posttrib
PICTURESQUE 
Weather Updates

Hammond mayor apologizes for slamming Air Show relocation

Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. standing addresses meeting Thursday June 19 2014 South Shore ConventiVisitors Authority. | Carrie Napoleon~for Sun-Times

Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr., standing, addresses the meeting Thursday, June 19, 2014, of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority. | Carrie Napoleon~for Sun-Times Media

storyidforme: 68053860
tmspicid: 24210161
fileheaderid: 11971401

Updated: July 21, 2014 3:56PM



HAMMOND — A little crow was on the menu Thursday at the regular luncheon meeting of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority where Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. apologized to the board and its president and CEO for the flak he has been stirring up over the board’s decision to relocate the South Shore Air Show from Lake County to Newton County.

McDermott and Speros Batistatos, the SSCVA president and CEO, said they have come to terms after a series of meetings with board chairman Vic DeMeyer and the city’s staff, and they are ready to put the public feud behind them.

“Everybody walked away pretty happy,” McDermott said of the sessions.

McDermott has been a vocal opponent of moving the South Shore Air Show from the shores of Lake Michigan in Gary to Fair Oaks Farms in Newton County since the plan was announced in November. The air show takes place July 11-13.

Even as the SSCVA had increased its support to Hammond’s Festival of the Lakes for 2013, McDermott took his opposition to news outlets and social media, blasting the authority’s leaders and board. In hindsight, he said, if the SSCVA is a partner of the Festival of the Lakes, Hammond should be a partner to the convention bureau.

Batistatos avoided being drawn into the war of words in public by limiting comments to reporters and on social media.

“Part of the reason I’m standing here is it wasn’t just three people I hurt. It was the whole board,” McDermott said.

Board members thanked McDermott for coming forward though some remained bitter over the dispute and were hesitant to take the olive branch without question.

The mayor said he recognizes the role of the SSCVA in drawing people to big events including his city’s Festival of the Lakes July 16-20 and wants to work with the agency.

“In the interest of our industry, his city and the greater Northwest Indiana good ... we are better off when we are in the same boat,” Batistatos said.

McDermott said he also would no longer meddle in legislation concerning the tourism industry in the Statehouse as he did when a bill was introduced last session to limit the Lake County tourism bureau’s ability to spend money outside the county.

The mayor said he would back any effort in the state legislature to regionalize the SSCVA and increase its reach.

“The mayor is a very important leader in the community,” Batistatos said, adding his support toward regionalizing the state’s 62 convention and visitors bureaus into fewer regional entities would be welcome.

In return for his apology and his willingness to play nice in the future, keeping any criticisms or opposition in a professional and appropriate format, McDermott said he has asked the SSCVA to take a larger leadership role in the Festival of the Lakes.

That leadership role includes a request for $50,000 in financial support to the event and help with staff. The SSCVA had budgeted $30,000 this year for the Festival of the Lakes. A special meeting of the board is scheduled for June 30 to take up the issue. No money has yet has been appropriated for the event.

Not all board members were wooed by McDermott’s words. Chareice White said she could not support the larger amount. White is still bristling at the social media attack waged by McDermott. She asked the mayor if he would refrain in the future from making what could be perceived as inappropriate posts on Facebook and Twitter.

The mayor said while he is willing to put his differences with Batistatos and the agency aside for the greater good he has no intention of changing who he is or how he interacts with the public.

“I’m not really changing the way I am. I like who I am. I am very real. I think I get a lot of support from residents. Sometimes I go over the top for sure,” he said.

Some board members defended the mayor, including Raymundo Garcia, owner of El Taco Real in Hammond, who said forcing people to be politically correct all the time stops them from being individuals. Garcia said he was not offended by the posts but found them funny.

Batistatos said disagreements will arise again, but he is hopeful both entities will be able to find a different way to resolve them.

“The mayor and I may not always agree in the future, but I hope anytime we don’t it will be less rigorous,” Batistatos said.



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.