RICH JAMES: Cops aren't needed at NIRPC meetings

2013-07-21T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Cops aren't needed at NIRPC meetingsBy Rich James nwitimes.com
July 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

I’m not sure what makes Portage Mayor James Snyder tick, but it has become evident he needs a rewind.

It seems his minutes are only 59 seconds long.

The first-term mayor got a lesson from the big boys at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission meeting on Thursday.

Although it was just a one-vote margin, the commission told Snyder that Portage police officers aren’t needed at NIRPC meetings.

In case you’ve forgotten, six people with physical disabilities showed up at the May 23 NIRPC gathering to talk about problems with public participation at the commission meetings.

Snyder, apparently thinking there might be a coup, sent three police officers to the meeting hoping to quell any potential uprising.

When he was criticized for sending officers – whose presence intimidated the disabled – Snyder said safety was his priority as mayor.

He said there were some pretty important people at the meeting – including mayors, commissioners, councilmen, legislators and other elected officials – and he was going to make sure they weren’t in harm’s way.

Apparently if the NIRPC members were a bunch of average Joes, the police presence wouldn’t have been needed.

After last week’s meeting, Snyder showed his true colors, calling Teresa Torres “a rude, obnoxious individual” who shouldn’t be given a forum at NIRPC meetings. Torres is executive director of Everybody Counts. She is the voice for those physically disabled people who drew the police presence in May.

Torres is brash and demanding, but she represents those who otherwise wouldn’t be heard.

The 14-13 vote to return the Portage officers to real police work wasn’t a Republican or Democratic thing. There were Porter County Republicans who told Snyder, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Snyder seems to have a problem with police. He recently was criticized by City Council President Sue Lynch for his hiring freeze for police and firefighters. She said it was “crippling” the two departments.

And I remember Snyder during his election saying he would give Portage Police Chief Mark Becker, who is perhaps the best in Northwest Indiana, an interview if Snyder beat Mayor Olga Velazquez. As they say on “Maury” after the lie detector test, “That was a lie.”

So there is a hiring freeze at the Portage PD and Snyder has one of his officers sitting at a NIRPC meeting reading the morning paper. Go figure.

In response to the letter approved by NIRPC telling Snyder an officer isn’t needed at the meetings, the mayor had this to say.

He said he would respond to NIRPC as directed by his police chief.

As directed by the police chief?

Hey, mayor, you sent in the gendarmes in May to ensure people were safe. If that were still the case, I would think you’d say so.

What gives?

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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