Sydney Zulich, Democratic Party nominee District 6 city ouncil
Abhinav Kotaru (Help Ourselves)
Nick Angelos (Help Ourselves)
Christopher Emge (Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerc)
Mike Rouker, Bloomington city attorney
Voted down on Wednesday by Bloomington’s city council, with just two votes in favor, was an ordinance that would have explicitly prohibited camping, storing personal property, or blocking the public right-of-way, among other things.
Supporting the ordinance were Sue Sgambelluri and Susan Sandberg. Abstaining was Dave Rollo. The other five councilmembers who were present all voted against it. Ron Smith was absent.
Rollo said he was inclined to bring a motion to table the ordinance. Councilmember Jim Sims said he was inclined to put off a vote, but if it came down to a vote that night, he would vote no.
A basic concern for those who opposed the ordinance was that it punishes the unhoused population, without offering a solution for storing their belongings in a place other than the public right-of-way.
Councilmember Matt Flaherty’s sentiments reflected the views of others, when he said that crafting a better ordinance “will take months of community engagement and outreach and collaboration between the executive and legislative branch and the whole community to arrive at a solution.”
Showers West expansion city council work session (Sept. 8, 2023)
Kerry Thomson, presumptive mayor of Bloomington. (Sept. 8, 2023)
Showers West expansion city council work session (Sept. 8, 2023)
Paul Post, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Don Owens Memorial Lodge 88
Councilmember Dave Rollo
Deputy mayor Larry Allen and councilmember Sue Sgambelluri
By November of this year, construction bids are expected to be put out for the expansion of Bloomington’s city hall building into Showers West—which is supposed to house a new police headquarters, and the administrative offices for the fire department.
That was one key takeaway from a city council work session held at noon on Friday.
The hoped-for timeline was described on Friday by project architect Chris Hagan from StudioAXIS. Hagan’s firm was selected by Bloomington for the project in April, after a different firm, Hoefer Welker, had initially been selected in March.
The timeline drew some pointed questions from council president Sue Sgambelluri. Offering some skeptical commentary on the timeline was police union president Paul Post, who was seated at the work session table.
Also in attendance at Friday’s work session—which was held in the Allison Conference room—was Kerry Thomson, the almost certain future mayor of Bloomington starting in 2024. She’s the Democratic Party’s nominee and the only candidate on the ballot, with no registered write-ins.
Ed Rodriguez with La Voz Unida addresses the Bloomington city council (Jan. 7, 2023).
Bloomington city council chambers (Jan. 7, 2023) .
Mayor’s office chief of staff Josefa Magridal (Jan. 7, 2023) .
La Voz Unida in Bloomington city council chambers (Jan. 7, 2023).
On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council chambers were packed so tight that the upstairs balcony had to be opened to fit everyone.
The big crowd was there for two reasons. First, the council’s meeting was the occasion when Bloomington’s human rights commission announced its annual awards. One human rights award went to Beacon, Inc. executive director Forrest Gilmore. The other award was given to the Monroe County Community School’s Corporation equity ambassadors.
The other big draw was a city council resolution in support of future state legislation to allow undocumented immigrants living in the Hoosier state to get a driver’s card—which would make it legal for them to operate a motor vehicle.
On Wednesday, an update from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton to the city council—about a nonprofit that his administration has formed—highlighted the current tension between the city’s executive and legislative branches.
The new nonprofit is called City of Bloomington Capital Improvement, Inc. (CBCI).
One source of a current conflict between the mayor and the city council is the way the appointments are made to the five CBCI board seats. Hamilton formed CBCI with bylaws that say four board seats are to be appointed by the mayor and one seat is to be appointed by the city council.
Several councilmembers think the split should be more evenly balanced. Still, the council forged ahead a couple of weeks ago by making its one appointment—retired housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department head, Doris Sims.
The four mayoral appointee are: Sarah Bauerle Danzman, Valerie Peña, Mick Renneisen, and John West.
On Wednesday, during Hamilton’s update, the disagreement between the mayor and the council, over the proper split for the appointments, generated some sharp exchanges.
Throughout the back-and-forth, Hamilton met council questions with affable assurances that he was willing to continue to talk with them about the allocation of the appointments.
Bloomington city councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith.
Bloomington city councilmember Susan Sandberg.
Bloomington city councilmember Steve Volan.
Bloomington city councilmember Jim Sims.
Doris Sims is the Bloomington city council’s appointee to the five-member board of City of Bloomington Capital Improvement, Inc. (CBCI)—the new nonprofit recently formed by mayor John Hamilton’s administration.
Sims is former director of Bloomington’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department. She retired from that role in early 2021. She’s married to city councilmember Jim Sims.
Support for Doris Sims as the council’s appointee to CBCI was enthusiastic and uniform across the dais at the city council’s Wednesday’s meeting.
But some councilmembers, including Jim Sims, took the occasion to criticize the four-to-one split in appointments that was established in the bylaws for the CBCI board—four for the mayor and one for the city council.
On Wednesday, there was some discussion by councilmembers about the idea of not making an appointment to the board, as a way to express the council’s displeasure at the uneven split, and to leverage a change to the bylaws.
But Jim Sims weighed in against making a political chess game out of the appointment. He put it like this: “[Doris] wants to do this service.” He added, “So anything that we might discuss or lead to, that could cause her to be a pawn in this deal will not happen this evening—at least from my standpoint.”
On Thursday, the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon at the Monroe Convention Center featuring Indiana governor Eric Holcomb.
The main event highlighted Holcomb as he fielded questions from Indiana University president Pamela Whitten, as the two sat in easy chairs in front of an audience of about 450 people.
But for many in attendance, it was the remarks delivered by Cook Group president Pete Yonkman, towards the start of the program, that might have left a more lasting impression. Cook is Bloomington’s second largest employer behind Indiana University.
Yonkman said at the start that he did not have prepared speech to deliver, as he does on most occasions.
But the impromptu remarks that Yonkman did make were organized around one basic theme: Bloomington’s local leaders need to overcome their differences to make progress on important issues.
Above: Bloomington city councilmember Jim Sims before the council’s Nov. 30, 2022 committee-of-the-whole meeting. Attendance at the Nov. 30, 2022 committee-of-the-whole meeting was 100 percent, as Sue Sgambelluri and Matt Flaherty joining remotely by Zoom.
Bloomington at-large city councilmember Jim Sims will not be seeking reelection in 2023.
Sims has confirmed his plans not to run in 2023 in a phone interview with The B Square.
The nine-members of the city council, along with the mayor and city clerk, are up for election in 2023. All 11 elected Bloomington officials are Democrats.
Sims said his decision not to seek reelection was a tough one—something he had grappled with, and consulted with others about.
But in the end, Sims said, he recognized the potential impact that the stress of city council service might have on his own health. That led him to conclude he could serve the community better in non-legislative ways.