Bloomington city council wants its meeting space ‘hardened’ against safety threats

Thursday night marked the final round of departmental budget hearings for Bloomington’s city council.

Mayor John Hamilton was present in person to hear calls from several councilmembers to add security enhancements to the city council chambers.

That would likely mean adding money to the proposed 2024 budget for the facilities maintenance division of the public works department.

Responding to councilmember questions after his presentation on the facilities budget, public works director Adam Wason indicated that there were no security improvements for the council chambers in the 2024 spending plan.

The topic of hardening the council chambers got some public discussion at a budget advance meeting last year. But based on comments from councilmembers on Thursday, concerns about security for the council’s meeting space have a years-long history.

So it has become a sore point.

Asked about the topic by the B Square after Thursday’s meeting, Hamilton said the administration is always focused on public safety, for everyone, including city councilmembers.

As for what specifically the administration has done to add to the security of council chambers, Hamilton indicated that the administration does not publicize specific security measures, “We’ve been talking about it, and we’ve taken steps, and we don’t talk about those steps.”

As far as adding physical infrastructure in the council chambers, Hamilton said that between now and when the budget is finalized, “there’s room for discussion.” Continue reading “Bloomington city council wants its meeting space ‘hardened’ against safety threats”

Proposed 2024 Bloomington budget of $131M includes 5% raise for employees, 2 dozen added jobs

At around 9:45 p.m. on Friday, the final proposed city budget of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s service was uploaded to the city’s website.

At about $131 million, it’s about 1.5 percent more than the budget approved by the city council for 2023.

That figure does not include the budgets for city of Bloomington utilities ($50 million) or for Bloomington Transit ($26.6 million). Adding in  those numbers would bring the overall total to about $208 million.

The 2024 budget includes a 5-percent pay increase for non-union employees.

Property tax revenues for 2024 will increase by 1 point less than the planned pay increase. That’s because the maximum levy growth quotient this year is 4 percent.

The revenue from local income taxes is estimated to increase by about 3.75 percent.

The B Square has counted a couple dozen additional positions that are described in the “budget book” that was released late Friday

The 387-page budget book is background to almost 7 hours worth of scheduled presentations from individual departments over the course of four nights this coming week. Continue reading “Proposed 2024 Bloomington budget of $131M includes 5% raise for employees, 2 dozen added jobs”

Survey says: 30-point drop in Bloomington government performance since 2017

Released this week, results of a scientifically sampled survey of Bloomington residents show a marked downward trend for attitudes towards performance of city government.

Asked about their “overall confidence in city government,” just 32 percent  of respondents gave it an excellent or good rating in 2023, compared with 62 percent in 2017—a drop of 30 percentage points.

Results of the survey, which was conducted in March and April this year, were released by the city on Thursday.

Also dropping around 30 points in the 2023 survey, compared to the one done in 2017, were several other measures of local government performance, including: the value of services for the taxes paid to the city; generally acting in the best interest of the community; overall direction that the city is taking; being honest and transparent; treating all residents fairly; and listening to public concern.

That contrasts with the assessment of city staff by survey respondents, which shows an upward trend since 2021, after a drop from 2019 to 2021. That brings most measures of city staff performance back to a bit better than the levels that were measured in 2017.

As an example, the rating of respondents of the staff as “courteous” increased from 71 percent to 86 percent between 2021 and 2023—which is 2 points better than the 84 percent recorded in the 2017 survey.

The survey has been conducted every two years for the city of Bloomington by the same firm—Polco/National Research Center. That’s four surveys worth of data that can be tapped for trends. Continue reading “Survey says: 30-point drop in Bloomington government performance since 2017”

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”

Carmichael to step down as Bloomington deputy mayor, Hamilton taps assistant city attorney for job

Mary Catherine Carmichael is stepping down as Bloomington’s deputy mayor effective July 28.

Assistant city attorney Larry Allen has been appointed by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton to replace Carmichael starting July 29.

That’s according to a news release from the mayor’s office around noon on Friday.

The news marks the first of what could be additional transitions at city hall, ahead of the anticipated inauguration of a new mayor, Kerry Thomson, to start 2024. Thomson won the Democratic Party primary, and there’s no opponent on the Nov. 7 ballot. Continue reading “Carmichael to step down as Bloomington deputy mayor, Hamilton taps assistant city attorney for job”

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”

4 tracts totaling $6.18M for sale in Bloomington’s downtown

Bloomington wants to sell about 5 acres of downtown land.

But the land won’t be sold to just anybody for any purpose. One example of a land use that explicitly won’t be in the mix: undergraduate student-oriented housing.

Instead, Bloomington is looking to make good on the investments it has already made in the land and nearby parcels, by selling to buyers who want to build something that “nurtures creativity and entrepreneurship among [the city’s] citizens and workforce, helps brand Bloomington as a lively tech sector hub, attracts private investment, employment and visitors, and provides welcoming living options for Bloomingtonians.”

The quote appears in the offering sheet for the tracts,  which was approved by Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) at its Tuesday meeting. The original quote was taken from the 2013 certified technology park master plan. Continue reading “4 tracts totaling $6.18M for sale in Bloomington’s downtown”

Bloomington primary election 2023 photos: A look back to the distant past of one week ago

For the B Square’s day-of election coverage last Tuesday, words and numbers took priority over photographs.

But a complete record surely demands some photos, even if they’re late.

In that spirit, below is a set of photographs, in mostly chronological order, as they were taken during the day—at different polling places and then at the Cascades Inn where the local Democrats gathered to celebrate their victories. Continue reading “Bloomington primary election 2023 photos: A look back to the distant past of one week ago”

2023 Bloomington Democratic Party primary results: Thomson wins mayoral nomination, 5 of 9 councilmembers won’t return in 2024

On Tuesday, Kerry Thomson won a clear 10-point victory over second-place finisher Susan Sandberg in the race for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor of Bloomington.

[.pdf file of 2023 unofficial primary election results]

Thomson did not get a majority of the 8,012 votes in the three-way race.

Thomson’s 3,444 votes gave her about 43 percent of the vote, compared to 33 percent (2,644) for Susan Sandberg and 24 percent (1,924) for Don Griffin.

No Republican has yet declared a candidacy for mayor and no independent candidate has submitted the required 352 signatures to qualify for the November ballot. To appear on the ballot as an independent candidate for mayor or city council, qualifying signatures  have to be submitted by June 30.

So it’s likely that Thomson will be the next mayor of Bloomington. Incumbent mayor John Hamilton did not seek re-election. Continue reading “2023 Bloomington Democratic Party primary results: Thomson wins mayoral nomination, 5 of 9 councilmembers won’t return in 2024”