Monroe County jail update: Roof repairs, other building maintenance in the works

At a meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC) 10 days ago, Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté and his executive team presented slides showing conditions at the jail, which confronted them when Marté was sworn into office at the start of the year.

A kind of counterpoint to Marté’s presentation came at the Wednesday morning meeting of the county commissioners.

Their regular meeting was followed by a work session, which also addressed the topic of jail maintenance.

At the work session, the county’s fleet and building manager, Richard Crider, briefed commissioners on various maintenance efforts that are underway, involving: the roof and water leaks; ventilation; plumbing; lighting; and showers.

That came after the regular meeting, when commissioners approved a $129,777 item to cover an agreement with Insulated Roofing Contractors (IRC) to scan, clean, and recoat the justice building roof.

Connected with that item was a $63,750 item to shut down, remove, and stage the roof’s solar panels on another section of the roof, until the new roof coating is applied.

About maintenance efforts, Crider said, “This process is active—it’s ongoing.”

Commissioner Julie Thomas stressed the idea that while the specific maintenance activities that Crider described would address the conditions presented by Marté, the maintenance was already in the works—not a reaction to the slide presentation. Continue reading “Monroe County jail update: Roof repairs, other building maintenance in the works”

Roundup: Reaction from city, county officials to inhumane Monroe County jail conditions

A week has passed since new Monroe County sheriff Ruben Marté, chief deputy Phil Parker and jail commander Kyle Gibbons, gave a presentation on the horrific conditions at the jail, which confronted them when Marté was sworn into office at the start of the year.

A slide deck depicting current jail conditions was shown at last Monday’s meeting of the community justice response committee (CJRC).

The slides showed prisoners using overturned cups as pillows as they slept on the floor, clogged toilets, overflow from showers and toilets dripping through the ceiling of the floor below, and racist graffiti, among other scenes.

As deplorable as the conditions displayed in the slides were, the images were still missing two crucial elements, Marté said: The smell and the sounds of the jail.

In public statements made by city and county officials in the week since the presentation, the jail conditions have been uniformly denounced.

The county commissioners have also been criticized for recent changes they have made to the composition of the CJRC. Continue reading “Roundup: Reaction from city, county officials to inhumane Monroe County jail conditions”

Bloomington OKs $400K for promotion of Trades District development, tech center construction

Looking north from the top of the Trades District parking garage. Cutting across the foreground is 10th Street. The Mill, with its sawtooth roofline, is visible to the right about mid-way up the frame. (Jan. 28, 2023)

The now open space in downtown that’s roughly bounded by 10th and 11th streets, and Rogers and Madison streets, will get some renewed focus and attention for development.

The area is known as the Trades District, which is a 12-acre portion of a larger area comprising Bloomington’s certified technology park.

The real estate was purchased by Bloomington’s redevelopment commission more than a decade ago.

At its meeting last Monday, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) approved an agreement that pays The Dimension Mill, Inc. $200,000 each year for two years to “advance the City’s objectives for the Tech Center, Trades District and Bloomington’s innovation ecosystem…”

The Dimension Mill, Inc. is a non-profit corporation that operates the coworking space known as The Mill, in the former dimension mill of the Showers Brother furniture factory.

A key part of the agreement with the RDC is that The Mill will hire an executive director for the Trades District and technology center, to focus on development of the district, construction of a new technology center, and recruitment of tenants for the center. Continue reading “Bloomington OKs $400K for promotion of Trades District development, tech center construction”

Talk deemed off-topic, ill-tempered: Backdrop for Bloomington’s resolution on embargo against Cuba

“Who the hell do you people think you are? You’re not the White House!”

That was Dareal Ruble speaking from the public mic at last Wednesday’s meeting of the city council.

He was reacting to a resolution on the meeting agenda that called for an immediate end to the US economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.

The resolution was not controversial for councilmembers—it passed unanimously.

The vote came almost an hour after the resolution was introduced by Dave Rollo, who co-sponsored it with Susan Sandberg.

Rubel was interrupted twice during his allotted five minutes by council president Sue Sgambelluri, who admonished him—for speaking off the topic of the resolution, not for any particular choice of words.

But questions about the kind of tone and demeanor that councilmembers consider acceptable were swimming just under the surface of Wednesday’s meeting—in connection with an earlier agenda item.

Neither Rollo nor Sandberg supported a raft of resident re-appointments to boards and commissions that were approved early on the agenda.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Rollo confirmed to The B Square that he voted no, because the list included Greg Alexander’s reappointment to the city’s traffic commission.

Based on Alexander’s social media interactions, which Rollo described as “aggressive,” Rollo said he think’s Alexander’s temperament is “ill-suited” to serving on a city board or commission.

Continue reading “Talk deemed off-topic, ill-tempered: Backdrop for Bloomington’s resolution on embargo against Cuba”

Photos: Freezefest Ice Battle 2023

Temperatures on Friday night for the Freezefest 2023 Ice Battle were a smidgen warmer than freezing—right around 33 F degrees.

The competition unfolded on Upland Brewing’s outdoor stage north of the parking lot off 11th Street. Starting with blank blocks of ice, two teams of ice carvers from Ice of America completed three rounds of carving lasting 15 minutes apiece.

At the end of 45 minutes, one team had produced a dragon. The other team created a carving that depicted Sponge Bob Square Pants blowing bubbles.

They were competing for the crowd’s approval as measured by the loudness of the cheers. It took three rounds of voting for a winner to be determined—Sponge Bob.

More photos from Friday night’s event are included below.

Continue reading “Photos: Freezefest Ice Battle 2023”

Park Cannon’s MLK Day message: Keep Knocking—it’s nonviolent, direct action

On Monday evening, Georgia state representative Park Cannon addressed a packed house at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.

“Today marks 662 days since I spent five hours in the Fulton County Jail for knocking on the governor’s door,” she told the crowd, which had assembled for the city’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday celebration.

Her talk drew on the episode at the governor’s door for its title: “Keep Knocking.”

Cannon also posed two questions for the crowd:

Do you have a deep understanding of what it means to move towards shared liberation?
Have you ever provided space for reflection and processing of grief, and injustice?

Continue reading “Park Cannon’s MLK Day message: Keep Knocking—it’s nonviolent, direct action”

Column: Is Bloomington a ‘relatively safe place’?

The text on the left and the right are identical except for the inclusion of the word "relatively" in the version on the right. Here's the text on the right: Bloomington is a relatively safe place but we are not immune to issues with which our entire nation is dealing. This senseless incident is a reminder that we should all look out for each other, be aware of our surroundings and seek to combat racism and prejudice in all its forms wherever and whenever we encounter it. Both versions have the city of Bloomington logo and a timestamp for the time of publication. The time for the left is 12:43 p.m. The time for the right is 12:48
Left is a screen grab of the final paragraph of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s Jan. 14, 2023 Facebook statement about a Jan. 11 bus stabbing. Right is a screen grab of the final paragraph of the same Facebook statement five minutes later. The only difference is the insertion of the word “relatively” to modify “safe.”

On Saturday, a statement from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton was posted on his official Facebook page denouncing the racist stabbing of an 18-year-old woman, which took place three days earlier.

Between 12:43 p.m. and 12:48 p.m., an edit was made to the statement’s final paragraph. Instead of describing Bloomington as “a safe place,” the revised statement says Bloomington is “a relatively safe place.”

The revision is consistent with the fact that perceptions of safety are not uniform—across people, specific areas within Bloomington, or time of day. Continue reading “Column: Is Bloomington a ‘relatively safe place’?”

Bloomington police: Suspect in bus passenger assault charged with attempted murder

A 56-year-old Bloomington woman has been arrested and charged with attempted murder in connection with a stabbing of a public bus passenger, according to a Thursday afternoon news release from city police.

The stabbing took place the day before, on Jan. 11, according to the Bloomington police department (BPD) news release.

The assault took place Wednesday around 4:45 p.m. on a Bloomington Transit bus, when it stopped at the intersection of 4th Street and the B-Line Trail, according to the news release.

The suspect, Billie R. Davis, was initially booked into Monroe County Jail on a charge of battery, which is a level 5 felony.

But after the victim’s wounds had been cleaned at the hospital, it was determined that she had several stab wounds to her head, and the charge was amended to attempted murder. The news release describes the victim as an 18-year-old Carmel woman.

Police are asking anyone who witnessed the incident, or thinks they have more information, to call detective Rob Shrake at (812) 349-3352. Continue reading “Bloomington police: Suspect in bus passenger assault charged with attempted murder”

First appointments by Sgambelluri as new Bloomington city council president: Special committee on council processes

After serving the past two years as vice president of the Bloomington city council, Sue Sgambelluri has been chosen  by her colleagues as council president for 2023.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the vote on Sgambelluri’s selection was 8–1, with dissent from Steve Volan. Even though the vote was not unanimous, the split was not as severe as last year’s 5–4 tally that gave Susan Sandberg the gavel for 2022.

One big source of contention for the last three years on Bloomington’s city council has been disagreement about how the legislative process should be handled, and the role of committees in that process.

The legislative process was the topic of Sgambelluri’s first act as council president, after assigning seats on the dais. She established a four-member special committee on council processes, to be chaired by Matt Flaherty, who served as parliamentarian in 2021.

As members of the new committee Sgambelluri also included herself, new council vice president Isabel Piedmont-Smith, and this year’s parliamentarian, Dave Rollo. Continue reading “First appointments by Sgambelluri as new Bloomington city council president: Special committee on council processes”

Bloomington city council overrides mayoral veto on convention center governance, path forward unclear

A mayoral veto of a Bloomington city council resolution supporting a capital improvement board (CIB) as the governance method for a convention center expansion, has been overridden by the city council.

It was at 3:15 p.m. Friday, the day before Christmas Eve, when Bloomington mayor John Hamilton issued his veto of the council’s Dec. 14 resolution.

In December the council had approved the resolution by an 8–1 vote, with Kate Rosenbarger as the sole voice of dissent.

At this Wednesday’s city council meeting, the outcome of the vote was the same, satisfying the two-thirds majority required under city code to override the mayor’s veto.

On Wednesday as in December, Rosenbarger’s dissent was not based on any support for Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s preferred convention center expansion governance structure, which is a 501(c)(3). Instead, Rosenbarger is skeptical that a convention center expansion should be built at all.

Continue reading “Bloomington city council overrides mayoral veto on convention center governance, path forward unclear”