You’ve probably never heard of Indiana state Sen. Eddie Melton.
But you may be familiar with Gary, Indiana, the small Rust Belt city once known as the birthplace of Michael Jackson, but it’s better known nowadays for its shocking degree of blight due to the contraction of the U.S. steel industry.
And you may have even come across a YouTube video of Gary with a sensational title designed to get you to click to see some of the worst scenes of the city: “America’s Most ‘Miserable’ City,” “America’s Gangster Ghost Town,” “Gary: The USA’s Most Dangerous City? What I Actually Saw.”
Melton is the guy who wants to make these videos go away.
“We’re not going to allow YouTubers to come to our city and run through a couple of abandoned buildings and let the algorithm dictate our future,” Melton said not long before he was elected mayor of Indiana’s ninth-largest city, just 40 miles southeast of Chicago on Lake Michigan. The 42-year-old Democrat won this month’s mayoral race in what could conservatively be called a landslide with 95% of the votes.
YouTube’s urban explorers have even discovered Melton’s alma mater, Horace Mann High School, one of 33 abandoned schools in Gary. It’s a husk of a building with a gigantic crumbling auditorium and dark hallways lined with lockers that hang off their hinges like broken teeth — a haven for people seeking out decay.
“They care so little about this place, I guess, that everything just sits open…