GARY | Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson brought a message of affirmation to all who are working to improve Gary on Wednesday during her annual State of the City address.
"While we have accomplished a number of goals, we have some unfinished business as well," Freeman-Wilson said.
The mayor said Gary is "making progress every day," but improving the city is a team sport. She challenged those who still sit on the sidelines to get involved.
"What are you going to do?" she said. "Will you continue to place side bets or do your part to get in the game?"
The mayor announced new programs aimed at curbing violent crimes, improving education and bolstering other aspects of the city.
She announced a new program through the Gary Police Department and the U.S. Marshals Service to help break the cycle of crime. The program would engage with active criminals to keep them in a more honest lifestyle, she said. She asked businesses and faith leaders to help by giving convicted felons a second chance.
Along with a proposed city ordinance requiring security cameras outside gas stations and convenience stores, the mayor said she hopes the police-U.S. Marshals partnership can help curb the high rate of violent crimes.
While addressing the audience Wednesday at the Genesis Convention Center, she said her administration has reached some goals set when she took office. But she said she was willing to recognize the goals she has not yet completed.
Freeman-Wilson expressed frustrations with delays to the demolition of the Sheraton Hotel and expansion of the Gary/Chicago International Airport. But she insisted she would be vigilant and push to complete those projects.
She shared a recent experience with the contractor hired to demolish the abandoned hotel, where the city insisted on working closely with environmental regulators and using local workers. When she heard contractors were bringing in workers from Michigan and not following environmental requirements, she said she called a meeting.
"I put the company on notice that before I allow them to jeopardize our relationship with environmental oversight regulators or ignore qualified citizens that I am entrusted to serve, that I would shut the project down," she said to rising applause.
Freeman-Wilson said the job she holds sometimes weighs her down, but her faith in God and the community keeps her going.
"There are some days that this job literally brings me to my knees,” Freeman-Wilson said. “But that is where my faith comes in — the faith that all things are possible with God and nothing is impossible without him.”