Residents Propose Secession From Struggling Gary, Indiana

<p>Citing the city's poor economic stature, residents of a section of Gary, Indiana, are proposing that they split from the city. Some say race and class differences are the undercurrents spurring the idea.</p>
August 28, 2007, 7am PDT | Nate Berg
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"In recent weeks, a heated, sometimes passionate conversation has unfolded over whether Miller should legally divorce Gary. The idea has been batted around before, but in more abstract ways. This time, some residents are working on a formal plan, circulating fliers and researching how much time and money it would take to break away."

"The discussion illustrates how frustrated some taxpayers and homeowners are with Gary government and an image of struggling schools, corruption and high crime. Crime statistics still rank the city as one of the nation's most violent. Test scores in public schools are below the national average, and recently the state ordered city leaders to cut $11 million from the budget."

"'The city of Gary is in terrible financial shape, and it's not due to the amount of money they collect,' said Nat McKnight, who's trying to gauge interest in the idea of breaking away. 'They are not willing to economize and protect the tax base. That's what disannexation is all about. It might be better for Gary and Miller if this comes to pass.'"

"Still, the discussion has unleashed strong emotions in this laid-back region. Those in favor of splitting say that they are not rich, but the idea of formal separation looks to some like the wealthy removing themselves from the poor. And in a polarized city, some can't help but see racial undertones to the idea, true or not. The city is majority African-American, and many of those leading the discussion about separating are white."

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Published on Monday, August 27, 2007 in The Chicago Tribune
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