Bloomington council stays motionless on question of removing traffic commissioner

Art composed by The B Square.

As expected, there was no action by Bloomington’s city council Wednesday night on a motion that had been made four weeks ago to remove Greg Alexander from the city’s traffic commission.

Somewhat unexpected at the end of this Wednesday’s meeting was the lack of any motion that was still pending on the question of Alexander’s removal.

The previous motion, which had been made by Dave Rollo, described the cause for Alexander’s removal as “…posting obscene and inappropriate statements…” on social media.

As planned, Rollo’s Feb. 1 motion was withdrawn on Wednesday by unanimous consent of the council.

But after council deliberations on the new, revised motion that Rollo made on Wednesday, it seemed at least a little bit in doubt whether it would have enough support to pass—either that night or after a planned postponement.

So, not as planned, Rollo wound up asking for, and getting, unanimous consent to withdraw his new motion.

That left the council motionless on the question of Alexander’s removal from the traffic commission.

It’s possible that another new, revised motion on Alexander’s removal will be made at the council’s meeting next Wednesday (March 8). That new motion to remove Alexander could be made by Rollo or any other councilmember.

Even if no new motion is made on March 8, one could come later, at the next scheduled council meeting for March 29.

The likelihood of another revised motion coming sooner rather than later is consistent with a remark from council president Sue Sgambelluri during Wednesday’s deliberations: “We do not want to be arbitrary and capricious. At the same time, I think we also wish to be timely in our response.”

Wednesday night’s events departed from a planned timetable that called for Rollo to make a revised motion that was more specific than his original one, and for that motion to be postponed until March 8 or March 29.

The postponement would have allowed at least five business days for Alexander to respond in writing after being notified of the council’s new motion for his removal.

The plan was recommended by the council’s committee on council processes—to which Rollo’s original motion had been referred. [.pdf of committee recommendation and report]

The four-member committee on council processes is chaired by Matt Flaherty. Other members are the three council officers: Sue Sgambelluri (president); Isabel Piedmont-Smith (vice president); and Dave Rollo (parliamentarian).

Rollo did not participate in the committee’s deliberations, to avoid any implication that Rollo would not be fair, based on any perceived personal animus between him and Alexander.

The committee met three times between Feb. 1 and Wednesday’s meeting. The timetable was part of the committee’s due process recommendation. The tightening up of the wording with specific reference to social media postings was also a part of the committee’s recommendation.

Rollo’s new, more specific motion enumerated three allegations giving rise to the basis for Alexander’s removal.

1. Posted the following comment on social media as a response to a member of the public expressing concern about a planned infrastructure project “punching” through certain streets in her neighborhood: “what are they punching through with? i would really like to know. it sounds like they are going to savagely penetrate your neighborhood and i want to know what they’re going to use to do that?”

2. Posted the following comment on social media: “haters gonna hate and bloomington democrats gonna lick the shit out from between elm heights’ neighbors ass cheeks”

3. Sent unsolicited hand-written letters directly to members of the public who had appeared at Council meetings, which led to complaints and concerns from those members of the public

The basis for Alexander’s removal, according to Rollo’s revised motion, includes: “[Alexander’s] actions and comments and the resulting public complaints this council has received have compromised his ability and fitness to engage with the public and carry out his duties.”

Another part of Rollo’s revised motion talks about bias: “[Alexander’s] comment about one of Bloomington’s neighborhoods demonstrates bias. Bullying behavior and bias could discourage and has discouraged residents from voicing traffic concerns and from interacting with the Traffic Commission or the city.”

Rollo can be counted as a vote in favor of removal.

Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith could be a yes vote, depending on how a new motion is worded. On Wednesday, Piedmont-Smith said about Rollo’s new motion, “I think there may be a motion that I could support, but I cannot support this one.”

Council president Sue Sgambelluri’s position can probably be analyzed as about the same as Piedmont-Smith’s. Sgambelluri thinks Rollo’s new motion made on Wednesday was better than the original, but still had room for improvement. She said, “I do think…the new motion we’ve heard tonight is more clear. But it still doesn’t connect all the dots adequately.”

Sgambelluri added, “In the case of Mr. Alexander, I was reading over some of the additional Tweets that are not specifically mentioned in this motion—that gives me as much concern, if not more, than some that are listed.”

Councilmember Ron Smith said, “I’m for removing Mr. Alexander.”

Councilmembers Matt Flaherty and Kate Rosenbarger seem unlikely to support removal.

Flaherty noted that the council’s attorney, Stephen Lucas, had advised that none of the known statements by Alexander amounted to “obscenity, fighting words, or true threats as those terms are legally defined.” If Alexander’s statements did meet those legal definitions, they would not qualify as protected speech. But given that they don’t meet the legal definitions, his statements are likely protected political speech, Flaherty indicated.

Flaherty said, “I think most of what has been cited as bias, however crudely put, is primarily political arguments about social equity, resourcing, who does and who does not have resources, where resources should be prioritized within the city.”

Councilmember Steve Volan called for some intermediate type of rebuke that stops short of removal.

Absent on Wednesday were Susan Sandberg and Jim Sims.

The question of Alexander’s removal arose only after the council had just re-appointed him to the traffic commission in January, when at least two councilmembers were aware of his social media posts and resident complaints about them. Neither Rollo nor Sandberg supported Alexander’s reappointment.

The next meeting of Bloomington’s traffic commission is set for March 22. The January and February meetings were canceled.

One thought on “Bloomington council stays motionless on question of removing traffic commissioner

  1. i’ve got three points that i’m presenting to anyone who will listen:

    anyone who thinks i will use my position on the traffic commission to endanger transportation users anywhere in the city needs to have their head examined.

    the cited tweet where i accused “bloomington politicians” of brown nosing was me pointing out bias by current elected officials and especially Councilmember Rollo. it does not have anything to do with my own biases, though i think you can safely infer that i don’t have much respect for bloomington politicians. come on guys, actually read the things you make exhibits of!

    i have worked broadly towards vision zero goals: we should respond to traffic fatalities. i have used my position on the traffic commission to further these goals. i have not been very successful. if the council retains me on that commission, my work there will continue. and it will continue to not be very successful. meaningful action requires leadership from the council.

    (p.s., brown-nosing isn’t productive leadership)

Comments are closed.