Both sides now charged in year-old July 4 Lake Monroe incident described as “attempted lynching”

A little more than a year ago, Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant charged two men in connection with a July 4 incident, which Bloomington resident Vauhxx Booker described at the time as an “attempted lynching.”

B Square file photo of Vauhxx Booker at a news conference in People’s Park in Bloomington on July 10, 2020, a week after the incident at Lake Monroe.

Booker has now been charged as well, by a special prosecutor who was appointed to handle the cases of Booker’s alleged assailants, Sean M. Purdy and Jerry Edward Cox, II.

The special prosecutor is Sonia Leerkamp, a former prosecutor for Hamilton County.

The charges against Booker appeared on Indiana’s mycase.IN.gov public court records system late Friday afternoon.

Booker is charged with two offenses: battery resulting in moderate bodily injury, which is a felony; and criminal trespass, which is a misdemeanor.

Purdy and Cox were charged a year ago by Oliphant with the felonies of battery and criminal confinement or aiding in confinement. Video footage of the incident posted on Facebook and other social media shows Purdy holding Booker down against a tree.

The Monroe County branch of the NAACP released a statement Friday evening reacting to the charges.

The NAACP statement concludes: “The Monroe County Branch of the NAACP condemns the prosecution of Vauhxx Booker, demands that the charges against him be dropped immediately, and calls on special prosecutor Sonia Leerkamp to resign.”
Continue reading “Both sides now charged in year-old July 4 Lake Monroe incident described as “attempted lynching””

Consultant scrutinizes Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan: $866K bigger blow to Monroe County local income tax revenue

A two-person team from the Baker Tilly accounting firm, hired by Monroe County’s board of commissioners to review Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan, presented its report to the county council on Tuesday night.

Baker Tilly found that in Year 2, the impact on local income tax (LIT) revenue to Monroe County government would be negative $1.4 million. That’s a $866,000 bigger impact than Reedy Financial Group reported in Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan. Reedy analyzed the impact as negative $534,694.

Paige Sansone and Deen Rogers, the accountants from Baker Tilly who did the work for the county, noted a handful of other issues with Bloomington’s fiscal plan, none of which had a significant financial impact. Continue reading “Consultant scrutinizes Bloomington’s annexation fiscal plan: $866K bigger blow to Monroe County local income tax revenue”

CDC: Wear a mask indoors in Monroe County, Indiana even if fully vaccinated

Based on new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, even Monroe County residents who are fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus should wear a face covering when they’re in public indoor settings.

This screen shot of the CDC map links to the map.

The CDC guidance, released on July 27, recommends that people wear a face covering indoors, if it’s in a public setting and if it’s in a county where there is “substantial” or “high” transmission of the virus.

Monroe County is classified as having “substantial” transmission, because it has 52.55 new cases per 100,000 population in the last 7 days. That’s just over the lower threshold for the “substantial” category, which starts at 50 new cases per 100,000 and goes up to 99.99 cases.

The other criterion used by the CDC to determine transmission categories is the rolling positivity rate for tests. The CDC reports a positivity rate of 6.54 percent for Monroe County, which would put it in the “moderate” transmission category, which goes from 5 percent to 7.99 percent. But the CDC takes the worse of the two categories to categorize each county. Continue reading “CDC: Wear a mask indoors in Monroe County, Indiana even if fully vaccinated”

Indiana releases numbers over time for COVID-19 variants, revises dashboard presentation to reflect Delta dominance

At a news conference last week, Indiana’s state health commissioner Kris Box sounded the alarm about the increased number of  COVID-19 cases in the state due to the Delta variant.

“The Delta variant is now the one that we are seeing most frequently,” Box said.

The Delta variant, one of several mutations that have been discovered, is more easily transmitted than the basic COVID-19 virus.

When Box delivered her remarks, the state’s COVID-19 dashboard still showed the cumulative numbers for variants, ever since the genetic sequencing of positive samples started. That meant the relative proportion of the Delta variant was portrayed by the dashboard as still small—just 3 percent of positive samples.

But in recent weeks, since mid-June, the percentage of positive samples with the Delta variant has vacillated between 50 and 80 percent.

That’s based on the health department’s release to The B Square on Thursday of the daily time series for the numbers of variants, broken down by variant type.

The state’s dashboard data presentation has now been revised to show the percentage of variants in the current month, with an indication of the change over the previous month. As of Friday, the Delta variant was found in 67 percent of positive COVID-19 samples for the current month.

According to the dashboard, for the current month, in about 96 percent of positive COVID-19 cases that were sequenced, one of the variants of concern was found. Continue reading “Indiana releases numbers over time for COVID-19 variants, revises dashboard presentation to reflect Delta dominance”

Long-time election worker retires: “We’re here for one thing. And that’s to make a good election.”

Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Browne, told The B Square on Thursday afternoon: “There is no replacing a Jack. He is one-of-a-kind. He is amazing. And I will miss him every single day. Every single day.”

Browne was talking about Jack Davis, a county employee whose retirement was marked Thursday at a reception held by his colleagues at Election Central, where he has worked for the election division.

Thursday was the six-year anniversary of Davis’s most recent span of service in local government—he started that half-dozen year stretch on the same day as county election supervisor Karen Wheeler.

But the octogenarian’s history of work for local government can be traced back to way earlier. Continue reading “Long-time election worker retires: “We’re here for one thing. And that’s to make a good election.””

No conclusions yet on songbird deaths as Indiana adds to number of species and counties affected

In the two weeks since Indiana’s state ornithologist Allisyn Gillet held a conference on the topic, the Department of Natural Resources has not yet determined what is causing the deaths of several species of birds in this and other states.

Reports of sick and dying birds with eye swelling and crusty discharge, as well as neurological signs, have come from Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, according to the US Geological survey.

An update was made on Tuesday to the Indiana DNR’s web page that has been set up to provide information about the songbird deaths.

The updates included additional species of birds that have been documented as sick or dying in Indiana. Added to American robin, blue jay, brown-headed cowbird, common grackle, northern cardinal, are European starling, sparrow, house finch, red-headed woodpecker, and wren.

Tuesday’s update increased the number of Indiana counties reporting songbird deaths from 53 to 69. That leaves just 23 counties in Indiana that have not reported some songbird deaths as a part of the pattern. Continue reading “No conclusions yet on songbird deaths as Indiana adds to number of species and counties affected”

$186K in disaster loans OK’d for homes so far to help cover damage from June 18-19 Monroe County floods

Four Monroe County homeowners or renters have received loans so far from the federal Small Business Administration for damages from the June 18-19 floods, according to Julie Garrett with the SBA.

Looking south on Grant Street from Kirkwood in the early morning hours of June 19, 2021.

Garrett briefed the Monroe County board of commissioners on the topic of loans at their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

The total dollar figure of the loans approved so far is $186,900. The dollar amount, along with the number of loans approved, will probably increase.

Garrett told county commissioners that the SBA had spoken with 42 flooding victims at the information sessions that are being held at the county’s convention center on College Avenue.

Six business loans and 33 other home loans are in the works, Garrett said.

The sessions started last week. They will continue through Friday this week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Continue reading “$186K in disaster loans OK’d for homes so far to help cover damage from June 18-19 Monroe County floods”

Township trustee on timing for Bloomington annexation: “What I’m hearing…is that’s taxation without representation.”

Van Buren Township, which forms part of the western edge of Monroe County, sits at the southwest corner of the city of Bloomington.

Inset of western portion of Monroe County showing township boundaries, city boundaries and proposed annexation areas. Areas with darker shades indicate those parcels with a remonstration waiver, regardless of date. The image links to a .pdf with vector graphics but no labels.

The township’s trustee is Rita Barrow, who has been elected to the post by Van Buren voters.

But most  Van Buren Township residents can’t vote for mayor, clerk, or councilmembers in Bloomington’s municipal elections. That’s because it’s only some small areas of Van Buren, with odd geometries, that currently are included inside city boundaries.

Under a current proposal by Bloomington to annex more township  territory into the city, more denizens of the township would add city residency to their resumes in 2024, and get the right to vote in city elections.

But the next Bloomington election would not come around until four years later, in November 2027.

That’s a sore point with potential annexees. And Barrow raised the issue on Friday morning at a meeting of the  Democratic Women’s Caucus. Continue reading “Township trustee on timing for Bloomington annexation: “What I’m hearing…is that’s taxation without representation.””

Monroe County councilor Spoonmore won’t seek re-election to District 4 seat in 2022

In a statement released Friday night, Monroe County council president Eric Spoonmore has announced he will not seek re-election in 2022, representing District 4.

B Square file photo from January 2020: Monroe County councilor and council president Eric Spoonmore.

Spoonmore put it like this: “I will conclude my service on the Monroe County Council when my term expires at the end of 2022.”

Spoonmore currently serves as the president of the seven-member council, which is the county government’s fiscal body.

Spoonmore’s statement talks about the next year and a half that he will still be serving county residents: “I also recognize that the most important public service I have to offer as a member of the Council could well occur over the next 18 months as our County addresses a number of upcoming and exciting opportunities.”

The statement wraps up with an acknowledgement of his family’s support: “Finally, I want to thank my wife, Lindsey, and our family, who have made many sacrifices in allowing me to pursue my interests of public service.”

The statement concludes: “We look forward to discovering new ways to make a difference here in the community we love.” Continue reading “Monroe County councilor Spoonmore won’t seek re-election to District 4 seat in 2022”

Monroe County leaders to form core group to tackle jail issues: “It will be a beast to wrestle.”

The image looking west at the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center at the corner of College Avenue and 7th Streets is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system. The courts are on the lower floors. The jail is housed in the upper floors of the building.

In order to start working through two recent reports from consultants hired to study the local criminal justice system, a core group of Monroe County officials should be formed to start meeting as a public body as often as weekly.

In addition, there’s support for hiring one of the consultants to continue working with Monroe County officials on implementing recommendations.

That was the clear consensus from a joint meeting of the board of commissioners and county councilors on Wednesday night.

The reports from the two consultants—RJS Justice Services and Inclusivity Strategic Consulting—highlighted a number of challenges in Monroe County’s criminal justice system.

To address the problems documented in the reports, County councilor Trent Deckard said, “It is is not a thing that we can snap our fingers and do.” Deckard described the magnitude of the criminal justice questions facing the county: “It will be a beast to wrestle. …And here we go.” Continue reading “Monroe County leaders to form core group to tackle jail issues: “It will be a beast to wrestle.””