The Democratic Party’s May 2 primary election for city council District 5 is a choice between Shruti Rana and Jenny Stevens. There is no Republican candidate in District 5.
This write-up provides specific background on the District 5 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 Common Council: District 5
District 5 covers the southeastern periphery of the city.
Shruti Rana’s bid for the District 5 city council seat is her first run for elected office. There’s no incumbent running in District 5—that’s part of the impact of redistricting in 2022.
Rana serves as an appointed member of Bloomington’s five-member board of public safety, and on the commission on the status of women. She resigned from the Monroe County election board, in order to run for city council.
Rana’s campaign website lists three priorities: expanded access to childcare and healthcare; fostering an environment to attract better jobs and opportunities; and improving public trust, inclusivity, and collaboration.
Rana is professor of law, and assistant dean at IU’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. Rana’s statement of economic interests indicates that her husband, David Gamage, also works for Indiana University. Gamage is professor of law at IU’s Maurer School of Law.
Rana earned her law degree from Columbia University. She also has degrees from the London School of Economics and the University of California, Berkeley. She previously taught at the University of Maryland and University of California and practiced law in other states.
Shruti Rana candidate declaration
Shruti Rana statement of economic interests
Shruti Rana campaign committee filing
Shruti Rana campaign website
Shruti Rana LWV Vote411 Profile
Jenny Stevens’ bid for the District 5 city council seat is her first run for elected office. There’s no incumbent running in District 5—that’s part of the impact of redistricting in 2022.
At candidate forums, Stevens has spoken about her work to help promote the passage of the Monroe County Community School Corporation (MCCSC) referendum in 2010.
Her campaign website also indicates volunteer experience with TEDxBloomington, Girl Scouts, and Leadership Bloomington/Monroe County.
On her campaign website, Stevens lists three priorities: public infrastructure; affordable housing; and public safety.
Stevens works remotely for the University of Cincinnati as a grant administrator. She previously worked for Indiana University as a grant coordinator for the physics department.
She holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from IU and earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati. She has lived in Bloomington since 1995.
Stevens’ statement of economic interests indicates that she’s married to Frank Stevens, who is retired from the Center for Behavioral Health.
Jenny Stevens candidate declaration
Jenny Stevens statement of economic interests
Jenny Stevens campaign committee filing
Jenny Stevens campaign website
Jenny Stevens 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
Shruti Rana: Hi, I’m Shruti Rana running for city council District 5. And I’m a mother, a lawyer, a professor and community advocate. And if elected, I would make history as the first woman of color ever to serve on Bloomington city council. I have worked all over the world and here in Bloomington on human rights and civil rights protections. In Bloomington, I’ve been a part of the Monroe County election board. I’ve served our police and fire departments on our public safety board. And I’ve been on the Bloomington commission for the status of women, as well as a number of groups focused on women’s rights, reproductive rights and racial justice. My goals for city council are to enhance access to child care, health care, build a more inclusive community, protect our citizens and our residents whose rights are under siege all over our state. And build the build the things that bring jobs and opportunities and people to Bloomington and stay here and invest here. I’d be honored to serve you and I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.
Jenny Stevens: Hi, I’m Jenny Stevens running for city council District 5—those are the neighborhoods that are Sunny Slopes, Sherwood Oaks, spans and all the way up to Gentry Honours and Hoosier Acres. So it’s a very large, diverse population and a lot of core neighborhoods. I’ve been here since 1995—I’m a longtime resident. I chose to stay here with my husband and raise our three children. I’ve worked at Indiana University. Prior to that time, I’ve worked in healthcare. I had a lot of management roles, dealing with bureaucracies, government, regulations, safety of the citizens and the children, and the healthcare environment—everything always looking to build diverse voices together. I care greatly about what happens in our core neighborhoods, in particular, public infrastructure and the investment in sustainability, and using our climate goals to make sure we’re doing it well. Public safety, in terms of what we’re doing with our police and our firefighters, we have shortages, we need to make sure that we are keeping that staffed. And affordable housing. Thank you very much.
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?
Jenny Stevens: The primary role of a city council member is twofold. One, is there the fiscal management oversight of the regular city government and all the essential services that the city is providing. So you’re going to be budgeting you’re going to be working on policies. But the other part of that is that I’m in a representative role. So I do represent my district. And I do represent the core neighborhoods. So the people that are living in those core neighborhoods will bring their concerns to me and they should be rolling up into the city council discussions and into the governance overall of our city.
Shruti Rana: I think the primary goal is representation. So what I want to know is I want to hear from you, what is impacting you? What do you need? And what can the city government do for you? And I can be that bridge, having the experience of knowing how our city works, and how people can work together and say: This is what you need, this is what you’re looking for, this is how we can implement it, this is how we can strengthen it in Bloomington. And this is how we can make sure that your voice is heard. And I think it’s incredibly important to increase public trust in government. That’s what builds a strong community. That’s what enables us to work together and get through things like the pandemic and the way that our rights are being taken away in our state. And I think the more that we build that civic engagement, we strengthen our community, we build the kind of community that supports all of us is truly inclusive, and enables us to have the best future that we can—the future that we all deserve.
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?
Shruti Rana: So I’ve worked on some of the most contentious civil rights issues of our time. And then I work as an educator, where I want to build a supportive environment that fosters learning. And then I’ve worked as a lawyer where I’m working on the most boring, long contracts and details where everyone’s eyes glaze over. And what I’ve learned from those is that you have to bring people to the table but really see each other as human beings, right? So this person sitting across from you, they may be on the opposite side of an issue. But they may also be a parent. There’s somebody who also has a job or who also cares about their school. And then I’ve learned that sometimes the most angry people are the ones who are the most passionate about an issue. And they’re upset because they care so much. So they want you to listen to them and think about how to work together actually, even though they’re coming across as angry. And the two examples that I want to give are my work on the election board and my launch party. So the election board is two Democrats and one Republican. And we worked together to, almost all of our votes were 3–0, right, even though these elections and election integrity and validity or whatever are such polarizing issues in our state—because we wanted everyone to know that their votes mattered, and that we had an election full of integrity, and worked together to have unanimous votes as much as possible. And then the second thing is at my launch party, I had a couple of staunch Republicans show up to my party. And, you know, and I thought, you know, they came to me, and they said, we don’t agree with you on any of these issues. You know, I don’t mince words, when I talk about abortion, or LGBTQ rights, and things like that. [TIME] I’ll tell you later, what they said. Stay tuned!
Jenny Stevens: To provide some context, I was a materials manager and served as the product chair on the safety commission, and also for product review, where there were nurses, surgeons, respiratory therapists, a diverse group of people who were constrained by the joint commission for accreditation of hospitals, and OSHA rules and all kinds of safety guidelines. Additionally, I worked with faculty to push grants out over 25 years. And they also had to fall within guidelines, university protocol. When they got the money, they had to follow university rules. And they also had to follow federal guidelines often. And then I served as a program manager in an international lab at IU also, where there were a bunch of people that were on visas, and we were constantly looking at their work authorizations and their visas. So within that context, I’ve had a lot of tricky situations where people really wanted to do something, but it didn’t fall within the guideline. And in that regard, I had to dig deep to find what that guideline was. And the biggest thing I learned is you have to listen with understanding, despite your not wanting to really hear, because it makes you feel vulnerable. You have to focus on the goal, you have to invite your viewpoints, you have to shop the ideas around and get everybody on board. The biggest thing I ever did for IU was to keep a faculty member from leading from leaving when that was not working for that individual. And I did it by taking great personal risk, and negotiating with the federal government with some sanctioned approvals. It was a little bit of a strange situation.
Question: How will you collaborate with community stakeholders, city departments and community organization to achieve the city’s goals to mitigate climate change?
Jenny Stevens: This kind of picks up where I was last, which is understanding all the policies and regulations, the federal rules, and also the responsibilities and the expertise that is in the city department. But also within our city, we have a lot of expertise that sits at IU that I would want to tap into. Once you really know what that is, you dig deep to understand what it is, and to look at the newest technologies and the newest things that are out there and to try to build that into the budget. But you also are going to be shopping around a whole lot of ideas with the people that know the best. Tell me what you know about this. Tell me what your ideas are. The more diverse and the biggest amount of ideas you get on the plate, the more you can do better as a city, because everybody will have a stake in it. Everybody will be involved and we will be enthused and excited. I wanted to also go back to something I didn’t answer the first time, which was how I would involve the people within my community, District 5. And that is that most of the neighborhoods have listservs. And so I would be trying to be invited to their listserv and going to their regular meetings. And I would also have some regular meetups with the individuals. And also I would want to care about their climate change initiatives. Because in a lot of our neighborhoods, we do have environmental issues with erosion, with drainage. And that might might be something that would raise all the way up to the council, without us being really aware of what’s happening.
Shruti Rana: Allright. So I left you on a cliffhanger. And I’m going to tell you the end of that story, which relates to this topic, too. So what I was saying is that someone who disagreed with me on all of these really big issues, came to me and said: I am here because I support you. And I’ve seen how much you care. And I know that you’re a Democrat, and I’m a Republican, but I know that you care about me. And that’s the attitude that I would bring towards bringing people at all levels of our community together, because climate is affecting all of us. And think about the ways that we can work together. And I want to work closely with bringing the federal grants that are out there in the Inflation Reduction Act to Bloomington. My dad was a pioneer in the renewable energy solar cell industry. And so I learned a lot about how to how to talk to business people, how to talk to scientists, in racial justice work, how to talk to communities who are impacted. And think about ways that we can meet all of those goals together, understand that we face a common threat that can only be addressed, if we are literally actually truly working together.
Question: What do you see as the key mental health challenges facing our community and how you plan to address them?
Shruti Rana: We know that the pandemic has pushed a lot of us to the brink. And we know that mental health issues are escalating all over our city and county. And I’ve been working on a long-term research project on what we call the COVID care crisis about how to address some of these issues. And number one, I would look at building and supporting the continuum of care, understanding mental health issues and accompanying issues as something that needs holistically to be addressed from start to finish. You’ve heard about somebody has a mental health issue, then they lose their job and they get evicted and their family is in crisis, right? And in the legal world, I’ve been looking at this idea of a one-stop shop, as a way to address that. Somebody has an eviction issue, they can go to the same place and get mental health resources, they can go to the same place and get substance abuse resources. And these are the reasons that I support things like universal pre-K, right. It’s not just the education. It’s when you have universal pre-K, you can make sure that children who aren’t getting meals at home get food at school. They get health services, they get vaccinations. Teachers will see the warning signs of what’s happening at home and they can get the families resources and care. So that’s an example of how every piece of whatever we do in terms of housing, transportation, affordability, all of these things fit together and support one another. And we just really need to focus on: Where are the weakest links in our continuum of care, and how can we build those up?
Jenny Stevens: This is a really important issue for many of us. Because we all want to be mentally healthy, and we all want to be secure. And everyone at this table has brought up so much in regard to how our community cares and the resources. The opioid settlement will be a wonderful resource. The programming and the people who are running the programs through our social service networks, and the support the city has done through the Jack Hopkins fund—it’s phenomenal. And Bloomington is known as a place that has a big heart, and people from across the state, send their people here, because they know that we won’t let them fall through, as much as we can. But we have to address something that Shruti kind of suggested, which is this epidemic of loneliness. Loneliness is a big thing. We did experience that in COVID, but we experienced it before. And it really impacts mental health. Everybody needs to have community, they need to have connection. And then when they experience episodes of any kind of mental instability, they have a catch-all, they have a connection. They can get to the services. Right now, we have individuals who can’t get there. They need our help to get access to the services and to understand how the housing and how everything else impacts them, and to make them more secure. So we need to de-stigmatize the mental health. We need to build the community around those individuals. And we keep needing to work on this because it’s going to be something we’re going to need to do forever.
Question: Closing Statements
Shruti Rana: I will tell a story I’ve told before, that serves as one of my inspirations for running, but also my promise to all of you. I was working with some of you in the room on the response to anti-Asian hate and the FedEx shootings in Indianapolis, and I was incredibly touched by the story of a Sikh gentleman who was asked: When you’re faced with this kind of discrimination and prejudice and bias, why don’t you just give up and why don’t you just leave? And he said: No, my answer is that I will dig roots so deep into the soil, that they reached the bedrock and they shift the foundations upon which our country was built. And that will be my promise to you. I will dig the deepest roots. We can look at climate resilience, housing, education, transportation, health care, investments and jobs. And I will never give up fighting for the people of Bloomington and listening to what you want and what you need. And by bringing the strongest roots, I think we can meet any challenge we have facing us.
Jenny Stevens: The city of Bloomington performs an essential service. And some of these services aren’t so sexy—sewer, water, utilities, police and fire, some economic development, and funding some social initiatives. In all of my leadership roles, I served as a support person, even though I was in leadership. And within those support roles, I had to take a larger mission. And I had to make sure that I was focused on that larger mission and that I was promoting that mission and that it was working with a diverse group of people. It is what I would intend here to do for Bloomington. It is what I’ve done in the past in all of my roles. And in the service I’ve done with MCCSC, the school corporation, which has been behind the scenes, I dug in deep in 2010. I helped lead that referendum. It passed for our students. That’s the kind of investment I want to make now as your District 5 representative.
8 thoughts on “Bloomington city council District 5 Democratic Party Primary: Shruti Rana, Jenny Stevens”
Question that maybe B Square can help with:
With a $20k salary, I guess these aren’t considered full-time positions. What is the expected level of effort? Have incumbents had full-time commitments outside their position with the city? (Maybe some have been self-employed or financially independent from employment?)
If they (past incumbents) or anyone else has discussed the question of how a person finds time for the appropriate level of effort, it would be interesting to see that.
maybe this is unfair but Allison Chopra wound up on my mind and she is an example of one extreme of what you asked. if i understand correctly, she was a law student while serving on the council. as for how she paid for that, i figure it’s none of my business. but i think it’s not a stretch to say, she was still trying to develop her future career. and she also had at least one kid i think?
anyways, i really thought she was an excellent representative in a lot of ways but she had this liability, she simply couldn’t make the time work. i don’t know what it was like as a constituent asking to have a meeting with her (most of the councilmembers do honor requests like that, especially in campaign season!), but simply her attendance at council was spotty. when meetings would go late, she would promptly leave at some hour, i think 11pm. and when there were things like budget hearings or UDO debate where there would be meetings more often than just the regular wednesday, she would simply not show up.
she was fierce and upfront about it. she was always fighting to get the council to stop wasting time, to put time limits on debate, to avoid having staff standing up for half an hour reading the same material they already put in the council packet. stuff like that. and she would say “if it comes to my kid’s little league game vs coming here, i’m gonna make the right choice”, and from a personal perspective i totally agree with her. but there was at least one instance where something failed 4-4 that i am 90% certain would have passed 5-4 if her kid hadn’t had some sort of event that night. the city was materially deprived of her good voice because of her timing constraints.
so yeah people who are working on their careers or who have kids have a very hard time serving as councilmembers, which i think is a huge loss to us. since i’m badgering them a lot, i consciously try not to pry into their personal lives, but off the top of my head i don’t think there are any parents on the council right now (maybe some ’empty nesters’??), and i know some of the councilmembers are retired, have independent means, or have essentially part-time jobs or so on.
No council meeting should last for over 4 hours
It is part time.
i don’t have a horse in this race…but a couple word choices intrigued me. i guess it’s pointless to say, i found myself looking at side-by-side photos of Allison Chopra and Shruti Rana to compare colors.
but what that really got me is Jenny Stevens’ use of the phrase “core neigborhoods.” i’ve heard often that it’s meaningless, that the word “core” is just used there to imply that some neighborhoods are more important, more vital, more essential than others. i agreed, but i confess, i have still used the phrase myself because i thought that it was obvious to all who heard it that it refers to the pre-war street-grid neighborhoods that surround downtown and campus. i thought core was a way to say central, and also old. maybe the easiest way to sum up my understanding of core neighborhoods would have been to say specifically “the thing there isn’t any of in district 5.”
hearing a district 5 candidate talking about core neighborhoods has opened my eyes and i’m gonna try to exorcise that meaningless heap of empty phrase from my mouth forever.
to be clear, this is just a semantic observation on my part. sadly, from this presentation, i couldn’t really tell the difference between them when it comes to the sort of things that come before the council. maybe that’s a lack of vision on my part. i’m actually hoping someone involved with the campaigns might come to this comment section and fill in some details, maybe allude to the hot button issues that have come before the council in recent memory. 🙂
You are correct. There is nothing in code or zoning that defines core neighborhoods. It is an attempt to specialize or prioritize some neighborhoods over others. I find it offensive
Thanks Dave for these compilations
If we only elect independently wealthy and retired people to city council, we will not have a city council that fully represents the quotidian concerns of city residents. Shruti Rana is incredibly qualified and has a truly impressive C.V. We should trust that if she chose to run that she is ready to fully commit to the job. Also, not a coincidence that a major part of her platform is universal pre-k.
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