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Running Gary, Indiana: The Hardest Job in America

Indiana state Sen. Eddie Melton is taking on the challenging task of reviving Gary, Indiana, a small Rust Belt city once known for its steel industry and now plagued by blight. Melton, recently elected mayor, is determined to change the narrative surrounding Gary, which has been portrayed as a miserable and dangerous place in viral YouTube videos.

With 95% of the votes, Melton convincingly won the mayoral race, making him responsible for leading the ninth-largest city in Indiana.

Credits: DepositPhotos

Gary’s decline can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the contraction of the U.S. steel industry and systemic racism at the state level.

The city has struggled to attract major employers, annex neighboring communities, and generate tax revenue. With a staggering 20% of homes sitting empty, Gary has the highest percentage of vacant properties in the country. Melton’s predecessors faced backlash for the slow pace of revitalization efforts, leading to their ousting in contentious primaries.

The challenges faced by Gary reflect a larger trend of deindustrialization and the impact it has had on majority-Black cities. Despite promises from political leaders like Donald Trump and Joe Biden to revive domestic manufacturing, Gary has been resistant to sustained improvement.

The city’s declining population, once Indiana’s second-largest, demonstrates the difficulties it faces. Gary’s reputation as the “murder capital” in the 1990s still lingers, although crime rates have decreased over the years.

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The relationship between Gary and Republicans in Indiana’s capital, Indianapolis, is fraught with mistrust. The perceived incompetence of the city’s leaders has resulted in skepticism from Republicans who question the effective use of resources.

However, Melton has worked with Republicans in the statehouse to pass legislation benefiting Gary, such as allowing the relocation of the city’s casino and facilitating the reconstruction of the train station.

Melton’s main focus as mayor is stabilizing the city’s population, improving public schools, and addressing the issue of vacant properties. He also wants to leverage Gary’s proximity to Chicago and promote its natural assets, such as the national park along Lake Michigan.

However, to achieve these goals, Melton must overcome the challenges posed by Gary’s strained relationship with Republicans and the city’s long history of decline.

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Photo Credits: DepositPhotos

Despite the daunting task ahead, Melton remains optimistic about Gary’s potential. He believes that with stable and effective leadership, the city can become the nation’s greatest comeback story. While the road to recovery may be difficult, Melton is committed to turning Gary’s fortunes around and proving that the city deserves better.

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