EDITORIAL: Honor Clay, but choose another path

2014-02-24T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Honor Clay, but choose another path nwitimes.com
February 24, 2014 12:00 am  • 

It's nice to see the late Rudy Clay be honored by the Indiana Senate, with the potential to rename Fifth Avenue in Gary in honor of the longtime politician who was so passionate about his city. But perhaps there's a better way to honor him.

Clay died June 4, 2013. He was 77. He packed a lot of public service into those years.

Clay was mayor from 2006 through 2011, leading Gary through the first stages of enforced austerity as state property tax caps, among other revenue restraints, forced the city to downsize government.

Prior to that, he served as Lake County commissioner, recorder, councilman and as an Indiana state senator.

He was the only African-American senator when he took office in 1973. He became the first African-American chairman of the Lake County Democratic Party in 2005.

Clay was asked by then-Gov. Otis Bowen to negotiate a hostage situation at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City in 1973. The siege ended after the inmates met with Clay.

He had many other accomplishments, too many to list here, and had a genuine passion for his city.

It's understandable that members of the Indiana General Assembly, not just Gary officials, would want to honor Clay.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 24, authored by state Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, is cosponsored by Reps. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, and Ed Soliday, R-Valparaiso. It urges the Indiana Department of Transportation to rename Fifth Avenue, or U.S. 20, in honor of Clay.

But Gary already has a Clay Street -- named for a different Clay -- so there's a strong potential for confusion if Fifth Avenue is actually renamed for the late mayor.

But perhaps another tribute to Clay is in order. Rename a building for him, just as the Lake County Courthouse in Gary was named for Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert D. Rucker. Or erect a statue of him, paid for by a benefactor rather than limited city funds. Or find some other way to honor his memory.

Just don't create confusion by giving Gary another Clay street.

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