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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Windy City Indiana

What could possibly go wrong?

CHICAGO — When Karen Freeman-Wilson was elected the mayor of Gary, Ind., last year, she found herself confronting some grim truths about her hometown. Revenues in an already emaciated city budget were shrinking by millions of dollars. About a quarter of the buildings, she said, were empty. All the while, people were moving away.

For years, leaders of a place once known as the “Magic City” have made all kinds of attempts — a baseball team, gambling, an arts center, grants — to somehow reverse the spiral in Gary, a declining steel town of 80,000.

Now Ms. Freeman-Wilson is trying something else. She has turned to a former big-city mayor, Richard M. Daley, who ran Chicago for decades, and she now finds herself getting help from a team of graduate students from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy Studies, where Mr. Daley has been teaching.

I lived in The Region for eight years, and, to be as tactful as possible, I don't think becoming more like Chicago is exactly what any municipality in northwestern Indiana needs. All the talk I heard was about how much like Chicago that part of the state already was, and they did not mean the good stuff like great restaurants and job opportunities and cultural diversity. They meant in "corrupt politics," which accounts for a good part (although certainly not all) of Gary's problems.