Opinion: Bloomington’s next community survey needs some work

A couple of weeks ago, the city of Bloomington released the results from this year’s community survey.

The response rate for Bloomington’s community survey has dropped by about 40 percent from 2017 to 2023.

The survey has been conducted every two years for the city of Bloomington by the same firm—Polco/National Research Center. That’s now four surveys worth of data that can be tapped for trends.

Based on the city’s online financial records, Polco/NRC has been paid a total of $82,590 for the work, starting in 2017.

Surveys were conducted in 2017, 2019, 2021 and 2023.

Democratic Party primary winner Kerry Thomson, who is unopposed this fall, will almost certainly be he next mayor of Bloomington, starting in 2024.

I think it would make sense to repeat the same kind of survey in 2025. Continuing to ask some of the same basic questions every two years, using the same methodology, would add to a longer-term understanding of how Bloomington’s community attitudes are changing.

But I hope that the Thomson administration will not wait until 2025 to start thinking about that year’s survey.

There are two areas where I think improvements could be made: the number of respondents; and the quality of the non-standard questions. Continue reading “Opinion: Bloomington’s next community survey needs some work”

Bloomington Fourth of July parade gets 3-week prelude: College-Walnut corridor study

Street closures for this year’s Fourth of July parade were approved this past week by Bloomington’s three-member board of public works.

The route is the same one as last year, following a thin rectangle starting at 10th Street and College Avenue, heading south to Kirkwood Avenue, then east to Walnut Street, and north on Walnut back to 10th Street.

The street closures were routine enough that the board approved the item as a part of its consent agenda on Tuesday, after getting briefed at its Monday noon work session.

It was Bill Ream, the community events coordinator for the city’s parks and recreation department, who gave the briefing.

Ream highlighted the fact that as of last Monday (June 5), there were still spots open for entries. Ream said about two-thirds of the 50-60 available entries had been filled. Groups who want to enter the parade can find the form on the Fourth of July page of the city’s website. Continue reading “Bloomington Fourth of July parade gets 3-week prelude: College-Walnut corridor study”

Feisty final mayoral forum for Bloomington Dems

Three candidates are vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor of Bloomington: Don Griffin; Susan Sandberg and Kerry Thomson.

No Republicans have declared.

On Monday night, some pre-forum banter among the three seemed a bit more relaxed than for previous events. During their small talk, the trio managed to conjure up an imaginary scenario involving a ukulele duet and parachute pants.

Monday’s forum took place in the auditorium of the Monroe County Public Library.

The event was hosted by the city’s police union (FOP Lodge #88), the fire union (Bloomington Metropolitan Firefighters Union Local #586) and AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) Local #2487. Questions came from union members.

Putting the questions to the candidates was moderator Amy Swain, who is Monroe County’s elected recorder.

Monday’s event was the last scheduled forum before Primary Election Day, which is May 2, now just a week away.

The candidates were relaxed enough to make light-hearted smalltalk, but were also confident enough to engage each other in a lively, pointed way. Continue reading “Feisty final mayoral forum for Bloomington Dems”

Bloomington city council jammed up on issue of traffic commissioner’s ouster, still no vote taken

An expected up-down vote on the question of Greg Alexander’s removal from Bloomington’s traffic commission did not take place at Wednesday night’s city council meeting.

The motion for Alexander’s removal—because of Tweets he posted late last year—had been postponed from the council’s March 29 meeting. That postponement had unanimous support from the council, in order to give Alexander at least five business days to respond in writing to the specific reasons listed out in the motion.

On Wednesday, councilmember Dave Rollo wound up withdrawing his motion to remove Alexander.

Since Jan. 18, when the council reappointed Alexander to the traffic commission, Rollo has now made three different motions on Alexander’s removal—and withdrawn each one. Continue reading “Bloomington city council jammed up on issue of traffic commissioner’s ouster, still no vote taken”

2023 election notebook: Early voting for May 2 Bloomington primary light so far

At Thursday’s meeting of the Monroe County election board, county clerk Nicole Browne delivered an update on early in-person voting for the May 2 primary election, which started on Tuesday.

Election operations center with banner that says "Vote here today!"
Early voting at Monroe County election operations at 4th and Walnut Streets. (April 4, 2023)

As of 11:45 a.m. on Thursday (April 6), 134 voters had cast a ballot in person at the election operations center at 3rd and Walnut streets across, Browne said.

Browne also reported that 197 absentee ballots had been requested by mail and sent to voters. Of those 197 ballots, 25 had been returned, Browne said.

Bloomington voters will be electing party nominees for mayor, clerk, and nine city council seats. Ellettsville voters will elect party nominees for clerk/treasurer and town council.

In 2019, about 5,400 people showed up to the polls to cast a ballot in Bloomington’s Democratic Party city primary. Of those, about 2,000 cast their ballot early in person or absentee by mail.

The total number participating in the 2019 Bloomington primaries amounted to just 10 percent of registered voters. Continue reading “2023 election notebook: Early voting for May 2 Bloomington primary light so far”

Bloomington answers request for mural under new court-ordered art policy: No, but we have questions

The city of Bloomington has now responded to an application submitted in December by Indiana University student Kyle Reynolds for the installation of a mural on Kirkwood Avenue that says “All Lives Matter.”

Excerpt from the traffic management proposal in connection with the application that has been submitted by Kyle Reynolds for his proposed “All Lives Matter” mural.

In its response, the city has told Reynolds that such a mural, with words and letters, is not allowed as permanent art under the city’s newly adopted policy on the installation of private art in the public right-of-way.

Based on the city’s response, and the litigation backdropping the request, if Reynolds is eventually allowed to install his mural, it looks somewhat unlikely that it would be on the requested date of April 3, 2023.

It was under a court order that the city’s new policy on private art in the public right-of-way was developed.

That order came in connection with a lawsuit that Reynolds filed, after being denied permission to paint a mural in 2021.  The court found that the city’s refusal in 2021 to allow Reynolds to paint his mural likely amounted to viewpoint discrimination, and issued a preliminary injunction.

Bloomington’s policy was adopted by the board of public works at its Dec. 20, 2022 meeting.

Reynolds’ proposed mural is not allowed as a permanent mural, because it contains “speech,” which is defined under the policy as “words, letters, numbers, or universally recognized symbols, or logos of any kind.” Continue reading “Bloomington answers request for mural under new court-ordered art policy: No, but we have questions”

High expectations set for new elected officials in Monroe County at swearing-in ceremony

Voters in Monroe County, Indiana, elected a total of 61 local officials in 2022, who start their terms of office on Jan. 1, 2023.

That includes judges, a county commissioner, the sheriff, the recorder, the clerk, the assessor, the prosecutor, county councilors, town councilors, township trustees, township board members, and school board members.

About one-third of them took their oath of office in a public ceremony starting at noon on Sunday, New Year’s Day in the Nat U. Hill room at the county courthouse.

It was a bipartisan event, featuring remarks from Monroe County Republican Party chair Taylor Bryant, and her counterpart for the Democratic  Party, David Henry. Continue reading “High expectations set for new elected officials in Monroe County at swearing-in ceremony”

Frozen Lake Monroe means a breakthrough year for 2023 Bloomington Polar Bear Plunge

Even though daytime high temperatures have reached the 50s for the last four days, on New Year’s Day, a 3-inch layer of ice crusted over much of the water at Lake Monroe’s Paynetown Recreation Area beach.

Still, around 10 o’clock Sunday morning, The B Square counted at least 40 people who managed to make their way into the frigid shallows near the shore.

Those hardy souls will be credited with participation in this year’s edition of the Bloomington Polar Bear Plunge. Continue reading “Frozen Lake Monroe means a breakthrough year for 2023 Bloomington Polar Bear Plunge”

Don Griffin kicks off campaign for mayor with catchphrase: “Believe in Bloomington”

On Thursday evening at the Griffin Realty offices on College Avenue, Don Griffin kicked off his campaign for mayor of Bloomington with a gathering of around 50 people.

Griffin is running for the Democratic Party’s nomination, in what will be at least a three-way field, that includes Susan Sandberg and Kerry Thomson.   The catchphrase of Griffin’s campaign will be: “Believe in Bloomington.”

In his remarks to the group, Griffin alluded to the fact that he is stepping down as deputy mayor to focus on his campaign. On Thursday, Griffin said, “My time as deputy mayor has provided me with a masterclass in city government and helped me understand what it means to serve in a more meaningful way than I could ever have imagined.”

He added, “And I want to thank John Hamilton for that opportunity.”

On Thursday night, Griffin led off the presentation of his platform by saying he wants Bloomington to be considered “the best small town in the United States.”

The four elements of Griffin’s platform are: sustainability; diversity, equity, and inclusion; housing; and job creation and attraction. Continue reading “Don Griffin kicks off campaign for mayor with catchphrase: “Believe in 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.””