Deputy mayor Don Griffin files paperwork to run for mayor of Bloomington in 2023

At 11:11 a.m. on Friday morning, Bloomington deputy mayor Don Griffin, Jr. filed paperwork with the Monroe County election division to become a candidate for mayor in the 2023 election.

Bloomington deputy mayor Don Griffin, Jr. (B Square file photos from 2021 and 2022)

Griffin joins Susan Sandberg  and Kerry Thomson  as previously declared candidates for the mayoral nomination of the Democratic party.

Clearing the way for Griffin to run for mayor was Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s announcement two weeks ago  that he would not be seeking a third term.

Griffin and Hamilton both appeared on Wednesday in front of the Bloomington city council to present the administration’s proposal for a $29.5 million bond issuance to rehabilitate fire stations and to integrate a new police station into the western part of the Showers building—the same structure where city hall is located.

Reached by The B Square on Friday afternoon, Griffin said a more formal announcement would be forthcoming, probably early next week. For now, he’s just telling people that he is, if fact, running, and they’re welcome to tell others, too.

Griffin has served as deputy mayor of Bloomington since late April of 2021, when Mick Renneisen retired from the position. Continue reading “Deputy mayor Don Griffin files paperwork to run for mayor of Bloomington in 2023”

Election 2023: Sims won’t run again for city council, still plans continued service to Bloomington

Bloomington at-large city councilmember Jim Sims will not be seeking reelection in 2023.

Sims has confirmed his plans not to run in 2023 in a phone interview with The B Square.

The nine-members of the city council, along with the mayor and city clerk, are up for election in 2023. All 11 elected Bloomington officials are Democrats.

Sims said his decision not to seek reelection was a tough one—something he had grappled with, and consulted with others about.

But in the end, Sims said, he recognized the potential impact that the stress of city council service might have on his own health. That led him to conclude he could serve the community better in non-legislative ways.

“It’s just time to move on,” Sims said.

Some of those non-legislative ways include his involvement in the Monroe County branch of the NAACP. Sims currently serves as the organization’s 2nd vice president for political engagement and finance. Sims said he plans to continue his more than 20 years of service with the NAACP. Continue reading “Election 2023: Sims won’t run again for city council, still plans continued service to Bloomington”

Kerry Thomson kicks off campaign for Bloomington mayor: “A public that labels itself ‘progressive’ deserves to see some progress.”

On Thursday, at a gathering of nearly 200 people at Switchyard Brewing on Walnut Street in downtown Bloomington, Kerry Thomson kicked off her 2023 campaign to become Bloomington’s next mayor.

About an hour before Thomson’s event, incumbent mayor Democrat John Hamilton had announced that he won’t be seeking a third four-year term.

Thomson led off her remarks with a recognition of Hamilton’s news: “I don’t know if anybody has heard, but John Hamilton decided he’s not running.”

She added, “We are grateful for his service to the city. And we are building forward with new leadership in the city of Bloomington—that’s what we know.”

So far at least, there are two declared candidates for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor in the 2023 race—Thomson and city council president Susan Sandberg. Their candidacies won’t become official until they file the paperwork in early 2023.

Since late 2018, Thomson has served as executive director of Indiana University’s Center for Rural Engagement (IUCRE). The center’s website describes the IU initiative as tapping the research, expertise, teaching, and service of IU Bloomington faculty, staff, and students to create connections between non-land-grant, research institutions and rural communities.

Thursday’s gathering was Thomson’s second public campaign event. In June, at Bloomington Bagel Company on Dunn Street, she hosted a celebration of her announcement that she was making a mayoral bid. Continue reading “Kerry Thomson kicks off campaign for Bloomington mayor: “A public that labels itself ‘progressive’ deserves to see some progress.””

Hamilton on a third term as Bloomington mayor: “It’s tempting to run, but I just have decided not to.”

In a 4-minute YouTube video released around 4 p.m. on Thursday, Bloomington mayor Democrat John Hamilton announced he will not seek a third four-year term as mayor.

That means there are, so far at least, just two declared candidates in the Democratic Party primary—Susan Sandberg and Kerry Thomson. Their candidacies won’t become official until they file the paperwork at the start of the year.

In the video statement, Hamilton said the choice not to seek a third term was “not an easy decision.” Reflecting on his two terms of service, Hamilton said “felt like the right time to turn the page on a new chapter.”

Hamilton said, “It’s tempting to run, but I just have decided not to.”

About his remaining time in office, Hamilton said, “There are 13 months ahead of great work, exciting work.” He likened it to an athletic contest: “We’re kind of in the fourth quarter of the game. And you know, a lot of really good things can happen in the fourth quarter of a game.”

In the video, as a prelude to the announcement he won’t be running for reelection, Hamilton ticks through the areas where he believes Bloomington has achieved successes over the last seven years: the economy, housing, digital access, public safety, sanitation services, water utilities and bus service. Continue reading “Hamilton on a third term as Bloomington mayor: “It’s tempting to run, but I just have decided not to.””

Sandberg sets tone for 2023 mayoral campaign with kickoff: “We should restore before we do more.”

On Wednesday, the day after Election Day, current Bloomington city council president Susan Sandberg filed amended paperwork to convert her campaign organization from a mayoral exploratory committee to a campaign committee.

And on Sunday afternoon, Sandberg, a Democrat, kicked off her campaign for mayor with a gathering of about 60 people in one of the indoor shelters at Karst Farm Park.

Another declared candidate for Bloomington mayor in 2023, Democrat Kerry Thomson, will be kicking off her campaign this coming Thursday. Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, also a Democrat, has not yet publicly announced if he will seek re-election to a third term.

Karst Farm Park is a Monroe County government facility, Sandberg acknowledged in her opening remarks. And it was chosen for the kickoff with a specific intent, she said: “One of the things that I know I can bring to the table is a much better working relationship with our colleagues in Monroe County.”

Sandberg’s statement was a reference to the strained relations between Hamilton and the county commissioners. Policy issues where the friction between the two layers of government has been evident include a stalled collaborative effort on the convention center expansion and the location of a new county jail.

On Wednesday this past week, county commissioners invited the mayor to make the next move after voting to establish a capital improvement board to govern the new convention center expansion, contingent on the city council and the mayor’s agreement to its terms.

On the question of the jail location, for this Monday’s (Nov. 14) second city plan commission hearing on a requested rezone by the county government, to allow for jail construction in the southern part of the city, the city planning staff recommendation is now against the rezone. For the first hearing, the planning staff had not given a staff recommendation either way.

Better city-county relations are just one plank of Sandberg’s campaign platform which includes: affordability; safety; collaboration; and basic services. Continue reading “Sandberg sets tone for 2023 mayoral campaign with kickoff: “We should restore before we do more.””

Likely no deliberations this week on new map for Bloomington city council districts

Bloomington’s city council almost certainly won’t be deliberating on a potential new district map ordinance at a committee meeting this Wednesday.

The new boundaries that are spelled out in the map ordinance were recommended by the city’s redistricting advisory commission two weeks ago. Consideration of new boundaries for the council’s six districts is required every 10 years in the second year after the decennial census.

But still on the agenda for the council’s 6:30 p.m. Wednesday special meeting  is the first reading of the ordinance that would adopt new boundaries for the council’s districts. The first reading will likely still take place, but nothing else. Continue reading “Likely no deliberations this week on new map for Bloomington city council districts”

Bloomington city council sets schedule to consider new district boundaries, could lead to Sept. 21 vote

The first reading of the ordinance establishing new boundaries for Bloomington’s city council districts will come at a special meeting next week, on Sept. 14.

Discussion at a committee-of-the-whole meeting is set to follow, right after the special meeting.

That sets up a possible vote the following week, on Sept. 21—to adopt or reject the new map that has been recommended by the five-member redistricting advisory commission.

The city council also has a work session set for noon on Friday (Sept. 9) that will include the proposed new council districts.

That anticipated schedule was established by the city council at its Wednesday meeting (Sept. 7).

The schedule came after 40 minutes of debate on Wednesday about the benefits and deficiencies of committee-of-the-whole meetings—which is an issue that has plagued this edition of Bloomington’s city council since its term started on Jan. 1, 2020. Continue reading “Bloomington city council sets schedule to consider new district boundaries, could lead to Sept. 21 vote”

Bloomington mayoral campaign committee formed by Kerry Thomson

Just before noon on Wednesday, Bloomington resident Kerry Thomson filed paperwork with Monroe County’s election division to establish a principal committee for a 2023 mayoral campaign.

Kerry Thomson. Photo from a May 15, 2022 event hosted at the Switchyard Park pavilion by Indiana University’s Center for Rural Engagement called “Community Conversations on Housing.”

That makes two Democrats in as many weeks to file some kind of paperwork for a Bloomington mayoral run. On June 1, city council president Susan Sandberg filed paperwork to create an exploratory committee.

The basic impact of the different committee types is that when Sandberg formally declares her candidacy—which is not possible until the first week of January 2023—she will need to file an amendment to convert her exploratory committee to a principle committee.

Incumbent mayor Democrat John Hamilton has not formally announced that he is running for re-election to a third four-year term.

Since late 2018, Thomson has served as executive director of Indiana University’s Center for Rural Engagement (IUCRE). The center’s website describes the IU initiative as tapping the research, expertise, teaching, and service of IU Bloomington faculty, staff, and students to create connections between non-land-grant, research institutions and rural communities. Continue reading “Bloomington mayoral campaign committee formed by Kerry Thomson”

Opinion | Dereliction of duty: When Bloomington city councilmembers abstain on $30-million votes

On Wednesday night, Kate Rosenbarger and Steve Volan abstained on the vote granting a $30-million tax abatement for Catalent—but not because they had some financial conflict or even an appearance of one.

The resolution passed with six votes in favor, one more than the five-vote majority it needed.

Rosenbarger was in a quandary—she doesn’t believe in tax abatements generally, but said it was “silly” for Catalent not to pursue the abatement. What was her way out of the dilemma? To abstain.

Volan also said he found the concept of tax abatements problematic, and complained that Catalent was not willing to make some additional commitments—for example, allowing a developer to build housing on Catalent land.

Volan could not vote yes, but wanted to make a “show of good faith to Catalent.” What was his show of good faith? To abstain.

For anyone who likes to do math, it’s puzzling why an abstention would count as a show of good faith. An abstention contributes the same as a no vote towards reaching the required five-vote majority: Zero. There’s no extra negative arithmetical weight attached to a no vote. Continue reading “Opinion | Dereliction of duty: When Bloomington city councilmembers abstain on $30-million votes”

Column: Let’s try making journalists out of Bloomington’s elected officials

Bloomington has way fewer local news reporters than in years past.

This image extracted from the boilerplate section of a Bloomington city council agenda. Yellow highlights have been added to reflect the topic of this column.

In a column published last November by The Limestone Post, former Herald-Times reporter Steve Hinnefeld put some specific numbers on that trend. The newsroom at his former paper has diminished from 50 to just a dozen, Hinnefeld wrote.

If you didn’t read it at the time, or even if you did, the link to Hinnefeld’s column is worth a click.

The shortage of reporters is not confined to any one beat. But the one I care most about is local government news.

How can we, as a community, pull together to make up for the current deficit in local news coverage of local government?

I think Bloomington’s city councilmembers could help fill the gap. To be clear, I am not suggesting that city councilmembers start writing articles for local news outlets.

The idea is simple: Bloomington city councilmembers should rethink the way they use their time that is labeled on their meeting agendas as “reports” from councilmembers. Continue reading “Column: Let’s try making journalists out of Bloomington’s elected officials”