On Wednesday afternoon, Jim Silberstein was appointed as the final member of Monroe County’s seven-member capital improvement board (CIB).
Silberstein’s LinkedIn profile describes his role in founding the Encore Cafe and Tina’s Cuisine, which operated for 18 years, until the early 2000s, in the 6th Street building that is now home to Bloomingfoods. Among the credentials cited at Wednesday’s meeting in support of his appointment were Silberstein’s MBA from Northwestern University and his work for Deloitte Consulting in Chicago.
The CIB was established by Monroe County commissioners in July of this year, under the terms specified in state law.
According to the ordinance enacted by the commissioners, the first six appointments to the CIB have to come from four different entities—county commissioners (2), county council, the mayor (2), and the city council. Those six then choose a seventh—which turned out to be Silberstein.
On Wednesday, the vote among the six on the seventh appointment was 4–2. The other two votes went to Valerie Peña. She is associate vice president in Indiana University’s office of government relations.
The group of six met for the first time in early October.
Wednesday marked the second meeting for the six initial appointees: Mick Renneisen and Adam Thies (mayor); John Whikehart and Joyce Poling (county commissioners); Eric Spoonmore (county council); and Doug Bruce (city council).
The breakdown of support among the six for Silberstein and Peña showed the same pattern as for the early October election of a CIB president and vice president. That’s when Renneisen and Thies dissented on the selection of Whikehart and Bruce for those respective roles. Thies said he wanted to see a more collaborative approach, possibly involving co-chairs.
On Wednesday, Renneisen and Thies supported Peña, while the other four supported Silberstein.
When Polling nominated Silberstein, it was Bruce who seconded that nomination. Renneisen then nominated Peña, a motion that was seconded by Thies.
Spoonmore called Silberstein and Peña “two great nominees.” He added that he “could certainly live with either one of them serving on the capital improvement board.”
But apparently sizing up the potential for 3–3 deadlock, if he and Whikehart were to split, he said, “I think, for me, if we can get to four votes, that’s the quickest way to getting this done.” So he asked others for their thoughts.
When it was Whikehart’s turn to weigh in, he led off by saying, “I’m not speaking against anyone’s nomination—but I would speak in favor of Jim’s.” Whikehart said that Silberstein’s experiences complement the experiences of others on the board.
Whikehart also cited Silberstein’s previous services as an advisor to the Small Business Development Center, which is housed at Ivy Tech. That’s where Whikehart is chancellor emeritus.
As the CIB transitions from construction of a convention center expansion to operation of the facility, Whikehart said, ”I think Jim brings a strength to that process.”
Responding to Whikehart, Renneisen said that everything that Whikehart had said about Silberstein’s strengths applied as well to Peña. What Peña brings to the table is her specific knowledge of conventions and meetings in downtown Bloomington—through her longtime previous service as head of the convention and visitors bureau, Renneisen said.
Renneisen also pointed out that Peña served as a member of the steering committee that guided the convention center expansion project through 2019. The expansion project stalled just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and is now getting restarted.
Before calling the question, Spoonmore thanked the 14 applicants who had stepped up to serve. Spoonmore joined Whikehart, Bruce, and Poling in voting for Silberstein.
In other business on Wednesday, the board voted unanimously to engage Jim Whitlach, with Bunger & Robertson, as its attorney. Whitlatch’s name could also be familiar from his service on Bloomington’s board of park commissioners.
As the CIB’s treasurer, Spoonmore reported that one of the first tasks for Whitlach would be to work on getting the board incorporated by the state of Indiana as an official government entity. That’s a requirement for the CIB to set up bank accounts, which it needs in order to receive and disburse funds.
The design firm that did some preliminary work on the Monroe Convention Center expansion before 2020 was Convergence/Schmidt Associates. So that firm has been invited to attend the CIB’s next meeting.
The next meeting of the CIB is set for 9 a.m. on Dec. 13.