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Since its founding, East Chicago has been a city with great bones for development and success.

With Mayor Anthony Copeland at the helm, it finally has a leader who knows how to use those bones as a frame for a better future in Lake County's struggling urban core.

Copeland is seeking his third term as mayor in the May 7 Democratic primary election, and city voters should give him that chance.

He's opposed by John Aguilera, a former state legislator and former Lake County councilman who is a familiar face in Region political circles.

Copeland is the stronger candidate.

As mayor, he's delivered a balanced budget in a once economically struggling city for five years straight.

In 2019 alone, he ushered in $30 million in investment in a citywide street project.

Since taking the mayor's chair, Copleand also has presided over the erasing of a $15 million debt, flipping the tables 180 degrees into a $15 million fiscal surplus.

He's helped engineer $300 million in public-private investment over several years — money funneled toward the city's once-aging and crumbling infrastructure.

Under Copeland's watch, the city has resurfaced 60 to 70 percent of its streets, not including the drainage and sewer systems that have been upgraded underneath.

He helped broker the Cline Avenue bridge replacement, which is set to soon reopen as a toll bridge that will kick a portion of revenue back into city coffers and more importantly reopen a needed traffic artery.

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Marina improvements, investment in parks, a viable and usable beach on the lakefront — these all are hallmarks of Copeland's tenure.

Quality of life and sense of place have improved with drops in crime over seven consecutive years. Some 800 security cameras installed in strategic city locations have served as both a deterrent to and a means of catching criminals.

And a city-sponsored home ownership program has helped draw in 275 new homeowners over four years by offering down payment aid of $10,000 for residents buying an existing East Chicago home and $25,000 for building a new home.

Those numbers go up to $15,000 and $30,000, respectively, for city employees seeking to become homeowners.

While his opponent, Aguilera, has past experience as a government leader, he's not the right candidate for the city.

Some of Aguilera's past actions have given us pause.

In 2003, Aguilera faced criticism when he continued claiming his East Chicago residence for his elected government office but claimed the address of a second home in Munster so his daughter could attend public school there without paying the appropriate out-of-town tuition.

About that time, Aguilera also was caught claiming a homestead exemption on that Munster home, even though such exemptions are only for a taxpayer's primary residence.

While these things occurred several years ago, they're not blemishes an invested future city leader should have on his background.

Copeland is an easy choice for East Chicago voters in the May primary and in the November general election.

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Members of The Times Editorial Board are Publisher Christopher T. White, Editor Marc Chase, Deputy Editor Kerry Erickson, Regional News Editor Sharon Ross, Assistant Deputy Editor Andrew Steele.