Column: A better blueprint for Bloomington city council meetings

In the last four years, one of the more controversial decisions by Bloomington’s city council was the enactment of an ordinance to reinstall stop signs on 7th Street.

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A measure of that controversy was Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s veto of the decision.  Of the three pieces of the legislation that have been vetoed by the mayor in the last eight years, the stop sign veto is the only one that was not overridden by the council.

The stop sign ordinance was a nice illustration of how the balance of power works, between the legislative and executive branches in local government.

But the ordinance was also a case study in the dysfunction that has plagued the internal workings of Bloomington’s city council for nearly the last four years—almost its entire term.

Just like better road design can lead to fewer collisions between vehicles, better city council meeting design might lead to fewer, and less damaging political collisions. Continue reading “Column: A better blueprint for Bloomington city council meetings”

Mayoral transition: Bloomington boards have upcoming vacancies, to be filled by city executive

In an open letter dated Nov. 9,  mayor-elect Kerry Thomson made a clarion call to Bloomington residents for them to participate in city government.

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Thomson wrote to residents that her administration would “make it easy for them to participate in their government.”

She added: “That starts now—with you.”

Cited in Thomson’s letter as a path to participation is service on a board or commission, through a mayoral appointment.

She invites residents to apply for an seat on a board or commission

Appointments to boards and commissions also get a mention in a Nov. 14 letter that Thomson sent to current Bloomington mayor John Hamilton.

Thomson includes such appointments in the decisions that she asks Hamilton to refrain from making in his remaining time in office (emphasis in original): “Such decisions would include, but not be limited to, signing new or extensions of contracts, purchasing or conveying property, and making future board and commission appointments.”

Most board and commission terms go through Dec. 31 or Jan. 1, which means several naturally-occurring vacancies will need to be filled. For example, two of the five mayoral appointments to the plan commission end on Jan. 1, 2023.

At least some of the mayor-appointed members of boards and commissions are described explicitly in local law as serving “at the pleasure” of the mayor—like members of the board of public works or the board of public safety.

Seats on those two boards do not have specified term lengths. There’s not a natural point in time for a mayor to swap out one of those board members, by choosing not to re-appoint them.

The request about appointments in Thomson’s letter to Hamilton is not confined to just those board members that are explicitly described in the law as serving “at the pleasure” of the mayor. Continue reading “Mayoral transition: Bloomington boards have upcoming vacancies, to be filled by city executive”

Bloomington mayor-elect asks current mayor not to make strategic choices impacting beyond year’s end

With six weeks left before she is sworn into office, Bloomington mayor-elect Kerry Thomson has sent a letter to outgoing mayor John Hamilton asking him to “refrain from making any strategic or discretionary decisions which will impact beyond December 31, 2023.”

The letter was dated Nov. 14, exactly a week after Thomson was elected Bloomington’s next mayor. A Democrat, Thomson’s was one of 10 uncontested races on the ballot for city office—mayor, city clerk, and city council. It was Democrats who were all unopposed in those races. A Democrat prevailed in the 11th race as well.

Hamilton is also a Democrat. But Thomson’s letter could be one indication that the transition between the two Dems is not without some discontent.

Still, responding to an emailed B Square question, about whether there was a precipitating event that prompted her letter, Thomson called her request of Hamilton “a fairly typical request during transitions.”

Thomson confirmed to The B Square that her request of Hamilton includes the Showers West renovation and the sale of the 3rd Street police station.

But Thomson added that her request applies “also to any other significant commitments the city is making for which I and the next city council should have the opportunity to opine as we will be in leadership to carry these out.” Continue reading “Bloomington mayor-elect asks current mayor not to make strategic choices impacting beyond year’s end”

Democrats speak at Indiana NOW conference held in Bloomington: ‘We are going to win…’

On Saturday, downtown Bloomington was host to some prominent Democratic Party figures on at least three levels of the political landscape—city, region, and state.

The occasion was the 2023 Indiana NOW State Conference, which was held at the Monroe County History Center.

Delivering remarks were: Bloomington’s mayor-elect, Kerry Thomson; state representative Carolyn Jackson (District 1) and state senator Shelli Yoder (District 40); and a candidate for the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nomination in 2024, Jennifer McCormick. Continue reading “Democrats speak at Indiana NOW conference held in Bloomington: ‘We are going to win…’”