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Hard decisions necessary to improve Gary

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.  |  Sun-Times Media

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. | Sun-Times Media

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Updated: June 13, 2013 5:47PM



Life’s changes often play to mixed reviews. Most of us embrace changes that result in positive outcomes.

The paving of Fourth, Fifth and 25th avenues and the exploration of a public/private partnership at the Gary/Chicago International Airport are such examples. Although these changes have led to some displacement, inconvenience and uncertainty about new models, they are still viewed favorably, albeit with some caution.

Other changes, while greatly anticipated, are occasionally deferred. Examples like the demolition of the Sheraton Hotel and the Dollar House program, while taking longer than anticipated, are still on their way. There are yet other changes, like reorganizations and personnel that inevitably have an adverse impact on individuals and their families. And while the decisions were made in good faith, it does not make it any easier for the impacted persons or families.

But I have come to understand that leadership requires hard decisions. This is especially true in the quest to deliver good government. Should a fire station or other city building be closed? What new facilities should be opened? What is the best way to provide value for tax dollars in the most transparent way? Should we invest in streets or sewers? While all of these issues raise concerns, one of the greatest challenges is to determine the right size and composition of our work force and how to ensure that our team has resources to perform well.

Last year our administration restructured our fire and EMT services by merging the two departments, eliminating EMS services and requiring firefighter/paramedics to operate the ambulance service. This decision was caused by our efforts to prevent privatization, the need to deliver services more efficiently, and to reduce costs. As difficult as it is to eliminate and lose a job from the perspectives of individuals and families, leadership requires a long-term vision that will benefit the greater good. It is easy to protest and even second guess unpopular decisions when one does not have all of the information. But the road to good government is a marathon and not a sprint.

In the coming months, there will be continued progress in the development of University Park, the demolition of the Sheraton, maintenance and beautification of neglected areas in the city, and additional recreational opportunities for our youths. This will lead to the expansion of existing businesses and the introduction of new businesses — in a word, new jobs in this community.

Some of these changes will lead to promise and opportunity for citizens, while other changes will have an adverse impact on individual employees and their families. This will include a reduction in the city’s workforce in certain departments. The personnel changes are necessary because of federal mandates and regulations, the need to right size city government, and the need to invest in equipment, infrastructure and maintenance in the face of looming deficits. Some of the decisions will not be popular, but they are necessary to deliver the best government possible to the citizens of Gary. We are confident that the advent of these changes will increase your expectations for the growth and development of Gary. But please remember that leadership requires hard decisions.



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