Changes in NIRPC public comment guidelines irk protesters
By Matt Mikus firstname.lastname@example.org October 16, 2013 5:06PM
Joseph Cunningham holds a sign outside Crown Point's city hall, protesting against a rule change for public comments at NIRPC meetings. | Matt Mikus/Post-Tribune
Updated: November 18, 2013 7:44AM
CROWN POINT — Members of the Council for Accessible Transportation protested changes to what the public can comment on during the Northwest Indiana Regional Planning Commission meeting Wednesday.
A group of eight people gathered outside Crown Point’s council chambers to protest the change and get the message to NIRPC chairman David Uran.
At the last NIRPC meeting, Uran instituted a new rule restricting what subjects could be discussed during the public-comment session at commission meetings. He also suggested members of the public talk to their local commission representative to have issues added to the meeting agenda.
Rudy Velasco, a member of the Council for Accessible Transportation, said the new meeting rule lets NIRPC commissioners skip over issues they don’t want to talk about.
“You can’t make decisions that effect everybody without involving the whole group,” Velasco said.
Renee Jackson of the Council for Accessible Transportation said the rule change restricts the public’s ability to address issues, and could prevent the public from pointing out problems.
“He wants us to take these issues to our commissioners,” said Jackson, holding a protest sign, “Well, he’s the chair of the commission, so we’re taking them to him.”
Uran said the recent change in procedure was misunderstood. His rule change limits the discussion to items for which NIRPC is directly responsible, not only to items that appear on the agenda. If it’s an issue that has a direct connection to NIRPC’s responsibilities, the public can comment.
That can cover a broad range of topics, he said, from public transportation to planning.
“The chairman has a prerogative to conduct the meeting in an efficient manner,” Uran said.
Uran also suggests that those who want a serious discussion go through their local commissioners and be placed on the agenda for meetings.
Even after Uran met with the protesters, trying to explain the difference, Jackson said she felt Uran was trying to “pass the buck.”