Election 2023: Sims won’t run again for city council, still plans continued service to Bloomington

Bloomington at-large city councilmember Jim Sims will not be seeking reelection in 2023.

Sims has confirmed his plans not to run in 2023 in a phone interview with The B Square.

The nine-members of the city council, along with the mayor and city clerk, are up for election in 2023. All 11 elected Bloomington officials are Democrats.

Sims said his decision not to seek reelection was a tough one—something he had grappled with, and consulted with others about.

But in the end, Sims said, he recognized the potential impact that the stress of city council service might have on his own health. That led him to conclude he could serve the community better in non-legislative ways.

“It’s just time to move on,” Sims said.

Some of those non-legislative ways include his involvement in the Monroe County branch of the NAACP. Sims currently serves as the organization’s 2nd vice president for political engagement and finance. Sims said he plans to continue his more than 20 years of service with the NAACP. Continue reading “Election 2023: Sims won’t run again for city council, still plans continued service to Bloomington”

Company email: Catalent’s Bloomington operation to cut 400 jobs

In a Wednesday morning email sent site-wide on behalf of Andrew Espejo, who is general manager of Catalent’s manufacturing facility in Bloomington, the pharmaceutical manufacturing company has announced a reduction of its Bloomington workforce by 400 jobs.

The email indicates that employees—which include full-time and temporary employees, mostly within the operations team—will be notified between Wednesday and Friday to “discuss the next steps, review available support, and address any questions the impacted employees may have.”

Wednesday’s email message states: “Those who are not contacted by Human Resources should report to work as scheduled.”

The message also says, “[W]e’re committed to operating in a transparent manner to ensure every employee impacted by these changes has the information and support they need, severance pay, benefits continuation, and outplacement assistance.”

The email states that “every colleague on this team has performed admirably,” and adds that the workforce reduction is in “no way a reflection of the quality of the work we’ve done.” Continue reading “Company email: Catalent’s Bloomington operation to cut 400 jobs”

Public bus notebook: BT to work with Go Bloomington on guaranteed rides home

Bloomington Transit’s five-member board has approved in concept the idea that the Go Bloomington program will tap into BT’s existing arrangements with Uber and Lyft, to give program participants a guaranteed ride home.

Through October, Bloomington Transit fixed route ridership continues to show gains over last year, but still well under pre-pandemic numbers.

Go Bloomington  is the branding that’s been adopted for the city’s transportation demand management program. The idea is to help participants find other ways to get to work, besides driving a car by themselves.

The idea behind a “guaranteed ride home” feature is that someone might be more inclined to take the public bus, bicycle, or walk to work—if they know that they have a backstop for any unexpected transportation need.

If someone’s day unfolds in an unexpected way, they’ll be able to use a voucher with Uber or Lyft to handle whatever scenario has come up.

What the BT board approved at last Tuesday’s monthly meeting was a motion to authorize BT general manager John Connell to develop the interlocal agreement that’s needed, in order to make sure that BT gets reimbursed by Go Bloomington for the cost of the rides. Continue reading “Public bus notebook: BT to work with Go Bloomington on guaranteed rides home”

Conservation district math: Dec. 4 to mark conversion of Near West Side to historic district

Next Sunday (Dec. 4), Bloomington’s Near West Side conservation district will become a historic district.

That’s based on a city council decision that was made three years earlier. On a unanimous vote in December 2019, the council voted to establish the Near West Side as a conservation district.

It’s the area roughly bounded on the north by the railroad right-of-way alongside Butler Park, on the south by Kirkwood Avenue, and on the west by North Adams—shown in green in the maps that are included with this article.

At just under 100 acres, by land area, it will be the biggest historic district in Bloomington.

The difference between a conservation district and a historic district is more than just the label.

In a historic district, any exterior alterations are subject to review by the city’s historic preservation commission (HPC). In a conservation district, it’s just moving or demolishing buildings, or constructing new buildings that are subject to HPC review.

No additional city council approval was needed to make the conversion next week. In historic preservation terms, the conversion is called an “elevation” of the conservation district to a historic district.

Under state statute and local law, the conversion to a historic district is automatic, unless enough property owners object in writing.

Among property owners who responded to a recent city poll, nearly three-quarters objected.

Responding to a question from The B Square, Bloomington’s historic preservation program manager Gloria Colom Braña indicated that 120 returned a ballot voting against the elevation, with 41 voting in favor.

But that’s not how a majority is determined for purposes of objecting to a conservation district elevation. Continue reading “Conservation district math: Dec. 4 to mark conversion of Near West Side to historic district”

Thanksgiving week Bloomington turkeys—in disguise

A full week of Thanksgiving break at Indiana University means the campus and all of downtown Bloomington has been a lot quieter the last few days. One benefit: more wildlife. Continue reading “Thanksgiving week Bloomington turkeys—in disguise”

Johnson’s Creamery: No new alley means no swap, but council’s vacation stands, project can proceed

On the list of Bloomington public rights-of-way there is no longer an east-west alley cutting across the former Johnson’s Creamery parcel off 7th Street and The B-Line Trail.

The city council took care of that when it voted 8–1 to grant a request from Peerless Development to vacate the existing alley at that location.  The dissenting vote came from Dave Rollo.

That clears the way for a housing project that Peerless wants to build.

But on Tuesday night, Bloomington’s board of public works denied a request from Peerless to dedicate a new alley, just to the south of the one that had been vacated.

The denial of the new alley dedication does not stand in the way of the plans that Peerless has for development of the parcel with a 51-unit apartment building. The site plan for the building has been approved by the city’s plan commission.

The plan commission’s approval of the building’s site plan was contingent just on the vacation of the alley. The proposed apartment building would have sat partly in the middle of the alley that was vacated on Monday night. Continue reading “Johnson’s Creamery: No new alley means no swap, but council’s vacation stands, project can proceed”

Federal judge to Bloomington: Create criteria for public art requests in right-of-way, allow application for “All Lives Matter” street mural

Bloomington could see an “All Lives Matter” mural painted on a downtown city street, after previously authorizing three “Black Lives Matter” street murals.

That’s because of a ruling from a federal judge last Friday.

Under Friday’s ruling, by Jan. 2 next year, the city of Bloomington has to  come up with the procedures that private groups and people can use to request approval for use of the city’s rights-of-way to display public art.

The order says that the city has to “promulgate” the application procedure to the public within 45 days of the order, dated Nov. 18, 2022. The public that is described in the order explicitly includes Indiana University student Kyle Reynolds and the Indiana University Chapter of Turning Point USA, who filed suit against Bloomington in late February.

In their lawsuit, Reynolds and Turning Point asked the Monroe County circuit court to issue an injunction requiring the city of Bloomington to allow Reynolds to paint a street mural that states “All Lives Matter” on Kirkwood Avenue in front of the Von Lee building.

The “All Lives Matter” slogan is associated with opposition to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Continue reading “Federal judge to Bloomington: Create criteria for public art requests in right-of-way, allow application for “All Lives Matter” street mural”

Bloomington to pay $500,000 less for western part of city hall building

In mid-July, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) gave initial approval to a $9.25 million deal to purchase CFC’s portion of the Showers building—which houses city hall in the eastern part of the building, in addition to CFC offices in the western part.

But that price has now dropped by a half million dollars.

At its regular meeting on Monday, the RDC approved an amendment to the purchase agreement that knocks the price down to $8.75 million. The address of the building is 320 W. 8th St.

Bloomington was able to negotiate a price reduction, according to a memo provided in the RDC’s meeting information packet, “[b]ased on renovation cost estimates produced by the consultants assisting with due diligence.”

During the due diligence phase for the purchase agreement, the city has brought in architects and public safety construction experts, to estimate the cost to convert the space to a police and fire administrative headquarters.

The plan would consolidate in the same building as city hall two additional facilities: the police headquarters on 3rd Street; and the fire administrative headquarters at 4th and Lincoln streets. Continue reading “Bloomington to pay $500,000 less for western part of city hall building”

Analysis: 2024 edition of Bloomington city council will be different, by a little or a lot

In 2023, elections will be held for 11 Bloomington city offices—mayor, clerk, and the nine seats on the city council.

The image links to a dynamic version of the new Bloomington city council district map, which allows zooming in and out.

After the 2023 city elections, the composition of the nine-member Bloomington city council, which will be sworn in to start 2024, is sure to be different by at least one member. But it could be more.

That’s based on the fact that it’s not possible to serve or to run as mayor and city councilmember at the same time.

Also in the mix are new city council district boundaries, and a somewhat easier path to the ballot for candidates who want to run independent of a political party.

City council president Susan Sandberg has announced she’s running for mayor, which means she’s not running for city council.

To file an official declaration, Sandberg like other candidates in the municipal election, will have a 30-day window that starts Jan. 4, 2023, 118 days before the May 2, 2023 primary. Sandberg’s committee paperwork has already been filed. Continue reading “Analysis: 2024 edition of Bloomington city council will be different, by a little or a lot”