Bloomington council cuts public commenter’s mic for refusing to state his name, relents after short recess

During its meeting last Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council cut off the mic of a public commenter, recessed the meeting, retreated from its chambers to the council’s office suite, then emerged about 10 minutes later to resume the meeting.

When council president Sue Sgambelluri reconvened the meeting, Dareal Ruble was still waiting at the public mic—like he said he would when councilmembers were filing out of the chambers.

What provoked Sgambelluri to take the unusual step of recessing the meeting in the middle of a public commenter’s remarks?

Ruble had offended the council’s convention that speakers at the public mic give their names before starting their commentary.

When the meeting resumed, Sgambelluri restarted the 5-minute clock, and allowed Ruble to complete his commentary without stating his name. Continue reading “Bloomington council cuts public commenter’s mic for refusing to state his name, relents after short recess”

Bloomington city council jammed up on issue of traffic commissioner’s ouster, still no vote taken

An expected up-down vote on the question of Greg Alexander’s removal from Bloomington’s traffic commission did not take place at Wednesday night’s city council meeting.

The motion for Alexander’s removal—because of Tweets he posted late last year—had been postponed from the council’s March 29 meeting. That postponement had unanimous support from the council, in order to give Alexander at least five business days to respond in writing to the specific reasons listed out in the motion.

On Wednesday, councilmember Dave Rollo wound up withdrawing his motion to remove Alexander.

Since Jan. 18, when the council reappointed Alexander to the traffic commission, Rollo has now made three different motions on Alexander’s removal—and withdrawn each one. Continue reading “Bloomington city council jammed up on issue of traffic commissioner’s ouster, still no vote taken”

Set for April 12: Possible city council vote on removal of Bloomington traffic commissioner because of social media posts

A possible vote on the removal of Greg Alexander from Bloomington’s traffic commission is now set for the city council’s April 12 meeting.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, Dave Rollo made a motion for Alexander’s removal, because of three posts on Twitter.com that Alexander made in November 2022.

The Tweets cited in Rollo’s motion read as follows:

“with all due respect, taking things away from elm heights *IS* exactly how the rest of the city gets help.”

“i would really like to know. it sounds like they are going to savagely penetrate your neighborhood and I want to know what they’re going to use to do that?”

“haters gonna hate and bloomington democrats gonna lick the shit out from between elm heights’ neighbors ass cheeks”

The Tweets came in the context of a council vote late last year to install a stop sign at Maxwell Lane and Sheridan Drive.

As a traffic commissioner, Alexander had opposed installation of the sign. The traffic commission as a group had recommended against the stop sign’s installation. Alexander sees the city council’s decision, which was contrary to the commission’s recommendation, as showing undue deference to the Elm Heights neighborhood.

The traffic commission is an advisory board that, among other things, recommends to the city council and other city officials ways to improve traffic conditions and the enforcement of traffic regulations.

On Wednesday, the council postponed Rollo’s motion until April 12, in order to allow at least five business days for Alexander to respond in writing.

Postponement passed unanimously, but the motion itself drew complaint from councilmember Steve Volan, who asked: “How many times are we going to do this? I mean, Mr. Rollo has redone his motion twice now.” Continue reading “Set for April 12: Possible city council vote on removal of Bloomington traffic commissioner because of social media posts”

Proposed ALM mural denied by Bloomington board of public works as conflicting with new art policy

For now at least, a proposed mural that says “All Lives Matter” will not be painted on Kirkwood Avenue just west of Indiana Avenue in downtown Bloomington.

Bloomington’s three-member board of public works has unanimously denied a special events application from Turning Point USA at Indiana University, to paint such a mural on the weekend of April 7 and 8.

The denial came at the board’s regular Tuesday meeting, after about 20 minutes worth of public comment, all of it opposed to the approval of the application to paint the mural.

The public commentary in opposition was based mostly on the fact that the “All Lives Matter” slogan is associated with opposition to the “Black Lives Matter” movement.

When it came time for a vote, the board didn’t deliberate on the question.

But when the item was put in front of the board, the basis for the denial was laid out by city attorney Mike Rouker: The proposed mural is for permanent or semi-permanent art (intended to last more than seven days), and it includes “speech.”

The inclusion of “words, letters, numbers, or universally recognized symbols, or logos of any kind” for a permanent art installation put the proposed ALM mural in conflict with the city’s new policy on art installations by private entities in the public right of way.

Bloomington’s policy was adopted by the board of public works at its Dec. 20, 2022 meeting.

The board’s action to adopt a new policy was taken because Bloomington was under a federal court order to develop and promulgate rules for private entities to install art in the public right-of-way. Continue reading “Proposed ALM mural denied by Bloomington board of public works as conflicting with new art policy”

Street mural: Bloomington attorney says application should be denied, because it contains speech

It looks like the table is now being set for the next phase in a pending federal lawsuit against the city of Bloomington.

An application to paint a mural on Kirkwood Avenue with the phrase “All Lives Matter” appears on the Bloomington board of public works agenda for Tuesday, March 14.

The application for the mural was made by Turning Point USA at Indiana University.

Bloomington’s city attorney, Mike Rouker, has recommended that the application be denied, because the design includes “speech” as defined by a new city policy on such art in the public right-of-way.

Bloomington’s policy was adopted by the board of public works at its Dec. 20, 2023 2022 meeting.

The board’s action to adopt a new policy was taken because Bloomington was under a federal court order to develop and promulgate rules for private entities to install art in the public right-of-way.

That order came in connection with a lawsuit that Turning Point and Indiana University student Kyle Reynolds filed, after being denied permission to paint their “All Lives Matter” mural in 2021. The court found that the city’s refusal in 2021 to allow Reynolds to paint his mural likely amounted to viewpoint discrimination, and issued a preliminary injunction. Continue reading “Street mural: Bloomington attorney says application should be denied, because it contains speech”

Referred to committee: Should city council remove member of Bloomington’s traffic commission for “posting obscene and inappropriate statements…”?

The question of removing Greg Alexander from Bloomington’s traffic commission won’t get a vote by the city council until March 1 at the earliest.

At this past Wednesday’s city council meeting, the matter was referred to a special committee that already existed, after it was appointed by council president Sue Sgambelluri at the first meeting of the year.

By March 1, the four-member special committee on the council’s legislative processes is supposed to deliver to the full council some kind of recommendation on the question of Alexander’s removal.

The committee’s first meeting is set for next Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 7 p.m.

At this past Wednesday’s meeting, the motion to remove Alexander was made by Dave Rollo, for a cause that included “posting obscene and inappropriate statements…that are unbecoming of an appointed member of a public body…” Continue reading “Referred to committee: Should city council remove member of Bloomington’s traffic commission for “posting obscene and inappropriate statements…”?”

Bloomington city council wants research on possible ouster of traffic commissioner for social media posts

At last Wednesday’s city council meeting, several speakers during general public commentary time objected to the previous week’s re-appointment of Greg Alexander to the city’s traffic commission.

The commission is an an advisory board that, among other things, recommends to the city council and other city officials ways to improve traffic conditions and the enforcement of traffic regulations.

After public commentary time was finished, council president Sue Sgambelluri said, “We are in conversation with our attorney administrator, Mr. [Stephen] Lucas, and have asked him to research possible steps forward.”

Those steps forward could include an effort to remove Alexander from the traffic commission pursuant to Bloomington’s local code.

Local law says the city council can “for cause” remove a council appointee to a board or commission. The definition of “cause” is specific only for one kind of infraction—excessive absences. But it leaves room for other reasons: “Cause shall include, but not be limited to, failure to attend three consecutive regularly scheduled meetings of the board, commission, or council…”

A legal question that Lucas will be researching is whether councilmembers can remove Alexander, based on the kind of statements he has posted to the Twitter social media platform. Continue reading “Bloomington city council wants research on possible ouster of traffic commissioner for social media posts”

Bloomington gives $500 fine after activist writes “VOTE” on street, cites code on defacing property

Area resident Thomas Westgård has been fined $500 by Bloomington after writing “VOTE” on a city street.

Westgård sent The B Square a photo of the letter that he reported receiving from the city on Friday.

The letter, signed by Bloomington public works director Adam Wason, states: “On January 4, 2023, at the intersection of Madison and 7th Street in Bloomington, you spray-painted the word ‘VOTE’ in the street.”

The letter continues: “In accordance with BMC Section 1.01.130, you are being assessed a fine of $500 for the violation.” Continue reading “Bloomington gives $500 fine after activist writes “VOTE” on street, cites code on defacing property”

Bloomington answers request for mural under new court-ordered art policy: No, but we have questions

The city of Bloomington has now responded to an application submitted in December by Indiana University student Kyle Reynolds for the installation of a mural on Kirkwood Avenue that says “All Lives Matter.”

Excerpt from the traffic management proposal in connection with the application that has been submitted by Kyle Reynolds for his proposed “All Lives Matter” mural.

In its response, the city has told Reynolds that such a mural, with words and letters, is not allowed as permanent art under the city’s newly adopted policy on the installation of private art in the public right-of-way.

Based on the city’s response, and the litigation backdropping the request, if Reynolds is eventually allowed to install his mural, it looks somewhat unlikely that it would be on the requested date of April 3, 2023.

It was under a court order that the city’s new policy on private art in the public right-of-way was developed.

That order came in connection with a lawsuit that Reynolds filed, after being denied permission to paint a mural in 2021.  The court found that the city’s refusal in 2021 to allow Reynolds to paint his mural likely amounted to viewpoint discrimination, and issued a preliminary injunction.

Bloomington’s policy was adopted by the board of public works at its Dec. 20, 2022 meeting.

Reynolds’ proposed mural is not allowed as a permanent mural, because it contains “speech,” which is defined under the policy as “words, letters, numbers, or universally recognized symbols, or logos of any kind.” Continue reading “Bloomington answers request for mural under new court-ordered art policy: No, but we have questions”

Activist tests right to write “vote” on Bloomington street, protests policy on art in public right-of-way

Around 9 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Bloomington area resident Thomas Westgård started dolloping a purple compound onto the asphalt at 7th and Madison streets near Monroe County’s Election Central.

After a few minutes, the word “vote” was spelled out in purple on the pavement.

It was a coincidence that Wednesday was also the first day when candidates in Bloomington’s city elections could file their official paperwork.

For Westgård, it was the right time and day to write “vote” on the street, because a status conference was on a federal court calendar for about an hour later, for a case that involves the right of private individuals to install art in Bloomington’s public right-of-way.

In November 2022, the judge issued a preliminary injunction against Bloomington, ordering the city to establish criteria for applications by private individuals to install art in the public right of way.

The deadline for the city to set the policy was Jan. 2. Bloomington’s board of public works adopted the policy at its final meeting last year, on Dec. 20, 2022. Continue reading “Activist tests right to write “vote” on Bloomington street, protests policy on art in public right-of-way”