Bloomington council votes down proposed law against camping, storing property in right-of-way

Voted down on Wednesday by Bloomington’s city council, with just two votes in favor, was an ordinance that would have explicitly prohibited camping, storing personal property, or blocking the public right-of-way, among other things.

Supporting the ordinance were Sue Sgambelluri and Susan Sandberg. Abstaining was Dave Rollo. The other five councilmembers who were present all voted against it. Ron Smith was absent.

Rollo said he was inclined to bring a motion to table the ordinance. Councilmember Jim Sims said he was inclined to put off a vote, but if it came down to a vote that night, he would vote no.

A basic concern for those who opposed the ordinance was that it punishes the unhoused population, without offering a solution for storing their belongings in a place other than the public right-of-way.

Councilmember Matt Flaherty’s sentiments reflected the views of others, when he said that crafting a better ordinance “will take months of community engagement and outreach and collaboration between the executive and legislative branch and the whole community to arrive at a solution.”

Flaherty added, “So I don’t think this is honestly well suited for just tabling or postponing and bringing back with a few clarifications, in a few weeks time.” Rollo said it was clear that there would not be majority support for tabling, so he did not make that motion. Continue reading “Bloomington council votes down proposed law against camping, storing property in right-of-way”

Bloomington boards act on tents, belongings in parks, public right-of-way

Board of public works

Board of park commissioners

On Tuesday, Bloomington’s board of public works passed a resolution asking that the city council enact an ordinance that will keep the public right-of-way clear of tents or belongings.

It’s not clear when or if the city council will follow the board’s recommendation.

The following day, the board of park commissioners took action, to enact a new policy that essentially prohibits tents in parks. The new policy takes effect on Aug. 23—that’s next Wednesday.

Action by the two boards on successive days is part of a general effort by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s administration, to regulate the way Bloomington’s unhoused population is able to use public space.

Director of public works Adam Wason described to the three-member board of public how the draft ordinance would make clear that the police have the legal authority, to immediately clear the right-of-way of someone’s belongings, if they do not respond to a request to move.

Parks and recreation director Paula McDevitt told the board that the intent of the new policy against tents and other makeshift enclosures is to ensure that parks areas can be used and enjoyed “by the whole community.” The way tents are now used in parts has created serious public health and safety risks, due in part to illegal activity, McDevitt said.

McDevitt said the policy does not prohibit unenclosed shade structures, if they don’t shield from public view what is happening under them.

At both meetings, commentary from the public mic in favor of the administration’s position came from business owners, and business advocacy groups—the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, and Downtown Bloomington, Inc.

Public comment against the administration’s approach came from social service workers, members of mutual aid groups like Help Ourselves, and other advocates for the unhoused. Continue reading “Bloomington boards act on tents, belongings in parks, public right-of-way”

Bloomington mayor calls Hopewell groundbreaking a “once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new neighborhood in the heart of our beloved city”

On Friday afternoon, a day with partly cloudy skies and a temperature around 80 degrees, about 60 local leaders gathered at the now empty grassy lot on the south side of 2nd Street, between Rogers Street and The B-Line Trail.

They were assembled to mark the groundbreaking for the Hopewell neighborhood, which will be constructed at the site of the former IU Health hospital, where the health care provider operated its facility until December 2021.

Delivering remarks on Friday were Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, followed by Cindy Kinnarney, who is president of Bloomington’s redevelopment commission, and by Mick Renneisen, who is president of the board for the nonprofit called City of Bloomington Capital Improvements, Inc.

Hamilton led off his remarks by saying, “We are here to break ground on this once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new neighborhood in the heart of our beloved city.” Continue reading “Bloomington mayor calls Hopewell groundbreaking a “once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new neighborhood in the heart of our beloved city””

Bloomington, Monroe County restart convention center talks, threat of lost tax revenue looms

Before Monday, it had been nearly six months since Bloomington and Monroe County officials last appeared in a public setting, to talk about the proposed expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The city council’s first meeting of the year, in early January, was the occasion when the city council voted to override  Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s veto, of a city council resolution related to the convention center expansion. The mid-December 2022  city council resolution expressed support for a capital improvement board (CIB) as the governance structure for a convention center expansion.

On Monday at noon, the Bloomington city council convened a work session on the topic of the planned expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

Providing a wake-up call to move the project forward was the Indiana General Assembly, which has now concluded this year’s session. Before wrapping up its work for the year, the state legislature passed HB 1454, which uses the local food and beverage tax as a prod, to require Bloomington and Monroe County to show some progress on the convention center project.

The center of Monday’s discussion was a draft of an interlocal agreement that is supposed to iron out some of the persistent wrinkles in discussions between the city and the county about the convention center. Continue reading “Bloomington, Monroe County restart convention center talks, threat of lost tax revenue looms”