Mayor defends city buying himself a gas guzzling Hummer

Some politicians seem to have such a dense understanding of what's going on around them, it's a wonder they were elected. Exhibit A: the mayor of Gary, Indiana, who is driving a government-purchased, gas-guzzling Hummer, despite the fact that his city is operating with a $36 million deficit.

A Mayor's Choice

    The Myers Motors NmG all electric car is test driven on an indoor test drive track during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 12, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (UNITED STATES)

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    The Myers Motors NmG all electric car is test driven on an indoor test drive track during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan January 12, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch (UNITED STATES)

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    Designed in California, USA, the 2010 Fisker Karma is the first luxury plug-in hybrid car. (PRNewsFoto/Fisker Automotive, Inc.)

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    Charging conecting plug for the Chinese BYD e6 electric car is introduced during a press preview at the North American International Auto Show January 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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    Front area of the Chinese BYD e6 electric car is introduced during a press preview at the North American International Auto Show January 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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    Journalists view the Chinese BYD e6 electric car introduced during a press preview at the North American International Auto Show January 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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    The Chinese BYD e6 electric car is introduced during a press preview at the North American International Auto Show January 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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    DETROIT - JANUARY 12: Rick Wagoner, Chairman and CEO, General Motors, talks about a lithium-ion battery that GM will manufacture for the Volt electric car during the second press preview for the Detroit International Auto Show at the Cobo Center January 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. The 2009 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) opens to the public January 17. Automakers have cut back on their displays to save money and are focusing more on the cars they plan to produce in response to the financial weakening of the industry. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Rick Wagoner

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    DETROIT - JANUARY 12: Rick Wagoner, Chairman and CEO, General Motors, introduces a lithium-ion battery (L) that GM will manufacture for the Volt electric car during the second press preview for the Detroit International Auto Show at the Cobo Center January 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. The 2009 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) opens to the public January 17. Automakers have cut back on their displays to save money and are focusing more on the cars they plan to produce in response to the financial weakening of the industry. (Photo by Bryan Mitchell/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Rick Wagoner

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    Rick Wagoner (R), General Motors Chairman and CEO shakes hands with Peter Kim (L), President LG Chem during a press preview at the North American International Auto Show January 12, 2009 in Detroit, Michigan. LG Chem will help manufacture the lithium-ion battery for the GM Volt electric car. AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA (Photo credit should read STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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Recently, Rudy Clay asked for a cap on property taxes for his city, but when Ryan Kitchell, chairman of the state panel that decides these sorts of things, learned about the purchase, he was a wee bit upset. Ever since, Clay's been doing the interview circuit, including a stint on Fox News, being grilled about his decision to buy such an expensive and unpopular -- these days -- vehicle.

If the economy wasn't in such dire shape, it would almost be funny how tone deaf some politicians can be about the economy.

Oh, never mind. It is kind of funny.
Clay defended himself mightily when he spoke in front of the state's Distressed Unit Appeals Board: "What do you want me to do, walk around here? I've got to have a car."

Sure, but a 2009 Hummer H3 for $29,970? Clay proudly noted that he received a $5,000 discount. Otherwise it would have cost more. And until he was criticized for the purchase, the cash-strapped berg of Gary, Indiana was picking up the gas tab. Now, apparently, the mayor is paying for his gas.

And in Clay's mind, he is a cost-conscious mayor. After all, as he told the state board: "We're saving taxpayers money by riding in a Hummer. I could've bought a $50,000 Expedition."

Hmm. Perhaps Gary could use another mayor? Maybe one who already drives a Prius...

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).

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