“The same very people who left… need to step up and help fix the issues.”
Produced and edited by Rebecca Werner and Brandi Casada.
Transcript for Outside In Instead of Inside Out
I truly believe the only way Gary will ever be successful again is if it happens from the outside in instead of the inside out. The decline and the beginning stages of the white flight, if you may, was in 1967 when Mayor Hatcher was elected, the first, you know, African American mayor of a major city in Gary, so at that point, it began. The first, let’s say, five or six years, seven years it was steady but not staggering. Aetna—it was almost hard for you to come home at any point during the day, any day of the week, and not see a moving truck. People were moving out left and right, one by one, in droves. When Southlake Mall became—came into existence, I believe around ’72 or ’73, one after another were moving their business to Merrillville, and that’s—so, you’re seeing just a reversal. What was here was moving to Merrillville. The businesses were moving to Merrillville, so yeah, there was not only just the white flight, but there was the green flight with the merchants taking their money and their business and, more importantly, what killed Gary was losing that tax structure. Because when you lose business, you lose tax structure, and you lose your ability to be able to fund things properly.
The only way I truly think that this problem can be fixed is if they reach out to the same very people who left, that in my opinion, and it’s a real sore spot for me, but it’s a lot of the same people who created the issues that thirty and forty years later need to step up and help fix the issues. I think that if you go and you reach out to the Merrillvilles, and the Crown Points, and the Munsters, and the Highlands, and the Hobarts, and the folks that surround the community of Gary—because, again, my philosophy is that Gary was, is, and always will be the heart and soul of Northwest Indiana. I mean, we’re sitting here on one of the greatest natural resources in the entire world. I challenge anybody to go out and find a natural body of water that’s as beautiful as what we have here. And again, our proximity to Chicago, and demographically, and the jobs, and what we can offer. I mean, we have some of the highest wages in the nation here in Northwest Indiana. We’re very fortunate to live in an area that’s a strong unionized area that’s created wages for folks like it has. And whether you are a proponent of unions or not, it’s a reality. We live in an area that’s very successful and provides well for a lot of families. And so, again, if you reach out to those folks in those communities and look for ways to be creative, ask for help, those are the types of things that it’s going to take to create a way of thinking. It’s not so much financial, but it’s getting people to think that it can happen. Part of the biggest hurdle, in my opinion, is that people don’t believe it can change. You’ve got to be able to sell them a bill of goods, if you may, that things that can change and it will change with their help.
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