The ushering in of a new year always brings a certain amount of planning and anticipation, but 2019 will be especially exciting. This year brings municipal elections to our city, with the offices of mayor, city clerk and all nine city council positions up for election. Naturally, one of the most frequent questions I have been hearing lately is, "Mayor, are you going to run again?"
Well, I wanted you to hear it from me first: Yes, I am running for a fifth term as mayor of Hammond. I intend to file candidacy papers this week, and I hope Hammond residents greet this news with the same excitement that I have toward remaining as your mayor for another four years.
Serving the residents of Hammond is the best job I've ever had and most likely the best job I will ever hold. I'm sure very few people, including me, thought the fresh-faced 34-year-old you elected in 2003 would still be your mayor in 2018. Why do I believe I deserve your vote in 2019? First and foremost, because I always put Hammond first in every situation. I fight for our city every day, and I’m not afraid to let other people and elected officials know that.
Another reason that I ask for your continued support is because of the tremendous experience I now have to tackle the many tough challenges that lie ahead.
The next term (2020 through 2023) will bring many new challenges to cities across Indiana, and Hammond will need an experienced, steady hand to guide our city through these four years.
Why do I predict that the next four years will be challenging? Because the upcoming tax caps will take full effect in 2020 and will profoundly change the way cities and other government entities around Lake County do business. The tax revenue used to pay our police officers, firefighters and other city workers will suffer a big hit, with Hammond projected to lose over $5 million annually. That loss will leave a large hole in the budget that needs to be addressed with creativity and ingenuity. After 15 years as your mayor, I may be older, but I am also wiser, and that priceless experience will benefit our residents and our city.
Keep in mind that our golden goose, casino gaming, is under attack as well. Our neighbor to the west (Illinois) is positioning itself to build a casino that will compete with Hammond's Horseshoe Casino (Indiana’s largest and most profitable gaming facility.) Also, our neighbor to the east (Gary) is asking the Indiana Legislature to permit them to build a land-based casino just off the 80/94 interstate. As mayor, I will continue to fight to make sure that Hammond continues to thrive in the gaming industry and continues to use its casino revenues wisely to support its infrastructure, public safety and education.
There are many important issues facing our city at this very moment. We face a financial crunch with the upcoming tax caps, set to hit in 2020. Our neighbors to the west and east are trying to change gaming laws so they can better compete for Hammond’s casino dollars. These two looming challenges, along with a myriad of other complex issues, mean that Hammond needs an experienced leader who will navigate the rough waters that face us in the 2020s. I believe I am that person.
I love being your mayor. This job is extremely rewarding, but can also be frustrating and complicated. A mayor is responsible for setting the agenda for the next four years of city government, working with the elected members of the city council, and running the day-to-day operations of Hammond’s 900 city employees. Knowledge , experience and leadership are key attributes for the person holding this position.
After 15 years of being your mayor, you know that I’m a fighter. You also know that I am proud to lead this great city of ours. Serving you, the residents of Hammond, has been the honor of my lifetime, and I ask for your continued support.