GARY, Ind. — Booker Blumenberg, the five-term Calumet Township assessor, withdrew from the race today in a move that underscored the bitter struggle between the state and local governments in Northwest Indiana.
Blumenberg was attacked by the Republican controlled State Department of Local Finance, which claimed that Blumenberg was incompetent, in response to his demands that big business in Calumet Township pay their share of taxes. For example, US Steel’s assessment in the past meant that they paid $70 million in local taxes. When the state took over that assessment process, US Steel’s local taxes fell to $15 million.
As in many areas, Gary here is struggling to keep the community functioning despite draconian cuts to public school funds and a lack of income for all needed services. Many in the community see it as being punished for being a key player in ensuring that Indiana went for President Obama in the last elections. The financial impact of the funding cuts and recent dramatic tax rise for residential homes is forcing many homeowners who can’t afford the taxes to move to other areas, further weakening the community and, with the diminishing school age population, the public schools.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, whose name is being put forward as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012, has been waging a relentless war against local government in order to strengthen Republican control over the Democratic areas of the state. Under the guise of “fiscal responsibility,” the governor is creating a state that may look good to Wall St. number crunchers but where working families are feeling tremendous pain and are struggling to fight back.
The people of Gary had begun to rally behind Booker Blumenberg in this struggle and pledge to continue. They say Mr. Blumenberg will be missed as the Township Assessor, but hope he’ll continue his principled struggle on behalf of the people of Calumet Township and Northwest Indiana.
Photo: A map of Lake County, Ind., which highlights the location of Calumet Township. Public domain.