Public officials, residents continue protest of airport board changes

2013-02-02T19:30:00Z 2013-02-02T23:07:06Z Public officials, residents continue protest of airport board changesBowdeya Tweh bowdeya.tweh@nwi.com, (219) 933-3316 nwitimes.com
February 02, 2013 7:30 pm  • 

GARY | Community members continued to galvanize support Saturday to change language in proposed state legislation that would alter the composition of the Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority.

More than 100 people rallied at Trinity Baptist Church at an event the Northwest Indiana Federation of Interfaith Organizations helped organize. A growing chorus of people in the city are taking aim at Senate Bill 585, which state Sen. Ed Charbonneau, R-Valparaiso, introduced last month.

The bill would increase the board from seven to 11 members, although five of the members, including the board chair, would be appointed by the governor. The board chair also would have veto power on important board actions. The mayor of Gary would retain the ability to make four board appointments.

Trinity Baptist Church Pastor Dwight Gardner said the changes are tantamount to surrendering an asset in order to secure other benefits for the city. Senate Bill 585 also includes proposals to move one of Gary's casino vessels to land and study the placement of a trauma center in Northwest Indiana and a new port on Lake Michigan.

"There is no other airport authority in the state of Indiana where the governor has that same position," said Gardner, who also helps lead the Northwest Indiana Federation. "Why is it that our community always has to give up something in order to get something from our state government as we are an orphan or stepchild?"

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said she doesn't support a change in the structure of the airport board, but understands there have to be negotiations with any bill introduced in the state Legislature. She said conversations with legislators about the city's concerns have been productive.

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, state Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, and several local officials also attended Saturday's event.

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