Lake County Sheriff John Buncich has joined Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson's call for the state to help raze 10,000 abandoned buildings in the city. Those two voices need others locally to form a chorus of support for the effort.
Buncich argues the abandoned buildings foster crime in the city, and he's right.
"In many cases, vacant properties are used for illicit gang and drug activities and are also a danger to the residents within these neighborhoods," Buncich said in a letter to Gov. Mike Pence last week. "In my opinion, one major step to help fight crime in the city of Gary, short of additional state police deployment, would be to demolish and eradicate many of these abandoned buildings."
Short of additional state police deployment? Why make this mutually exclusive?
The calls for the Indiana National Guard to raze those buildings predates both Pence and Freeman-Wilson. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan claimed the National Guard's equipment, the late Mayor Rudy Clay had said, so that hope was crushed.
With the United States withdrawing troops from those countries, that equipment should once again become available.
But why should this be exclusively a state effort? There should be local assistance, too. Let's get the broader community involved in razing these derelict buildings.
As long as these abandoned buildings stand, they will be monuments to decay and a deterrent to economic development. Remove them, and the city's economic landscape can change.
Freeman-Wilson's administration has made some progress in using federal money to knock down buildings, but there's a long way to go.
Who's going to organize a regional effort to quickly demolish those buildings? The person or organization to do so, whether it's Pence, the National Guard, local churches or a coalition of local labor unions and construction companies, will deserve respect for making a significant change for the better in Gary.
The time for action is here. Where are the local voices in support of it? Where are the local actions to back up those convictions?
The future of Gary, and of all of Northwest Indiana, requires more local support, including support for razing these obstacles to progress.