An appointment made on Wednesday to Bloomington’s nine-member parking commission was retracted by the end of the day, because of Facebook posts made by the appointee, Joseph Bortka.
The posts in question include one that responds to a post that says, “I hate feminism” with “I second this.” About actor Eliott Page coming out as trans, Bortka comments: “Look at the world going head over heels to help this woman continue to lie to herself. This is madness.”
About a post supporting LGBTQ+ youth, Bortka comments with a derisive hashtag #okgroomer.
In another post, Bortka shares a meme suggesting that claims about Russian interference with the 2016 election are inconsistent with claims that the 2020 election had integrity.
Bloomington’s director of public engagement Mary Catherine Carmichael told The Square Beacon around 9 p.m. on
Thursday , that Joseph Bortka is no longer a member of the Bloomington parking commission.
He had been appointed earlier in the day, she said. Carmichael said he was immediately taken off the parking commission because Bortka’s Facebook posts are “not a reflection of the city that we are.”
Carmichael said that she was not aware of Bortka’s Facebook content before recommending that Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, appoint him to the parking commission.
Carmichael said she contacted Bortka to confirm that the posts were his, which he did. Because that seat on the parking commission serves at the pleasure of the mayor, she told Bortka, his services were no longer required.
It was Bloomington resident Andrew Guenther, who called attention to Bortka’s Facebook posts. Guenther’s name will be familiar as a Republican candidate for the District 2 city council seat in 2019 and as a plaintiff in the pending lawsuit against the city of Bloomington over an appointment to the plan commission.
Neither of those connections appear to be related to the parking commission appointment.
Guenther described on his own Facebook page how he became aware of Bortka’s Facebook posts: “This evening, Joseph Bortka posted in a Bloomington Townies Group I am in that he was recently appointed by Mayor Hamilton to the Parking Commission. Joseph then added me on Facebook after I replied to a comment on his post about the Commission appointment process.”
Guenther asked, “Can someone, anyone, tell me why Mayor John Hamilton has appointed a homophobic, transphobic, sexist, anti-public education, pandemic-denying, election conspiracy supporter to the Bloomington Parking Commission?”
Guenther included Carmichael’s contact information in his Facebook post. About two hours later, when The Square Beacon reached Carmichael, she had already deleted Bortka’s name from the city’s onBoard system for managing commission and board memberships.
The parking commission holds its regular monthly meeting this Thursday, Dec. 10.
The nine-member parking commission gets four of its members through the city council, one from the planning and transportation staff, and the remaining four through mayoral appointment. Bortka’s quick departure means three of the mayoral-appointed seats are now vacant.
One mayoral seat has been vacant since May 2019, another since August 2019, and a third since October 2019.
The fourth mayoral appointee, Christopher Emge, was also just appointed, on Dec. 8. That seat was vacant only since the end of September of this year. The seat has to be filled with a board member or an employee of a non-profit organization. Emge works for the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. Emge’s predecessor was Sabina Ion, with WonderLab Museum of Science, Health & Technology.
The Bloomington city council is considering a change to local law that would affect the way that local media is notified about vacancies on boards and commissions when they occur.
Currently, when a vacancy occurs, the board or commission is supposed to write a synopsis that includes the duties of the position, an estimate of the time required to fulfill the duties, and compensation, then send to the mayor’s office or the city council’s office—whichever one is the appointing authority. The appointing authority’s office is then supposed to edit and send the synopsis to the local media, with information about how to apply.
Those requirements of local law have not been followed for some time.
The proposed change to the law would just require a board or commission, or some city staff person supporting the board or commission, to “ensure” that the information now in the synopsis about a board or commission is accurately displayed on the city’s website. An announcement to the media is then required to be made about the vacancy. The proposed new ordinance does not indicate who is responsible for making the announcements to the media.
When the council’s administration committee met on Wednesday, members opted to hold another meeting, early next year, on the proposed ordinance change. The change would also, among other things, eliminate the requirement that legislation considered by the council be accompanied by a fiscal impact statement.