Bloomington public buses skipping scheduled runs due to driver shortage

On Monday morning, Bloomington Transit’s Twitter feed announced that service along the Route 6 Limited and the Route 9 Limited would be cut during specific times during the day.

A tweet sent at 8:02 a.m. said, “There will be no 6 Limited this morning and no 9 Limited this evening. Sorry for any inconvenience.”

The first tweet was followed by another one at 8:26 a.m. clarifying the times when those routes would be curtailed: “The 6 Limited will resume at 1:10 today. 9 Limited will end at 2:30.”

BT has confirmed to The B Square the connection between the skipped routes on Monday and BT’s current driver shortage.

Based on discussion at the BT board’s most recent meeting, Bloomington’s regular public bus staffing is short 12 drivers. Continue reading “Bloomington public buses skipping scheduled runs due to driver shortage”

New Bloomington mural, planned renaming of street both send same message: Black Lives Matter

Last week came the announcement that a Bloomington task force has recommended new names for two parts of Jordan Avenue, a north-south street that splits the Indiana University campus.

In its report, the task force recommended renaming Jordan Avenue south of 17th Street as Eagleson Avenue.

North of 17th Street, the street is recommended to be called Fuller Lane.

Both names honor the contributions of Black residents to Bloomington.

The announcement of the task force report came just a month after the installation of a “Black Lives Matter” mural—on the street that is now slated to be renamed for four-generations of the Eagleson family, starting with Halson Vashon Eagleson who was born a slave in 1851.

According to the task force report, Halson Eagleson arrived in Bloomington in the 1880s and became a prominent barber. His five children attended Indiana University. The report describes how in 1910, he opened Industrial City, a home for “colored” orphans in Unionville.

Joa’Quinn Griffin, an Indiana University student who helped lead the effort to install the street mural, told The B Square that the choice of Jordan Avenue was deliberate, for two reasons.

First, the mural would provide a counterpoint to the legacy of the past IU president for whom the street was named. David Starr Jordan was a proponent of eugenics, which advocates for the improvement of the human species through selective mating.

Second, the place on Jordan Avenue selected for the mural installation is in front of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.

Continue reading “New Bloomington mural, planned renaming of street both send same message: Black Lives Matter”

Through July: Monroe County, Bloomington government meetings mostly electronic, as jabs slow, positive COVID-19 numbers stay stubborn

A key reason that Indiana governor Eric Holcomb this week issued another extension of his emergency health order is the low vaccination rate among state residents.

The order itself  says: “Critically, only 48.1 percent of eligible Hoosiers are fully vaccinated and Indiana ranks 38th of the 50 states with eligible individuals receiving at least a first dose vaccination.”

Monroe County’s numbers are slightly better, but not dramatically so.

About the county’s 55.4-percent vaccination rate, among those who are eligible, county health administrator Penny Caudill said she is concerned about the 45 percent of people who are still not vaccinated. She was speaking at Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders on pandemic response.

Local officials will be taking advantage of the governor’s health order to continue holding government meetings electronically, on a video-conferencing platform, as they have for the last 16 months. County commissioner Lee Jones said at Friday’s press conference that through July, county meetings would be held electronically, not using a hybrid approach with in-person participation.

The Bloomington mayor’s office confirmed to The B Square on Friday afternoon that the city’s boards and commissions would meet electronically, unless noted otherwise in the meeting announcement.

Caudill said the county had fallen short of her goal, which was to have 60 percent of Monroe County’s eligible residents vaccinated by July 1. Everyone 12 years and older is eligible for at least one of the vaccines that are available. Continue reading “Through July: Monroe County, Bloomington government meetings mostly electronic, as jabs slow, positive COVID-19 numbers stay stubborn”

Songbird deaths still a mystery, as state, local experts advise: Don’t promote bird gatherings

The word on Wednesday from Indiana’s department of natural resources (DNR) was that tests on dead songbirds, now reported in 50 of Indiana’s 92 counties, are still not conclusive.

So state officials still don’t know whether the phenomenon is being caused by a disease or a toxin. The DNR reports that all the birds have tested negative for avian influenza and West Nile virus.

Species of birds involved include: blue jay, American robin, common grackle, starling, northern cardinal, brown-headed cowbird.

The DNR has set up a web page dedicated to the topic of songbird deaths, with a way to subscribe to updates on the latest information.

Indiana’s state ornithologist, Allisyn Gillet wrote in an email to The B Square on Wednesday, “[W]e still do not have any conclusive results about the songbirds declining because our tests and analyses are still pending. The tests are exploring every possible cause…”

In the meantime, bird lovers are being told to remove backyard implements that encourage birds to gather—like feeders and birdbaths. [Updated July 2 at 7:08 p.m.: Indiana’s DNR has updated its page with a link to an audio recording of a Q&A with Gillet.] Continue reading “Songbird deaths still a mystery, as state, local experts advise: Don’t promote bird gatherings”

Climate scientist on last weekend’s Bloomington rain: “It’s not like this was an absolute fluke…”

As of Wednesday, the National Weather Service is predicting 4 to 6 inches more rain for Bloomington, from Friday afternoon through Tuesday evening.

That follows 5 to 7 inches of rain that fell over a shorter period last weekend, which flooded a downtown Bloomington street, overtopped a county bridge with debris, and caused the floodwaters to sweep up one car, leaving its driver dead.

Based on the daily rainfall data in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Regional Climate Center database, last weekend’s two-day total rainfall of 6.1 inches, recorded by the Indiana University campus rain gauge, ranks it the third-worst storm, since daily rainfall totals have been kept, which starts in 1895.

The 6.1 inches measured on IU’s campus was the highest two-day total in the last century.

Does last weekend’s single event prove the case for climate change?

When The B Square spoke on Wednesday with Gabriel Filippelli, professor of earth sciences at IUPUI, he said, “Each given intense rainfall event does not mean that climate change has descended on us.”

Filippelli continued, “However, when you look at the regional records and you see the number of days Indiana has had extreme rainfall events, it has gone up substantially from about the end of the 1980s on.”

The amount of extreme rainfall in central Indiana has gone up by about 15 percent since 1990, Filippelli said. He continued, “The projections are, it’s going to go up another 15 percent by 2050.”

That means extreme rainfall will continue to be likely in this area, he said. He added, “Whether climate change will make them worse or not, it’s hard to say, ”

In the context of a 15-percent increase in extreme rainfall, Filippelli assessed last weekend’s storm like this: “You know, 15 percent isn’t a lot, but it’s not like this was an absolute fluke that we’ll never see again.” Continue reading “Climate scientist on last weekend’s Bloomington rain: “It’s not like this was an absolute fluke…””

Recent Bloomington employee death a reminder of dire effects of pandemic disease, even as indicators trend better

A push for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was again a main talking point at Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders on pandemic response.

Among the local sites for free vaccine distribution is Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall at Indiana University.

The message for people to take advantage of the free vaccine got some extra urgency from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, who confirmed an earlier press release that announced the death of a city employee due to COVID-19.

On the employee’s death, Hamilton said, “That reminds us that this disease is still very much among us, and can be dire, and can bring terrible consequences.” Hamilton added, “I just want to express our sympathy and condolences to family members.” Continue reading “Recent Bloomington employee death a reminder of dire effects of pandemic disease, even as indicators trend better”

IU offers shot at free parking spot for students who get their COVID-19 vaccination

Indiana University is sticking with its policy of vaccinations for students, faculty and university staff with the start of the fall 2021 semester, but has relented on its demand for documentation.

Instead of demanding proof, IU is now trying a gentler approach—a drawing for prizes for IU affiliates who submit their documentation. The prizes vary for students, faculty and staff but include: $500 bookstore gift cards, campus dining credit, an Apple Watch, and AirPods Pro, among other items.

At Friday’s weekly press conference on local COVID-19 response, one of the prizes for students got an extra pitch from IU vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White: “Students will be eligible for—get this, hey—a year long free parking permit! Now what’s better than that for students?” The regular price for a student parking permit is $174.

The revision the university’s policy on vaccination  came after objections from several state legislators  and an opinion issued by the state’s attorney general. Continue reading “IU offers shot at free parking spot for students who get their COVID-19 vaccination”

Sovereign immunity means a fence for Bloomington post office

In 1914, a new building for Bloomington high school was constructed where Seminary Park now sits, between Walnut and College, on 2nd Street.

It’s the same year when Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” was published, with its proverbial line from the storyteller’s adjacent landowner: “Good fences make good neighbors.”

In mid-May the US Postal Service started building an eight-foot-tall fence around its branch just south of the park.

With its fence construction, by the standards of the narrator’s neighbor in the “Mending Wall,” the USPS has made itself a “good neighbor” to the public park.

Some local reaction has been more along the lines of the storyteller in the poem: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offense. / Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.”

The image is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

It looks like the fence probably doesn’t conform with local zoning code. But the principle of “sovereign immunity” means the USPS, even as a lessee of the property, can build the fence the way it wants, according to Bloomington’s legal department.

Continue reading “Sovereign immunity means a fence for Bloomington post office”

IU to “stay the course” on vaccine requirement for fall, points to $10M savings compared to mitigation testing

Indiana University “certainly made the papers this week.”

That was a remark from IU’s media relations director Chuck Carney, as he turned over the mic to the university’s vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White, during Friday’s weekly press conference with local leaders on pandemic response.

But White led off his turn with some news that might not have made the papers—the latest dose numbers at the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall COVID-19 vaccination clinic.

Since late March, 35,600 doses have been administered, White said. Plenty of appointment slots are available next week, which can be scheduled at the state’s online registration site, White said.

Some of the news that put IU in the papers was the letter that several state legislators sent to Indiana governor Eric Holcomb. The state lawmakers object to the university’s decision, announced last Friday, to require vaccinations for students, faculty and university staff with the start of the fall 2021 semester.

Also putting IU in the news this past week was an opinion  issued on Wednesday by Indiana’s attorney general Todd Rokita. The opinion says IU’s approach to its policy requiring a COVID-19 vaccination violates a new law passed by the state legislature this year. Continue reading “IU to “stay the course” on vaccine requirement for fall, points to $10M savings compared to mitigation testing”

Bloomington utilities board welcomes familiar face, gets quick update on rate case

At its regular meeting on Monday, Bloomington’s seven-member utilities service board (USB) welcomed Kirk White, who was appointed by mayor John Hamilton to fill Jason Banach’s seat.

The board also got a brief update on the city’s proposal to increase Bloomington’s water rates, which is currently under the standard review process by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC).

City of Bloomington Utilities (CBU) director Vic Kelson told the board about the IURC rate case review: “We’re still in the midst of discovery, and we’ve been getting a lot of questions and data requests to handle.”

Kelson added, “So we’ve been hard at work on those for the last couple of weeks. And so far, it seems to be going pretty well.” Continue reading “Bloomington utilities board welcomes familiar face, gets quick update on rate case”