By Keaundrey Clark
The Gary Chamber of Commerce held its first monthly General Membership Luncheon of the new year virtually, after first-year Mayor Jerome Prince experienced many challenges, when three months into his first term, a global pandemic became the focus of his administration.
Lake County suffered over 43,000 COVID-19 cases last year, with more than 600 deaths—with community members looking to the mayor for answers and guidance. Mayor Prince understood the public’s criticism of his administration’s handling of the pandemic. “I’m the mayor, so I understand the public’s criticism,” he said. “Folks have other perspectives about what’s best for the city of Gary.”
Mayor Prince believes what happened in 2020 will make Gary better in the long run. “2020 has built fortitude for the future,” he said. Prince’s administration’s focus in the coming year will be on public safety, a cleaner Gary, as well as financial security for the future. This would be accomplished by focusing on lowering crime throughout Northwest Indiana, releasing statistics on crime and keeping the public trust—all things that could point to potential economic growth for the city.
Prince ensures that keeping his city safe is a priority. “Any crime in the community is too much. As crime remained steady in 2020, crimes resulting in fatalities were down from the previous year 7 percent. We’ve addressed the challenges like developing information,” said Prince, “by using technology and more to help keep the public safe during the unprecedented times.”
Mayor Prince believes the men and women of Gary who serve do their jobs admirably. However, he also feels that input from Gary residents to help augment these efforts and vow to become better neighbors in a time of need is also warranted.
Gary’s aesthetic will be getting a facelift, as the administration hopes to bring much needed renovations to the downtown area. Many outsiders want to bring businesses to Gary and Northwest Indiana, and Mayor Prince has a plan to clean up the city to make the area more pleasing to investors. This could be accomplished by allowing some properties in Lake County to be shifted to alternative use for the city. Also, residents in local HUD housing could get better services, as supported by a recent HUD award to address emergencies that have threatened their health and safety.
Another item discussed at the luncheon is that Metra’s commuter initiative will be fully funded in Lake County. Many businesses and local groups will help with the two-year plan to bring transportation and traffic to Miller that will be an economic benefit to Gary in the long run.
As the vision to reimagine Gary unfolds, the Gary public school system will see an improvement in education initiatives. “We have the responsibility to give our children in Gary the opportunity to succeed,” said Prince.
In November, a referendum was passed for $72 million to help with more opportunities and support for students, and it approved the first raise for Gary teachers in more than a decade. Also, STEM certification for three schools in the District and additional funding for extracurricular activities, such as the Gary after school coalition, were also supported by the referendum.