RICH JAMES: Portage City Council owes Snyder an apology

2014-02-19T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Portage City Council owes Snyder an apologyBy Rich James nwitimes.com
February 19, 2014 12:00 am  • 

It seems the controversy dogging Portage Mayor James Snyder’s decision to send snowplows into Gary a few weeks back just won’t go away.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

I can’t say I have any great love for Snyder. He wouldn’t level with me during the mayoral campaign about the status of then-Police Chief Mark Becker.

And I found Snyder’s campaign despicable in terms of the tactics he used to scare senior citizens by suggesting they no longer had police protection after 5 p.m. because of the consolidated E-911 system.

And after being elected, Snyder used gestapo-like tactics when he ordered a police presence at Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission meetings.

The NIRPC board finally told him to call off the dogs.

Despite our differences, Snyder did the right thing when he sent Portage snowplows into Gary to help his ill-equipped and poorly prepared neighbor out of a jam.

What happened next mirrors the constant Republican attacks on President Barack Obama in Washington.

Only in the case of Portage, the Democratic City Council pounced on the Republican mayor.

The council was dead wrong.

There is something to be learned from this – and it is something Northwest Indiana has struggled with for decades.

Although things are getting somewhat better, NWI governmental units have had difficulty working together.

A wall still exists between Lake and Porter counties, although a portion of it has crumbled.

And although one cannot tell at what point he has left Munster and entered Highland, let there be no doubt that a governmental barrier remains in place.

There has been a lot said about what Snyder did. Some say he had no business sending Portage plows into Gary without City Council approval.

I don’t buy it. Conditions were such that there was no time to call a council meeting to talk about snow that had Gary on the brink of gridlock.

Did Snyder’s move cost the taxpayers of Portage? Of course. Will the average guy ever notice? Of course not.

The fact remains that Gary needed help. And some Portage residents work in Gary or pass through Gary to their jobs. And some Gary residents shop in Portage.

Some Gary residents were so appreciative that they sent checks to Portage as a way of saying thanks. That helps break down long-standing barriers.

What Snyder did for Gary was an example of regionalism on a small scale.

Northwest Indiana counties and municipalities should take notice and grow from what Portage did.

Too often we can help each other but fail – or refuse – to do so.

Weather doesn’t stop at governmental lines, and neither should we.

And the Portage City Council owes Snyder an apology.

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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