WBEZ | Merrillville http://www.wbez.org/tags/merrillville Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Snow, severe cold shuts down Northwest Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/snow-severe-cold-shuts-down-northwest-indiana-109472 <p><p>Northwest Indiana road conditions are improving but the area is far from normal and may be days away from recovering from an arctic blast of super cold temperatures.</p><p>Motorists and truckers had to deal with closed roads and highways for much of Monday, and after briefly reopening, by 5 p.m., INDOT had once again closed I-65 due to hazardous road conditions; I 80/94 remains open.</p><p>Earlier in the day trucker Tom Kenman of Joliet, IL passed the time in the cab of his semi truck listening to music and reading. Kenman works for a contractor that delivers mail for the U.S. Postal Service. He&rsquo;s ready to return home after being stuck at a Speedway gas station near Interstate 65 and 61st Avenue in Merrillville. As of this morning, it didn&rsquo;t look good for Kenman.</p><p>&ldquo;Things were kind of hazardous. About 6 p.m. (Sunday), things were hazardous so I jumped off on Route (U.S.) 30. I do maybe 20, 25 mph. That&rsquo;s it. Even before they shut it down, I decided forget it. I-65 is a mess. I don&rsquo;t know what I&rsquo;m going to do.</p><p>With most restaurants and businesses closed, even a nearby McDonald&rsquo;s, Kenman waited it out slurping Speedway&rsquo;s coffee and munching doughnuts.&nbsp;</p><p>I-65 was closed to all traffic yesterday afternoon because of heavy snow and slippery conditions. Semi trucks were lined up along U.S. 30 in Merrillville, waiting for I-65 to reopen, along with nearby Interstate 80/94.</p><p>Kenman and other truckers finally got some good news in the afternoon, when the Indiana Department of Transportation reopened I-65 around 2 p.m.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Drivers are advised to use extreme caution, take it slow, and travel at their own risk. Like the majority of roads across Northwest Indiana, and the state, conditions are extremely hazardous and non-emergency travel is strongly discouraged,&rdquo; said INDOT spokesman Matt Deitchley.</p><p>But the respite on I-65 was short-lived as officials would shut it down again only a few hours later.</p><p>Earlier in the day, Deitchley told WBEZ that some drivers had been driving around protective barriers to keep them off of I-94.</p><p>&ldquo;Those roads are shut down, but people are still driving around the barricades anyway. INDOT and Indiana State Police don&rsquo;t have the manpower right now to physically stop these drivers, but the roads are closed,&rdquo; Deitchley said. &ldquo;They are taking their lives in their own hands, and jeopardizing the emergency personnel who may have to rescue them.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NWI%20Snow%202.jpg" style="height: 263px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Trucks are lined up near a Speedway gas station. This is not a truck stop but truckers had no where to go Monday because nearby I-65 was closed. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" />Drivers should expect to continue to encounter slick conditions and blowing and drifting snow both on the main line interstates and ramps.</p><p>In fact, many motorists in Gary were struggling to drive along Broadway, the city&rsquo;s main drag, with cars getting stuck in snowdrifts.</p><p>Local officials had declared a state of emergency for Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties during Sunday&rsquo;s heavy snow storm.</p><p>Indiana Gov. Mike Pence ordered the Indiana National Guard to help stuck motorists along the highway.</p><p>Much of the state is dealing with heavy snow and severe temperatures but Pence acknowledged at a news conference today in Indianapolis that Northwest Indiana may have been hit the hardest.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">That&rsquo;s why the Republican governor was sending more resources to &ldquo;da Region,&rdquo; often divided from the rest of the state because of political and cultural differences.</div><p>&ldquo;That (Northwest Indiana) is an area of the state, particularly with lake-effect snow, that is no stranger to severe weather events,&rdquo; Pence said, &ldquo;but we&rsquo;re moving resources into the region to recognize that the combination of heavy snow and brutally cold temperatures and wind gusts represents a real public safety hazard.&rdquo;</p><p>Early Monday, even with warnings by police to stay off the roads, some had no choice but to head to work.</p><p>Hammond resident Gus Lopez said driving to his job at ArcelorMittal Steel in neighboring East Chicago felt odd.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really desolate out. Hardly anyone out driving,&rdquo; Lopez told WBEZ. &ldquo;It reminded me of my time in North Dakota, where this type of weather and this type of conditions is not unusual at all for folks up there, that far north.</p><p>And this winter at least, &quot;da Region&quot; is starting to feel more like North Dakota than Northwestern Indiana.</p><p>Most schools in Northwest Indiana will be closed Tuesday but government offices are expected to reopen.</p><p>The Indiana General Assembly is also expected to open its session down in Indianapolis, a day later than originally scheduled.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ NWI Reporter Michael Puente on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>. </em></p></p> Mon, 06 Jan 2014 19:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/snow-severe-cold-shuts-down-northwest-indiana-109472 Hurt feelings continue over Northwest Indiana town's creation http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/hurt-feelings-continue-over-northwest-indiana-towns-creation-102105 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS6222_Kim Williams photo-scr.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>U.S. 30 and Interstate 65 in Northwest Indiana is among the busiest retail corridors in Indiana. For a long time, this area, much of it in the Town of Merrillville, was the envy of Northwest Indiana, but none more so than for folks living in Gary.</p><p>To Steel City residents, the establishment of Merrillville a little more than 40 years ago was seen as a racist slap in the face allowed by Indiana state lawmakers.</p><p>White fam&shy;&shy;ilies from an increasing black Gary left in droves once Merrillville became a town.<br />The hurt from that time still exists today even as Merrillville&rsquo;s demographics have shifted.</p><p>***</p><p>But today, if you need to buy a new car, or celebrate a birthday or buy that special gift or see a concert by a top-notch artist, if you live anywhere in Northwest Indiana chances are you&rsquo;re doing it in Merrillville.<br />&ldquo;Merrillville is the Main Street of Northwest Indiana,&rdquo; said Rich James, a retired political columnist from Northwest Indiana.</p><p>While shops dominate the Merrillville landscape now, James remembers it wasn&rsquo;t always like that.<br />&ldquo;Fourty-one years ago, Merrillville was pretty much a cow pasture,&rdquo; James said. &ldquo;It had a name, it wasn&rsquo;t incorporated.&rdquo;</p><p>But what the area did have was plenty of open land; land to build homes and businesses on. This area became pretty attractive just as the City of Gary began its steep decline as steel jobs began to dry up in the once-thriving community of 175,000 residents.</p><p>But loss of jobs wasn&rsquo;t the only issue facing Gary.</p><p>In the mid-1960s, blacks increased in number in what was then a very ethnic-white Gary.</p><p>Confined to living in one section of city for decades, blacks pushed for the right to live anywhere they chose, including in affluent white sections.</p><p>Richard Gordon Hatcher became Gary&rsquo;s first black mayor in 1968. In the years up to his election, Hatcher pushed for an open housing law. It wasn&rsquo;t easy.</p><p>&ldquo;Every time it came up for a vote the council chambers would be packed with screaming and yelling. I liken them to the Tea Partiers today,&rdquo; Hatcher told WBEZ. &ldquo;They were yelling and all kinds of racial slurs and they would intimidate. I introduced that bill at least six times. It was defeated five times.&rdquo;</p><p>That 6th time was the charm.</p><p>But the victories of the housing ordinance coupled with Hatcher&rsquo;s mayoral victory came with consequences.</p><p>&ldquo;And so blacks were able to move wherever they wanted to move and that really accelerated the flight out of the city,&rdquo; Hatcher said. &ldquo;People panicked and so that&rsquo;s when they began in serious numbers to move out.&rdquo;</p><p>But move out to where? There wasn&rsquo;t really anywhere to go south of Gary.</p><p>&ldquo;But a couple of legislators from up here, a fella by the name of Chet Dobis, who is still in office, they pushed a bill through that took away the City of Gary&rsquo;s buffer zone,&rdquo; Hatcher said.</p><p>Chet Dobis is nearing the end of a 42-year career in the Indiana House of Representative.</p><p>He recalls that in order to establish Merrillville as a town, a three-mile buffer zone that existed for all 2nd-Class cities in Indiana would have to be removed.</p><p>&ldquo;Merrillville did not have enough territory to build a town on if that 3-mile buffer zone existed,&rdquo; Dobis said. &ldquo;So, if we knocked the buffer zone down we could get right up to the border with Gary.</p><p>And that&rsquo;s what happened.</p><p>Dobis may be best remembered for his earliest legislation &ndash; a special law allowing a town to be created &nbsp;adjacent to an established city like Gary.</p><p>&ldquo;People call me the father of the town of Merrillville,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Dobis says he was simply giving the people &ndash; mostly white people &ndash; what they wanted &ndash; a place to go to since they no longer wanted to live not only in Gary &ndash; but other racially changing urban areas of Northwest Indiana.</p><p>&ldquo;You have to understand, we were in a different time. It was as different environment. The atmosphere was highly charged. And people had started to move from Hammond, East Chicago and Whiting as well to this area,&rdquo; Dobis said. &ldquo;A lot of them made major investments. A lot of them thought and supported this idea of protecting their investment.&rdquo;</p><p>Merrillville incorporated as a town in 1971, developing at a rapid pace with not only new residents, but retail development over the next decade.</p><p>As life breathed into Merrillville, in Gary, it was just the opposite.</p><p>Residents fled and Gary&rsquo;s once thriving downtown &ndash; devastated.</p><p>Carolyn E. Mosby remembers growing up in a rapidly deteriorating Gary and couldn&rsquo;t understand why it was happening.</p><p>&ldquo;When you see these boarded up buildings on Broadway or you see these vacant homes, a lot of the people who chose to leave, a lot of the people who chose to leave didn&rsquo;t decide to sell their businesses or sell their homes, they just boarded them up and left,&rdquo; Mosby said.</p><p>By the 1980s, Mosby was a teenager who often found herself not shopping at the Merrillville area&rsquo;s new mall or other stores &ndash; pretty much at the insistence of her late mother, Carolyn B. Mosby, a longtime state legislator from Gary.</p><p>&ldquo;She was very involved in the community as well and this was something that was very near and dear to her was to really support those people that chose to stay in Gary, the businesses and the folks who didn&rsquo;t abandoned their home and moved to Merrillville,&rdquo; Mosby said.</p><p>Just last year, Merrillville celebrated 40 years as a town.</p><p>This town of 35,000 residents is no longer lily white.</p><p>In fact, it&rsquo;s now more than 40 percent African American, with many continuing to move because its school district is considered better than Gary&rsquo;s.</p><p>Kimberly Williams grew up in Gary. These days, the 32-year-old owns Graphics United, a graphic design company in Merrillville. Williams&rsquo; office is located near a large shopping center, with ethnic food restaurants close by and other businesses owned by African Americans, Asians, Indians and Latinos.</p><p>Williams, who also lives in Merrillville, says there may be always some apprehension in Merrillville because of its past, but those are slowly washing away.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think there will ever be a point where it&rsquo;s never a reservation but i think probably from 40 years ago up to this date it&rsquo;s probably has become less and less because you&rsquo;re starting to see business from pretty much all different types of races and I know it wasn&rsquo;t like that 40 years ago,&rdquo; Williams said.</p><p>Although its retail corridor is thriving, sections of Merrillville struggle to keep residents and businesses. And now, the town is &nbsp;experiencing its own white flight, something Carolyn Mosby finds ironic.</p><p>&ldquo;The white citizens moved from Gary to create Merrillville because they didn&rsquo;t want to live with black residents so now more black residents have started to move to Merrillville and now they are moving even further out,&rdquo; Mosby said.</p><p>Journalist Rich James says what&rsquo;s happening in Merrillville is just the nature of all of Northwest Indiana.</p><p>&ldquo;Northwest Indiana never has accepted integration openly or warmly or on a grand scale. As Merrillville became more black, some whites said well, this happened once before and it&rsquo;s happening again and we&rsquo;re going to move,&rdquo; James said. &ldquo;Well, it&rsquo;s unfortunate.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 31 Aug 2012 09:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/race-out-loud/hurt-feelings-continue-over-northwest-indiana-towns-creation-102105 Nose doctor pleads guilty http://www.wbez.org/story/dr-mark-weinberger/nose-doctor-pleads-guilty <p><div>A doctor who fled to Italy late last year to avoid prosecution for insurance fraud pleaded guilty in federal court today.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Dr. Mark Weinberger, 47, pleaded guilty to 22 counts of defrauding health insurance companies.&nbsp;Federal prosecutors said Weinberger billed those companies of nearly two dozen patients for surgical procedures he didn&rsquo;t do.&nbsp;Weinberger appeared this morning before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Philip Simon.&nbsp;He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 21.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Weinberger, who lived in Chicago, could face up to a decade in prison and a $250,000 fine.&nbsp;But the deal worked out with prosecutors could limit Weinberger&rsquo;s prison time to four years if the deal is accepted by Simon.&nbsp;Under the deal Weinberger is also required to forward any profits made from a book deal or movie rights to go toward his restitution. &nbsp;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Weinberger operated an ear, nose and throat practice for several years in Merrillville, Ind., about 40 miles southeast of Chicago, before fleeing the country in 2005.&nbsp;He went missing following a trip to Greece, leaving his wife behind and allegedly bilking his father out of a million dollars.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Last December, the graduate of the UCLA Medical School was arrested on a snowy mountain in northern Italy as he hid in a tent.&nbsp;Before being taken into custody, Weinberger stabbed himself in the neck and had to be hospitalized for several days in Italy.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The FBI and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Racketeering and Fraud Investigation investigated the case.</div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 22 Oct 2010 21:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/dr-mark-weinberger/nose-doctor-pleads-guilty