“I don’t want my money paying them. They are goons!” the 4th Ward resident said heatedly of the Indianapolis security firm hired by the Michigan City School Board to provide security for students, employees and school property in case of a strike by teachers.
“I’ve been fuming all day, and I think everyone else feels the same way,” said McAnally, who lives on Chestnut Street. “I haven’t talked to anyone who hasn’t resented our tax dollars going to pay for something like that. Everyone you will talk to resents the fact that they brought those men up from Indianapolis. They are goons.”
McAnally is far from alone in her anger about recent School Board decisions. More than any other issue, 4th Ward residents recently cited the School Board as their prime source of frustration in Michigan City.
Sore spots include the board’s ongoing contract dispute with the district’s teachers, who have been working without a contract for more than a year; the $62,000 the board has spent on attorney fees during the fruitless labor negotiations; and the possible closure of Elston High School and three to five elementary schools.
"The School Board should be impeached"
Residents expressed frustration with the board, blaming it for wasting money during a time when teacher layoffs and school closures have been considered.
“We think the taxes are much too high and that the School Board should be impeached,” said Oretha Snyder, 110 Boyd Circle. “I don’t know anybody that’s destroyed the city as much as the School Board.”
“I think the School Board is the ruination of Michigan City. I mean, $62,000 for an attorney!” added her husband, M.J. Snyder. “They keep spending $1,000 here, $10,000 there, $100,000 there.”
“For all this money that they’re dishing out, they could have gotten an insurance package for the teachers,” said a Barker Road man who asked not to be named.
McAnally believes industries seeking to relocate are repelled by the ongoing controversies surrounding the board.
“We’ve been here for several years, and we’ve seen a lot of industry leave town,” she said. “I believe industries look at the school system before moving here. That was one of the first things we started asking about before we even came to Michigan City.”
Other residents voiced a deeper frustration with city politics as a whole, a sense that officials are more caught up in their own political survival than in bettering the city. Diana Sennett, 318 Euclid Ave., said she is tired of listening to politicians argue while some of the city’s needs remain unfulfilled.
“I’d like to see less political bickering and more pure interest in the needs of the people,” Sennett said.
An alarming increase in crime
In the upcoming general election on Nov. 5, 4th Ward residents will choose between Republican Randall Miller, the incumbent councilman, and Democrat Eric Frageman to represent them on the City Council.
Miller, a former Michigan City mayor, is an accountant who owns and operates Miller Tax Service, 815 Franklin St. Frageman is a real estate agent with Replogle Real Estate, 2706 Franklin St.
Voters will be looking for their councilman to address a variety of issues. While the council has no direct control over the tensions surrounding the School Board, many 4th Ward residents interviewed placed an increase in crime and a lack of employment opportunities high on their lists of concerns about the city.
A Boyd Circle woman who asked not to be named said the city has seen an alarming increase in crime over the years her family has lived here, including several burglaries in her Edgewood neighborhood.
“We used to never lock our doors,” she said. “I can’t believe there’s as much crime in Michigan City as there is.”
Don Simpson, 317 Hickory St., agreed that crime had increased and wondered where the much-heralded police foot patrols were. “I asked the mayor,” Simpson said. “I said, ‘You better do something, because it’s an election year.’”
Simpson said he would be willing to pay more in taxes to make the city a safer place. “I’ll pay anything for safety,” he said. “Whatever you need to have so that your wife can go pay the utility bill without getting robbed.”
"It isn't like it used to be"
An Ohio Street woman complained that the city’s police officers were not responsive enough to the needs of the poor. Ruby Tarwater, 4316 Ohio St., said she has reported harassing phone calls and men stripping the siding off a relative’s house. Tarwater said police treated her scornfully when she called.
“It isn’t like it used to be,” Tarwater said. “You used to be able to call the cops and they’d help you. When you need someone, they should come out there. I know the police here have a hard job, but when they take it, they know what they’re getting into. They don’t have to be smart-alecky.”
Other residents targeted employment in Michigan City as a particularly weak area.
“There’s no work in this town,” said a Hickory Street man who would identify himself only as Bob.
Raking the leaves in his front lawn, Bob said he has been out of work since his employer, Joy Manufacturing, shut in 1988. “Instead of running industries out of town, they ought to bring some in,” he said. ‘
“We used to have a hell of a lot of jobs in this town,” Simpson said. “What we need are industries to come into Michigan City and make it a safe and prosperous city. With people working, they stay out of problems.”
“They need more jobs,” agreed Barbra Coyer, 614 Southwind Drive. “That’s the main thing about this town. There’s no place to work. Nobody’s making any money.”
Other residents had more mundane concerns. Like residents of other wards, they worried about traffic regulations that they said were either needed or not being enforced.
Sharon Applegate, 309 Euclid Ave., said the five-way intersection at Franklin Street and Coolspring and Euclid avenues has made her street unsafe for children. She said she wished the city would regulate traffic there more closely or shut the Euclid Street outlet.
“We love our area, but cars zoom through here like nothing,” she said. “I can’t let my kids outside at all. We’ve sent letters to city officials, but nothing’s been done. They didn’t even reply.”
Jeanette Edwards, 618 Southwind Drive, said traffic is troublesome on her street at the southern reaches of the city too. “They could watch the speeders on this road,” she said. “It’s like a speedway.”
While some residents said they were generally pleased with Michigan City, an equal number voiced deep disappointment with the city and its politics.
“I just wish we could have government and not politics,” Oretha Snyder said. “It’s too bad that people like us — we’re 75 — didn’t get serious about things years ago. We’ve lived here 36 years, and I don’t know why we’ve stayed here.”
“From the School Board to City Hall, I’m so sick of it,” said the man who lived on Barker Road. “People are moving out of town, they’re getting so sick of it.”