Updated: November 24, 2011 3:34AM
Second of two parts
In a follow up to my previous column regarding the saving of a community in distress; I want to offer these suggestions to those who seek the office of Mayor of Gary, or any community facing the challenges of survival.
Yet before I do, it is important to say a few things about the type of person needed to lead Gary into the future, in spite of the uncertainty of the times.
First, anyone desiring the challenge of leading Gary must be a person of strong character. The office of mayor, as one close to the people, is not only an administrative position but is also a position that requires the occupant to personally demonstrate the values and character that inspire all of us to be the best we can be.
For example, a commitment to a personal life devoid of dishonesty, with the recognition that while we are not all perfect; we must and should be honest about our failures if we desire to lead. Hard-nosed politics aside, mayoral hopefuls need to either reveal potentially damaging history or think hard about staying out of the race until they are ready to do so. As much as we might not want to accept it, the mayor remains an embodiment of hope for the best in all of us.
This is especially true for a community on the brink of ruin. Any effort to lead Gary back to prosperity must begin with a leader who exemplifies the very best of integrity in government and personal deportment. This is not the time to elect someone who makes you itch when you stand next to them.
In addition, the next mayor of Gary must possess the ability to speak honestly and clearly to the residents of Gary. This is no job for the faint of heart; for the next mayor must speak directly to those problems and problem people within the community. If 15 percent of the people are messing things up for the other 85 percent, then it is time to look at that 15 percent and say enough is enough. For example, if Gary residents are tired of listening to music coming from vehicles equipped with more speakers the rivets, then the mayor should demand and ordinance that says we will arrest you if you music is too loud. What is too loud? Anything heard outside of your car and down the block.
It is not easy to get elected and be this courageous, for voters in distressed communities like being told that the problems originate from without and that as mayor, you will go to Indianapolis and fight those demons. Therefore, the next mayor must have the courage to tell us what is wrong with us.
Finally, the next mayor must have a keen understanding and grip upon fiscal responsibility. The ability to trim the budget even deeper, make tough fiduciary decisions and even make sure that the payroll is not filled with “our sister-in-laws baby cousin” is the job that needs doing. Duplicity must be eliminated in all levels of government.
Those are just a few of the personal qualities necessary for the next mayor of Gary. However, I need to mention that intelligence and the ability to process problems through critical thinking should also be at the top of our list.
So what then shall we say regarding some specifics of governing that will assist Gary and any distressed urban community in its return to health?
First, every community must recognize the dynamics of the economy. In the absence of manufacturing, attracting technology based business will secure the future. However, to do so requires a commitment to education and creative tax structures that are business friendly. Sadly, any community in the grip of unions struggles to survive in the new world economic realities. Unions must recognize the shift in their roles; from antagonistic to cooperative. Mutual survival must trump the desire to stick it to management. This mindset recognizes that the landscape changed and many communities making this shift are far ahead in recovery.
In addition, the civil city must commit to using the bully pulpit as a herald for a new commitment to clean living. We must call people from the gutter of drugs, abuse and mayhem; to the light of caring about where you live and how you live. Instead of making excuses for anti-social behavior within the city limits; the next leader must decry this behavior as unacceptable, harshly dealing with all who continue down such a path.
Each of these ideas remains only my ideas. In fact, space will not allow me to enumerate all that which I would espouse for the rebound of Gary and other distressed urban areas. I am sure that many people have other ideas, likely better than my own. However, we must have some uncomfortable discussion about the future and we must have them now. There is only more failure in our delay.