By David Denson, Gary Crusader
Building programs initiated during the previous year, along with efforts to enhance city services and economic development will continue to be the priorities of mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and her administration in 2018.
During an appearance before local business leaders attending the Gary Chamber of Commerce’s Monthly Business Luncheon, the Mayor shared how she and her team are addressing a number of concerns. “We knew that we were going to have some financial challenges early on so we met with our senior team to really talk about the things we could do, not to just reduce cost, but what could be done to grow revenue,” said Freeman-Wilson.
During her talk she also mentioned several things her administration has been able to accomplish with the support of local, state and national government. She said the recently adopted Wheel Tax helped the city in paying its share of the cost for street repairs.
She also noted that through the shared services concept, the city has been able to provide a number of services at a reduced cost to the citizens.
As the city implements plans to attract new businesses to Gary, Freeman-Wilson noted that her ad-ministration has benefitted tremendously from the assistance the state has provided in that effort. “We have seen the support at the state level in a variety of ways, and that is because we work very closely with these officials to get things done,” said Freeman-Wilson.
Although city government and the school corporation are separate entities Mayor Freeman-Wilson has provided assistance to the Gary Community School Corporation as it goes through its crisis. “We have worked very closely with the school board, with the superintendent and we continue in that regard with the school board and the emergency manager,” said Freeman-Wilson.
Freeman-Wilson noted that the problems facing the Gary School Corporation were brought on by the state’s effort to reduce property tax revenues – the property tax caps, along with a declining tax base. Because of these problems the city has begun to find ways to diversify in areas concerning revenue production.
Among the initiatives is the “Gary First” initiative, which is geared towards providing Gary residents with first chances at job opportunities that become available. “When you are a Gary business and you employ people locally or use local contractors, that makes a difference. Because we know how important it is to hire not only local residents, it also helps the local businesses,” said Freeman-Wilson.
In the area of public safety, the city is deeply involved in supporting programs to enhance public safety. The city has yearly clean up programs that bring together citizens and city workers involved in the citywide effort.
“Understand that we have challenges, but there are more good people and hard working folks in this community, than not. There is only a small percentage that are wreaking havoc and we are dealing with them every day,” Freeman-Wilson said. She added that Gary has to support the public safety department and its programs in what they are doing to make the city safe.