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Meeting over public participation hits bumps, moves forward

Updated: August 19, 2013 3:54PM



PORTAGE — The Public Participation subcommittee met with representatives of Everybody Counts for its second meeting Wednesday, as the two sides continue to settle differences regarding the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission’s plan to encourage citizen involvement.

Discussion during the meeting focused on looking through the 64-page plan, and responding to comments brought up by the disability rights organization.

“We know that things have not been handled well in the past,” said Nancy Adams, the Porter County commissioner. “But we’re here today.”

Concerns brought up by the members of Everybody Counts included language to ensure that all groups effected by the commission’s decisions are contacted, so they can express their concerns.

“There’s nothing in this plan to make sure that everything is being followed through,” said Rudy Velasco of Everybody Counts.

The committee agreed to look at language to help fix the problems.

The tension reached its peak when Teresa Torres of Everybody Counts tried to explain previous issues the organization had with NIRPC staff, and East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland tried to focus on the current plan.

“You’re rehashing problems that we previously had,” Copeland said, “but we’re trying to move forward.”

The discussion then spiraled out of control, leading to Torres walking out of the meeting.

The meeting resumed, allowing the two groups time to walk through about a third of the plan. The group added concerns about providing access to public comments, and explaining in the plan how citizens can gain access to the comments. Another suggestion was to have occasional meetings at other locations throughout the year, either in LaPorte or Lake counties.

Renee Jackson, a representative from Everybody Counts, said the discussion continues to progress.

“It’s going,” she said, “but we want to make sure that they don’t rush us through this. We’re trying to help them see what they’ve got wrong, but don’t rush us through this.”



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