MARK KIESLING: End of the line for E.C. gravy train

2011-03-27T00:00:00Z MARK KIESLING: End of the line for E.C. gravy train nwitimes.com
March 27, 2011 12:00 am

East Chicago is sometimes referred to as the Twin Cities because there really are two towns with their own character separated by geographical barriers.

On one side you have Indiana Harbor, while on the other you have what's always been called East Chicago. It's all one city for political purposes, but a lot of people there (and from there) define themselves as being from the Harbor or from E.C.

One thing both shared, though, was that for decades they were Fat City.

Businesses such as Inland Steel and Youngstown Sheet and Tube paid the freight for a city budget way out of proportion to its population. If you couldn't get a job with the city, you were probably mentally deficient or a Republican, and more often than not the latter.

But even the Republicans were Democrats. Just ask anyone who dealt with the Dahlins or the Cantrells.

And the legit businesses were supplemented with the rackets, policy wheels and bolita. A streetcar ran right to the Big House, the center of illegal gambling activity that operated around the clock in the Harbor.

But alas, Fat City is no more. The problem is that some people have failed to recognize that and move ahead to a new day.

The mills no longer pay the taxes they did thanks to readjustments mandated earlier this decade. The old-time gambling is gone, replaced by the legal "gaming" aboard the lakefront casino boat.

For some reason, though, there are people who continue to treat the East Chicago taxpayer as their private bank. And now the time has come for the piper to be paid, and they're not happy.

The latest in line to get a bill from the piper has been the East Chicago Public Library, long a patronage haven. The mayor appoints some of the board, and while the school board appoints others, the School Board is appointed by ... the mayor. You get the idea.

Anyhow, now the Indiana State Board of Accounts has launched an investigation into what's happened to tens of thousands of dollars, including trips by former library Director Manny Montalvo that apparently served no library purpose.

Montalvo, who since has been canned by the new board, said he will repay anything he took that cannot be substantiated.

State regulators also have found former and current library trustees getting tens of thousands of dollars in individual insurance policies in apparent violation of state regulation.

Deputy State Examiner Michael Bozymski, who served the bill, said it's not the end.

The only thing it is the end of is, we can only hope, is the gravy train that has been rolling through East Chicago for decades at the expense of the taxpayer, both corporate and individual.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at mark.kiesling@nwi.com or (219) 933-4170. 

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