CROWN POINT | Protesters waved signs and chanted Wednesday outside Crown Point City Hall over what they said is their right to free speech.
Rudy Velasco, one of eight members of Citizens for Accessible Transportation taking part in the protest, said the group and other advocates of disability rights and accessible transportation for the region had been denied the ability to speak at meetings of the Northwestern Indiana Regional Transportation Commission.
Velasco, of East Chicago, referred to action taken by Crown Point Mayor David Uran, who is NIRPC chairman, to declare the public can comment only on matters at NIRPC meetings that are on the agenda for that day's meeting.
"Uran is refusing us if we're not on the agenda," Velasco said. "He's restricting our public speech."
Members of the group chanted, "King Uran, let us speak."
Uran said Wednesday the decision to limit comments to agenda items was done so the NIRPC board can conduct business.
"We want to have constructive conversations," Uran said.
Those with concerns should reach out to the person who represents their community on the NIRPC board and have them put their topic on the agenda, Uran said.
"That would let us help them with issues we actually have the ability to address, rather than for them to filibuster so we can't get any work done," Uran said.
Since this spring, the disability rights group Everybody Counts and NIRPC have been locked in a struggle over NIRPC's public participation plan.
The group contends a public participation plan NIRPC has been working on for more than a year is inadequate and deprives the public of its right to participate in NIRPC actions.
A lawyer who represents Everybody Counts recently sent federal transportation officials a letter alleging NIRPC's public participation plan is inadequate and puts it in violation of the law.
The letter also contends a $724.8 million transportation plan recently passed by NIRPC is invalid because of the shortcomings in the plan and a lack of public notice of meetings.