Bloomington council votes down proposed law against camping, storing property in right-of-way

Voted down on Wednesday by Bloomington’s city council, with just two votes in favor, was an ordinance that would have explicitly prohibited camping, storing personal property, or blocking the public right-of-way, among other things.

Supporting the ordinance were Sue Sgambelluri and Susan Sandberg. Abstaining was Dave Rollo. The other five councilmembers who were present all voted against it. Ron Smith was absent.

Rollo said he was inclined to bring a motion to table the ordinance. Councilmember Jim Sims said he was inclined to put off a vote, but if it came down to a vote that night, he would vote no.

A basic concern for those who opposed the ordinance was that it punishes the unhoused population, without offering a solution for storing their belongings in a place other than the public right-of-way.

Councilmember Matt Flaherty’s sentiments reflected the views of others, when he said that crafting a better ordinance “will take months of community engagement and outreach and collaboration between the executive and legislative branch and the whole community to arrive at a solution.”

Flaherty added, “So I don’t think this is honestly well suited for just tabling or postponing and bringing back with a few clarifications, in a few weeks time.” Rollo said it was clear that there would not be majority support for tabling, so he did not make that motion. Continue reading “Bloomington council votes down proposed law against camping, storing property in right-of-way”

Election notebook: Ballot inspections, Salt Creek vacancy

Monday was the legally mandated chance for the public to inspect proofs of  ballots that will be used in Monroe County’s upcoming Nov. 7 municipal elections.

Ballots were on display from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Election Central (7th and Madison streets).

The ballots had been laid out for inspection on a long table by the county’s election division staff, led by election supervisor Ryan Herndon.

Arriving shortly after 9 a.m. to inspect the ballots were a couple of the Democratic Party nominees for Bloomington city offices—Nicole Bolden and Sydney Zulich.

Seeking her third four-year term, Bolden is unopposed on the ballot for city clerk. Zulich is seeking her first four-year term as the District 6 Bloomington city council representative.

All the Democratic Party nominees on the ballot are unopposed, except for Hopi Stosberg, who is competing with Republican Brett Heinisch to represent District 3 on the Bloomington city council.

Based on the sign-in sheet at Election Central, Stosberg and Heinisch dropped by to inspect ballots later in the day. Isabel Piedmont-Smith, who is the Democratic Party’s nominee for District 1 city council, also dropped by to inspect ballots later in the day. Continue reading “Election notebook: Ballot inspections, Salt Creek vacancy”

Delayed by Bloomington board: Right-of-way closures for Miller-Showers city gateway construction

In a change of plans, over the next few days, Reed & Sons Construction will not be starting onsite preparations for various improvements at the north end of Miller-Showers Park.

The scheduled work is supposed to include a 40-foot tall gateway monument costing about $400,000. The monolith features the word “Bloomington” in all caps inscribed vertically from top to bottom.

What delayed the parks department project was a decision made by Bloomington’s board of public works at its Tuesday night meeting.

In the area of College Avenue and Old 37, Reed & Sons had requested temporary sidewalk and lane closures, with proposed pedestrian detours, in order to make the construction work possible.

But the board voted to put off approval of those right-of-way closures.

Continue reading “Delayed by Bloomington board: Right-of-way closures for Miller-Showers city gateway construction”

Hawthorne-Weatherstone greenway gets greenlight at contentious commission meeting

On Monday night, almost a year and a half after the first public meeting on the project, Bloomington’s bicycle and pedestrian safety commission (BPSC) voted unanimously in favor of the city staff’s proposed Hawthorne-Weatherstone greenway project.

At its August meeting, the BPSC had voted to put off any decision until its meeting this month. But the BPSC voted to to allow all the public comment on the topic to finish before adjourning last month.

The lack of any public time to comment on the project at Monday’s meeting proved to be a sore point for some resident attendees. It led to some animated exchanges between them and city planning staff, as well as BPSC members. Continue reading “Hawthorne-Weatherstone greenway gets greenlight at contentious commission meeting”

Photos | Black y Brown 2024: “Handed down to me from my dance mothers and fathers”

On Saturday, leading off the performances at Bloomington’s Black y Brown Festival at Switchyard Park were Baba Stafford & The African American Dance Company.

The dance company, which is an ensemble of Indiana University’s African American Arts Institute, will be celebrating a half century of performances in 2024.

Baba Stafford told the crowd at Switchyard Park that the dance company has been a part of the city of Bloomington’s Black y Brown Festival since the start.

The inaugural Black y Brown Festival was held at the Banneker Community Center in 2018. It’s described by the city as “a celebration and showcase of African, African-American, Hispanic, Latinx, and Native American creative arts and artists…”

Baba Stafford described the dance company like this: “We’re made up of community members. We’re made up of staff. We’re made up of folks who just want to come and share what we do.”

The company’s repertory includes “a little bit of everything,” he said, from the continent of Africa and throughout the diaspora. But there is a core element, he said: “At our base is our African culture, music, dances, chants, stories, aesthetics—handed down to me from my dance mothers and fathers. And handed down to them from their dance mothers and fathers. And then me, handing it down to folks that I teach every day.”

With that introduction, the dance company launched into the first number, which was a meditation on peace.

The dance company was followed with performances by: Teresa Reynolds and the Slicktones, Matixando, Reggae Union, Peyton Womock & Friends, and Ramon Jackson & Bridges. There are more photos below.
Continue reading “Photos | Black y Brown 2024: “Handed down to me from my dance mothers and fathers””

Showers West police-fire expansion update: Out for bids in November, construction start in 2024

By November of this year, construction bids are expected to be put out for the expansion of Bloomington’s city hall building into Showers West—which is supposed to house a new police headquarters, and the administrative offices for the fire department.

That was one key takeaway from a city council work session held at noon on Friday.

The hoped-for timeline was described on Friday by project architect Chris Hagan from StudioAXIS. Hagan’s firm was selected by Bloomington for the project in April, after a different firm, Hoefer Welker, had initially been selected in March.

The timeline drew some pointed questions from council president Sue Sgambelluri. Offering some skeptical commentary on the timeline was police union president Paul Post, who was seated at the work session table.

Also in attendance at Friday’s work session—which was held in the Allison Conference room—was Kerry Thomson, the almost certain future mayor of Bloomington starting in 2024. She’s the Democratic Party’s nominee and the only candidate on the ballot, with no registered write-ins.

Thomson took a seat along the back wall with the rest of the public. Around 50 minutes into the meeting, which was scheduled for an hour, councilmember Ron Smith made a gambit to allow Thomson to offer a comment. Smith’s gambit was firmly declined by Sgambelluri, who was presiding over the meeting. Continue reading “Showers West police-fire expansion update: Out for bids in November, construction start in 2024”

5 tapped for Monroe County vote center committee, six more needed

At its Thursday meeting, Monroe County’s three-member election board accepted five appointments that have been made to an 11-member vote center committee.

Vote centers are different from the kind of precinct-based polling locations currently used by Monroe County. At a precinct-based polling site, only voters from specified precincts can cast a ballot there.

Vote centers are polling places where a voter who is registered in any precinct can cast a ballot. For election administrators, it means some additional planning—to make sure that all the different ballots, which are tied to different precincts, are available for voters across the county.

The usual precinct-based polling locations will be used for the upcoming Nov. 7 municipal elections.

The vote center committee is supposed to produce a plan, as part of the requirements for eventually establishing vote centers.

Named to the vote center committee on Thursday were: Ilana Stonebraker; Hal Turner; Debora (Ralf) Shaw; Daniella Wheelock; and Stacy Kowalczyk. Continue reading “5 tapped for Monroe County vote center committee, six more needed”

Lake Lemon Marina rezone denied: Driveway onto Northshore Drive can’t stay

A rezone request for Lake Lemon Marina was denied by Monroe County’s three-member board of commissioners at its Wednesday meeting.

Voting against the request were the two commissioners present—Julie Thomas and Penny Githens. Lee Jones was absent.

Based on commentary during Wednesday’s meeting, the case will eventually be litigated in the Monroe County circuit court.

Continue reading “Lake Lemon Marina rezone denied: Driveway onto Northshore Drive can’t stay”

Interim compromise on Bloomington city clerk’s salary: $87K not $104K

No final decision was made on Wednesday night, but Bloomington’s city council took a clear step towards giving the position of elected city clerk a big salary boost.

On a 7–2 vote, the council passed a resolution indicating its intent to set the clerk’s salary for 2024 at $87,000 . That would be a 34-percent increase over the $64,773 that the job pays this year.

Dissenting were Steve Volan and Kate Rosenbarger, who supported a higher figure of $104,089. The bigger number was in the original draft of the resolution put forward by Matt Flaherty.

Flaherty and Isabel Piedmont-Smith joined Volan and Rosenbarger in voting against an amendment put forward by Dave Rollo and Sue Sgambelluri, which decreased the amount to $87,000.

Unlike Volan and Rosenbarger, Flaherty and Piedmont-Smith were willing to support the compromise figure.

As Flaherty put it, “I can’t really support…the amendment—though, of course, if it passes, would support the resolution as a whole.” He added, “As a step forward, it’s better than nothing.”

Bloomington’s city clerk is Nicole Bolden, who is seeking re-election to her third four-year term this year. She is unopposed on this year’s Nov. 7 ballot, as she was in the Democratic Party’s primary. That’s the same pattern as in 2019 and 2015.

Bolden spoke on Wednesday night in support of the salary increase for the clerk’s position, noting the awkwardness of doing so. Continue reading “Interim compromise on Bloomington city clerk’s salary: $87K not $104K”

Judge says Bloomington annexation trial to be put off until related lawsuit is resolved

The special judge assigned to a Bloomington annexation case has ruled that a standard trial to which remonstrators are entitled will not go ahead in mid-November as originally scheduled.

That’s what remonstrators in Area 1A and Area 1B had requested—a delay on those proceedings, until some related litigation has been settled. The related litigation was initiated by the city of Bloomington, on constitutional grounds.

Remonstrators filed their lawsuit on March 16, 2022.

The related litigation was initiated by the city of Bloomington on March 29, 2022.

The related litigation will start to come into clearer focus in the next three months, because the current case management plan calls for a Dec. 10 hearing on the city’s motion for summary judgment.

Judge Nathan Nikirk’s Tuesday ruling in favor of the remonstrators came after hearing oral arguments for a little more than one hour last Friday morning (Sept. 1). Nikirk is the special judge out of Lawrence County who has been assigned to the case. Continue reading “Judge says Bloomington annexation trial to be put off until related lawsuit is resolved”