Commissioners update firearms prohibition in some Monroe County buildings

Two more buildings have been added to a codified list of Monroe County facilities where the possession of firearms—licensed or unlicensed—is prohibited.

Already on the list were the courthouse, the justice center, the Curry Building (7th Street), and the old Johnson’s Hardware building (7th Street).

Joining those four are the recently renovated county health services building (7th Street) and the youth services bureau (Adams Street).

The ordinance amendment was approved Wednesday morning by the three county commissioners on a unanimous vote.

What’s the common denominator for the county buildings where firearms are prohibited? They all contain a circuit courtroom of some kind.

Under state law  a local government can prohibit possession of a firearm “in a building that contains the courtroom of a circuit, superior, city, town, or small claims court.” [IC 35-47-11.1-4]

Bloomington’s city council has recently heard public comment, calling on the city’s legislative body to use the same state law to ban firearms at the city’s farmers market.

Continue reading “Commissioners update firearms prohibition in some Monroe County buildings”

SCOTUS abortion ruling prompts Bloomington demonstrations

Friday morning’s Supreme Court of the United States ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade, prompted around 100 people to demonstrate later that evening, at the southeast corner of the Monroe County courthouse square, in downtown Bloomington.

The ruling also prompted a one-man demonstration the following day at Bloomington’s farmers market.

Roe v. Wade was the 1973 SCOTUS decision that concluded abortion is a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Friday’s ruling concluded that it is not a constitutional right, which means states can enact laws that prohibit abortions.

Both demonstrations included light brushes with local law enforcement officers, but no arrests were made in either case. Continue reading “SCOTUS abortion ruling prompts Bloomington demonstrations”

Private, unarmed security for farmers market this year OK’d by Bloomington parks board

Two unarmed officers from Marshall Security, a private firm, will be providing security for Bloomington’s farmers market starting with opening day on April 2.

That’s the result of action taken by Bloomington’s board of park commissioners at its regular Tuesday meeting. The board approved a $8,050 addendum to an existing contract with Marshall, which was approved by the board in late January.

The existing $278,821 contract covers patrols through the week in several parks in the central area of Bloomington, including: RCA Park, Seminary Park, B-Line Trail, Building Trades Park, Rev. Ernest D. Butler Park, Crestmont Park, Miller-Showers Park, and Waldron Hill Buskirk Park.

Approved by the board in late January, the contract runs through the end of 2022. The farmers market extends from April through November.

According to the memo to the board from community events manager Leslie Brinson, “The Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market has had uniformed [Bloomington Police Department] BPD Officers in the past and due to the limitations of BPD, the use of Marshall Security would fill this need at the Market.” Continue reading “Private, unarmed security for farmers market this year OK’d by Bloomington parks board”

Elm Street for El Mercado: Food, crafts, and a movement for immigrant protections

India Scott held up each kind of her handmade scented candles for aromatic review by the B Square: “This is Black Love…Blackberry Cheesecake…Orange Mint…Lavender and Vanilla.”

The last one earned a request for a second whiff.

Scott’s Dakota Faith Candles and More was one of about a dozen food and craft vendors at last Sunday’s edition of the monthly farmers and artisans market called El Mercado. The market is held on the third Sunday of the month.

Launched in August 2019,  El Mercado has popped up in a handful of different Bloomington spots.

But since April of this year, the market has landed on the block of Elm Street between 7th and 8th Streets, next to the Banneker Community Center on Bloomington’s near west side. It’s the block where the first of Bloomington’s “Black Lives Matter” street murals was painted.

And through the end of the year, that will be El Mercado’s home, according to a partnership agreement with Banneker, approved earlier this year by Bloomington’s board of park commissioners.

On Sunday, the market was also the place where organizers for Movimiento Cosecha  set up a table as a followup to their Thursday march from Switchyard Park to Indiana University’s Sample Gates.

The national movement describes itself as one that fights for “permanent protection, dignity, and respect for all undocumented immigrants.” Continue reading “Elm Street for El Mercado: Food, crafts, and a movement for immigrant protections”

Farmers market gets brief mention at Bloomington 2021 budget hearings, still “elephant in room”

Last Wednesday was the Bloomington city council’s third night in a series of four hearings on the proposed 2021 budget.

Appearing on Wednesday’s agenda was the 2021 budget for the parks and recreation department, which again includes the city’s community farmers market. The origin story for the market dates back to 1975.

The market has been the subject of controversy since early in last year’s season, when a vendor with ties to white supremacist groups was identified by local activists. A lawsuit filed by the vendor and a counterclaim by the city is pending in federal court, with a trial date set for over a year from now.

Based on the opposing views of long-time councilmembers Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Dave Rollo, it would likely take a hard political fight to remove the farmers market from the city’s currently proposed 2021 budget.

A fight over the farmers market could take place behind closed doors—between councilmembers and the mayor—before Sept. 30, when the administration’s final version of budget is presented to the council. A vote to adopt the budget is scheduled for Oct. 14.

Or the debate could take place in public, if a councilmember proposes an amendment to the final 2021 budget that would defund the farmers market.

Also a possibility is that the farmers market remains, as councilmember Kate Rosenbarger put it on Wednesday, “the elephant in the room.”

The farmers market budget is in the ballpark of $150,000, or less than a tenth of one percent of the total city budget, if utilities and public transit are included. Continue reading “Farmers market gets brief mention at Bloomington 2021 budget hearings, still “elephant in room””

Bloomington budget hearings draw remarks on convention center expansion, farmers market, anti-racism training, policing

On Monday, details of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s 2021 proposed budget were released, putting some meat on the bones that were previewed to the media on Friday.

Hamilton delivered remarks to the city council on Monday night for the first night of a four-day series of departmental budget hearings, which wrap up on Thursday.

If the focus is narrowed just to the general fund, the picture looks the same as last year, with a couple of caveats.

Proposed for this year is $48.69 million which is a 4.1 percent increase, compared to last year’s $46.76 million. But adjusting for a $2 million package of “Recover Forward” initiatives and a decrease in property tax cap expenditures of $193,772, the proposed budget works out to a zero percent increase (out to two decimal places).

The mayor’s proposed budget draws on $3.3 million in reserves—$2 million from the rainy day fund and $1.3 in fund balances. By the end of 2022, Hamilton expects to have drawn down total reserves from four months’ worth of operating expenses to three months’ worth. Continue reading “Bloomington budget hearings draw remarks on convention center expansion, farmers market, anti-racism training, policing”

BLM Bloomington Facebook forum: Disarm IU police, sell the Bearcat, boycott city farmers market

Last Saturday, members of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) B-town Core Council held a live-streamed Facebook event, under the banner “Black Against the Wall.”

The Facebook forum came the day after an event that was not organized by BLM.

A few thousand people took part in a demonstration that started in Dunn Meadow on Indiana University’s campus and wound up on the courthouse lawn in downtown Bloomington.

BLM’s official statement about the two different events said: “There are many groups in Bloomington working for Black Liberation using a variety of tactics. …Black people are not a monolith, and our differences should be celebrated. We are one community with many different voices that all deserve respect.” Continue reading “BLM Bloomington Facebook forum: Disarm IU police, sell the Bearcat, boycott city farmers market”

Bloomington files answer to federal complaint by farmers market vendor, makes counter claim asking for judgment in city’s favor

In a filing made Monday with the federal district court, Bloomington has given its required paragraph-by-paragraph answer to a lawsuit filed against the city by Schooner Creek Farm (SCF), a vendor at the city’s farmers market last year.

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SCF was also approved by the city to be a vendor at the market this year. The city sent SCF a letter saying SCF was accepted as a vendor and admonishing SCF about some violations last year.

With its Monday filling, Bloomington has also made counterclaims, and is asking for a judgment in its favor, based on the farmers market contract that SCF signed for last year’s (2019) season.

The contract includes a clause that the city is analyzing as prohibiting SCF from filing a lawsuit in this circumstance. The clause says that vendors “will not institute any action or suit at law or in equity against the City or the City’s agents or employees as a result of operations under this Agreement.”

A different clause in the 2019 contract forms the basis for a second counterclaim by the city. The clause requires vendors to indemnify the city of Bloomington.

It was in 2019 when protestors showed up at the market on several Saturdays to call for a boycott of SCF, after local activists pointed to evidence that SCF owners espoused white-supremacist views.

SCF filed its complaint on Feb. 14, 2020. Continue reading “Bloomington files answer to federal complaint by farmers market vendor, makes counter claim asking for judgment in city’s favor”

Bloomington farmers market to use pre-order, drive-through pickup to start season due to COVID-19 protocols

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Bloomington farmers market ordering screen (Screen grab on April 2, 2020)

Bloomington’s farmers market will start off the year on a pre-order, drive-through-only basis, due to the required protocols of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details of the drive-through-only approach were revealed in a press release issued late Wednesday this week. Orders for this coming Saturday, April 4, the scheduled opening day of the summer market, have to be placed by the end of the day on April 2.

Also in future weeks, the market will operate on a Thursday ordering deadline for Saturday pickups.

[Updated at 1:24 p.m. on April 2, 2020: Marcia Veldman, farmers market manager, told The Square Beacon that by early afternoon on Thursday, around 500 orders had been received.] Continue reading “Bloomington farmers market to use pre-order, drive-through pickup to start season due to COVID-19 protocols”

Bloomington park commissioners OK lower sales percentage as food and beverage artisan fee, but COVID-19 makes much of it moot

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Kathleen Mills, chair of the board of park commissioners, was the only person present at city hall for the March 24, 2020 meeting of the board. That’s possible under a governor’s order given last week. Based on a new order issued on March 23, no onsite anchor is necessary for a public meeting. The whole meeting can be conducted by videoconference or teleconference. This is a screen grab of the Facebook live stream the city used to supplement the usual CATS coverage.

In a 3–0 vote at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Bloomington park commissioners approved a reduction in the fee that food and artisan vendors are supposed to pay for their space at the Bloomington farmers market.

The new official fee for the 2020 market season will be 7.5 percent of gross sales, which is 2.5 points lower than the fee that was charged in previous years. It’s not as much of a reduction as the farmers market advisory council had recommended, which was 5 percent this year, with an eye towards converting it to a flat fee.

It’s not a fee that’s going to be charged, though, according to Becky Higgins, recreation services division director. The market won’t be able to operate as it usually does, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Higgins told park commissioners the city  won’t be charging its food and artisan vendors, or its farm vendors, any fees for the first couple of months of the market this season. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners OK lower sales percentage as food and beverage artisan fee, but COVID-19 makes much of it moot”