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.””

Bloomington mayor to US Army: “I agree that you may conduct urban military training in our community.”

This letter, though undated, was sent on April 14, according to Bloomington’s office of the mayor. Image links to .pdf of complete letter. (Blue highlight by The B Square.)

On Wednesday, an undated letter from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton to officers in the US military, was released by the city of Bloomington in response to a records request made under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act (APRA).

The APRA requests were made by The B Square in connection with military training exercises that were conducted inside Bloomington city limits on the night of June 7. [Request 1] [Request 2]

The opening paragraph in the letter from Hamilton begins: “On behalf of the City of Bloomington, I agree that you may conduct urban military training in our community. In my capacity as Mayor I am duly authorized to represent, act and sign on behalf of the government of our city.”

In the final sentence of the letter’s second paragraph, Hamilton appears to indicate he believes he has the authority to decide whether the exercises are allowed to take place. He writes: “I also understand that this is not to be considered blanket permission, and that I may change my mind at any time—without cause.”

A few hours after the training exercise was conducted, The B Square submitted several questions to the mayor’s office, including one about who made a decision to give permission for the June 7 military exercises to be conducted in the city.

The mayor’s office answered on June 8 without identifying anyone who made a decision to give permission: “The City cannot prohibit the federal government from conducting a training exercise.”

In its written response to that question, the mayor’s office did not mention that the mayor gave the kind of permission that was revealed in the letter released on Wednesday. Continue reading “Bloomington mayor to US Army: “I agree that you may conduct urban military training in our community.””

Photos | Cicada-ville: A bad haiku on zoning

Last Monday, I wandered over to the Monroe County courthouse grounds in downtown Bloomington to check the status of cicadas. I saw a cute bunny rabbit, but no cicadas.

On Saturday, I noticed a few cicada shells clinging to the face of the the Alexander Monument when I was covering the rally for the arts. So I figured on Sunday afternoon I would check again.

What a difference a week made. After the jump is a set of cicada photos I took on the courthouse grounds. And here’s my best poetic effort on the topic: Continue reading “Photos | Cicada-ville: A bad haiku on zoning”

Bloomington’s annexation restart shows a couple of wobbles, still on steady course for Aug. 4 public hearings, September votes

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council restarted the process, which had been suspended in 2017 by action of the state legislature, to annex eight separate areas into the city.

The re-start comes after Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled in a 3–2 split decision late last year that the state legislature’s action was unconstitutional.

The eight different areas that are being considered for annexation would add 9,255 acres to Bloomington’s land area and an estimated 14,377 people to the city’s population.

The city council’s annexation-related action on Wednesday involved one resolution for each of the eight areas to adopt its new fiscal plan, and one ordinance on the annexation itself. The ordinances were first introduced in 2017.

That meant on Wednesday, the ordinances got technical amendments to revise several mentions of dates. But no votes were taken on the ordinances as amended. Those votes are planned for September.

One wobble in the restarted process was the 6–3 outcome of the vote on the adoption of the fiscal plan for Area 7. All the other votes on Wednesday were unanimous.

Area 7 is labeled in the annexation materials as the “North Bloomington Annexation Area.” The area has been described as having more cows and chickens than people. Its estimated 115 people, spread over 896 acres, gives it a population density of 0.12 people per acre.

Dissenting on the Area 7 fiscal plan vote were Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Dave Rollo, and Susan Sandberg. Piedmont-Smith said, “I think it’s too rural.”

But it’s the final votes on the ordinances that will have an impact on whether areas are annexed. Those votes are currently scheduled for mid-September.

Councilmember Matt Flaherty said, “I don’t take my vote on on either resolutions or amendments to ordinances tonight to mean that I am in support of a particular area for annexation.” He added, “I think we’ll continue to consider kind of all aspects of this as we move forward. This is just a step in the process.”

The date for the public hearing on the ordinances is currently set for Aug. 4. Continue reading “Bloomington’s annexation restart shows a couple of wobbles, still on steady course for Aug. 4 public hearings, September votes”

Photos: “March to End the Madness” uses basketball branding in support of homeless community

A demonstration to support Bloomington’s homeless community passes in front of Assembly Hall in the early afternoon of Saturday, March 20, 2021 (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

Shortly after 11 a.m. in Dunn Meadow on Indiana University’s campus, a demonstration tipped off in support of those experiencing homelessness in Bloomington.

Somewhere between 70 and 90 people were a part of the action at various points during the late morning and early afternoon, which would up at the intersection of 17th Street and Woodlawn Avenue, kitty-corner from Indiana University’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

That’s where demonstrators set up 17 blue free-standing tents.

Continue reading “Photos: “March to End the Madness” uses basketball branding in support of homeless community”

IU Health COVID-19 response: Capacity limits mean dialing down elective procedures, shifting patients to deal with recent surge

At IU Health’s hospital in Bloomington, the area’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases has pushed administrators to find ways to make space for new patients.

A month ago in Monroe County, the seven-day average of confirmed new positive COVID-19 cases had settled around 2. That has increased to around 17 at the end of July. Not every positive case requires hospitalization. But those increased numbers have pushed IU Health’s Bloomington facility towards its capacity.

On Friday, MaryAnn Valenta, IU Health’s regional director for strategic integration, said the hospital is responding to the recent surge by reducing the number of elective procedures and transferring patients to other hospitals inside and outside the region. Where they’re transferred is based on “the location that makes the most sense to each patient based on bed capacity.”

Valenta’s remarks came during Friday’s weekly press conference on COVID-19 response with local leaders from the city, county and university. Continue reading “IU Health COVID-19 response: Capacity limits mean dialing down elective procedures, shifting patients to deal with recent surge”

Bloomington mayor renews call for local income tax increase, reduces ask from 0.5 percentage points to 0.25; says 2021 budget for sworn police officers will decrease

Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton has renewed his call, made at the start of the year, for the Bloomington city council to increase the local income tax.

cropped Hamilton Screen Shot 2020-07-16 at 3.51.31 PM
Screen shot of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s July 16, 2020 Facebook video. (Image links to video.)

Such a tax would apply to all residents of Monroe County.

The additional revenue from the income tax would still go towards climate action and sustainability initiatives. But the 0.25-percentage-point increase suggested by Hamilton on Thursday is half the 0.5-point increase that Hamilton had proposed on New Year’s Day.

Another highlight from Thursday’s message from the mayor, which could be overshadowed by reaction to the income tax proposal, is an indication that recent calls to “defund the police” have resonated with the mayor at least a certain degree.

From the mayor’s Thursday speech: “Our budget for 2021 will propose significant changes in the police department, including reductions in funding of badged officer positions and increases in non-badged positions…” Continue reading “Bloomington mayor renews call for local income tax increase, reduces ask from 0.5 percentage points to 0.25; says 2021 budget for sworn police officers will decrease”

Advisory groups give green light to city council on 7th Street: Remove parking for protected bicycle lane

College to Walnut Screen unimproved 7-Line aerial 10.33.35 PM
Segment of 7th Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Bloomington.
College to Walnut Screen 7-Line aerial 10.33.35 PM
The images shows the segment of 7th Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street. The top image shows current parking and lane conditions. The lower image is a rendering of the 7-Line protected bicycle lane project. Both images link to an animated .gif of them alternating.

On Thursday, at its first regular meeting since the end of January, Bloomington’s parking commission reviewed the protected bicycle lane project that’s going to be built on 7th Street sometime in 2021.

It was in front of the commission because the 7-Line, to be built as a two-way bicycle path on the south side of the roadway, will require the removal of 113 on-street metered parking spaces. It’s the loss of parking spaces that has generated some concern among property owners along the corridor, among them the Monroe County government.

Parking commissioners gave a unanimous recommendation in support of the planning and transportation staff’s finding—that the three-quarter-mile bicycle lane from the B-Line Trail to the Indiana University campus at Woodlawn supports several goals of the city’s comprehensive plan and squares up with the city’s transportation plan.

As Beth Rosenbarger, Bloomington’s planning services manager, pointed out to parking commissioners, the city’s transportation plan calls for a protected bicycle lane along 7th Street. Continue reading “Advisory groups give green light to city council on 7th Street: Remove parking for protected bicycle lane”

May 7 Bloomington Primary Election: A Nonpartisan Resource

Twenty-three candidates for 11 city offices are on the ballot for Bloomington voters in the May 7, 2019 primary election – all but one of them Democrats. And this year, all but two of the Democratic Party primary races are competitive.

Bloomington Primary Candidates 2019
Candidates in the May 7 Bloomington primary.

To help voters research their choices for Bloomington mayor, clerk and council, we’ve compiled a nonpartisan resource guide that profiles each candidate in the May 7 primary.

Here’s a link to the guide: Bloomington City Primary Elections 2019

In addition to biographical background, the profiles include links to each candidate’s online campaign information (website, social media, email) as well as links to campaign finance documents filed with the Monroe County clerk’s office.

Each profile also provides links to relevant news articles from a variety of sources, a listing that will be updated throughout the election cycle.

To register to vote, check your registration status or find your polling location, go to the Indiana Voter Portal. The deadline to register to vote in the May 7 primary is Monday, April 8.

Early voting starts on Tuesday, April 9.

Hey, Wait a Minute | Is Bloomington in southern Indiana?

Note: “Hey Wait a Minute” is an occasional B Square Beacon series that highlights meeting minutes and other documentation of local government group meetings in the Bloomington, Indiana area. Sometimes, arriving at the connection to meeting minutes takes a long walk around the block.

The online world is a mostly a peaceful place where people share facts and thank each other for the useful information. But yesterday someone was wrong on the internet. So a mild fracas broke out.

Here’s the kerfuffle-inducing question: Is Bloomington considered southern Indiana? (Yes.) Continue reading “Hey, Wait a Minute | Is Bloomington in southern Indiana?”