Open Letter to the City, dated January 10, 2005
The following is a memo found in the papers left behind by ex-City Councilmen Frank Kollintzas from a resident of his district.
To: Mayor Pabey
CC: East Chicago City Council Members
Subject: Coordinating efforts
I encourage East Chicago to adopt the Marquette Greenway Proposal as a master framework for the redevelopment in East Chicago and from which all future projects and opportunities address. This is a great regional initiative offering vision and opportunities for East Chicago as it enters into a period of transition. This will require amending East Chicago’s Five Year Consolidated Plan, East Chicago’s zoning practices and the coordination of several primary city departments including: The East Chicago Planning Commission, Building and inspection, Housing and Redevelopment, and most importantly Business Development. This is a historic proposal that is infinitely doable and you are in the right place at the right time to prepare the groundwork.
For more than a century East Chicago has benefited from the steel economy and survived its adverse externalities. East Chicago has survived the technological advances that increase productivity but also translated into employment downsizing. It survived globalization that made this industry more competitive but translated into shipping jobs oversees. And it is surviving pollution, poverty, crime and corruption that translated into damaging the quality of life for all who live here. Since the first signs of decline in the steel industry in the early 1970’s East Chicago developed a diet for bottom feeding on the American economy, attracting the nations most undesirable industries in an effort to keep the community viable. It hasn’t worked. What it has brought about are decades of increased levels of pollution, poverty, crime, continued erosion of land for future development, and again lowering the quality of life for those who live here.
Our future depends on how we manage our way through this transition, including how we remember and forget the past. Before all else we need a coordinated plan and we need to work in concert to ensure that no one governing entity trades against this shared vision – knowingly or unknowingly. This also means that East Chicago involves itself more aggressively in regional initiative such as the Marquette Greenway Proposal, and the Gary/Chicago Airport. I worry that the lack of East Chicago evolvement of in the Gary/Chicago Airport will not only leave East Chicago out of opportunities but also bring the main runway up against Prairie Park. This would destroy any future plans we would have for the neighborhoods in the Harbor. Along with planning we need to be vigilant.
East Chicago has several great assets to build on as we manage our way through this transition. We still have a viable steel economy, although contracting as it may. We have our location on Lake Michigan. We have the reason this region was first exploited by industry – our juxtaposition to Chicago. We have a truly diverse culture. And we have our place in the historic heritage of the Calumet Region. A good start.