Ivanhoe South

IVANHOE SOUTH

An interview with Kris Krouse, executive director of Shirley Heinze Land Trust

Conducted by Samuel Love, 19 April 2013 at Meadowbrook Nature Preserve, Valparaiso, Indiana

“Ivanhoe South is one of our real treasures at Shirley Heinze Land Trust, largely because of the way we acquired the properties. It is unique also from an ecological perspective, it’s extremely biodiverse and has some global significance as a dune and swale habitat. We had several volunteers that started picking up the property at tax sales in the early 1980s. So it’s actually one of the first project areas Shirley Heinze set out to protect.

In 1984 we had the first acquisition, a small lot. And when I say small lot think in terms of a subdivision that platted for development and a parcel that is sold for a house to be built on. That’s exactly what occurred here. It was platted and subdivided. Lots were sold to individuals but it never ended up getting to the stage of having roads put in or houses built on the parcels. So you have this swath of vacant land right in the middle of a city, a very urbanized place with industry nearby, four-lanes roads, and subdivisions.

This is in essence is a puzzle of 300+ parcels that we picked up at tax sales, one by one. In some cases we had funding, in other cases we didn’t, and now we have almost an entirely contiguous 30 acre swath in this area that we’ve protected with the exception of two lots that we’re focused on acquiring. Once they’re acquired we’ll be able to combine almost 30 acres. We were able to work with the City of Gary to vacate the undeveloped streets and alleyways within that platted subdivision., it’s something we worked on for about 10 years where we would approach the city. And I think it’s a reflection of the city’s interest and appreciation of what we’re trying to do.

We still have a challenge in that municipalities apply stormwater management fees to properties. We’re working with the city to come up with an amenable solution to many, many stormwater fees. Actually a pretty substantial amount of money. We’re hopeful that will get addressed soon. But that’s one of the things we’re working on the city with.

We are fortunate to have received funding from The Legacy Foundation and many individual donors to go in an remove tires and shingles and literally dumpsters full of trash and debris that has ended up on this preserve over many, many years. It’s one of the things you inevitably see. Land that is vacant isn’t necessarily managed so you deal with dumping issues and people don’t necessarily appreciate it if they don’t exactly know what the use is. So over the years we have installed a parking lot and put in a trail. There’s signage on the preserve so the residents in the area see it as a resource and we have also set out to conduct community hikes there, to get residents and Northwest Indiana as a whole invested and interested in this project area and our other project areas.”

What were your first impressions of the site?

“I took on a staff position with Shirley Heinze in 2005, so a lot of progress had been made prior to that. What we’ve done since I started with the organization is filling in the gaps by picking up parcels so that we can have more of a nature preserve where we own the property within the project area so it speak. The trails and parking lot, that’s something we really focused on in 2007 and 2008; making it a resource for the public is what I’ve seen transpire there. It’s really great to see people out there using the resource and that’s been a shift for us as an organization where we’re not only protecting the property, restoring it and managing it, but also making available to the public so they can enjoy it as well.

It does have implications when you think of a park where the design is to let people recreate in a natural resource. And what’s even more unique for this area, in some places you have state-listed species, or even things like the federally endangered Karner Blue butterfly that thrives and needs the dune and swale habitat. So the basis where there is value in limiting the access is protecting that particular natural resource and so it’s a little bit of a balancing act. We do have some properties we are very cautious about what the access would be if it’s a determent to any threatened flora and fauna, so it’s a little bit of a balancing act.”

What are future plans for the site?

“There are 12 acres of dune and swale that has been a part of our land acquisition prioritization document that we update and approve every couple of years at the board level. It’s one of our number one priorities and we’re pretty close to seeing that property through to ownership. Hopefully in the next month. And continuing to restore and manage the property. We’re in the process of getting a US Army Corp of Engineers Great Lakes Restoration Initiative project to take place at the site. That will really allow us to do more extensive canopy opening and invasive species and understory removal and planting of native plants to improve the ecology in places were it’s degraded.”

How can these natural areas help cities?

“It’s a great question. I think that Gary is very fortunate to have such ecologically significant resources. When you look at the dozens of municipalities in Northwest Indiana Gary has some of the most pristine natural land in this region. And in those properties that are protected are really a good resources for storm water management. It acts as a filter for stormwater runoff so instead of the city needing to maintain runoff, a place like Ivanhoe South serves that purpose in a natural way. It’s also acting as filter so that the water that works its way thru the system, and the hydrology of the system, is cleaner when it comes out than what it would be if it were just sitting in a retention basin. There’s a lot of other benefits to stormwater as it relates to natural areas, the reduction of flooding for example. It has positive implications there as well. I think the city is well aware of what the value is of places like Ivanhoe South and the trick is how do we articulate that to the broader community. Not just in Gary but any community where someone might not have an ecology background or understand the value of a wetland and how a wetland functions to benefit them. Things that we all need, better water quality, air quality, whatever it is that relates to the environment.”

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Miller Woods South (?)

Had the chance today to tramp around an 80 acre black oak savanna, currently owned by the City of Gary. The parcel is a mere block west of Lake St in downtown Miller and is south of the Miller Woods and the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

It’s a healthy dune and swale with many native plants, a clear understory with lots of space in between the trees, invasive plants relegated to the edges, and very little litter. We counted 7 tires, 2 pop cans, and a shoe. A little stream curves around low dune ridges, a true rarity out this way!

Two interesting finds: First, a partially decomposed and badly mangled deer carcass. One of the unfortunate thing’s hooves was about 15 feet away. We also found the word “POACHER” spray painted on a tree. Word on the street is that a few old timers still hunt in these woods, that would perhaps explain the occasional early morning rifle shots I’ve heard. But no shells or other signs of human activity were noticed. The beaver have been busy tho.

 

The 6th Annual People’s Turkey Drive

The 6th annual People’s Turkey Drive of East Chicago collected enough food to share with 400 families, including 40 families in Gary. One of the organizers, Juan “Weto” Fernandez, captured the spirit of the event, the holidays, and The Region in general before volunteers hit the streets:

“The first year was 30 something families, I forgot exactly how many. But 30 something families and this year we’re going to hit almost 400, even more. We got 15 families that are gonna meet us at the Boys and Girls Club in Hammond at 3pm. We’re gonna give some to certain charities. We’re gonna give some to St. Joe’s for the food kitchen. We’re gonna give to a couple of other places as well. And I just wanna say we’re gonna hit a lot of houses.

“There’s different backgrounds, there are different ethnicities that are helping. Different religious cultures. Different political views. Different entities coming involved for this. Like I said, we have off-duty cops that help. We have Black Lives Matters that help. We got people that are Muslim that donated. We got people that are Jewish that donated. We got people that are Catholic. We got people that are Donald Trump supporters. People that are Hillary Clinton supporters. People that were for Barack Obama. People that are Bernie Sanders supporters. We got Calumet Lives Matters. We got people that volunteer 100% for that involved.

“We got a lot of people involved in this and I just wanna say thank you again because it’s not about… none of that stuff I brought up doesn’t really matter in life if you’re struggling. If you’re struggling… that’s what happens to a lot of us. It’s people giving equal sacrifice. Some people donated one can, that’s worth as much as a million dollars that someone could have donated. So I just want to say again thank you again.

“This is the first year we’re doing this: We have a award we would like to give out, a special acknowledgement and one of the ones we’re going to hand out is to my friend Andy Garza right here… (applause) …”

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Maiaco In Gary Update – 24 Sept

A meeting held on 15 September at St Timothy, hosted by the Gary Downtown-Emerson Spotlight group was titled Understanding Maiaco and promised “some key City Department Heads” along with the Redevelopment Commission. Neither were fully achieved. Only the Gary Redevelopment Commission was present, and many from the audience of 60 went home confused, suspicious, or at the very least resigned to life in an aging city.

Gary Development director Joe Van Dyke opened with a brief explanation of Maiaco and his perception of Gary residents’ fears regarding privatized redevelopment and outside capital (skyrises?):

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Here he is asked what the Maiaco agreement would mean for current Gary residents living in areas with high vacancies and empty lots:

 

Here he replies to a request for a clear, simple breakdown of what Maiaco is and how it operates:

 

And here a property owner from Aetna asks why current residents aren’t better engaged (a question long asked all over the city):

Ruth Needleman: What is Community Wealth?

Dr. Ruth Needleman spoke about Maiaco in Gary, on 17 September at the Genesis Center in downtown Gary, at the King-Chavez Social Justice awards banquet held by the Northwest Indiana Interfaith Federation. Video below.

What is Community Wealth?

That is the Question.

Let me begin with the first principle of community wealth:

If it is made in Gary by Gary residents, then the money will stay in Gary and grow the community. That’s what produces community wealth.

Our economic system, very sadly, is built on the concept of making money in order to make more money. That is called capital accumulation, but it does not build the kind of wealth we value. There are those who equate money with wealth. For most of us, I believe, we think of wealth in broader terms, not just money, but our health, family, friends, spiritual well-being and community.

Most of us get our money through a job; I work hard, you work hard, and we get paid. Maybe I make products like steel and maybe you provide services like health care.
Without a job, however, people like us have no access to income, let alone wealth production.

Right now in Gary we face a 40% unemployment rate. That’s thousands of people who cannot find a job; many have never been able to enter the labor market. What we need to guarantee the future of Gary are jobs, not just an infusion of outside capital. Not that I am opposed to capital investment, as long as we can get a Community Benefits Agreement, something the Federation has been fighting for as long as I can remember.

Local efforts at economic development, however, have been focused on getting people with lots of money to invest in Gary on big projects: for example, a ball park, an airport expansion and a remodeled Marquette Park. Those folks invested in order to make more money for themselves, not to create community wealth. The important question is: How many long-term or even short-term jobs went to people in Gary? The answer: Very few.

This morning, I want to compare two different approaches to creating wealth: one that works in the interests of the community primarily and one for those who want to make more money. Again, let me be clear: I am not against outside investment, if it benefits the people and adds to shared community wealth.

The kind of obscene “wealth” we see in today’s world does not come through hard work; it comes through gambling, using money to make money. Bankers, investors, loan sharks, hedge fund managers make money not by producing goods and services but through financial transactions that create winners and losers.

Corporations send jobs overseas to be “winners.” And who have been the big losers? Workers. Without a job & income, how can we participate in our communities, buy or improve our homes and our schools, contribute to general health and welfare? We need to find paths for sustainable community development.

First: the “money makes money” approach! The Mayor’s Office and the Gary Redevelopment Commission point to the MaiaCo Corporation and contract as the great hope for Gary. It is a clear example of how money begets money. This corporation is being given extensive lands in Gary, to determine how and what to develop, and then to hire contractors to do the work. MaiaCo invests some initial time and money, but gets 100% of it back right off the top. The City turns over the land, after tearing down the buildings with our tax monies.

Neither MaiaCo nor its contractors are required to hire locally, and neither the Gary Redevelopment Commission nor MaiaCo has any responsibility to monitor hiring practices! The contract holds them to “encouraging” local hiring. As a result, wages and salaries will leave the city at the end of each day. Then 65% of all proceeds go to MaiaCo. Gary will get 35%. To me Gary is giving away more community wealth than it is creating.

Of course the work MaiaCo does will increase land values in Gary, so that the haves will be better off, but what about the have-nots? They will be forced out of the city—just as it happened in Chicago, when Mayor Richard Daley did his redevelopment of the housing projects and Bronzeville. More than 65,000 African-Americans were forced to leave the City.

Now let’s consider a different model, the Cleveland Model, for example. Like Gary, Cleveland is a devastated Midwest urban center, wracked by job loss, population loss and industrial flight. Their approach is based on environmental and economic sustainability, supporting the development of cooperatives. The Evergreen Cooperatives, as they are known, have to date three very successful business cooperatives: a green laundry coop, a solar-panel installation coop and an organic lettuce coop.

Cleveland is a hospital center, so there is a whole lot of dirty laundry that was creating a whole lot of toxic waste. Now the Coop does green laundering; the hospitals use them and the City is safer and residents get the jobs and money. One of the founders, Ted Howard, described the real benefits of this model:

“The way to think about Evergreen is not as a job creation or a cooperative strategy, but as really an exercise in community building and strengthening democratic life at the ground level where people live. It’s also an attempt to stabilize a community that has been radically disinvested over the last 20 to 30 years by globalization and capital mobility and jobs offshoring.”

Could be Gary, no?

The cooperative model that many have turned to is Mondragon in Spain, one of the oldest and certainly the largest cooperative networks in the world: it has 120 high-tech, industrial, service, construction and financial businesses run as cooperatives, including a bank or credit union, interlinked businesses, that employ over 100,000 workers—all owners—with annual revenues over $20 billion. Not bad. They even have Mondragon University where they teach the principles of cooperative production.

Cleveland’s 3 coops were built in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, largely African-American with a 40% unemployment rate. Again, sounds like Gary!
Strategically they built their coops based on real demand and the need for environmentally safe production and consumption: Laundry for the hospitals; solar panels for homes and organic lettuce for more exclusive retailers. The hospitals and universities put in start-up money, and now the coops are profitable and self-sustaining. No one was pushed out of their homes. The black community was developed and not displaced.

If MaiaCo goes forward without oversight and accountability, the poorest in Gary will be forced out of their homes, and the development will serve a new gentrified community.

Another U.S.-based model is Cooperation Jackson in Jackson MS. Many of your families left MS. during the Great Migration for a job in industry. Now we look to MS for a model for sustainable development.

In their words, “COOPERATION JACKSON IS AN EMERGING VEHICLE FOR SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, ECONOMIC DEMOCRACY AND COMMUNITY OWNERSHIP.”

They are working on three interconnected cooperative initiatives: a federation of local business cooperatives, a cooperative education and training center (The Lumumba Center for Economic Democracy and Development) and a cooperative bank. No red-lining with this bank!!

Cooperation Jackson has three businesses in the works: Freedom Farms, Nubia’s Café and Catering Cooperative and a recycling and composting cooperative. You can imagine how one supports the other!

Cooperation Jackson points to the values that sustain their work:

  • The values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity.
  • In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

When you create a network of cooperatives and urban policies that support them, you get a SOLIDARITY ECONOMY. This solidarity economy is growing up all over Latin America and Europe. A Solidarity Economy is the scaffolding for real democratic participation, and real sustainable development.

  • Cooperative Principles include the following
  • Voluntary and Open Membership
  • Democratic Member Control
  • Sovereignty of Labor
  • Autonomy and Independence
  • Instrumental and Subordinated Character of Capital
  • Members’ Economic Participation
  • Self-Management
  • Pay Solidarity
  • Internal Cooperation – Cooperation within the Federation of Cooperative Jackson
  • External Cooperation – Cooperation among Cooperatives
  • Education, Training and Information
  • Social Transformation

Here’s a working definition of a cooperative: It is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

Gary actually has a long history of African-American cooperatives, beginning in the Great Depression. There were consumer cooperatives, farm cooperatives, and even cooperative banks. Do we have the building blocks for cooperative development? Most certainly. Consider this:

Every church, mosque or temple has many great contributing chefs, women usually who cook and donate. If we were to bring 10 of these women together, they could cook up a storm. If they understood a little bit about in-sourcing cheaper raw materials and marketing what they produce, they could gain income as a catering coop. That doesn’t happen overnight; it takes some organization, education and training. But it brings income and builds community!

So let’s do a “what if”: do we have in Gary a dozen workers who can fix cars, [stop after each] who can do home repairs, who can cook, sew garments, landscape, clean, build furniture, etc. The advantage of coops and a Solidarity Economy is that a group can do more, deal with ups and downs better, buy cheaper and sell cheaper and rebuild our communities.

Can a coop compete with a capitalist corporation? Quite a few have succeeded although most are locally-based. They organize and work locally and become an economic network that helps sustain communities on the local level. But there must be more than one, there has to be cooperation among them and city policies have to favor local producers over outsiders.

I end where I began: Community wealth produced by community members remains in the community!! Cooperatives are a viable alternative to gentrification or development as displacement. Cooperatives build sustainable communities.

Ruth Needleman
Professor Emerita
NWI Federation of Interfaith Organizations

MaiaCo in Gary Update – 24 Aug

MaiaCo has announced the first three project areas where they plan to obtain and consolidate properties for redevelopment in Gary. From west to east they are:

  • The southern section of Black Oak, south of the Borman Expressway (I-80/94), between Chase and Burr Streets
  • The Broadway corridor between the Toll Road (I-90)
  • The Aetna neighborhood, south of US-20

Properties owned by the school board and housing authority will be exempt and will continue to fester for some time I imagine. The redevelopment director claims that no residents or businesses will be displaced.


Gary gadfly Jim Nowacki has filed a lawsuit in Lake Superior Court claiming collusion. This link from the NWI Gazette features his injunction and a copy of the city’s Request for Proposals from May 2016.

According to the NWI Times:

“[Nowacki] said employees and agents of the city provided information for MaiaCo that was not available to other bidders prior to the bids being submitted. Nowacki also contends that MaiaCo’s proposal did not contain some of the information sought in the request for proposals.”

Maiaco’s president took a dig on Nowacki, saying he was “not surprised someone who owns more than 300 tax-delinquent properties would have issues with what the GRC (Gary Redevelopment Commission) is doing to … eliminate blight … and transform Gary. What he should do, instead of filing a lawsuit, is pay his back taxes.”

Nowacki countered that he is legally challenging what he says are unfairly high assessment rates.


The NWI Gazette noted that former KFW insider BR Lane was seen in town. Could she be tapped for MaiaCo’s ‘community liason’ job?


THE YUPPIES ARE COMING! And The Region I knew is dying. While Gary is not discussed except as a transit reference look for more of this neocolonistic attitude to creep in from Chicago.

Laborpaste In Gary

While driving through Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood in last days of January 2016 I was delighted to see a familiar face. It was that of Eugene Debs, legendary Hoosier radical, looking triumphant and happy, waving his hat from the first floor fire-escape of a boarded-up tenement. The life-size photograph was from the day of his release from prison in February 1921 after serving three years for sedition for his outspoken opposition to the Great War.

More familiar faces greeted me when I returned to Pullman in May. Dolores Huerta, another Debs, a piercing-eyed Pullman porter (which honestly I first thought was someone peeing in the alley), and even more labor heroes appearing beyond the immediate neighborhood: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, A Philip Randolph, a young Caesar Chavez, Lucy Parsons, even Debs’ beloved hunting dog Babe.

I was in the neighborhood that day to help with an art-build for the upcoming Break Free Midwest protest. Some kind Pullman artists offered us space in the massive former Pullman Administration Building, now a national park. As I explained how excited I was to see Debs to the man unlocking the building he turned to me and said, “Well I put them up!”

His name is JB Daniels, the project is called Laborpaste, and it has since expanded to Terre Haute (Debs’ hometown) and now Gary, Indiana. Here’s JB at his home studio in Pullman:

In the spirit of the project we’ll let you find these for yourself and we’ll enjoy watching them fade away over time.

Gary Designated Project Areas

This morning I received a 6 page PDF entitled “Exhibit B – Designated Project Areas” from a colleague. While no party is attributed on the document the language is that used by Maiaco representatives and their cronies in Gary, the clearest indication yet of which parts of Gary the city plans to hand over to the Chicago-based company for private redevelopment.

Not surprisingly the Broadway corridor in downtown (DPA 1) and Midtown (DPAs 4-6) factors prominently. The area in DPAs 4-5 never recovered from urban renewal projects schemes in the 1950s. The entire area south of 25th Avenue (“The 2-5” – DPA 6) is marked for redevelopment.

The neighborhood east of Ambridge is marked in DPA 2, and the eastern half of the Emerson neighborhood is marked in DPA 3.

On Gary’s far west side, DPA 8 marks the southern end of Black Oak.

On Gary’s far east side, DPA 9-A marks the entire Aetna neighborhood. DPA 9-B marks a small diamond-shaped area between downtown Miller and the Glen Ryan neighborhood. This area includes playground manufacturer Kidstuff and CARGO, the Calumet Artist Residency Gallery + Orchard.

DPA 7 is missing.

The Flaws in Joe Van Dyk’s Plan

by Gary Free Press
28 July 2016

[ed. note – Joe Van Dyk is the Gary Redevelopment Commission Executive Director]

So he stated over and over that every year there are 12,000 Gary properties on the tax sale. He repeatedly said that one in every five properties is on the tax sale every year.

So here’s a little math:

In total, there are approximately 55,000 parcels that comprise Gary. To start with, the Lake County Auditor lists around 17,000 in a tax-exempt status. (a great percentage of this 17,000 number are owned by some government entity, mostly some entity of the City of Gary. Also, the City of Gary has been acquiring 300-500 parcels per year through various methods, so this 17,000 number is certainly higher by now as the information from the Auditor’s office was received over 5 years ago.) So this leaves 38,000 to comprise Gary’s tax base.
So if as Mr. Van Dyk claims there are 12,000 Gary parcels on the tax sale every year, then instead of one in every five parcels that comprise Gary’s tax base being in tax delinquent status, it is more like one in every three parcels!

So what is Mr. Van Dyk’s solution? What is the MaiaCo plan? What is the Freeman-Wilson Administration’s master plan? To in its first year acquire 5000 more parcels and shift them to a tax-exempt status–indefinitely!
If MaiaCo does what they say in their proposal and acquires 5000 more parcels, then the total number of parcels in the city in a tax-exempt status will soar to 22,000. And surely they plan to continue acquiring in their second, third, fourth years and so on. But for now, let’s just concentrate on the numbers they stated in their proposal, the 5000. So then, out of the 55,000 total parcels, 22,000 will be in a tax-exempt status–not tax delinquent, tax-exempt–with no possible chance of producing taxes.

So assuming the 5000 will lower the 12,000 from the tax sale number to 7000 (unless tax default continues to climb) the number of properties which will comprise the city’s tax base will be around 26,000. The number of parcels in the city which will not be contributing to the city’s tax base will be about 29,000.

So what he does not tell you is that his plan–the MaiaCo plan, the Daley plan–depends on eviscerating an already severely depleted tax base. And what he doesn’t say outright, but certainly can easily be gleaned from anyone listening to one of his dog and pony shows is that this “plan” will take many years to bear fruit. In fact, he implies that it may take ten years or more to come to pass. (they even say that part of the plan will involve planting trees on vacant lots to be harvested once they mature 15 years down the road)

So as his team voraciously acquires property from the private sector, and as they do, instantly transfer it to a tax-exempt status, the burden shifts to the remaining taxpayers to shoulder the burden of costs to operate the city. So in numbers, less than half of the owners of property will be paying the freight for the more than half that pays nothing whatsoever–nor is required to.

So gutting the city’s tax base is not just some unintended consequence, it is the key component of their plan. And they don’t see any problem with it. They don’t worry about not being able to provide the services residents desperately need to survive. They could literally not care less about that. If they did, the city would not look the way it does. The pools would be open. The parks would be usable. The police cars wouldn’t be falling apart. The fire trucks wouldn’t be running on bald tires. The sewers wouldn’t be collapsing from one end of the city to the other. The sidewalks would be walkable. The streets would not be crumbling. The streetlights wouldn’t be burned out or knocked down. In short, if they cared a bit about the residents of the city, it would not be disintegrating before everyone’s eyes.

So this “innovative” proposal to further destroy the city’s anemic tax base has no plan contained within it to provide these sorely needed services. Nowhere have they even been mentioned. How are Gary’s residents supposed to live while this plan takes shape? And what if it doesn’t take shape? What if it fails? What if it turns out to just be another scam like GUEA was? After all, it is really just a grown-up version of the GUEA plan. (If anyone doesn’t not remember how that turned out, take a stroll through the Emerson neighborhood!) It was the same thing: aggressive property acquisition; promised redevelopment; all the same buzzwords; but what did we get? A thoroughly destroyed neighborhood with massive blight and abandonment. And 15 years after the implementation of the GUEA plan in Emerson, it is virtually a ghost town. Occupancy of that neighborhood is probably down to 25% (When GUEA stated their “plan” it was approximately 75% occupied.)

But while this administration knows full well about how flawed their plan is, they will attempt to spoon-feed everyone the same pap about development this and development that; but what they won’t tell you is that even if they were able to attract some development, any new development of any scale will be requesting a tax abatement. And in most every case a large development would be eligible to receive one; and anyone that has been watching city council meetings knows, is that the city council hands these out like penny candy. Typical tax abatements are for 10 years, meaning they increase 10% per year until they pay 100%. In effect, the petitioner gets 5 years tax free over the course of the tax abatement.

This is not an innovate solution. This is not creative thinking outside the box. This is the resurrection of a plan that has already failed miserably.

An innovative solution would include detailed plans on how to rebuild the city’s withered tax base. And it should not require its further destruction by the city!

Any plan should be able to tell residents how they will be provided for while Joe Van Dyk and Daley and his team work their magic. Being told everything will be all right and not to worry does not count as a plan.

Worry people! This horribly flawed plan puts the nail in the coffin. But that’s really what the goal is. The more unlivable the city is, the more abandonment; the more foreclosures; the more tax defaults; the more prey for MaiaCo to swoop down on.

Because their plan revolves entirely around property acquisition. If any development happens to occur, it is a byproduct. If they really had developers on the hook, why don’t they march them in now? Why don’t these developers just acquire the property themselves? Wouldn’t it be faster and easier to just buy it from the people that own it now? Or will these developers only come if MaiaCo is in control of everything?
More than anything, Joe Van Dyk’s sideshow leaves everyone with questions. But he has no real answers. And it is hard not to miss the irony of listening to him drone on about how to redevelop the city when he, has never developed anything in his life. He has never even been directly involved in any development. To him, demolition is development. To him, government agencies are development partners.

His plan leads residents not just down some bumpy road on their way to salvation, it leads residents on a road straight to perdition.

And finally, Daley should be ashamed of himself. He came to Gary, according to Freeman-Wilson, at her request. He came under the guise of altruism. That he has a thing in his heart for the city. But now, it seems painfully obvious that he has been making plans to feather his own nest all along. And oh how all of those starry-eyed University of Chicago students got used to set this selfish plan into motion. There is no altruism here, more likely sheer avarice. This plan is not based on charity or compassion as we were earlier led to believe, profits alone are what is its driving force. This probably will not come as a huge to surprise to anyone.

So Gary citizens beware. Because one day you may wake up and the city you now call home may no longer feel like home.

The MaiaCo Contract: A Neo-Colonial Nightmare

by Ruth Needleman
1 August 2016

[ed. note – the parenthetical citations refer to page numbers on the MaiaCo contract, which we will publish when we obtain a digital copy.]

This is an introduction to the MaiaCo contract. To begin with, MaiaCo will be assuming major responsibilities for the development of large areas of Gary. In fact, think of MaiaCo as our new private corporate Mayor and Redevelopment Commission in charge of deciding and implementing Gary’s future development.

The City will reimburse MaiaCo for every penny and minute it spends (100%) and then will give MaiaCo 65% of any income from land leases or sales to third parties, whether or not MaiaCo directly arranges the transaction, if it occurs within a “Designated Project Area.” The word “profit” does not appear anywhere. The new term is “Transaction Proceeds.” The “Designated Project Areas” will be mapped out over time, although within 30 days, the GRC and MaiaCo will “prepare an annual plan outlining the key strategic priorities, assignment of responsibilities and projected delivery of Resources.” Resources means time, work, materials and money committed to the project. It will be like paying for a private shadow government.

Once an area is designated, MaiaCo will take over all lands belonging to the GRC, and will have the GRC acquire all lands available through tax sales or otherwise. MaiaCo will bundle and sell or lease areas acquired to third parties for development. MaiaCo selects and oversees the third party developers, but it is not so clear who oversees MaiaCo.

How much community participation? Basically not much, unless you are considered to be a major stakeholder. [“ensure active participation by key stakeholders.”] (1) At our expense, MaiaCo will hire a Gary resident to open an office in the City, provide quarterly reports, and show up at selected public and private meetings. MaiaCo will produce a community involvement plan, which will enable MaiaCo to participate in any community initiative within the Redevelopment Area. This guarantees MaiaCo involvement in all economic activities in the Area; it does not guarantee the community itself any degree of participation. (13)

How about local hiring? The Contract only provides for the possible hiring of local businesses, contractors and subcontractors, but there are exemptions galore. For example, any business already working with MaiaCo will not have to meet any requirements for local hiring. Not MaiaCo but its contracted businesses will have to document efforts to hire locally. “Local” means Gary first, then East Chicago and Hammond, but “local” also means “businesses with a significant pre-existing presence in the Northwest Indiana region.” (3) So even though MiaiCo is “brand new,” local businesses have to already have an established record.

In addition, MaiaCo “may elect to engage a non Local contractor, despite the availability of a Local option, should MiaiCo reasonably determine that the cost or quality of the services to be delivered justify such a decision.” (4) MaiaCo gets to decide on a case by case basis.

Its contractors have to document efforts to hire local businesses to show “a good faith effort.” We all know what a good faith effort is! The contract includes percentage goals (20% local minority, disadvantaged, veteran businesses and 5% women-owned businesses), but not requirements.

Section 2 of the Contract outlines all the “Resources” that Maiaco will provide, everything from a new zoning plan to detailed architectural planning services, legal advice, infrastructure recommendations, preparation of documents, purchase and maintenance of lands and so on. MaiaCo will even assist and advise the GRC on any sale of property to any bidders, and be paid for it. Their only obligation to local hiring: “MaiaCo will be expected to take those commercially reasonable actions as agreed to by the parties in assisting and encouraging third party developers to achieving participation of local businesses.” (12)

Do we know who is part of MaiaCo? The materials identified only top officers, all white men, not one from Gary. But who are MaiaCo’s “affiliates, partners, joint venture partners, directors, shareholders, members, managers, officers, agents, attorneys, employees, mortgagees, successors and assigns and their respective partners…etc.”

When do we find out who will be taking our money, who will be benefitting from this Contract? Usually when a major RFP like this gets only one acceptable bid, the RFP goes out again. But this contract was rigged way ahead of time.

The MaiaCo principals all claim to have “proven and longstanding commitment to the City.” When will we see a list of all the projects in which people from MaiaCo have “successfully worked with the GRC and the City of Gary”?

What is missing is oversight, accountability and transparency. Without an outside Community Enforcement Mechanism, Gary will become the colonial creation of neo-liberal big money Chicago interests. A suburb of Chicago??? Will the history, traditions, culture and creations of Gary people be stripped away, replaced by gentrified housing and commercial interests unappealing to Chicago? Will the people of Gary, called in this document “legacy residents,” be pushed aside and sent packing? Gary has turned over the reigns of the City to a Mayor and his ilk who drove 65,000 African Americans out of Chicago to make way for “redevelopment.”