Photos | Bloomington Freezefest 2022: Winter festival goes through Saturday, Jan. 22

Temperatures on Friday night for Freezefest 2022, Bloomington’s winter festival, were holding steady around 14 F degrees. That’s plenty cold enough to keep the ice sculptures intact for Saturday’s final day of activities.

On the docket for Saturday in the Trades District north of city hall are ice carving demonstrations and games for kids, among other activities. If you ever wanted to play bean bag toss (aka cornhole) on ramps made of ice, play ping pong on an ice table, or sit on an ice throne, Saturday (Jan. 22) is the day to cross those items off your list.

For details see the Freezefest website. Here’s more photos from Friday night. Continue reading “Photos | Bloomington Freezefest 2022: Winter festival goes through Saturday, Jan. 22”

Bloomington prevails in lawsuit filed by vendor over anti-white-supremacist protests at farmers market

On Wednesday, a U.S. District Court judge delivered a summary judgment in favor of Bloomington, in the lawsuit filed against the city, the mayor and two staff members, by the owners of Schooner Creek Farm (SCF).

Six protestors against Schooner Creek Farm, including one in a purple unicorn costume, were arrested on Nov. 9, 2019. None were charged.

The summary judgment means the case got a ruling without a trial. It also means the court agreed with Bloomington that there were no relevant disputes about the facts of the case, and that it could be decided just based on application of the law.

The court found that Bloomington did not violate the constitutional rights of SCF’s owners, as they had claimed. According to the city of Bloomington’s news release, which came late Friday, SCF’s owners  have 30 days to file an appeal with the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.

Schooner Creek Farm (SCF) was a Bloomington farmers market vendor during the 2019 season. SCF drew protests that year from local activists over its ties to white supremacist groups and views. On two occasions, protesters were arrested by Bloomington police, but charges were not filed.

The lawsuit claimed that the city had not enforced the market rules against the protesters in the same way it had enforced rules against SCF—which is a constitutional equal protections issue. SCF also claimed that its constitutional rights of free speech were infringed by the city’s response to the protests. Continue reading “Bloomington prevails in lawsuit filed by vendor over anti-white-supremacist protests at farmers market”

5-to-4 rift persists in Bloomington city council: Standing committees from 2020 nixed as Volan says, “The sponsors don’t like doing math.”

On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council passed a resolution that abolished most of the council’s standing committees.

Councilmember Steve Volan began his final commentary with his assessment of those who had proposed the resolution: “The sponsors don’t like doing math.”

In the end, the only math that mattered was the sum of votes in favor of the resolution, which was 5. Volan was one of the four who opposed the resolution, which was sponsored by Susan Sandberg, Sue Sgambelluri, and Jim Sims. Also voting for the resolution were Ron Smith and Dave Rollo.

Volan was joined in dissent by Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Kate Rosenbarger, and Matt Flaherty.

Wednesday’s council action effectively undid an early 2020 decision by the council to establish a several new four-member standing committees. As newly-elected council president that year, Volan had managed to assemble a 5–4 majority in support of the new committees.

Two years later, the only difference in the 5–4 split was the vote of Sue Sgambelluri. She supported the creation of new committees in 2020. But Sgambelluri co-sponsored Wednesday’s resolution abolishing them.

The 5–4 split on the resolution is one that some councilmembers are increasingly starting to see as a fundamental divide, even if it’s not along party lines. All members of the Bloomington city council are Democrats.

After an amendment, the resolution preserved the climate action and resilience committee, but eliminated the rest of the 2020 committees. Wednesday’s resolution also eliminated the land use committee, which the council had established in 2018.

Some other standing committees that existed before 2020 were either preserved or restored by Wednesday’s resolution: the sidewalk committee; the Jack Hopkins social services funding committee; and three three-member “interview committees” that are responsible for reviewing appointments to various boards and commissions.

About her change in perspective since 2020, Sgambelluri said Wednesday night: “I also believe that, overall, standing committees have not shown themselves to be the best tool, or even the better tool for managing council’s workload.” Continue reading “5-to-4 rift persists in Bloomington city council: Standing committees from 2020 nixed as Volan says, “The sponsors don’t like doing math.””

Midnight work on courthouse square part of routine meter upgrade by Bloomington utilities

When a city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) crew is out around midnight busting up a street with heavy equipment, it often means there’s been a water main break.

But on Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, it was some routine updates that brought the CBU crew out to the west side of the courthouse square on College Avenue.

According to workers on the scene, confirmed on Wednesday morning by CBU communications manager Holly McLauchlin, Tuesday night’s project involved upgrading the water service to the building on that side of the square. Continue reading “Midnight work on courthouse square part of routine meter upgrade by Bloomington utilities”

Fire station in south part of Bloomington to get interior remodel

At its Tuesday meeting, Bloomington’s board of public works approved a $48,975 contract with Strauser Construction Company for some remodeling work in one of Bloomington’s five fire stations.

The work will be done at Fire Station #5, which is located on Henderson Street in the south part of town.

According to the staff memo in the board’s meeting information packet, the project includes several interior modifications: expansion of the kitchen area with new cabinets and countertops; construction of a partition wall in the equipment bay; construction of a small office for use by the station captain; filling in the overhead door on the north side of the building with solid masonry; and the installation of a new door leading from the equipment bay to the locker room.

The item drew no discussion from the three-member board of works. They’d been briefed on the project at a work session earlier in the afternoon by public works director of facilities J. D. Boruff. Continue reading “Fire station in south part of Bloomington to get interior remodel”

Bloomington MLK Day celebration: “Universities and colleges must see the community as an equal partner in the education enterprise, not just a partner.”

Bloomington’s annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday took place as scheduled on Monday night at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.

Delivering the keynote address was Eddie Cole, who is associate professor of higher education and history at UCLA. Cole earned his doctorate at Indiana University.

Cole was able to observe some changes in Bloomington’s physical landscape since the time when he was a student here: “From me coming back to Bloomington having graduated almost 10 years ago, it is shocking to see the high rise apartments and things that weren’t here just a decade ago. They look very nice. I can only imagine how much they cost!”

Cole put his observation into the context of his research: “But we can think about the cost of living for the average resident of Bloomington. What does [Indiana University’s] growth mean to the community?”

That question is connected to one of Cole’s challenges of action: “We have to have pro-active community engagement between institutions in our local communities.” Cole continued, “Universities and colleges must see the community as an equal partner in the education enterprise, not just a partner.” Cole added, “It is easy to have partnerships, it is easy to have meetings.”

Cole posed the question: “Do you see the community as an equal partner within the education enterprise? Does the community even have a say in your university’s strategic goals and objectives?”

Cole’s research is the subject of his book, “The Campus Color Line.” Continue reading “Bloomington MLK Day celebration: “Universities and colleges must see the community as an equal partner in the education enterprise, not just a partner.””

Bloomington Transit board to start 2022 with work on strategic plan after contentious officer elections to end year

Is it possible that someday everyone waiting at a public bus stop in Bloomington could climb aboard without having to pay a fare?

Could Bloomington’s public buses ever follow routes that go outside the city limits, if they serve the interests of Bloomington residents?

Will Indiana University and Bloomington Transit (BT) ever extend their cooperative arrangements to a point where there’s just one public bus system in town?

Those are some of the questions that BT’s new board president James McLary would like to address in a strategic plan that the public transit corporation is developing. McLary spoke about BT’s strategic plan in a late December interview with The B Square.

The strategic plan will have to incorporate the impact of the pandemic on ridership. In November 2021, BT ridership on fixed routes was about half what it was in pre-pandemic times.

Appearing on the Bloomington Transit board’s Jan. 18 meeting agenda is an item under old business labeled “Development of a Strategic Plan for Bloomington Transit.”  That’s just a discussion item.

McLary’s election as the board’s president for 2022 came at the board’s Dec. 21 meeting. The 3–2 tally on the vote reflected the contentious character of the choice.

It’s an indicator that the board might not necessarily be in perfect alignment on elements of the strategic plan that it will be developing this year. Continue reading “Bloomington Transit board to start 2022 with work on strategic plan after contentious officer elections to end year”

Bloomington annexation remonstrance final raw tally: Automatic stop in play for six of seven areas, court review now possible for one

When the Jan. 6 deadline passed for submitting remonstrance petitions against Bloomington’s annexation ordinances, the Monroe County auditor’s office was able to provide only a preliminary raw tally of signatures.

That’s because several signatures were submitted on the final day.

Based on the now final but still raw tally, every area but one would have enough signatures to meet the 65-percent threshold that automatically blocks Bloomington’s annexation attempt.

That’s the same basic picture that was already known on the final day of remonstrance.

What’s different is the status of Area 1B, which by the auditor’s count at the time had not yet achieved even a lower threshold of 50-percent. That’s a benchmark that doesn’t stop the annexation but does ensure that a judge reviews a city’s annexation ordinance.

Adding in the final day’s count has bumped the total for Area 1B past the 50-percent threshold.

But it’s still short of the 65-percent mark. The area has 2,102 unique owners, of which 1,342 signed a remonstrance petition. That’s 63.8 percent. The 65-percent threshold would have required signatures from 25 more property owners. Continue reading “Bloomington annexation remonstrance final raw tally: Automatic stop in play for six of seven areas, court review now possible for one”

COVID-19 numbers continue steep climb as Monroe County and Bloomington take different paths after Supreme Court vax-or-test ruling

The number of positive COVID-19 cases across Indiana and in Monroe County has continued its steep rise.

The big case numbers form part of the background to Thursday’s U.S. Supreme ruling on the OSHA emergency temporary standard set forth by the Biden administration.

It’s the standard that includes a requirement for employers with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or get tested weekly for the pandemic virus.

The Supreme Court ruling imposes a stay on the OSHA rule.

A 6–3 majority on the nation’s highest court agrees that OSHA’s mandate “exceeds its statutory authority and is otherwise unlawful,” which means that the majority thinks the plaintiffs in a lower federal court battle are likely to prevail.

Based on remarks from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton at Friday’s weekly news conference, it sounds like the city of Bloomington is going to stick with its implementation of the OSHA mandate, while a local lawsuit against the city plays out. Three city unions  filed a lawsuit against the city of Bloomington in Monroe County circuit court  over the city’s vax-or-test policy.

Based on an email message sent to department heads by a Monroe County staff attorney, Monroe County will hold off on enforcing its plan to conform with the OSHA mandate.  The email message states: “[D]epartment leaders are being asked to not enforce the additional requirements found in that particular policy.” The message continues, “Compliance with the local health order and other aspects of the County Continuity of Operations Plan is still expected.” Continue reading “COVID-19 numbers continue steep climb as Monroe County and Bloomington take different paths after Supreme Court vax-or-test ruling”

Column | The calculus of a great local business: Function Brewing changes owners

I will miss Steve and Arlyn Llewelyn as owners of Function Brewing.

A pint of Theorem at Function Brewing on Jan. 14, 2022.

It’s the brewpub downstairs from my 6th Street apartment in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.

They have sold the business to Endeavor Hospitality Group, a Bloomington firm that owns several other local restaurants.

Sadie Clark, director of operations at Endeavor, confirmed the acquisition in an email to The B Square on Wednesday.

Function Brewing joins Southern Stone, Grazie Italiano, Garnish Catering, Underground Bakery, The Owlery, Feast, Market and Cellar, The Fresh Fork, The Court Room, Beaumont House, and Wagon Wheel Meats as part of the family of businesses that Endeavor has acquired.

On Friday, the official publicity came in the form of a personal message from Steve and Arlyn on the brewery’s Facebook Page.

Steve and Arlyn launched the brewery in 2014, right around this time of year. Their message posted on Friday reflected on those eight years: “The last eight years have been full of joy but also deeply exhausting. Owning a business is hard; and this past year, in particular, has been brutally hard. Honestly, we just couldn’t do it any longer.”

About the new owners, the message adds, “We are thrilled and relieved to hand off our business to a local company with more energy and resources than we have, that can take our little brewery and grow it in ways that we could only imagine.”

What is great about Function Brewing? For one thing Steve brews great beer.

But I am not an aficionado of beer—I cannot tell you the difference between a stout, an ale, a lager or a porter. I had to look up “kinds of beer” on the internet in order to type out that list. Continue reading “Column | The calculus of a great local business: Function Brewing changes owners”