There is something called a Friday afternoon news dump– news items come out at end of day when comments and statements are impossible to obtain.
Take note: The GEO Group and city officials have been working hard behind the scenes for over two years to build a For Profit detention center . Wednesday May 4th the Common Council is set to hear again, public testimony and vote. More deals and MOUs are coming to light, despite feigned ignorance of those voting that they had no knowledge.
This weekend all major political candidates will be in Indiana , many in the Region. TAKE ACTION. show up- challenge- ask for public comments where they stand. Call their offices to clarify the information given, Demand specifics about Indiana and about Gary. It IS Gary’s time.. we have much to offer instead of the empty promises of GEO group and back room dealings.
Bernie Sanders has always maintained he is against For profit prisons, saying at an Indpls rally “it is perverse for us to profit” from incarceration. Demand that Sanders addresses Gary and GEO
Hillary Clinton has taken money from GEO parent companies (or employees) demand she take a stand now, seeing the abuse and the economic havoc these facilities leave on communities when quotas cannot be filled.
Mike Pence and many GOP have also taken money from GEO- $20k to Pence this year alone. over $85k in the past 9 years. Ask questions!
John Gregg is mute on the issue.
Senatorial Candidates all over the state- some have taken contributions, some profited- some are publicly opposed. Eddie Melton declared his opposition weeks ago, others?
And perhaps most important. Educate yourselves. Don’t believe hype. Hell, don’t believe me –until you read the facts. And trust me, in the Region facts are hard to come by.
Basics: The day after the November 2015 election, the people of Gary first heard about the GEO group plans for re-zoning land near our expanding airport for a private prison. (mind you GEO had been trying in nearby Hobart for years). Within a few weeks, she withdrew support . GEO pulled the variance yet came back after new council seated. Most members and city officials publicly stated they had no knowledge of any dealings.
Yet, thanks to FOIA, here is the Memorandum of Understanding dated September 23, 2015, before election GEO.
Note: while the numbers may sound good to a job thirsty market, there is NO contract with DOJ for inmates. None. so it is empty wishful jobs– which is what we all want in the region- jobs.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some sort of contract would appear last minute- yet the MOU is based on occupancy rates. Many states have cancelled contracts with GEO, and cities have gone bankrupt as the cities are often on the hook for utilities, the tax increases, and property values diminish. The Northwest Indiana Gazette, citizen journalism outlines these here.
In November GEO withdrew their petition as citizens rallied. Blue collar, white collar, clergy collar.But when did they reapply? Who knows. But grab your scorecard.
At the April 12th Zoning Board meeting, the vote was 3-1 against the variance. Testimony included the chairman of the Airport Authority Board, former Lake county Sheriff, and Gary Diocesan Bishop Hying, Northwest Federation of Interfaith Clergy chair Rev. Cheryl Rivera, and former Mayor Richard Hatcher- all against.
The lone yes was from BZA President Rinzer Williams. Now Williams is also the legal counsel for the Gary Common Council. At he next Common Council meeting, a tie vote on the proposal second reading essentially made it dead.
However, as the video from the April 19th common council meeting shows, legal counsel, without being asked, approached a council member with information, That member, Herbert Smith, appointed to the council after a vacancy owns a Company that provides electronic monitoring – including to Lake County. Suddenly he brings to light a section of the bylaws and then is helped word a motion to continue the discussion.
The citation from Atty Rinzer Williams deals with committee votes, not council votes. Williams reads from Bylaws
Sec 2-217.c (below) which states (midway through section)
“.. in the event any ordinance is not reported favorably by a committee, prior to any meeting, any one member at the council meeting may request that the ordinance be brought out of committee at the next meeting, the ordinance shall be reported out favorably or unfavorably at the next regular meeting.”
This above section pertains to COMMITTEE reports and meetings. This vote was not a committee vote. He states that by not sending the ordinance to committee that is the same as an unfavorable report BY the committee. It is not the same.
Bottom line- we need to maintain vigilance. Our state matters. Our city matters. Our lives matter. Stay connected and stay involved.
There are events and meetings all over the Region this weekend. DO your part- we must be heard.