Police called when protesters show up for NIRPC meeting
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org May 23, 2013 12:14PM
NIRPC board discusses its public participation plan Thursday, May 23, 2013, at its Portage office. | Carole Carlson~Sun-Times Media
3 office sites
Three locations are being considered for the future office of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission.
LaPorte Mayor Blair Milo, who heads the committee to identify a site, said Thursday she’d like another month to “further define” and answer questions. The commission could vote on a site at its June meeting.
Milo said the sites under consideration are in LaPorte at the Thomas Rose Industrial Center on the city’s northeast side, a site in downtown Hammond and the current site in Portage at 6100 Southport Road.
Representatives from the three sites met with commission members Thursday in a closed session.
Milo said the commission is looking at cost, location, accessibility and other issues.
Updated: June 25, 2013 6:25AM
PORTAGE — The Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission delayed action on its public participation plan Thursday after a disabled rights group complained it didn’t provide input.
The move came as members of Everybody Counts, many in wheelchairs, arrived at the NIRPC meeting carrying protest signs. The group arrived at 9 a.m. for the meeting, but its time had been changed to 11 a.m. so commission members could hold an executive session to review the future site of NIRPC’s office.
Portage Mayor James Snyder said he asked for a police presence after he saw the group arrive with protest signs. He said he asks for security whenever he comes to a meeting and there are protesters with signs. Police Chief Troy Williams arrived with three other Portage officers.
The move disturbed Leonard Sullivan of Chesterton.
“Unless you’re planning on a race riot, I don’t know why the police are here,” he said.
Sullivan said he was offended by the police presence and by being called a protester.
Teresa Torres, executive director of Everybody Counts, said the police were unwarranted.
“I went to get coffee and cookies and the next thing I know there are police,” she said.
Police officers remained as commissioner and East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland moved to table passage of the participation plan, which spells out strategies to better engage the public. The plan hasn’t been updated since 2007.
“Everybody Counts brought legitimate concerns the board is just now looking at. This body has conceded to that,” Copeland said.
Commissioner and Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson offered to chair a committee to meet with the group to address its concerns.
Everybody Counts board member Roy Dominguez sent a May 22 letter to commissioners spelling out concerns with the public participation plan, approved last week by NIRPC’s transportation planning committee. He urged commission members to reject the plan’s draft. The plan is required by the federal government.
“Although your staff has taken great pains to make it appear otherwise, our agency was not afforded the opportunity to have meaningful involvement in the development of any of them.”
The letter accused NIRPC staff of conducting a campaign to discredit her group with “half-truths and outright obloquies.”