PHIL WIELAND: Saving NIRPC from those alligator jaws

2013-06-07T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Saving NIRPC from those alligator jawsBy Phil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

I can't help but wonder if Portage Mayor James Snyder was a fan of "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom."

Snyder was criticized by former Lake County Sheriff Rogelio "Rogelio" Dominguez for having six police officers on crowd control for a recent NIRPC meeting although the "crowd" of six people were either old, in a wheelchair, blind or all of the above.

Maybe Snyder was recalling the wise words of Jim Fowler, the former co-host of "Wild Kingdom" starring Marlin Perkins. Fowler, a strapping young man, used to stand with the cameraman while Perkins, who was about 90 by the time the show went off the air, wrestled some huge, deadly critter.

As Perkins got the crap kicked out of him by a 50-foot alligator that still had pieces of Capt. Hook's fingers stuck in its teeth, Fowler's narration mentioned, "You can't be too careful with those alligator jaws."

That is an actual quote I recall to this day, and I suspect Snyder saw that same show. Apparently Mutual of Omaha made itself the beneficiary of a hefty accidental death policy on Perkins. Or Fowler did. But the lesson is not lost on Snyder.

Even if the alligator is blind, in a wheelchair or is gumming his kibbles, the fact remains: You can't be too careful with those alligator jaws. Especially in the potentially explosive atmosphere of that particular meeting.

The "crowd" included members of Everybody Counts, who came to the meeting with signs to protest the planned vote on NIRPC's public participation plan. They planned to give them some serious public participation, so they were in a somewhat hostile state to start.

They arrived for what they thought was a 9 a.m. meeting only to be asked to leave the room because it had been rescheduled for 11 a.m. to give the NIRPC board time to have an executive session. That meeting actually didn't break up until noon, no doubt heightening the crowd's level of peevishness.

Snyder thought additional caution was needed because the people on the NIRPC board and attending the meeting were "mayors, commissioners, councilpeople and state legislators."

If one of the protesters had gone rogue terrorist in that situation, charging the gathered officials with their wheelchair or walker pushed to ramming speed, who knows who would be left to lead Northwest Indiana's communities.

Reportedly, no more than three police were in the room at any given time, and, frankly, I'm not sure that would have been enough to thwart a coordinated assault. Tasers might simply have restarted the crowd's cardio systems and further riled them.

Dominguez wants an apology from Snyder for the super security, but Snyder was the one in the alligator pit while Dominguez is the one watching with the cameraman.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at phil.wieland@nwi.com or (219) 548-4352.

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