The Democratic Party’s May 2 primary election for city council District 3 is a choice between Ron Smith, Hopi Stosberg, and Conner Wright.
One Republican candidate has declared for District 3 Bloomington city council—Brett Heinisch.
This write-up provides specific background on the District 3 city council Democratic Party’s 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 Common Council: District 3
District 3 covers the northeast part of Bloomington. Its southern boundary is 3rd Street.
Ron Smith is an incumbent on Bloomington’s city council. He was first elected in 2019, winning a semi-contested primary—his opponent announced withdrawal after the deadline for removal from the ballot. Smith won a narrow victory in the November 2019 election, over independent Nick Kappas.
Also in that November 2019 District 3 race was Marty Spechler, who ran as an independent that year. Smith previously ran for the District 3 seat in 2011 and lost to Spechler in the Democratic Party primary.
Smith serves currently as the city council’s representative on the city plan commission.
Smith’s campaign website describes his background, beginning with his early years in northwest Indiana and a move to Bloomington in 1974 to attend Indiana University. At one point, he ran a retail shoe store on Kirkwood Avenue where Kilroy’s is now located.
Smith is retired—as a care manager for Area 10 Agency on Aging. Before that, he worked for the state’s Division of Aging and the Office of Medicaid Policy and Planning
Smith has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Indiana University and a master’s degree in social work from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Smith’s statement of economic interests indicates he owns the sole proprietorship Ron’s Guitars.
Hopi Stosberg’s bid to represent District 3 on the Bloomington city council is her first run for elected office.
Stosberg describes her motivation for service on the city council as stemming from her background in education, executive level volunteering, and first-hand service experiences.
Some of that volunteer experience includes serving on the PTO of University Elementary, where her then-kindergartner started attending school when Stosberg and her family moved to Bloomington from Richmond, Indiana, in 2013.
Stosberg lists as priorities on her campaign website: supporting citizens (through expansion of public transportation, early child care, and affordable family housing); improving systems to reflect values of justice, equity, and inclusion; mindfulness of climate change and city initiatives; supporting youth and educational systems.
Stosberg attended Earlham College, where she earned an undergraduate degree in math and also a master’s degree in teaching.
Stosberg’s statement of economic interests indicates that she is married to Mark Stosberg, who works for Rideamigos, a company that develops software to support transportation demand management efforts for employers.
Connor Wright’s bid to represent District 3 on the Bloomington city council is his first run for elected office.
The Indiana University undergraduate traces his motivation to get involved in his community to the night of the 2016 presidential election. Wright grew up in Noblesville, Indiana, and attended high school in Fishers. He interned for the city of Fishers planning and zoning department.
Wright was appointed by the city council in February to serve a two-year term on the city’s environmental commission.
Listed as key issues on Wright’s campaign website are: housing; sustainability; transportation; safety; and homelessness.
Wright is in his second year at Indiana University. He’s looking to complete a dual degree in business and political science.
Wright’s campaign website describes how he completed conservation service projects, including the one that he did as part of satisfying the requirements to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. His website also describes work he did to revitalize the group of Democrats at his high school.
Verbatim responses from March 26, LWV forum
Question: Opening Statement
Ron Smith: Good afternoon. I’m gonna say that again. Good afternoon, everybody! I’d like to thank the sponsors for inviting me here to Neal Marshall Black Culture Center and to this event. I care about Bloomington. This is my home. I lived there since ’74 and was elected to council in 2020. Growing up in northwest Indiana, I worked in the steel mills with my father in the summer. My mother’s parents were immigrants from Hungary. I earned a master’s degree in social work from IU and worked 35 years in developmental disabilities, child welfare, aging and Medicaid. During the last two years, I’ve been teaching a graduate class at IU School of Social Work. As a social worker, I believe in being an advocate for people with disabilities, children in foster care, persons in poverty, senior citizens, people of color and people in the LGBTQ community. As a member of city council, it’s my duty to advocate for those whose voices have been marginalized. I hope you feel that I fulfill that duty and will vote for me on May 2. Thank you.
Hopi Stosberg: Good afternoon. My name is Hopi Stosberg and I am excited to also be running to hopefully represent District 3 on the city council for this election. This would be my first time running for elected position and it’s been pretty exciting to be able to speak to my neighbors and near neighbors in new and different ways than I have before. So I’m very interested in furtherjng my engagement with the entire District 3 area, I decided to run for city council—I have kind of a lifelong passion for education and educational resources. And one of the keys to student success in schools is not just what happens inside the classroom, but also community factors that happen outside of the classroom, like food security and housing security, and mental health services and the things in that category. And I have a lot of diverse experience with some of those populations. So I am excited to talk to you more about that and you can check out my website at hopi.stosberg.com Thank you.
Conner Wright: Hello, my name is Conner Wright, and I’m also running in District 3 to be a representative on city council. I’m a lifelong Hoosier. I’ve always grown up in Indiana and had a connection to Bloomington for a long time with my grandparents went to IU and my parents, and lots of aunts and uncles and cousins. So a whole family affair here in Bloomington and I love this place as near and dear to me. And my brother and sister will be coming here in a few years as well. I’m running because I have an interest in local government through my involvement in the city of Fishers department of planning and zoning when I was in high school and for being a commissioner on the environmental commission here in Bloomington. And that formed my priorities which are increasing affordable housing and housing affordability, improving transportation around Bloomington, and making it more safe and equitable and accessible, as well as improving conservation efforts in Bloomington to protect our environment from climate change. You can learn more about my campaign at connerforbloomington.com. I hope for your support.
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?
Conner Wright: I think the role of a city council member is to first and foremost represent the community they’re supposed to. So if it’s at-large that’s the entire city. For District 3, that’s the northeastern part of the city. And that means representing everyone who is in your district, even though they may not turn out and vote, even though they may not be of voting age at all—it could be a 17-year-old. There’s plenty of students that live in District 3, including a lot of fraternities and sororities, and none of them turn out and vote. Last election, I think there was four total, out of all the fraternities and sororities on frat row—and there are hundreds and maybe even a few thousand people who live there. So I think it’s important to represent everybody—people who vote and the people who don’t vote. But you also need to be a facilitator for your community, and make sure that you can utilize the various talents that are in Bloomington, and in whatever city you’re supposed to represent. We have an incredible amount of talent here, because we have a world class university where we’re currently sitting. And we have lots of professors who are very smart and know what they’re doing. And lots of students are going to be future leaders. And we need to make sure that we can give them all tools that they need to make Bloomingotn amazing, and as good as it can be.
Hopi Stosberg: I agree with Jenny about those two kind of main roles. One is sort of administrative and kind of looking at at big-level systems of the city, and how to make sure that those large-level systems are working the way that they need to work and in order to serve citizens of the city. But to that end, I also think it’s really important as a representative that you need to go out and you need to talk to people and see if those systems are actually working and what people actually need in terms of improvement and modification to the systems or creation of new systems. So to that end, I’m very committed to having regular constituent meetings. And I’m also very interested in rotating the location of those constituent meetings. District 3 is a really, really big district. If you look at it on a map. It encompasses a large area, and they’re all really different areas. Mr. Wright here spoke about the primary campus end of students which includes fraternity row, and also the apartment buildings that are to the west of the stadium area. And there are a lot of people who live in those places. And it’s predominantly students, but not necessarily all students. And I think sometimes when you get conglomerations of apartment complexes like that, it’s better to go to them, instead of expect them to come to you. And they need representation, too. And sometimes you just really have to reach out. And that is how I plan to behave, in terms of city council representation. Okay, Ron.
Ron Smith: The primary role for me is twofold. One is we’re a fiduciary body—that’s our function. So we’re looking at budgets. And so each year we do a budget marathon and we really work back and forth with the administration and try to figure out what appears to be right. What we can do to represent some of the desires of people in our in our town who have given us some feedback. So that seems to be a big role. The other role is really is to reflect what people are saying to us. I do that primarily by, I respond to every email that I get from constituents. And one of the ones that was interesting for me, to illuminate this, is I had an individual who was working to take care of his home. And then there was a variance that was kind of needed in an alleyway with the city. And he presented a pretty compelling case that, well, we didn’t need the whole alleyway—the utilities alleyway. So if we could give him some assurance that we weren’t going to dig in that and tear the corner of his house down. But we couldn’t get that through. But I really argued for that, that he should have been given that allowance.
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?
Ron Smith: 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. Thank you.
Hopi Stosberg: I’m an Earlham College graduate. Earlham is in Richmond, Indiana, if you’ve ever heard of it, I actually have my Earlham bottle right here. But Earlham College is a college that was founded on Quaker principles. And one of those Quaker principles is consensus. So as a young, very impressionable college student, I was really, really enthusiastic about that whole idea of consensus. And that idea that you’re sitting around in a group, because in any group, there’s going to be differences of opinion, you’re going to be, even if you have the same goal, everybody is going to see a different path to get there. And so the idea in my forming brain was: Everybody’s throwing in their ideas, and then everybody is voluntarily removing some of their own personal ideas, because all of your ideas are never going to work to fit into the whole. You have to give something up. And the easiest way to do that, I have found is to give it up yourself is to go: OK, if this is my priority, I see how this piece of what I’m doing is not fitting into the whole, as well as maybe it could. So I am voluntarily going to say: Let’s go with this other person’s idea right now. And that takes listening. It takes intentionality. I have high standards for myself in that way. And I similarly have high standards for other people in that way. Because I think that everybody should be able to bring new ideas to the table, and that everybody should be willing to re-evaluate their own ideas in the context of the larger whole. And I’m out of time now. So I don’t have time for an example, either.
Conner Wright: First and foremost, I think it’s important, as almost everyone has a mentioned, to find common ground with people. Throughout my life, I’ve worked with people who are from across the United States and even different countries, such as Turkey and Thailand. And those countries obviously have vastly different cultures than we do the United States, but I was still able to work with them and still able to become friends with them actually and get along with them in the workplace. And so I don’t see any reason why I can’t do that with people that are from Monroe County, Indiana, which is not nearly as far away as Thailand is. And what I’m also learning this every single day in the classrooms, I’ve worked with people who all want the same thing. We all want to get a good grade. We all want to graduate from the Kelley School of Business. And so it’s important for us to keep that goal in mind as we are working together even though we have different ideas of what success looks like and how we’re going to get there. And that’s the same thing as being on city council. We all want Bloomington to be amazing, it’s just a matter of how we get there. And one thing state senator J.D. Ford told me the first time I met him about three years ago was: I don’t have the same ideas and sometimes values as my Republican colleagues in the state senate do, but we all want Indiana to be as good as it can be. And if he can still see the good and find common ground with Republicans in the statehouse, I think I can find common ground with Democrats here in Bloomington, in Monroe County. And so that’s stuck with me. And that’s kind of my guiding principle. And I also think it’s important to not always get your way. I’ve never if I’m getting 100 percent of what I want, I’m doing something wrong.
Question: How will you collaborate with community stakeholders, city departments and community organization to achieve the city’s goals to mitigate climate change?
Conner Wright: When I first joined the environmental commission last August, Bloomington was conducting improvements on stormwater drainage on 3rd Street. And Indiana University was also having construction on Campus River. And we were talking in those meetings about how to see how stormwater runoff is affecting the city so that we can avoid flooding like we’ve had in the past. And we had to engage a lot of stakeholders from the university, to the city of Bloomington, and people in businesses that were along 3rd Street and on Kirkwood, where a lot of the flooding happened. And what we found is: It’s really difficult to get Indiana University to collaborate with the city of Bloomington. And I understand why. I mean, Indiana University doesn’t have to listen to the city at all, if they don’t want to. But I think as a student, I can bring a unique perspective. I can speak to Indiana University and say: Look, I’m paying you thousands of dollars to go to this university. My voice matters here. And you should listen to me, not just as a city council member, but as a student, and as someone who attends this university. And so I think I can help bridge that divide. But beyond that the environmental commission also does a tremendous amount of outreach, educating community members on the benefits of solar energy, the benefits of embracing different gardening practices, such as planting native plants to help the ecosystem. And even educating the community on connecting all of our parts within the city of Bloomington., so the wildlife can thrive here and not have to suffer like it does in a lot of cities.
Hopi Stosberg: So the first thing I would do, the city of Bloomington has a really great climate action plan right now it is. I will not pretend that I’ve read the whole thing, because it’s a pretty extensive document. But there’s a lot of really fantastic ideas in there, a lot of really great initiatives, a lot of data. And you can use that as a jumping off point to actually figure out real plans. And I think that I, with the multiple ways that I’ve been involved in this community over the last 10 years. You have to read the plan, and then you have to go: OK, who might be good partners for this piece of the plan? And then reach out to those partners. And so one thing that I have read in the climate action plan has to do with waste streams and composting. If I’m remembering my stats, right 40 percent of things that go into our landfill at this point are compostable. And in my role as an educator, as a mother, I have been in school cafeterias regularly doing different things. And there is a tremendous amount of food waste going on in school cafeterias. And that is a prime population to work with in terms of piloting large-scale composting operations. So it’s being able to identify where different community partners might have a particular niche, might be able to really work with them and figure out: OK, what are the barriers to our being partners on this project? And how can we work together to overcome those barriers for the good of the whole and for the ultimate climate change plan?
Ron Smith: I’ve been a member of the climate action committee for the last couple years and the the plan, as Hopi said, it’s great. It’s a big plan, there’s lots of local steps. There’s a lot of steps that we can do. And and it’s really a great plan that was put together by people. The one thing I think of is we need to make sure we have a local focus at this point. So we can actually have action that happens that would come through city council, and you’d vote on it and approve it. The best example recently was we’re starting to talk about getting rid of two-stroke engines. As far as lawn equipment in Bloomington. Me, I didn’t know anything about that. So I learned from all these smart people, and it’s incredibly polluting. And so we can figure out a way to kind of phase that out after the equipment becomes technologically a little bit better. And so what we did is, we brought together the climate action committee, we had people in the industry who were doing lawn lawn care, they cut your grass, rake your leaves, blow the stuff. We brought them together at a meeting and said: Can we do this? You know, is this going to be really onerous for your business? And it was a great thing, because I expected that maybe people would say: No. But people were very reasonable.
Question: What do you see as the key mental health challenges facing our community and how you plan to address them?
Ron Smith: I worked for the state of Indiana, had an opportunity to look at Medicaid and billings and different things and different systems I worked in. One of the things that’s happening, or has happened, is that it makes not only Medicaid, but our insurance program makes it incredibly difficult to be able to pay for mental health services in an appropriate manner. If things get really bad, yes. Generally, no, it’s really a challenge. I’d like to see that change. Now, can we do that at the local level? Probably not. But we can do things at the local level that are really important. We can help enhance the mental health services through Jack Hopkins, that some of my colleagues have talked about. I’ve been on the Jack Hopkins committee for about three years now. We give funds to agencies who are are doing the good work. And we need to make sure we have a good mental health component in our jail system. Right now, I think the answer is: We’re struggling with that. And so we need to give people our support in the county and our current sheriff to increase the mental health things and treatment in our jails. One other thing, the Stride Center in Bloomington, that was developed, so that when people are identified as having trouble out there, and instead of being arrested, they get brought there, and then they get referred to different services.
Hopi Stosberg: I think the first part of this question started out asking what is a key mental health challenge facing the community? Am I right about that? So I don’t think that anybody has actually stated that I’ll go ahead and say, one of the key challenges is that there are so many people in need of mental health services. And I will add addiction services in there as well. That is the challenge. There are just so many people out there who need it. And there are so many people out there who are not getting it—even though there are lots of different organizations that have it in this town. And I think the pandemic made mental health much more challenging. So in terms of solving that problem, as Ron just said, it is a not just a local problem. It is a state problem. It is a national problem with mental health right now. And you can start as small as possible by giving aid and continuing support of those organizations that have that specialty. But one of the huge things about it, I mean, if people are having mental health struggles, and then they’re also having issues with food security, also having issues with housing security, then they can’t actually address their mental health struggles. And so that just makes those struggles worse. So I do think also, we need to put effort towards or more effort toward housing security, affordable housing, housing affordability, food security, as well. We have some food deserts in this town and that needs to be addressed as well.
Conner Wright: First and foremost, mental health is obviously a huge challenge for our community, and especially for marginalized members of our community. My LGBTQ+ friends are struggling with mental health in a lot of cases. And some of that’s because of the state legislature, and the amount of discrimination and hate that is directed their way from the state legislature. And I imagine that’s the case for many other groups of minorities in our community as well. And well, I can’t unfortunately, control the state legislature and stop them from hurting my friends and our community, what we can do is create community spaces here in Bloomington, that are where people of the same communities can gather and can meet each other, and really find a place that they belong—that shows that Bloomington is a safe place for them, that it is a home for them, somewhere they can be their true selves in. It’s really tough if you’re the only LGBTQ+ person that you see every day. And if we had a place where they can all gather and meet each other and really show support, I think that would do wonders for their mental health. I know that’d do wonders for their mental health, actually. Because as my friends meet each other and get to know one another, they become happier and really express themselves in ways I think are tremendous. And we should also work with the county health department because it really has a lot of resources that the city does not have, and a lot of knowledge and know-how and we should definitely utilize the county health department.
Question: Closing Statements
Ron Smith: I stand on my council record. And I believe you’re right to vote who you think best represents you and the diverse needs of our Bloomington community. As chair of the sidewalk committee, I voted to increase the social equity criteria, so more sidewalks will be built in traditionally underserved areas. I voted against the conversion of single-family homes into duplexes and quadplexes in core neighborhoods. I opposed the recent proposal by the mayor of tripling your trash pickup fees. I voted to increase police salaries and benefits to competitive levels. I voted against annexation, as a member of the climate action committee, trying to respond to those issues. I voted against buying the Showers building to relocate the police. And I advocated that city spent $20 million of the ARPA funds on homelessness issues in workforce housing. My record has been pragmatic. I hope you’ll vote for me on May 2.
Hopi Stosberg: Hi, thank you all for coming to this forum and the League of Women Voters for having it and all of the other cosponsors because there were a lot of them. I’ve really enjoyed the questions being asked here today. I enjoyed hearing everybody’s answers, too. District 3 is a really geographically diverse district. And my lived experience as a parent, as an educator, as a volunteer with the unhoused population, as a volunteer with refugee resettlement, as a volunteer with youth groups and their families, I think that that has prepared me well to be able to represent and understand the concerns of such a large and diverse district. And I don’t want to go over time, but I think that I can very well serve the residents of District 3 and I hope you’ll consider voting for me in the May primary.
Conner Wright: Thank you to everyone that put on this forum. As much as I love forums, I enjoy going and talking to people individually even more. So if anyone has any questions for me at the end of this, or just has thoughts that they want to share, I’d be happy to listen. I’ve spent all of my life learning about community and working on my leadership skills, whether that was already my Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts, which I am very proud of, and some of the greatest things that I’ve done in my life that are in my local elementary school. Or whether that’s being here in Bloomington and trying to engage students and get students to really have a say in what’s going on in our community. I spent a long time trying to get people involved in government, and trying to demonstrate leadership skills. And if I’m lucky enough to be elected, I will be the first undergraduate on the city council in its history, and probably the only renter, which is a very large and important demographic—OK, not the only renter—a very large, an important demographic in the city.