Bloomington city council District 2 Democratic Party Primary: Kate Rosenbarger, Sue Sgambelluri

The Democratic Party’s May 2 primary election for city council District 2 is a choice between Kate Rosenbarger and Sue Sgambelluri. There is no Republican candidate in District 2.

This write-up provides specific background on the District 2 city council primary race as well as general background.

April 20 is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot. Application for an absentee ballot, verification of voter registration, and a preview of the ballot are available through the Indiana secretary of state’s voter information portal.

Early voting started on April 4 at Monroe County’s election operations center, which is located at Walnut and 3rd streets.

Bloomington City Council: Overview

The 9-member Bloomington City Council is the legislative branch of city government. A seat on the city council is compensated with a salary of $20,146 in 2023. The president and vice president of the council—who are elected by their colleagues at the first meeting of the year—receive an extra $1,000 and $800, respectively.

Each of the city’s six districts has a representative on the city council. Three at-large seats represent residents citywide.

Bloomington City Council Districts

Bloomington City Council: District 2

District 2 covers the northwest part of Bloomington. Almost all of it is north of 3rd Street, except for one precinct that dips down to Allen Street and 1st Street.


Kate Rosenbarger

Kate Rosenbarger is an incumbent councilmember who first won election to a district seat on the city council in 2019. As the result of last year’s redistricting, Rosenbarger and incumbent Sue Sgambelluri now both live in District 2—so they are both vying for the same seat in their reelection bids.

Rosenbarger’s campaign website lists out her key issues as: housing; inclusive government; safe and accessible streets; racial and social equity; climate action; and data-driven policy solutions.

Rosenbarger’s statement of economic interests indicates she is employed by Patronicity, which organizes crowdfunding efforts to local communities.

From 2011 through 2017, Rosenberger was a manager with NeighborWorks America, a D.C.-based nonprofit focused on affordable housing and community development. Before that she was director of communications for the AFL-CIO in Colorado. In 2018, Rosenbarger worked as deputy campaign manager for Liz Watson, a Democrat who ran for Indiana’s 9th District Congressional seat.

Rosenbarger grew up in New Albany, Indiana. She received both an undergraduate degree and a law degree from Indiana University.

Kate Rosenbarger is the sister of Beth Rosenbarger, who is assistant director of Bloomington’s planning and transportation department. Beth Rosenbarger is married to at-large city councilmember Matt Flaherty, who is seeking reelection this year to an at-large seat on the council.

Kate Rosenbarger candidate declaration
Kate Rosenbarger statement of economic interests
Kate Rosenbarger campaign committee filing
Kate Rosenbarger campaign website
Kate Rosenbarger LWV Vote411 Profile

Sue Sgambelluri

Sue Sgambelluri is an incumbent councilmember who first won election to a district seat on the city council in 2019. As the result of last year’s redistricting, Sgambelluri and incumbent Kate Rosenbarger now both live in District 2—so they are both vying for the same seat in their reelection bids.

Sgambelluri lists as priorities on her campaign website: encourage economic growth and vitality; support our most vulnerable neighbors; strengthen our neighborhoods; and promote responsive, collaborative government.

Her campaign website says that in the next term, “My commitment is much the same as it has been…to make data-informed decisions that support our social, economic, and environmental wellbeing; and that help everyone benefit from our success.”

Before winning election to the city council in 2019, Sgambelluri served on Bloomington’s redevelopment commission.

Originally from Merrillville, Indiana, Sgambelluri has lived in Bloomington since 1994. She holds an undergraduate degree from Purdue University in organizational development, and a master’s degree in higher education administration from IU.

Sgambelluri’s statement of economic interests indicates she is employed by Indiana University. She is director of development for IU’s College of Arts and Sciences, a position she’s held since 2003. From 1992 to 2003 she was associate director at the IU Career Development Center.

Sue Sgambelluri candidate declaration
Sue Sgambelluri statement of economic interests
Sue Sgambelluri campaign committee filing
Sue Sgambelluri campaign website
Sue Sgambelluri LWV Vote411 Profile

[CATS video: April 1, 2023 NOW Bloomington municipal candidates forum]

[CATS video: March 26, 2023 LWV Bloomington city council district races forum]

Verbatim responses from March 26, LWV forum

Question: Opening Statement

Kate Rosenbarger: Hi there. My name is Kate Rosenbarger. And I am running for reelection in District 2, which is the northwest side or area of the city. My background is in policy analysis, and I am an attorney. I went to Mauer School of Law. I’m nonpracticing, which I like to say is the best kind. I’ve spent most of my time working in affordable housing and community development at the national level, and then at the very local level in communities and neighborhoods. I am running again, because I think that while we have done a lot so far on city council in the last three, three and a half years, there is still a lot more to do in terms of climate action and sustainability and equity in our city. I believe, I try to make decisions that are data driven and equity centered, and I plan to do that next time as well. I’m also running to make streets safer and more accessible. Right now we have traffic fatalities, and I think we can really reach zero if we make the decision for that. Thank you.

Sue Sgambelluri: Hi, everybody. I’m Sue Sgambelluri. I want to continue serving my neighbors on Bloomington’s northwest side as your city council representative for District 2. Thank you very much to the League of Women Voters, to all the cosponsors, no just for sponsoring this event, but for what you do every day to make sure that we have a good discussion and good conversation around this. These are pretty remarkable days for Bloomington. We have seen remarkable growth. And we are known regionally and nationally for our quality of life, but we have more work to do. And I think that’s a universal theme here in the next few years. We’re gonna be launching the Hopewell neighborhood, hopefully in response to the need for affordable housing. We’re gonna move forward with the convention center as a hub for tourism and arts and civic engagement, build out the Trades District, build more affordable housing, address the issues of affordability in general. And on a broader level, we also face the opioid crisis, poverty, housing insecurity, and the need to care for the environment. All of those issues are things I want to work on, making data-informed decisions that support our well being. So. I’m Sue Sgambelluri. I look forward to talking with you more today.

Question: What do you believe is the primary role of a city council member? And how do you plan engaging in that role as a city councilmember?

Sue Sgambelluri: Thank you for the question. It’s an interesting one—I don’t think we’ve been asked that yet. You’ve heard a lot of what’s already been said—we have fiscal responsibilities, we have responsibilities to oversee administratively the kind of work that the city does. One of the things I’ve realized I think, as as I’ve done this work for the past few years, is the different mindsets that people can bring to this work. And both of them are very valid. I think people can approach this work as city council representatives with the mindset of an activist: I care deeply about issue X, whether that’s climate or economic development, or poverty, and everything I’m going to look at is going to be through that lens, I’m gonna be geared towards solving those particular challenges. I think a second way to do this work is as a representative, as a public servant: I care deeply about the people I represent, I need to understand and proactively seek out their input on what we do. I think that also includes a huge educational role, as well. And I need to help people solve problems and equip them with the knowledge they need to connect with their government to engage with their government. Both of those roles are valid, both of them have their place. I am pretty solidly the latter. I have taken great pride, and I am so grateful for the residents with whom I’ve had a chance to work in the last three years, because it’s been very, very rewarding to see them step up and become more involved and actually take part in their own activities in their own government. So those are the two general roles I see.

Kate Rosenbarger: So what I will say is, I think first and foremost, as a district rep, I am a representative of my entire district, which is roughly 13,000 people in the city. And to me, this means students, it means non-students, it means homeowners, it means renters, it means people without homes. It means people in Black and Brown communities. It means people in the LGBTQIA+ community. It means people that come to our council meetings and speak up or email us and it means people who do not come to our council meetings and do not or cannot speak to us. So for me, it really is about creating an inclusive government and creating equitable policies as a big part of my role on city council. And to me, that means decreasing barriers to participation. So just a very specific example right now we have council meetings that start at 6:30 p.m. and run until about midnight. We have different pieces of legislation in that space. If you want to come and comment, you pretty much need to be there for the whole meeting, because you don’t know what time the piece you’re interested in might be presented. So one difference to me would be slotting legislation at a specific times. So someone can Zoom in or pop into city hall and comment on that when they’re ready—so making it more accessible in that way. Another thing for me is also meeting people where they are. So many people will never show up at a meeting. And I didn’t get to do this last time because of COVID, but I’m a I’m a proponent of door knocking throughout my term to talk to people who might never show up.

Question: If the past is any indication, there’s a slight possibility that you might encounter people who have strongly different opinions than you do. So what is your approach to working with people who have differences of opinions? And can you give an example of how you how you’ve used that effectively?

Kate Rosenbarger: Thank you very much. OK, so for me, there are two really big things here. The first one is, I like to be curious with folks. and the second one is always assume good intentions. There’s a third, spoiler, I think what Isabel said, by keeping it professional. And so first, I think being curious is just so very important, because you know, people can have different opinions from you, but you might not know why they have them, right? And you might ask these questions and have this conversation and find out, Hey, you are trying to get to the same end goal, but maybe you are approaching it in different ways, right? Or you have a different path to get there. And you can find some similarities along that path. I think assuming good intentions helps everyone sleep better at night. Most of us, or I will actually say all of us elected and people who participate all want the best for Bloomington, right? And they want the best for their neighborhoods and their kids. And so just really remembering why we are here and focusing that in this process. I will also say something I like to do is work with some of my council colleagues that maybe we tend to disagree on a lot of things, but try to find some ordinances and ideas where we can cosponsor them and spend that time together and develop those relationships. Also keeping it professional is very important to me. One councilperson, we probably disagree or vote different ways 90 percent of the time, but we still hang out at the dog park with our dogs, you know. So we have that in common. We love our dogs, and we can talk about what they ate. I didn’t have time to give an example. So I’m sorry about that. But maybe next time.

Sue Sgambelluri: I’m actually going to start with an example. Fairly early on in my tenure on council, so this would have been 2020, you started to see patterns in people’s priorities on council and you started to see a group of four that tended to vote similarly and another group of four that tended to vote similarly. And then there was me, OK. That’s fun. All right? So what’s interesting to me is right about that time I had a colleague, pull me aside privately and say: Sue, you have to choose. You have to choose. And I wish I would have come up with a more elegant response. But my semi-elegant response was: Says who? OK? I reject the notion that we can make assumptions and place our colleagues in boxes and make assumptions about what they will and will not vote on or what they do and do not care about. I think there is always opportunity for discussion and for conversation. And I think we are at our healthiest when we have some of the difficult conversations as well. We’ve spoken mostly in terms of city council so far, but I think this also extends very critically to city and county relationships as well. And as president of council currently, I’m exploring opportunities together with Kate Wiltz, who is head of the county council, to look at exactly those kinds of opportunities. You know, it’s interesting. That happens all the time on city council where we have different views. There’s nine of us and then there’s the administration. So we so we really have to discuss and figure things out. One of the things I think is really great, and one of the techniques I always look for is, let’s look for common ground, you know, the Venn diagram. There’s there’s always common ground. And if you work with people and talk to them long enough, you realize, even if they believe different things about politics, and other things, that we have common ground. So I believe that that’s incredibly important. Maybe one of the things that is a good example is when we were doing the Hopewell project or new hospital. At first, the administration laid out some architectural development of big blocks and everything. And me, I just was like: OK, because I’m not an architect, and I’m not a builder. So I was like, Well, what’s, you know, what’s wrong with that? And my colleagues on the council persuaded me—and I think that’s a good thing that we’re we are persuadable human beings—they persuaded me that we need to look at this differently. And we need to change the way that it gets laid out. And the administration was not happy. They were upset. And it took a few more weeks. But we did come to a consensus, and really that would be a good illustration of how I would think about those things.

Question: How will you collaborate with community stakeholders, city departments and community organization to achieve the city’s goals to mitigate climate change?

Sue Sgambelluri: I would echo much of what my colleagues have said regarding the climate action plan. It’s a very strong document, and it has a very good set of guidelines and principles and opportunities for us to pursue where climate response is concerned. A couple I want to highlight in particular one is the notion of how we respond to growth. Bloomington grows between 1 or 2 percent every year. That involves new construction. I can’t attend a meeting without hearing about, Oh, what’s the latest large apartment building that’s been built here in town? I think we can look at methods for requiring sustainability features in all new construction, in terms of materials and energy use. We could also find ways to incentivize the addition of sustainable features in existing buildings. So I think those kinds of things in terms of how we respond to growth are important. I haven’t heard a lot yet about public transit. But I think it’s critical. We have made some very substantial investments in public transit that are, speaking as a representative for District 2, there are large areas of my district that are not just underserved, they’re un-served by public transit. And that’s a problem. So I think that’s part of it. Beyond that, the second thing I haven’t heard anyone mentioned is partnerships with the private sector. I was in Michigan not long ago, visiting Herman Miller, makers of the Aeron chair, and they send 63 pounds of waste to the landfill—the whole factory.

Kate Rosenbarger: Ditto on prioritizing and implementing our climate action plan. So thank you, for those coming before me for saying that. For collaboration, I first want to say that climate policy is housing policy is transportation policy is food and our local economy policy. So I think some really neat collaborations could be something you know, these are very specific, OK, but partnering with the school system. So, teaching them young that yes, composting is something that we can do to divert potentially 40 percent of our waste from a landfill. And teaching kiddos to grow part of their food at home, right? Because just learning to do that creates a more resilient community and creates less dependency on a food system where we’re bringing that in from other places. I think also partnering with the chamber to help local businesses become greener. Solar panels are quite expensive, and they don’t necessarily add revenue to your business, right? But if we could create a grant program, or some kind of incentive program for small businesses around our town to have solar, that would be great as a renewable energy source. I think incentivizing not just single-family homeowners, but apartment owners to also add solar and figure out doing something in a more creative way. So billing for electric in a different way so everyone gets to have the benefits of renewable energy. I would also just say when we rebuild our systems, we must make sure that we are doing it in a way to promote equity and justice.

Question: What do you see as the key mental health challenges facing our community and how you plan to address them?

Kate Rosenbarger: I think this can be tackled very much locally and regionally. And just echoing a lot of what Isabel just said, I would say, just adding on to that, I would say mental health is public health. And we need to look at it in a very holistic way. And a lot of times we don’t do that. So I think one thing, we have the Heading Home initiative. And I think housing folks who don’t have homes is a really wonderful way to start. So we can take something off their plate, right? And get a roof over their head and help them feel safer, hopefully, before we start tackling some of the tough issues that they are dealing with every day. I also think continuing to allocate funds for non-police alternatives is very important here. So continuing to support the nonprofits doing recovery work and doing treatment work in our community. I think jail is not a place for recovery, and it does much more harm than good.

Sue Sgambelluri: One thing we’ve already heard mentioned is the local nonprofit community. The local social service network we have here is formidable, and they deserve our support, and they’ve used it well for years. So through the Jack Hopkins social service grant programs, CDBG block grants, we can continue to support those that have a great deal of expertise and passion around these issues. So I think that’s important. I do favor a balance of harm reduction and actual treatment. So I think that needs to be the approach. I would also like to see additional supportive housing. Kinser Flats is located in District 2, up on the north side. We have others—they have their challenges. But the housing-first model seems to suggest to us that we realize we cannot incarcerate our way out of this problem, or arrest our way out of this problem. And that housing is often a very critical first step to actually getting all of these other issues resolved. So beyond that, the one thing I haven’t heard mentioned yet, are continued investments in public safety for current training—so that our our staff, both our sworn officers and our non-sworn officers—have the most current training and how to respond to these challenges besides arrests, besides incarceration. Because I think very often they are the first to come in contact with and they need that kind of training. So they respond in a way that’s consistent with our community’s values.

Question: Closing statements

Kate Rosenbarger: Hi there. Thank you to the cosponsors for this event. And thank you very much the League for the wonderful, I would really call it incredible with all of our candidate information. I’ve given that to so many folks and I am very appreciative that that resource exists. I just want to, I guess, reiterate that I am running for reelection because I think Bloomington has a very wonderful opportunity to do better for all of its residents. And I think that means that recognizing that while some of us are doing OK, there are a lot of us that are not doing OK. And it’s very important for me to center equity and justice in decision making. And it really means focusing for me on making things better, not just for people today, but the next generation. Equity looks at outcomes. And I think we really have to look at our racial and social disparities in housing, in transit, in business ownership and speak to those root causes and make decisions that bring everyone up. And that’s it.

Sue Sgambelluri: As we’ve heard during this afternoon’s conversation, the city is thriving in many ways, and we can be proud of many things here. And we have more work to do. The issues that we face as a city and as neighborhoods are complicated. And the questions and the decisions that come before council are often difficult and nuanced. To do our best work, to make the best decisions for our city, our council needs public servants—emphasis on the word “servants”—who bring energy and a solid work ethic and understanding of the needs and opportunities in our neighborhoods among our neighbors. A demonstrated ability and a willingness to work across government units. A demonstrated respect for varied viewpoints. And balanced broad based insight and expertise. I believe that’s what I can offer to my neighbors on Bloomington’s northwest side. If you are among my neighbors there, I would be honored to have your vote on or before May 2. If you’d like to find out more about my campaign, will provide some more details for you.