Bloomington mayor-elect asks current mayor not to make strategic choices impacting beyond year’s end

With six weeks left before she is sworn into office, Bloomington mayor-elect Kerry Thomson has sent a letter to outgoing mayor John Hamilton asking him to “refrain from making any strategic or discretionary decisions which will impact beyond December 31, 2023.”

The letter was dated Nov. 14, exactly a week after Thomson was elected Bloomington’s next mayor. A Democrat, Thomson’s was one of 10 uncontested races on the ballot for city office—mayor, city clerk, and city council. It was Democrats who were all unopposed in those races. A Democrat prevailed in the 11th race as well.

Hamilton is also a Democrat. But Thomson’s letter could be one indication that the transition between the two Dems is not without some discontent.

Still, responding to an emailed B Square question, about whether there was a precipitating event that prompted her letter, Thomson called her request of Hamilton “a fairly typical request during transitions.”

Thomson confirmed to The B Square that her request of Hamilton includes the Showers West renovation and the sale of the 3rd Street police station.

But Thomson added that her request applies “also to any other significant commitments the city is making for which I and the next city council should have the opportunity to opine as we will be in leadership to carry these out.”

Thomson said that her request is not a “blanket statement” against upcoming mayoral decisions, but rather “a simple request to be included in the decisions and the opportunity to push pause if there is something that requires more due diligence.”

On Wednesday, Hamilton issued a news release announcing that he had signed the interlocal agreement between city and county governments about the operation of the new capital improvement board (CIB), which will oversee the construction and operation of the convention center expansion.

Did the request in Thomson’s Tuesday letter apply to the interlocal agreement about the CIB? Responding to that question, Thomson wrote, “I am supportive of this Interlocal,” adding, “we have been waiting for it quite a while.”

Thomson also wrote: ”Yes, of course a significant contract like [the CIB interlocal agreement] is one I will be carrying out and would have appreciated the opportunity to provide insights.”

Bloomington city councilmembers had been cc-ed on the letter from Thomson. At Wednesday’s council meeting, a couple of them expressed full support for the idea that Hamilton should refrain from making some decisions in his final six weeks. But they did not see it as a reason not to support the interlocal agreement about the CIB, when they voted 8–0 to approve it on Wednesday night. (Kate Rosenbarger was absent.)

In their remarks, councilmembers highlighted the fact that the convention center expansion is a project that has been in the works for several years. Councilmember Dave Rollo said, “This has been a long time coming.”

About the request in Thomson’s letter, Rollo said during his report time at the start of Wednesday’s meeting, “[A]s a member of the fiscal body of the city of Bloomington, that is a modest request, and I support that.”

Councilmember Susan Sandberg had introduced the topic of Thomson’s letter a minute earlier, when she read the letter aloud and gave it her full support. Sandberg said, “I, as one of nine on this council, will very respectfully and eagerly respect her request. I think it is fair.”

Sandberg added, “The very least [Thomson] should ask is better cooperation with a transition.”

Sandberg came second behind Thomson in the three-way May 2 primary race for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor.

Offering a counterpoint to Thomson’s letter was councilmember Matt Flaherty, who started off by saying, “I think collaboration is a very good idea over the next few months between administrations.” But Flaherty continued, “I’m going to respectfully disagree that we shouldn’t do our jobs, you know, for the next two months.”

Flaherty added, “We were elected for four year terms. … We should serve and make decisions large and small as we deem necessary, to effectuate our duties that we were sworn into office to uphold and further in January of 2020.”

Flaherty concluded, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask either this body or the mayor to refrain from making the decisions that we think are in the best interests of the city in accordance with our duties as elected officials.”

The looming big decision that could possibly confront the city council before the end of the year is the potential sale of the 3rd Street police station, as part of a plan to move the police department’s operation into Showers West, which is the western part of the city hall building.

Bids for the police station property, which is being actively marketed, are due by Dec. 12.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Rollo expressed frustration that he had not been able to find out from the administration the appraised value of the 3rd Street station, given that an appraisal had been done.

Any sale of the police station will need final approval from the city council.

Related to the sale of the police station are the construction contracts for the renovation of the Showers West building. The renovation is required in order to accommodate the operational and security needs of a working police station inside the 110-year-old former factory building.

It was at the start of this year, when the council approved the purchase of the Showers West, partly for the purpose of relocating police operations there.

Showers West construction contracts will not need approval from the city council. That’s based on the assessment of city council attorney Stephen Lucas after the city council’s Nov. 1 meeting, when he spoke with representatives of the police union.

Post and police union representative Jeff Rodgers both spoke from the public mic during the Nov. 1 council meeting, asking for more scrutiny of the process to develop the construction plans and of the planned renovations.

Lucas told police union president Paul Post that he did not believe the council would have to approve the construction contracts.

Still, the city council will have a chance to dig into the topic of the Showers West renovation at a Dec. 4 noon work session. The council voted unanimously on Wednesday to set a work session on the topic of Showers West.

Construction contracts for the Showers West renovation have been put out to bid on the following timetable:

Event Time Day Date
Issue Date N/A Monday Nov. 6, 2023
Pre-Bid Meeting (Not mandatory) 1:00 p.m. Monday Nov. 20, 2023
Final Questions Due 5:00 p.m. Tuesday Dec. 5, 2023
Affirmative Action Plan Due 12:00 p.m. Friday Nov. 8, 2023
Bids Due 12:00 p.m. Monday Dec. 11, 2023
Bid Opening 12:15 p.m.. Monday Dec. 11, 2023

Bid Documents

[Updated Nov. 16, 2023 at 9:32. Two additional letters were sent after Thomson’s Nov. 15, 2023 letter to Hamilton. One is from Hamilton to current city councilmembers. The other was sent by Thomson to current city councilmembers and councilmembers-elect. Here’s the set of three:

2023-11-14 letter from Thomson to Hamilton
2023-11-15 letter from Hamilton to CMs
2023-11-15 letter from Thomson to CMs and CMs-elect

Thomson’s letter indicates that she and Hamilton spoke on the evening of Nov. 15.]

10 thoughts on “Bloomington mayor-elect asks current mayor not to make strategic choices impacting beyond year’s end

  1. Can you attach the letter from Thomson to Hamilton? The intended link attaches to legislation.

  2. It seems that there are many things that the current Mayor needs to do now such as appointments to boards and commissions which might need those spots filled to carry out business.

    Certainly the biggest thing that this administration and council did was to pass next year’s budget, which by law had to be approved by November but affects the new administration.

    Work can’t stop just because there will be a new administration

  3. Yes, by all means, lets work at breakneck speed to implement unwise and unpopular measures in the last seven weeks of the administration of Bloomington’s least popular mayor in the last fifty years. Not.

  4. It’s time for Hamilton to put away his signature pen and start packing for his long awaited departure from the Mayor’s office. Let the next administration decide what is important for the next four years.

  5. It is important to note that the Mayor’s letter of response says that the last substantive meeting with the Mayor-elect was in July……

  6. Thank you, Mayor Kerry Thompson.
    Bloomington very much awaits your collaboration with all constituents.
    Bess Lee

  7. With the disclaimer that I voted for Kerry in the Dem primary, these are my thoughts on the matter:

    I do not think this is either an unwise nor unprecedented request. At a meeting of the MC Environmental Commission last night, Councilor Peter Iversen stated it is the general policy of the county council to not do any official action that would unfairly bind future councils. I think it is totally fair for Mayor-Elect Thomson to request that anything not legally or administratively required be held off on until after the next slate of city leadership and department heads are installed.

    I disagree with Councilmember Flaherty’s erroneous characterization that this request someone keeps the council from “doing their jobs.” Thomson preempts his argument in her letter by limiting the request to “discretionary” actions. To respond to some potential actions raised in other comments/conversations, board/commission appointments are discretionary unless an appointment is required for quorum/statutory requirements to conduct business. Signing new contracts that we are not financially/legally penalized for not signing is discretionary. Passing routine ordinance updates or time-sensitive decisions regarding planning or public works may not be discretionary either if they are truly urgent/needed. To act as if Thomson wants Hamilton and the current council to sit on their hands while the city burns is purposefully misconstrued for political argument’s sake.

    If the board of a business hired a new CEO to replace the current CEO at the end of the current CEO’s term, surely the board would not allow the current CEO to change a bunch of policies, sign new contracts, and have complete free-reign in his last few months. This is understood (almost) universally in leadership and governance practices, at least in my experience.

  8. And surely, the business’s outgoing CEO would have had substantive conversations with the incoming CEO more recently than four months ago…

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