Bloomington climate trends could mean wetter summers, higher lake levels

Three decades from now, Indiana is forecast to see between 6 and 8 percent more rainfall than it averaged in the past, depending on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions during the lead-up to mid-century.

That’s according to a 2018 report from the Purdue Climate Change Research Center.

According to the report, in southern Indiana, the increased precipitation is predicted to come more in the winter and spring months.

But based on records of precipitation and the water levels at Lake Monroe in the past two and a half decades, southern Indiana looks like it could be seeing more rain in the first half of summer.

Earlier this week, the Indianapolis office of the National Weather Service tweeted out a link to a report on the anomaly of this summer’s first half: It has been way wetter than normal.

The abnormal amount of region-wide rainfall has caused high water on Lake Monroe. Last week Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources closed the swim beaches at the lake’s Fairfax SRA and Paynetown SRA and they’ve stayed closed.

Rainfall and lake levels are related, of course. And over the last quarter century, both seem to be showing an upward trend for this time of year. Continue reading “Bloomington climate trends could mean wetter summers, higher lake levels”

Climate scientist on last weekend’s Bloomington rain: “It’s not like this was an absolute fluke…”

As of Wednesday, the National Weather Service is predicting 4 to 6 inches more rain for Bloomington, from Friday afternoon through Tuesday evening.

That follows 5 to 7 inches of rain that fell over a shorter period last weekend, which flooded a downtown Bloomington street, overtopped a county bridge with debris, and caused the floodwaters to sweep up one car, leaving its driver dead.

Based on the daily rainfall data in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Regional Climate Center database, last weekend’s two-day total rainfall of 6.1 inches, recorded by the Indiana University campus rain gauge, ranks it the third-worst storm, since daily rainfall totals have been kept, which starts in 1895.

The 6.1 inches measured on IU’s campus was the highest two-day total in the last century.

Does last weekend’s single event prove the case for climate change?

When The B Square spoke on Wednesday with Gabriel Filippelli, professor of earth sciences at IUPUI, he said, “Each given intense rainfall event does not mean that climate change has descended on us.”

Filippelli continued, “However, when you look at the regional records and you see the number of days Indiana has had extreme rainfall events, it has gone up substantially from about the end of the 1980s on.”

The amount of extreme rainfall in central Indiana has gone up by about 15 percent since 1990, Filippelli said. He continued, “The projections are, it’s going to go up another 15 percent by 2050.”

That means extreme rainfall will continue to be likely in this area, he said. He added, “Whether climate change will make them worse or not, it’s hard to say, ”

In the context of a 15-percent increase in extreme rainfall, Filippelli assessed last weekend’s storm like this: “You know, 15 percent isn’t a lot, but it’s not like this was an absolute fluke that we’ll never see again.” Continue reading “Climate scientist on last weekend’s Bloomington rain: “It’s not like this was an absolute fluke…””

Duplexes to drop in front of Bloomington’s city council as permitted use

At its meeting on Thursday (April 1), Bloomington’s plan commission voted 6–3 to forward an ordinance to the city council, with a positive recommendation, that will affect the status of duplexes in much of the city.

The yellow areas are the places in Bloomington where the plan commission is recommending that duplexes be allowed as a permitted (by-right) use.

The recommended ordinance would revise the unified development ordinance (UDO), so that duplexes are a permitted (by-right) use in four districts.

The areas where duplexes would be permitted are the R1 (Residential Large Lot), R2 (Residential Medium Lot), R3 (Residential Small Lot), and R4 (Residential Urban) districts.

The city council could take up the question before the end of April, depending on how long it takes the plan commission to finish its work on the 10-ordinance package it’s now considering.

The city’s plan staff had proposed an ordinance that would change duplexes in R1, R2 and R3 from disallowed use to conditional use. A conditional use requires approval by the board of zoning appeals (BZA).

Through an amendment to the staff-proposed ordinance, approved on a 5–4 vote taken on Monday (March 29), the plan commission made duplexes a permitted (by-right) use in those three districts.

The amendment approved on Monday also changed duplexes in R4 from conditional use to permitted (by-right) use, which is consistent with the city’s current UDO. The planning staff’s unamended proposed ordinance had made the use of duplexes in R4 conditional.

In Monday’s action, the plan commission also voted to remove a 150-foot buffer that would have, for two years, prevented other duplexes from being constructed in the buffer area around a duplex that has received a certificate of zoning compliance. Continue reading “Duplexes to drop in front of Bloomington’s city council as permitted use”

Bloomington councilmember on amount, timing, spending, oversight of possible tax increase for climate action: “All the things we’re talking about…are open questions.”

Bloomington city council’s climate action and resilience committee, a four-member subset of the council, convened a meeting Wednesday night to hear feedback from the public on a possible countywide increase to the local income tax.

About three dozen people attended, maybe a third of them Indiana University students, for whom attendance was a class assignment.

Based on the statutory framework for the county tax council, a simple 5–4 majority on the Bloomington city council would be enough to enact the tax.

The size of the increase that was floated on New Year’s Day by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, was 0.5 points. That  would bring the total amount of local income tax paid by county residents to 1.845 percent.

But the amount of the increase, according to committee chair Matt Flaherty, is an open question, like nearly every other aspect of the proposal—including the timing of a vote by the Bloomington city council, constraints on expenditures, and oversight mechanisms. Continue reading “Bloomington councilmember on amount, timing, spending, oversight of possible tax increase for climate action: “All the things we’re talking about…are open questions.””

Mayor’s state of city address reiterates sketch of New Year’s Day local income tax proposal; more info possible at March 5 city council event

Last Thursday’s “state of the city” speech by Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton focussed on the 2020s as a “make or break decade,” in light of the challenges posed by climate change.

The news out of the speech was a planned public meeting  about the topic of a possible increase to the local income tax to pay for climate action initiatives.

The meeting is to be hosted by the city council on March 5 at The Mill starting a 7 p.m. Additional details on the meeting weren’t immediately available from the mayor’s office.

City councilmember Matt Flaherty sent a message to The Square Beacon Friday morning saying that the agenda for March 5 is still in the works. The primary focus will be public engagement and gathering input from the community, Flaherty said. Continue reading “Mayor’s state of city address reiterates sketch of New Year’s Day local income tax proposal; more info possible at March 5 city council event”

Opinion: Convention center expansion should be designed from ground up as Net Zero facility

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“Climate Action Now” banner hung at city hall on Dec. 6, 2019. A meeting between county and city officials about the convention center expansion was taking place at the same time at the climate strike sit-in. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council is set to approve an appropriation ordinance for around $6 million of food and beverage tax money. It’s for an architect to design the expansion of the convention center at College Avenue and 3rd Street. Continue reading “Opinion: Convention center expansion should be designed from ground up as Net Zero facility”

Bloomington’s city council OKs 2020 budget, declines to set pay for police, cites ongoing labor talks

On Thursday night, Bloomington’s city council approved just five of the six items on its agenda that make up the legislative package covering the roughly $170 million budget for 2020.Single Bar Barchart of City Budget

The one item that didn’t get approved was the salary ordinance that sets police and fire salaries—they’re part of the same ordinance. It was put off, with a motion to table, which passed 9–0 on the nine-member council.

The decision to table the question appeared to be based on a hope for some kind of breakthrough in collective bargaining negotiations between the city and the police union.

A meeting with the city, the police union and a mediator, is scheduled for Oct. 24. The talks, which started with four meetings in 2018, did not conclude with an agreement by the end of that year, which was the end of the contract. So Bloomington police have been working thorough 2019 under a so-called “evergreen” clause.

Councilmembers also got clarification Thursday night that the proposed salary ordinance for 2020 means police would paid the same next year as they were in 2018. “It doesn’t appear that anyone wants that,” councilmember Steve Volan said.

Two factors seemed to give councilmembers the comfort they needed to entertain the idea of putting off a vote on the police and fire salaries.

They learned Monday night from council attorney/administrator Dan Sherman that they did not need to pass the salary ordinance by Nov. 1—which is the deadline for passing tax rates and appropriations. They also learned from controller Jeff Underwood that he had authority to pay firefighters and police through the end of 2019, based on the current salary ordinance.

The council will need find time to approve a new salary ordinance by the end of the year if police and firefighters are going to get paid in 2020. That will mean fitting it into a schedule packed from now until the end of the year with hearings and deliberations on the updated Unified Development Ordinance. Continue reading “Bloomington’s city council OKs 2020 budget, declines to set pay for police, cites ongoing labor talks”

First reading of Bloomington 2020 budget: “The two issues are police and climate change.”

At a special meeting held on Wednesday night, the Bloomington city council got a formal first reading of the half dozen ordinances that make up the 2020 budget, proposed by Mayor John Hamilton’s administration.

At their committee-of-the whole meeting, which followed on the heels of the special meeting, the council took a series of non-binding straw votes on the ordinances.

The outcome of those straw votes formed a record of their discontent.

They’re disappointed that the city and the police union have not yet reached an agreement after more than 18 months of negotiation, and they’re frustrated by the sheer volume of conflicting information about staffing levels, morale, recruitment and retention that they’ve heard from the police union and administration.

They’re also disappointed that the mayor declined to add a top-level position to manage the city’s response to climate change.

The areas of disappointment will not have surprised the administration or the watching public. Councilmembers had voiced many of the same concerns during a series of departmental budget hearings held over four days in August. Continue reading “First reading of Bloomington 2020 budget: “The two issues are police and climate change.””

New tree study for Bloomington measures canopy at 38 percent, climate strikers demand 60 percent

A key stat from a new tree inventory for the city of Bloomington, released on Tuesday, found its way into a list of climate activist demands presented to Mayor John Hamilton on Friday.

The demands were presented to the mayor a little after 3 p.m. by around 400 people who marched from Dunn Meadow, where Bloomington’s Climate Strike activities had started, to city hall. The third point on the list was:

Get the City of Bloomington to 60% Tree Coverage.

Based on a report delivered on Tuesday to Bloomington’s board of park commissioners  by Aren Flint, an urban forester with Davey Resource Group (DRG), the maximum tree canopy that Bloomington could achieve is 61 percent of its 15,000 acres. So the demand is essentially to max out Bloomington’s potential canopy. (The layer of leaves, branches and trunks of trees that block the view of the ground from above is called the “canopy.”)

The climate strikers’ demand noted that Bloomington’s tree canopy now covers just 38 percent of Bloomington’s area. That’s the figure from Tuesday’s new report, which is a 2018 analysis. Continue reading “New tree study for Bloomington measures canopy at 38 percent, climate strikers demand 60 percent”

Hey, Wait a Minute | The art of putting CATS on YouTube by yourself

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.

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Screenshot of YouTube version of Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 Bloomington’s city council budget hearings. Link to time point in video: [200:38]

A couple of weeks ago, I described the automatically generated YouTube transcripts of Bloomington city council meeting videos as providing “a fantastically easy way to search through a video to find the exact spot you want to watch.” And I’ll say it again: It’s great that CATS (Community Access Television Services) is now uploading videos of regular city council sessions to YouTube.

But why would you ever want to watch some specific part of a city council meeting?

Maybe you’d like to hear exactly what a councilmember said about a particular topic with your own ears. What, for example, did Isabel Piedmont-Smith actually say about funding for the arts during the city council budget hearings? Continue reading “Hey, Wait a Minute | The art of putting CATS on YouTube by yourself”