Lake County politicians must have developed a critical case of "arrogance envy" watching the drama of the attempted sale of a U.S. Senate seat unfold in neighboring Cook County.
Otherwise I am at a loss to explain the taxpayer-paid purchase of a 2009 Hummer H3 by Gary Mayor Rudy Clay in the same time frame as his Monday trip to Indianapolis to plead with the state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board for relief from new property tax caps.
That is $29,970 to replace his "old" Hummer, which had apparently become too much of an embarrassment to drive around the Steal City.
"What do you want me to do, walk around here?" he asked Times reporter Christine Kraly. "I've got to have a car."
The mayor of Gary makes $107,000 a year, before perks. Clay cut that 20 percent to show solidarity with other city employees, who also had to take a 20 percent cut. Of course, they were making about one-quarter of that to begin with, but that's another story.
He can't buy a car out of the $85,600 he is left with?
And let's not forget the $36,419 wife Christine Clay is paid as head of the county's weights and measures department, the $31,000 Rudy is paid as the Gary Sanitary District's "special administrator" and the $30,000 Rudy Clay Jr. gets to be sanitary district photographer, which conjures up interesting photo ideas.
That's $183,019 in annual household income in a city where the median annual household income is $27,195, says the U.S. Census Bureau.
No, I don't want him to walk around Gary. I want him to buy his own car.
"I put my own gas in this Hummer. It's one of the cheapest SUVs. So what's the problem?" he asked Kraly. "There's a bigger issue than the Hummer I'm driving. "We've got major, major financial issues over here in Gary.
"We're saving taxpayers money by riding in a Hummer. I could've bought a $50,000 Expedition."
Yeah, it's got to be an SUV because it's not worth the effort to pimp out a Ford Escort.
I'd like readers to try an experiment, and I'm asking you to do it because I am afraid to.
Buy something totally extravagant and out of line with your household budget, tell your spouse you actually saved money by not buying something even more expensive, then let me know how that works out for you.
The country is in its present economic situation largely because greedy people bought stuff they could not afford from greedy people who sold it to them.
And we are looking at politicians for a solution?
The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at email@example.com or (219) 933-4170.