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.
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.
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.
Bloomington board of public works from left: Jennifer Lloyd, Elizabeth Karon, Kyla Cox Dexard.
From the Turning Point application to paint a street mural.
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 councilmember Susan Sandberg (Feb. 1, 2023).
From left: Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Sue Sgambelluri, and Dave Rollo (Feb. 1, 2023).
From left: Dave Rollo, Jim SIms and Ron Smith (Feb. 1, 2023).
Greg Alexander addresses the Bloomington city council (Feb. 1, 2023).
Bloomington city councilmember Steve Volan (Feb. 1, 2023).
From left: Kate Rosenbarger and Susan Sandberg (Feb. 1, 2023).
Bloomington councilmember Dave Rollo (Feb. 1, 2023).
Greg Alexander (Feb. 1, 2023).
Eric Ost (Feb. 1, 2023).
Stephanie Hatton (Feb. 1, 2023).
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.
Bloomington traffic commissioner Greg Alexander (Jan. 25, 2023).
Jeff Richardson delivers public comment as Greg Alexander looks on from the audience.
Letter sent by Greg Alexander to Stephanie Hatton.
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…”
(Jan. 4, 2023) The word “vote” as written by Thomas Westgård on the street at 7th and Madison streets ( Jan. 4, 2023)
(Jan. 5, 2023) An apparent attempt to wash away the chalk-based compound.
(Jan. 13, 2023) After about 0.75 inches of rain on Jan. 12, 2023 as measured by NWS at Monroe County’s airport.
Text of letter received by Thomas Westgård on Jan. 13, 2023 from the city of Bloomington.
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 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.”
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.
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.