Sanitation worker uses a mechanical arm to empty a Bloomington solid waste cart. Screengrab from city of Bloomington video.
The roughly 6,000 Bloomington residents who currently pay the city $11.61 a month for weekly pickup of their 64-gallon trash cart, could see that amount more than doubled—to around $24 a month.
That kind of increase would come from applying some assumptions floated at city council sessions—like eliminating general fund support for trash pickup, and increasing rates only for medium and large carts, not for the smallest size.
On a unanimous vote Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council approved a rezone for a property owned by Wheeler Mission, so that its shelter beds can be shifted to a parcel that the nonprofit acquired in May of this year.
In zoning district terms, the rezone is from mixed-use employment (ME) to mixed-use medium scale (MM).
Wheeler Mission’s plan is not to increase its number of shelter beds beyond 130, but to expand its programs on life skills training, financial management and job readiness.
During the council’s Wednesday meeting, no public commentary was offered.
When the rezone request was heard by the plan commission and during the council’s committee meeting surrounding business owners described the impact they’ve seen from the behavior of some Wheeler Mission shelter guests.
On Wednesday, when a decision was scheduled on the 2022 Bloomington budget, the city council chose to recess its meeting without voting, less than 90 minutes after it was called to order.
The recess came when it became apparent that the mayor’s budget did not have majority support on the nine-member council to pass that night.
Some councilmembers, like Dave Rollo, say that in order to support the 2022 budget, it has to include a re-opening of the collective bargaining agreement with the police union and a $5,000 base pay increase for sworn officers.
Other councilmembers, like Isabel Piedmont-Smith, say that in order to support the 2022 budget, it has to include an appropriation for a new job at the city—director of climate action.
That’s not an exhaustive list of all the changes councilmembers say they want to see, before they’ll vote to adopt the 2022 budget.
In any case, councilmembers want Bloomington mayor John Hamilton to make further revisions to the roughly $107 million budget, before they take it up again in two weeks. That amount does not include the budgets for Bloomington Transit (BT) and city of Bloomington utilities (CBU).
Before recessing its meeting, the council approved two of the appropriation ordinances that are part of the six-ordinance package of legislation that makes up the annual budget. Getting unanimous approval were the budgets for BT and city of Bloomington utilities CBU.
At its regular Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council ratified garbage collection fees that expired nearly a year ago, on Nov. 1, 2020.
In the future, the council won’t have to worry about fees expiring. That’s because on Wednesday, the council eliminated the city code’s entire “sunset” clause for the fees.
The sunset clause was added as an amendment, when the council adopted the 2017 ordinance that set the fees for the new system of refuse carts.
The clause was intended to trigger a review of rates, after sufficient data had been collected by public works staff from the new system.
Wednesday’s action did not raise garbage collection rates.
Based on March 22, 2017 meeting minutes, the council was supposed to undertake a rate review last year with an eye towards possibly providing a rebate to residents who generate less garbage.
Based on the meeting minutes, it appears that the debate on the exact date of the sunset clause lasted about an hour. The initial date proposed was July 1, 2019, but public works director Adam Wason said if there were to be a sunset date, he’d prefer Nov. 1, 2020. Wason said the later date would allow more data to be collected.
On Wednesday, the ordinance passed by the city council was approved at the same meeting on the same day when it was first introduced, which required and received a unanimous vote.
Under state law, the council is able to ratify the authorization of the fees retroactively, according to assistant city attorney Larry Allen.
On a 7–2 vote at its regular Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council enacted an ordinance that is intended to prevent its meetings from lasting longer than five and a half hours, or going past midnight.
Dissenting were council president Jim Sims and Susan Sandberg. The ordinance was authored by councilmember Steve Volan.
When it was first introduced on Sept. 1, the ordinance had wording that could be interpreted as putting an automatic end to city council meetings after five and a half hours or at 11:59 p.m., whichever comes first.
The wording on first introduction also allowed any single councilmember to cause a meeting to be adjourned after five and a half hours or at 11:59 p.m., whichever comes first.
Bloomington’s city councilmembers want mayor John Hamilton’s administration to make policy choices that are consistent with the community’s values. And they want to see those choices reflected in the annual budget.
Otherwise put, Bloomington’s city council is like any other city council in America.
It’s a reasonable and normal expectation for the legislative branch of local government that the budget will be a reflection of local community priorities.
And that’s why the annual budget is the most important legislation considered by the city council every year.
But the budget is not the only piece of legislation that the city council could take up in the course of a calendar year. The legislative body does not need to wait for the administration to propose the annual budget or any other law.
Bloomington’s city council has, on occasion, proven that it’s aware of its own ability to originate new local laws.
For example, when some councilmembers determined that prohibiting turns on red lights at several additional downtown intersections would improve pedestrian safety, they initiated a traffic ordinance and worked with the city staff to get the details right. It was enacted as local law by the city council in early April.
But shifting itself out of park and into legislative gear is not an approach that appears to be favored by the council.
Climate action, non-motorized transportation, and police pay are current sticking points between Bloomington’s city council and mayor John Hamilton, as the 2022 city budget process builds towards a mid-October council vote.
At their committee-of-the-whole meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington city council members reviewed each of the legislative items that collectively make up the annual budget.
Three appropriation ordinances cover different pieces of the city’s finances—the city’s basic budget, city of Bloomington utilities, and Bloomington Transit. The other three items are salary ordinances for different categories of employees—police and fire; other city employees; and elected officials.
The final 2022 budget, which reflected just a few adjustments since the departmental hearings in August, totals around $107 million.
Based on the straw polls they took on Wednesday, some councilmembers will be voting against the appropriation ordinance for the basic budget—unless they see some concessions from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton.
Despite opposition from mayor John Hamilton’s administration, on Sept. 8, Bloomington’s city council approved a resolution supporting $5,000 more in base pay for police officers.
A “resolved” clause in Res 21-27 says in part that the city council “expresses its support for an increase to salaries for all sworn officers of the Bloomington Police Department by $5,000 and requests that the Mayor and city bargaining team pursue appropriate action to modify the collective bargaining agreement accordingly…”
One of the administration’s objections to the resolution was concern that it could interfere with the collective bargaining process with the police union, which is established under Bloomington city code.
In the case of Res 21-27, which the council approved on Sept. 8 on a 7–1–1 vote, Hamilton signed off on it—that is, he didn’t veto the resolution.
But Hamilton did get in a last word of sorts. There’s an asterisk next to his signature that footnotes a comment from Hamilton:
I sign this document only to affirm that it declares the Common Council’s support for certain matters. There are several factual statements in the WHEREAS clauses that are not accurate, including in the third clause.
The outcomes on the remaining annexation votes taken by Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday night unfolded as expected, based on the previous week’s initial session on the topic.
Including Area 1A on the west side of the city, which got an OK last week, seven of the eight proposed areas for annexation were approved, all on 6–3 votes. The three dissenting votes came from Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg and Ron Smith.
A key argument for the three dissenters was the idea that the city of Bloomington was not in a position to extend some services to the new territory. The specific services causing concern relate to public safety.
The current disparity between the number of sworn officers employed by Bloomington’s department (91) and the number who are authorized (105)—in the context of the 23 to 35 additional officers called for in the fiscal plans—led dissenters to conclude it is unrealistic to think Bloomington could provide public safety services to the new areas.
Those voting in favor cited standard arguments in favor of annexation, including: the idea that annexation is a natural part of the history of cities; that those who own land near municipal boundaries already enjoy several benefits of that proximity, so it’s fair for them to pay city property taxes; and the idea that the remonstrance waivers signed by landowners in exchange for extension of sewer service is a contractual agreement that landowners should expect to fulfill. Continue reading “Bloomington city council OKs annexation on 6-3 votes for all territories, except north area”→