9-hour city council meeting likely a record for Bloomington

On Wednesday, the Bloomington city council’s regular meeting started at 6:30 p.m. as it usually does.

Council vice president Sue Sgambelluri, who chaired the proceedings, wrapped up just before adjournment: “OK. Heartfelt thanks, particularly to the public who stayed with us this long.”

How long was it? The CATS recording has a duration of 9 hours 4 minutes and 28 seconds, which put the hour of adjournment around 3:35 a.m.

As the clock ticked towards 3 a.m., former city clerk Regina Moore tweeted at current city clerk Nicole Bolden that the meeting rivaled one in the 1990s that lasted until 3 a.m. It involved human rights.

On Thursday, Bolden checked the records for the meeting that Moore was talking about. It took place on July 7, 1993 when the council considered Ordinance 93-28, which amended the city’s 1983 human right’s ordinance.

Wednesday’s meeting was extended by debate and public commentary on an ordinance that was also written with an eye towards protecting human rights—of those who are experiencing homelessness. The council voted 4–4 this week, which meant the ordinance failed.

The 1993 ordinance, which revised the existing human rights ordinance to add  protections against discrimination due to sexual orientation, was approved on a 9–0 vote.

It looks like this week’s meeting, which started on March 3 ended on March 4, was longer than the 1993 meeting by at least 90 minutes. The 1993 meeting began at 7:30 p.m., which is an hour later than this week’s meeting start time. By 2:55 a.m., the 1993 meeting had already concluded.

That made the total duration of the 1993 meeting—not counting recess and reconvening at a different location—around 7.5 hours. According to clerk Bolden, she has heard from a city staffer who worked on that 1993 meeting, and who was told at the time it was the longest meeting ever.

Around the 7-hour mark of Wednesday’s meeting, councilmember Steve Volan, whose council service started in 2004 said, “The longest meetings I’ve ever attended were just over seven hours long. We’ve just broken that.”

According to the meeting minutes, the 1993 meeting had to be moved to a different location—the First Methodist Church at 4th and Washington streets—to accommodate the large crowd. The size of the crowed had caused the fire chief concern about possible violation of the fire code.

The 1993 amendment to the human rights ordinance added a prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

When Republican councilmember Kirk White voted in support of the ordinance change, it was the headline for a Herald-Times report on the meeting.

White announced that one of his family members is gay and he’s quoted in the article as saying, “My family member deserves not to be discriminated against.”