Square Beacon Benchmark: A routine push for public access during a pandemic

I mark the start of every month with a fundraising pitch, to support The Square Beacon’s approach to coverage of Bloomington and Monroe County local civic news.

In that way, April is no different from the start of any other month. What is different, of course, is that we now find ourselves in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This is the logo of the B Square Beacon.

So the only sensible way to start is to thank those of you who already support The Square Beacon with a monthly financial contribution.

Thank you!

Most people’s resources are stretched thin right now, due to pandemic-related issues. And it’s fair for many people to think about conserving their resources, instead of investing in local news reporting.

It should be an easy choice between a contribution to an independent local news operation like The Square Beacon and a donation to the myriad nonprofits and bricks-and-mortar businesses that have been devastated by COVID-19.

They are in greater need than The Square Beacon.

From traditional institutional networks to grass-roots efforts, it’s not hard to find ways to give financial support to people who have an urgent need.

I have committed to reporting the area’s local government and civic news through the end of the year. That means The Square Beacon’s need is less urgent, but still real. Sustaining this enterprise into 2021 will depend on reader contributions.

As you think about the mix of news outlets that you could support, I hope you’ll consider an independent local news operation like The Square Beacon.

Here’s an example from yesterday that illustrates why I think The Square Beacon merits your consideration.

The Bloomington city council’s sustainable development committee held a meeting Tuesday evening via Zoom video conference. The meeting agenda included an oral presentation from a working group that’s been established by Mayor John Hamilton to respond to the economic challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The working group submitted a draft report to the mayor last Thursday. At Tuesday’s meeting, the working group’s presentation and subsequent conversation by the committee included several references to the content of the draft report. It had been circulated to committee members. Bits of the draft report were read aloud.

The report was not available to the public by the time of the meeting, which made the deliberations hard for anyone in the public to follow. By the time of the meeting, I had not received a copy that I could disseminate to readers, after asking for one earlier in the afternoon.

In the course of the meeting’s conversation, it became apparent that the report would not be available to the public in time for Wednesday’s city council meeting. The agenda for the council’s Wednesday meeting (today, if you’re reading this the same day this column was published) includes the intitial consideration of a $2-million appropriation for economic relief of businesses, using food and beverage tax proceeds.

The working group’s draft report includes a description of loan products that the city of Bloomington might underwrite. I think that’s the kind of information that’s important for potential borrowers to know about sooner rather than later. And it’s information germane to the council’s Wednesday meeting agenda item.

That prompted me to use public commentary time during the committee meeting to complain about the fact that a document, to which the public did not have access, was being discussed at a public meeting by elected officials, with no immediate intent to make it available to the public. I asked that the document be released.

Long story short, the response to my complaint from elected and appointed officials at the meeting was to decide to disseminate the draft report that same evening. The report is now available on the city of Bloomington’s website. And the document informed The Square Beacon’s write-up of the meeting, which was published last night.

If I had not made that public comment, I think it’s fair to say the draft report would still be under wraps.

That’s the sort of push The Square Beacon routinely makes on behalf of the public for better access to information. It’s the kind of effort that would, I suppose, remain unheralded, unless I were to write about it.

Until next month, be safe, be well, and be square.

2 thoughts on “Square Beacon Benchmark: A routine push for public access during a pandemic

  1. I am very fortunate that I can include Beacon donation along with my other donations support food sources

  2. I’m very happy to contribute to the support of the Beacon. It’s well worth it.

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