Skirmishing over “garbage” between homeowner, city of Bloomington set for next week

For more than a year, and probably much longer, the city of Bloomington has been trying to convince Joe Davis to take a more conventional approach to his South Washington Street house and yard.

But Davis describes himself as an “unconventional guy.” Parked in the backyard with building materials stacked on them are a truck, and a van with a trailer. The county’s online property lookup system has aerial imagery showing the two vehicles sitting in the backyard at least as far back as 2014.

Davis has old bathtubs arranged around the place as catchment basins, and a compost pile.

Davis describes the place as an active building site, where he’s been working to renovate the house. He bought the place in 2009 for $65,000. He has described how the house was damaged by fire before he bought it and had sat abandoned for two years.

During that period all the pipes burst because there was no heat, the wiring was stolen and homeless people were living, Davis has said.

Where Davis sees an “organic building site,” the city sees a raft of code violations.

So next Tuesday’s meeting of Bloomington’s board of public works marks the start of another chapter in the saga of attempts to enforce city code against Davis’s property. Continue reading “Skirmishing over “garbage” between homeowner, city of Bloomington set for next week”

Election 2023, Holiday 2024 roundup: Solar Eclipse Day to be a county holiday, along with election days

At Wednesday morning’s meeting of Monroe County commissioners, the routine approval of county employee holidays for the following year included a bright spot.

There will be one extra day compared to last year: April 8, 2024, which is Solar Eclipse Day.

On that day, the narrow band of the full solar eclipse will pass right over Monroe County. It’s the kind of rare event that has the local tourism sector buzzing.

At the most recent meeting of the convention and visitors commission, Visit Bloomington executive director Mike McAfee said up to a quarter million visitors or more are expected in the Bloomington area to view the solar eclipse. “It’s going to be wild,” he said.

On Wednesday, commissioner Penny Githens said part of the thought behind making the day of the eclipse a county holiday is to reduce the amount of traffic out on the road. “We’re expecting a certain amount of gridlock,” Githens said.

Commissioner Julie Thomas added, “Everything will be packed full of visitors…and anything we can do to alleviate traffic is probably going to be helpful at this point.”

Another difference between the 2023 holiday schedule  and the schedule for next  year, is that both election days in 2024—primary and general—will be explicitly designated as holidays.

For 2023, there are two flexible days that county employees can use to take off and vote in the municipal elections, but they’re not tied to the date of elections. They are called “floating holidays.”

As the Nov. 7 date for municipal elections approaches, Monroe County employees are grinding through the standard preparations for the process that is fundamental to a working democracy. Continue reading “Election 2023, Holiday 2024 roundup: Solar Eclipse Day to be a county holiday, along with election days”

5 tapped for Monroe County vote center committee, six more needed

At its Thursday meeting, Monroe County’s three-member election board accepted five appointments that have been made to an 11-member vote center committee.

Vote centers are different from the kind of precinct-based polling locations currently used by Monroe County. At a precinct-based polling site, only voters from specified precincts can cast a ballot there.

Vote centers are polling places where a voter who is registered in any precinct can cast a ballot. For election administrators, it means some additional planning—to make sure that all the different ballots, which are tied to different precincts, are available for voters across the county.

The usual precinct-based polling locations will be used for the upcoming Nov. 7 municipal elections.

The vote center committee is supposed to produce a plan, as part of the requirements for eventually establishing vote centers.

Named to the vote center committee on Thursday were: Ilana Stonebraker; Hal Turner; Debora (Ralf) Shaw; Daniella Wheelock; and Stacy Kowalczyk. Continue reading “5 tapped for Monroe County vote center committee, six more needed”

Filling Monroe County election supervisor position called “good first step” by League of Women Voters

The upcoming Nov. 7 local elections include just one contested municipal race—for Bloomington city council District 3—plus a referendum question for Monroe County Community School Corporation (MCCSC).

Monroe County election supervisor Ryan Herndon (Aug. 23, 2023)

So they’re not expected to present a big logistical challenge for the county’s election division.

Still, this year’s municipal elections will serve as a kind practice run for the 2024 presidential elections.

In a letter to area elected officials dated Tuesday, Aug. 22, the League of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County sounded the alarm about staffing for the presidential election cycle.

Looking ahead to 2024, the letter states: “The League of Women Voters is concerned that Monroe County will not be prepared to conduct the primary and general elections with adequate and knowledgeable staff support.”

Two key staff departures this year are the source of the league’s concern. Chief deputy clerk Tressia Martin resigned at the end of July. County election supervisor Karen Wheeler left in early February.

When the league sent the letter, it was not widely known that a new election supervisor had been hired. Ryan Herndon, who has served up to now as a deputy in county clerk Nicole Browne’s office, has been on the job as election supervisor since Aug. 1.

Responding on Wednesday to an emailed B Square question about the league’s letter, Browne relayed the news of a new hire: “I am very proud to oversee elections in Monroe County and, in fact, we do have a new election supervisor in place.” Continue reading “Filling Monroe County election supervisor position called “good first step” by League of Women Voters”

Bloomington starts abatement of Washington Street property owned by would-be mayoral candidate

Around 9 a.m. on Wednesday, employees of an independent contractor hired by the city of Bloomington started removing “garbage” from the South Washington Street property owned by Joe Davis.

They were accompanied by staff from the city of Bloomington’s Housing and Neighborhood Development department, an assistant city attorney, and some police officers who were on civil standby.

The group of contractors and city officials were there to enforce an abatement order that had been approved on March 14 by Bloomington’s three-member board of public works.

Some of the material was removed on Wednesday morning, but by noon the abatement team had left the property with most of their work still unfinished.

Later in the day on Wednesday, Davis filed an appeal of a Tuesday court ruling that had not gone his way.

Earlier this year, Davis gathered signatures in support of an independent mayoral candidacy, but fell 14 short of qualifying for the ballot.

It’s not clear when the abatement efforts will resume.

Remaining in Davis’s backyard are some stacks of lumber, a working washing machine, a van with a trailer, and a truck with boards and other materials stacked on them, pieces from a rooftop antenna, and some pieces of scaffolding, among many other things. Continue reading “Bloomington starts abatement of Washington Street property owned by would-be mayoral candidate”

Bloomington mayor calls Hopewell groundbreaking a “once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new neighborhood in the heart of our beloved city”

On Friday afternoon, a day with partly cloudy skies and a temperature around 80 degrees, about 60 local leaders gathered at the now empty grassy lot on the south side of 2nd Street, between Rogers Street and The B-Line Trail.

They were assembled to mark the groundbreaking for the Hopewell neighborhood, which will be constructed at the site of the former IU Health hospital, where the health care provider operated its facility until December 2021.

Delivering remarks on Friday were Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, followed by Cindy Kinnarney, who is president of Bloomington’s redevelopment commission, and by Mick Renneisen, who is president of the board for the nonprofit called City of Bloomington Capital Improvements, Inc.

Hamilton led off his remarks by saying, “We are here to break ground on this once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new neighborhood in the heart of our beloved city.” Continue reading “Bloomington mayor calls Hopewell groundbreaking a “once-in-a-century opportunity to create a new neighborhood in the heart of our beloved city””

Election board denies signature challenge by independent Bloomington mayoral hopeful

Joe Davis will not appear on the Nov. 7 Bloomington mayoral ballot, unless he prevails in a lawsuit—which he told Monroe County’s election board that he intends to file.

Davis’s remarks came at a Thursday meeting of the three-member election board.

At Thursday’s meeting, board members voted unanimously to deny the challenge Davis had filed, over disqualified signatures that appeared on his petition for ballot access as an independent candidate.

It means that barring a successful lawsuit by Davis, Democrat Kerry Thomson will be the only person whose name appears on the Nov. 7 ballot for Bloomington mayor.

Davis collected over 600 signatures, but the number that were disqualified left him 14 short of the 352 he had to collect.

Davis told the board he wanted to see “a just and fair interpretation of the signatures that I have turned in through my petitions.” Continue reading “Election board denies signature challenge by independent Bloomington mayoral hopeful”

Election board to meet on question of disqualified signatures for Bloomington mayoral hopeful

Questions about disqualified petition signatures, which were submitted to county election staff by Bloomington mayoral hopeful Joe Davis, will be the topic of discussion for Monroe County’s election board next Thursday (July 13).

Davis sought to appear on the Nov. 7 city election ballot as an independent candidate. To meet the requirements under state law, he had to submit at least 352 signatures by June 30 at noon. Davis fell 14 signatures short.

He submitted more than 600 signatures.

To challenge the disqualification of some signatures, Davis has filed a CAN-1 form, which can be used by “a candidate seeking to contest the denial of certification due to insufficient signatures.”

At its meeting this past week, the board gave the challenge by Davis some initial discussion, opting to continue its meeting on July 13 at 1 p.m. The board also decided to send Davis a letter inviting him to attend and be a part of the discussion.

As it currently stands, the race for Bloomington mayor is uncontested. The only candidate who will appear on the ballot is Democratic Party nominee Kerry Thomson. No write-in candidate registered by the July 3 deadline. Continue reading “Election board to meet on question of disqualified signatures for Bloomington mayoral hopeful”

Bloomington mayoral hopeful falls 14 signatures short of ballot qualification, will challenge count

Even though a crucial deadline has now passed, it’s still not certain if another candidate will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot for Bloomington mayor, besides the Democratic Party’s nominee, Kerry Thomson.

At a minute before noon on Friday (June 30), Joe Davis arrived at Monroe County’s election offices at 7th and Madison streets with another batch of petition signatures.

Davis was petitioning to qualify for the Nov. 7 ballot as an independent candidate for Bloomington mayor.

He had already handed in several signatures over the last couple months—including a few batches earlier Friday morning. Up to that point, his running total of verified signatures stood at 332. That left him 20 short of the 352 he needed.

It’s not a nice round figure, because the minimum number of signatures is defined as 2 percent of the total votes cast in the city of Bloomington in the most recent statewide race for secretary of state.

On Friday at 11:59 a.m., which was a minute before the deadline, Davis handed only a dozen more signatures across the counter.

He and the election clerks alike already knew it would not be enough to put him on the ballot—even if all 12 checked out as active registered voters in the city of Bloomington.

About 10 minutes later, the clerks had disqualified half of the last 12 signatures that Davis had submitted—making his final total 338, or 14 short of the required number.

But Davis later told The B Square that he will be filing a challenge, based on what he said were around 200 signatures that have been disqualified for one reason or another.

The deadline for the Republican Party to caucus a candidate onto the Ballot is July 3, but that looks unlikely.

Continue reading “Bloomington mayoral hopeful falls 14 signatures short of ballot qualification, will challenge count”

Column: Sidewalk question deserves more concrete answer from mayoral hopefuls

“Will your administration end the policy that individual homeowners have to pay for sidewalk repair?”

That was the final question asked at a March 30 forum for Bloomington mayoral hopefuls.

Moderating the forum was Paul Helmke, who was a three-term mayor of Fort Wayne, and is a professor of practice at O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The forum was hosted by Stonebelt  and the city’s council for community accessibility. After posing the question, Helmke noted that sidewalk repair is an important issue for people with disabilities.

Helmke had essentially squeezed in the question at the end of the forum, giving a time limit for answers of just 45 seconds. That meant the four people sitting on the dais in the packed city council chambers didn’t have a lot of time to talk about the topic.

Answering the question were Democratic Party primary candidates Don Griffin, Susan Sandberg and Kerry Thomson and independent hopeful Joe Davis.

I think all four answers fell short of reasonable expectations for someone who wants to lead the city of Bloomington. Continue reading “Column: Sidewalk question deserves more concrete answer from mayoral hopefuls”