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Gary, Ind., sits on the south shore of Lake Michigan, dominated by U.S. Steel’s sprawling Gary Works. It’s swamped by problems familiar to many old industrial cities: dwindling population, decaying streets and houses, struggling schools, and a level of joblessness that some say only hints at the real problem of unemployment. In 1994, the Chicago Tribune proclaimed Gary the “murder capital of America,” and the town’s reputation has never recovered. At the same time, many residents have lost faith in the capacity of city government to make things better. Gary’s new mayor, Karen Freeman-Wilson, aims to change this. She brings to the job ambitious plans to stop Gary’s decline and restore a measure of the prosperity it enjoyed in the mid-20th century, when Indiana’s steel mills employed tens of thousands of local workers. “It’s a new day,” she says.

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