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Opening Arguments

Humdinger of a mayor

When those three auto executives flew in their private jets to Washington to beg for a handout, it immediately became a symbol -- of arrogance to some, of being out of touch with ordinary life to others. Now we have our own symbol in Indiana:

The chairman of a state panel considering whether Gary's city government should receive an exemption from new property tax caps is questioning how financially distressed the city is if it can afford to buy the mayor a 2009 Hummer H3 for $29,970.

Ryan Kitchell, chairman of the state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board, said Tuesday he was disappointed to learn about the purchase a day after city officials sought a waiver from the caps imposed by the General Assembly last year, saying it could cost the city $30 million and lead to hundreds of layoffs.

The board would consider giving the city an exemption only after it has shown it has cut all it can from its budget, Kitchell said.

"The new Hummer and testimony presented yesterday clearly show that much more spending can be cut," he said.

I don't know how politically savvy Gary Mayor Rudy Clay is, but he can't have gotten elected because he'd learned when to argue and when to just shut up and take it. He defended purchase of the Hummer by saying, "What do you want me to do, walk around here? I've got to have a car." He later added, believe it or not: "We're saving taxpayers money by riding in a Hummer. I could've bought a $50,000 Expedition." What a guy! Gary taxpayers are lucky to have a mind like that always thinking and looking our for them.

Local attorney and former Fort Wayne City Councilman Mark GiaQuinta is a member of the appeals board, by the wayand he was quoted as saying he had read all he wanted to read about a Hummer. "But I do think, to some degree, symbolism plays a role here." No kidding.