The letter asked that the mayor increase the salary for the city council’s administrator/attorney from a 2023 salary of $94,089 to $104,089 in 2024. That’s a 10.6-percent increase, or more than twice the 5-percent increase called for in the mayor’s proposed budget for all other non-union employees.
The city council’s argument is based on the idea that the city council’s administrator/attorney should be paid on par with the director of city of Bloomington utilities, the police chief, the fire chief, the head of public works, and the city’s corporation counsel, among other positions described as “department heads” in the city’s employee manual.
The letter also asks that the council’s administrator/attorney position receive another additional significant increase in 2025.
But any increases to the council staff salary budget for 2025 would depend on the decision by the next mayor, which is almost certain to be Democratic Party nominee Kerry Thomson. She’s unopposed on the Nov. 7 ballot. In general terms, under state law, the city council can reduce but not increase the mayor’s proposed budget amounts.
Excerpt from Sept. 12. 2023 BPD general order on use of force.
Stock photo of taser.
Bloomington board of public safety meeting, July 18, 2023.
In a Sept. 5, 2023 news release, the Bloomington police department (BPD) announced that officers would soon be piloting the use of electronic control weapons, commonly known as tasers.
For Bloomington police officers, the tasers will be added to pepper spray and collapsible batons as options that are less lethal than a gun.
On Sept. 19, at the most recent meeting of Bloomington’s five-member board of public safety, BPD deputy chief Scott Oldham said that he does not expect the tasers to be deployed for the pilot before the start of 2024. It will take some time for an officer to be certified to train other officers in the use of tasers, and then additional time to train officers, Oldham said.
While the board of public safety was briefed on the decision to add tasers to the set of less lethal options for BPD officers, the board did not have decision making authority on deployment of tasers.
Tasers were discussed with the board at its June and July monthly meetings this year.
Pieces of an antenna in Joe Davis’s backyard. (Aug. 9, 2023)
A cat rests aloof from the comotion on top of the van in Davis’s backyard. (Aug. 9, 2023)
Joe Davis disputes with contractors whether the board is rotted. (Aug. 9, 2023)
For more than a year, and probably much longer, the city of Bloomington has been trying to convince Joe Davis to take a more conventional approach to his South Washington Street house and yard.
But Davis describes himself as an “unconventional guy.” Parked in the backyard with building materials stacked on them are a truck, and a van with a trailer. The county’s online property lookup system has aerial imagery showing the two vehicles sitting in the backyard at least as far back as 2014.
Davis has old bathtubs arranged around the place as catchment basins, and a compost pile.
Davis describes the place as an active building site, where he’s been working to renovate the house. He bought the place in 2009 for $65,000. He has described how the house was damaged by fire before he bought it and had sat abandoned for two years.
During that period all the pipes burst because there was no heat, the wiring was stolen and homeless people were living, Davis has said.
Where Davis sees an “organic building site,” the city sees a raft of code violations.
Marty Hawk and Geoff McKim. Monroe County council (Sept. 20, 2023)
Kate Wiltz and Trent Deckard. Monroe County council (Sept. 20, 2023)
From left: Marty Hawk, Geoff McKim, Kate Wiltz, Trent Deckard, and Peter Iversen. (Cheryl Munson attended on Zoom.) Monroe County council (Sept. 20, 2023)
Bottom to top: Cathy Smith (auditor), Brianne Gregory, Molly Turner-King, and Kim Shell. Monroe County council (Sept. 20, 2023)
Based on the deliberations among county councilors on Wednesday night, Monroe County employees will likely receive 8.5-percent raises in 2024 compared to their pay this year.
But no final decisions were made. The council did undertake some adjustments to get closer to the goal of 8.5-percent raises.
There’s still some dust that needs to settle on the provisional adjustments to the 2024 budget that were made by the council on Wednesday. And the final vote on the budget won’t come until Oct. 17, after a first reading on Oct.10.
District 3 city council candidate Hopi Stosberg (D) at a Greater Bloomington candidate event on March 21, 2023 https://hopi.stosberg.com/
At Wednesday morning’s meeting of Monroe County commissioners, the routine approval of county employee holidays for the following year included a bright spot.
There will be one extra day compared to last year: April 8, 2024, which is Solar Eclipse Day.
On that day, the narrow band of the full solar eclipse will pass right over Monroe County. It’s the kind of rare event that has the local tourism sector buzzing.
At the most recent meeting of the convention and visitors commission, Visit Bloomington executive director Mike McAfee said up to a quarter million visitors or more are expected in the Bloomington area to view the solar eclipse. “It’s going to be wild,” he said.
On Wednesday, commissioner Penny Githens said part of the thought behind making the day of the eclipse a county holiday is to reduce the amount of traffic out on the road. “We’re expecting a certain amount of gridlock,” Githens said.
Commissioner Julie Thomas added, “Everything will be packed full of visitors…and anything we can do to alleviate traffic is probably going to be helpful at this point.”
From left: BT general manager John Connell, board president James McLary
Bloomington Transit board meeting, Sept. 19, 2023
Shelley Strimaitis (BT’s planning and special projects manager)
BT ridership chart through August
At its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday night, Bloomington Transit’s five-member board approved a total of $2.8 million in spending.
The three big approvals broke down like this: a contract with Foursquare ITP for an east-west high-frequency transit corridor feasibility study ($450,000); a contract with ETA Transit for computer-aided dispatch and automatic vehicle location information technology ($850,000); and a purchase order from Gillig LLC for eight dual port charging stations for electric buses ($1.5 million).
But those three items had all been long in the works. None were unexpected.
Providing at least a mild, and pleasant, surprise was the monthly ridership report from planning and special projects manager Shelley Strimaitis.
Monroe County councilors from left: Jennifer Crossley, Kate Wiltz, and Peter Iversen.
A member of Care Not Cages, a group that opposes construction of a new jail.
Justice fiscal advisory committee (JFAC) meeting on Sept. 18, 2023
At its final scheduled session on Monday night, Monroe County’s justice fiscal advisory committee (JFAC) slogged through 35 recommendations on a new jail facility, which it had developed over the course of seven meetings starting in early June.
The committee’s recommendations are advice on pre-architectural topics falling into broad categories: procedural matters; system-wide improvements; community services; re-entry; community corrections; diversity, equity, and inclusion; treatment; and the jail itself.
The funding recommendations remain just a list of possible sources, which include the innkeepers tax, and the food and beverage tax—which are unlikely, if not impossible, sources to fund jail programing, support services, or jail construction.
No dollar amounts are included for the amount of money that could be generated for jail construction and operations through enacting an additional rate in the corrections category of local income tax.
But on Monday, the three council councilors who are the voting members of the committee—Jennifer Crossley, Kate Wiltz, and Peter Iversen—did not take a vote to adopt their report. They want to allow time for the edited recommendations, which in some cases have been consolidated, to sit in public view and be digested—until the full county council’s next meeting, on Tuesday Sept. 26.
The edited recommendations are supposed to be posted on the JFAC’s website.
The amendment would effectively make all billboards in Bloomington disappear by 2031. That includes the one off Kinser Pike next to the SR 45/46 bypass, which is currently subject to litigation.
Last year, after the billboard’s owner, Lamar Outdoor Advertising, converted the billboard face to a digital display, Bloomington cited the company for violation of the UDO’s regulations on electronic reader boards.
Nikirk had ordered that the standard annexation trials for Area 1A and Area 1B would be delayed, until Bloomington’s related but separate litigation—over constitutional questions related to annexation waivers—is resolved.
In addition to the appeals process, the city of Bloomington has now started another procedure that could lead to faster scheduling of a standard annexation trial for the two areas. The idea is to take a step towards quick resolution of the related constitutional litigation—but just for Area 1A and Area 1B.
On Wednesday, Bloomington’s legal tactic was to file a motion to dismiss its own lawsuits for Area 1A and Area 1B, over the constitutional question of waivers.