The headline to this column could provoke a reflexive response from longtime Bloomington city councilmembers. As a matter of law, they’ll say, it’s not up to them, but rather the mayor to increase the budget for Jack Hopkins social services.
From a legal point of view, I think they might be wrong.
But all nine city councilmembers and the mayor are members of the Democratic Party. So even if they’re right on the legal question, partisanship works in their favor.
Without confronting any of the typical partisan barriers that some cities might face, Bloomington’s elected officials could fund more social services.
A 1980 article in the Valparaiso University Law Review states that the political party caucus exemption in the Open Door Law (ODL) here in the state of Indiana is “a major potential weakness in the act, and is virtually impossible to police.”
The same article mentions that there have been few problems with the caucus at the local level, either because it is not abused or else is used discretely enough to avoid criticism.
At lot has happened since 1980. But the law review article also mentions, as a point of curiosity, that up to that point there had been “few complaints by the press.”
On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council voted unanimously to postpone, until Feb. 19, council president Steve Volan’s resolution on establishing several council standing committees.
The unanimous vote on the postponement went smoother than the subsequent discussion of the council’s schedule for next week. That’s when an ordinance regulating non-consensual towing will appear on the agenda for a second reading.
The procedural options for the council’s Feb. 5 action on the towing ordinance include rejection, adoption, postponement, or referral to an ad hoc committee.
On Wednesday, council attorney/administrator Dan Sherman wanted direction from councilmembers on how to portray the towing ordinance item on the the Feb. 5 agenda.
It was a rest day for the baseball World Series between the Astros and the Nationals. But about 20 people attended a city council candidate forum Monday evening, hosted by The Civil Society at Indiana University. Moderators were students Meredith Karbowsky and Taylor Combs.
Only the council hopefuls in District 2 and District 3 were in the lineup—five candidates in all—because the races in the other four Bloomington districts are uncontested.
Held in the basement of Woodburn Hall on the IU campus, the event was unmarked by any real friction through about the first hour. Candidates did not offer radically different views on public safety, housing, or climate change, even if their talking points differed. It resembled a mostly friendly game of political pitch and catch, not hardball electioneering.
But a question about the situation that emerged this summer at Bloomington’s farmers market, which was pitched by moderators straight down the middle for each candidate, was blasted by Republican Andrew Guenther right at Democrat Sue Sgambelluri. The two are competing for the District 2 council seat.
On Monday night, Guenther accused Sgambelluri of “political cowardice,” based in part on what some of his supporters told him her campaign treasurer has said. Sgambelluri reached for Guenther’s line drive with a “results-oriented” glove.
At a forum held on Wednesday night for Bloomington city council candidates in District 3, an audience of around a dozen Bell Trace residents heard from the three candidates who are on this year’s ballot: Nick Kappas (independent), Ron Smith (Democrat), and Marty Spechler (independent).
Bell Trace is a senior living community on the city’s east side. Residents had questions about two specific topics: transportation and a planned convention center expansion downtown.
The timing for those topics squares up with a couple of public meetings planned before the end of the month, on Oct. 29. One is the kickoff to a series of meetings hosted by Bloomington Transit about a proposed new route configuration, which has been studied for more than a year.
Monroe County attorney Jeff Cockerill presented a proposal to Bloomington’s city council Wednesday night that will use revenue from the West Side TIF (tax increment financing) District to pay for two new roads in the area southeast of the intersection of Vernal Pike and Curry Pike.
This November will mark the first election, dating back at least to 1967, that not all registered voters in Bloomington will able to cast a ballot for city offices—mayor, city clerk, and the nine-member common council.
That’s because elections are contested in just two city council districts: District 2 and District 3. Voters in District 2 will choose between Andrew Guenther (R) and Sue Sgambelluri (D). In District 3, the choice is between Nick Kappas (I), Ron Smith (D) and Marty Spechler (I).
The Beacon’s voters guide includes short profiles of the five candidates in contested elections and links to other useful information. The guide also includes candidates in non-contested elections.
Note: “Hey Wait a Minute” is an occasional B Square Beacon series that highlights meeting minutes and other documentation of local government meetings in the Bloomington, Indiana area.
At the most recent meeting of Bloomington’s city council, on July 31, councilmember Allison Chopra offered some candid commentary on the length of the meeting.
Chopra said in part: “…it’s 9:45 p.m. I am leaving this meeting at 10:30, regardless of how long it goes, because I need to sleep at night. … There is absolutely no reason why we should be having a meeting that lasts more than four hours …”
The criticism that councilmember Chopra expressed at the meeting—of her colleagues and herself—was serious business. I think it’s worth watching Chopra’s remarks as she made them, in their entirety.
City Councilmember Steve Volan lives almost exactly in the middle of Bloomington.
The center of Bloomington’s area—the centroid calculated by a piece of geographic information software called QGIS—lies a few feet west of Indiana University’s Henderson Parking Garage on Atwater Avenue.