Steve West is concerned about the cars that zoom through the stop signs near his house at Ninth and Wabash streets. Charles Lungren says the city’s disadvantaged residents desperately need an alternative to Harborside Homes.
And Helen Holtgren wishes the city would pick up the leaves that accumulate on her street each fall and tempt children to play dangerously near oncoming traffic.
“Sooner or later, a child is going to pay for it with his life, and some adult is going to have to live with the guilt,” she said.
The residents of the city’s 1st Ward say they want cleaner, safer streets, regular city services, and better housing for the ward’s elderly and poor residents. They say they don’t want to see the children of Harborside Homes playing in the streets.
And they want responsive leadership — a city councilman who will keep in touch with them after the election season is over.
With Councilman T.C. Falls, D-1st Ward, stepping down after two consecutive terms on the City Council, voters will have a chance in the Nov. 5 general election to select a new representative.
Choice between newcomers
Their choice will be between two political newcomers — Democrat Noel Friedley, the flamboyant businessman and power-boat racer who won the party’s nomination after a three-way primary in May, and Republican Edward Beutner, who ran uncontested for the GOP nomination. Beutner is part-owner of Quality TV and a sales associate with Shirley Kmiecik Realtors.
A number of 1st Ward residents interviewed last week indicated that when they go to the polls this fall, they will be looking for the candidate who can help make their day-to-day lives easier and more secure.
Steve West, who lives at 223 W. Ninth St., says his top concern is better enforcement of traffic laws in his area. Stop signs at the intersection of Ninth and Wabash streets didn’t prevent a two-car collision last year in his front yard.
The father of two young children, West said it is only a matter of time before someone is injured.
“You could stand here for an hour and see 12 cars go through that intersection,” he said from his front porch. “It’s school season. Someone’s going to get hurt and they’re going to get hurt badly.
“We need better street signs here. It’s bad, and it just scares me.”
Helen Holtgren, 507 York St., agreed that the city’s streets are dangerous places. In addition to the leaves that sit on the street in the autumn, she said, snow accumulates in the winter and sand in the summer. Both make the street perennially slippery, she said. “It’s an accident waiting to happen.”
Seeking responsive leadership
Holtgren said the problems may sound small, but they are important to the residents on the street. She said they have complained, to no apparent avail.
“I don’t expect the city to kowtow to every wish or desire, but at least they should look into it,” she said.
Slum landlords and vacant, boarded-up housing also draw the ire of 1st Ward residents. Barbara Zieski, 205 W. Ninth St., expressed frustration about a gutted building across the street that has yet to be torn down. Mark Macik, 408 York St., criticized a landlord who owns a deteriorating building in his area. The structure is a neighborhood trouble spot, he said.
“We’ve got a whole lot of run-down places in Michigan City,” said Amos Pumphery, 302 Union St. “They need fixing up. The whole city does.”
Also important, several voters said, are longer-range problems such as the need for more affordable housing and improving neighborhood pride.
Jose Ringo, 120 Union St., said younger 1st Ward residents would benefit from a neighborhood center, in which young people could gather to socialize. “That way, they wouldn’t have to be on Michigan Boulevard,” he said. “That looks real bad.”
Pursuing community pride
Charles Lungren, 409 Washington St., was adamant that a 1st Ward city councilman’s top priority should be improving the lot of the residents of Harborside Homes.
“They have no role models and no sense of pride in their community,” he said. “How can you be proud of living over there, by the bridge? You can’t. There’s nowhere to grow.
“We’re warehousing the black people of Michigan City. That has to stop.”
Lungren said he wants to see the council back an aggressive program of scattered- site public housing, in which the city would provide building materials to current Harborside residents and help them build their own homes.
“You can let anybody build his own house, and he’s going to have pride in it forever,” he said.