owned by Marissa McDermott and that Indiana law requires a written contract on file with the election board in order to pay family members for campaign services;

-a one time consulting fee paid to David Woerpel. This payment is alleged to have been in the amount of $6,000 and paid around the time that Woerpel was charged with a crime in Lake Superior Court;

-A single payment of rent for McDermott for Mayor Headquarters in the amount of $1,000. Krieg alleges that free rent should be reported as an in-kind donation on the finance report.

Krieg explained that the contributions to Kelly Consulting, Inc continue in non-election years. The address for Kelly Consulting is listed as 7134 Knickerbocker, Hammond, IN 46323. Documentation was provided from the office of the Indiana Secretary of State showing that Marissa McDermott is listed as President of Kelly Consulting, Inc. Total payments to Kelly Consulting from the McDermott campaign for the years 2005 to present totalled just over $330,000.

The lack of payment to Kaplan controlled Pyramid Development may be the most damaging allegation. As reported previously, Pyramid Development is owned by McDermott friend and contributor Greg “Krazy” Kaplan. Kaplan later sold the building to the Purdue University Foundation for a reported $1M. Politically connected WJOB radio has announced that they will move into the building sometime next year. So far, they are the only announced tenant.  While not illegal on its face, the entire transaction certainly seems to require some explanation. To date, we have heard none.

You can see Mayor McDermott’s 2011 campaign report here:  http://lwvcalumet.org/files/cfb.mcdermott_jr_thomas_m_2011_annual_rpt.pdf

Van Til Reportedly "Frazzled" Over Impending Trial Date

25 Nov

by Ken Davidson

Some even go so far as to suggest that George Van Til is mounting a Vinny the Chin Gigante defense.  Van Til is reportedly out of sorts after learning that his trial, scheduled for December 9, 2013, will not be continued as requested.  Van Til has been charged with 6 counts of Wire Fraud and two counts related to Obstruction of Justice.  Witnesses who work closely with Van Til now report that he is a different person.  “He comes to work looking like he did not sleep” according to one source.

Van Til is represented by former Gary Mayor and Democratic Political insider Scott King.  King requested a copy of the Government’s witness list but that request was denied.  Standard practice is to provide the list immediately before trial. That seems especially appropriate where an indicted defendant remains in a supervisory position over potential witnesses.   Sources say that Van Til maintains meticulous files on Lake County politicians and has a lot of information to trade for his freedom.  We will see if he is willing to pay that price.

See also <a href=”http://nwigazette.com/2013/11/25/johnson-sentencing-delayed-again/“>Johnson Sentencing Delayed Again.</a>

False Jobs Report: Sen. Coats Calls for Investigation

24 Nov

by Ken Davidson

Citing “serious trust issues”, Senator Dan Coats has penned a letter to the heads of Commerce, Labor and Securities requesting a full investigation. The scandal comes after a Philadelphia area employee alleges he was told by a supervisor to submit false numbers. The New York Post alleges the scandal goes straight to now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. The reports allegedly caused the official unemployment numbers to drop below 8% in the weeks prior to the 2012 elections providing Americans with a sense that the economy was doing better than it actually was.
 

This is a serious allegation that can have serious impacts on our
economy and our markets. The monthly jobs report provides critical data
that influences markets, industry and Federal Reserve policy. As the
ranking member of the Joint Economic Committee and a member of the
Commerce Committee, I am calling for an investigation into this matter.

One of the jobs reports in question, released in October 2012 just
ahead of the presidential election, showed that the unemployment rate
had dropped sharply from 8.1 percent to 7.8 percent even though the
economy had added only 114,000 jobs.

This administration has a serious trust deficit with the American
people. From Benghazi to the IRS enemies list and most recently, the
many broken promises with Obamacare, we have seen an alarming pattern
of a lack of transparency and a lack of accountability from this
administration.

These recent allegations regarding the jobs report only add to the
mistrust the American people have of this administration.