Meteorologically, we still have two weeks of summer, but today certainly marks the end of the summer season in most people’s minds. Looking back on this summer, I have to say it wasn’t good for the Region.
Some good things may have happened, but in my mind, they’re negated and then some by all the violence in Gary, as well as in the towns that make up Lake County. For a stretch in July and August, the local papers resembled the Chicago stations and media, which have reported murder after murder almost daily for several years now.
Recent police action has stemmed the violence, for now, but Gary remains a stark portrait of poverty and industrial decline. I’d imagine it’s also far from the minds of most Northwest Indiana residents who don’t live there, a place they only mention in the context of where not to drive while passing through the Region.
The issue of regulating guns to curb violence is so contentious that nothing ever gets done about it. But regardless of where one stands on that, I don’t think you can affect major change in Gary, or anywhere else with the same ills, without addressing poverty and inequality, which at the end of the day is also a conversation people don’t want to have. The aforementioned Region residents would probably be content to just keep ignoring Gary.
But, I have one idea that could possibly work: follow Detroit’s lead.
I know, I know: Detroit has been the go-to image of urban decay for years even before the city declared bankruptcy in 2013. In the two years since then, however, the city has been on a quiet upswing. The very low real estate prices have attracted major corporations, which have created jobs and attracted employment seekers. Cheap housing has also attracted creative people, which has created a small but vibrant artistic scene. Crime has also dropped, and many new businesses have opened. All of which is impressive, considering that within this very decade, Detroit was as desolate as Gary, only bigger.
Instead of focusing on an airport project that’s in all likelihood years from coming to fruition or clinging to its steel heritage while the industry keeps shrinking, Gary should instead focus what resources it has on trying to attract people with its cheap land and potential for rebirth, like Detroit. They even have something of an advantage: Surely there are some Illinois businesses for whom taking a chance on Gary would be worth it to escape their state’s sky-high taxes.