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NIRPC, advocates for the disabled begin meetings

Updated: August 4, 2013 6:24AM



PORTAGE — The first of a series of meetings to restructure the public participation plan for the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, in order to include more input from the public, began Tuesday on a mostly positive note.

A subcommittee met with members from the Everybody Counts advocacy organization for the disabled Tuesday to address concerns.

Both organizations noted that previous interactions had been contentious, but East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland tried to keep the discussion focused on how to fix issues rather than pointing blame.

“Anyone could go to court and fight all day long,” Copeland said. “But we would miss an opportunity to do something for the community.”

Teresa Torres of Everybody Counts said the staff at NIRPC failed to create a plan that defines a process including all constituents in the community. Federal law requires that metropolitan planning organizations like NIRPC have explicit procedures for engaging the public, but the current plan lacked specifics.

“The plan does not meet any standards for consistency and accountability,” Torres said, “It just lists suggestions. It doesn’t define the process or provide explicit information.”

Lake County Surveyor George Van Til suggested the commissioners should receive reports on public input, similar to reports prepared on other business handled by NIRPC.

“We get reports on everything, but I don’t recall getting reports on these interactions,” Van Til said.

The original plan was to grant Everybody Counts members 30 days to review the plan and provide feedback, but the advocacy group produced written comments at the meeting.

“That gives us the opportunity to get more ideas from more meetings,” Copeland said. “That’s a beautiful thing that came out of this meeting.”

The subcommittee will review the comments and meet again at 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 17.



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