Column: Looking ahead to local government news in 2023 like a goose landing on a half frozen pond

A week ago, up at Miller-Showers Park, a flock of Canada geese banked overhead and came in for a landing on the southernmost stormwater detention pond.

The surface was half frozen, because a couple days before the temperature had dropped to –8 F.

As elegant as geese appear in flight formation, on landing they do not make a picture of grace. They sort of wobble along the final approach, webbed feet akimbo, before mostly crashing into the water.

But they were, of course, unscathed. They started cruising around, dabbling for whatever aquatic plants were under the surface.

That’s somewhat like how local government works: It’s elegant and smooth in theory, but when it lands on some particular topic near you, it might look a little clumsy. You might get splashed.

Where will Bloomington’s area local government land in 2023? Here’s a roundup of spots that is surely not exhaustive. Continue reading “Column: Looking ahead to local government news in 2023 like a goose landing on a half frozen pond”

Column: Check out the Bloomington Jazz Orchestra!

On Friday evening, the Bloomington Jazz Orchestra delivered an hour’s worth of music from the edge of the Monroe County Public Library’s parking lot in downtown Bloomington.

Bloomington Jazz Orchestra (Aug. 12, 2022)

I counted more than 50 people in the crowd. Many had brought lawn chairs because they’d seen the advertising for the event, while some had just stumbled across the free concert like I had.

If the parking lot had a roof, the 19-piece ensemble would have blown it off the place. Some people got out of their seats to dance.

I don’t know anything about music, especially not jazz music, but I can tell when musicians are good and when they’re not, and BJO is really good.

If you see BJO on a future event listing, mark your calendar to go.

The orchestra is led by Janis Stockhouse, who retired as Bloomington High School North’s band director in spring of 2019.

Continue reading “Column: Check out the Bloomington Jazz Orchestra!”

Local income tax notebook: Impact on public library, public bus depending on distribution method

Community  discussion of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s proposed increase to the countywide local income tax (LIT) has not included much mention of category of LIT called the “certified shares” category.

two stacked bars side by side. Components of the layers are the different categories of LIT. The total height of the left bar is 1.345 which is the current rate. Adding in 0.855 of economic development category makes the right bar 2.2 high.
This article looks at the impact of enacting an additional 0.855 points in the certified shares (green) category of local income tax, instead of enacting the increase in the economic development category (lilac).

But the certified shares category makes up the biggest part of the current countywide local income tax rate.  It’s the green chunk of the bars in the chart that accompanies this article.

The certified shares category has a current rate of 0.9482 percent.

For Monroe County, the total current LIT rate is 1.345 percent, which comes from adding an additional 0.25 points in the public safety category, 0.0518 points in the property tax relief category, and another 0.0950 points in a special purpose category. The special purpose LIT revenues are used for juvenile services.

It’s the certified shares category of LIT that many other units of local government rely on for some of their basic operating expenses.

Among those units are all the townships, the Monroe County Public Library, Bloomington Transit, and the Monroe Fire Protection District. Continue reading “Local income tax notebook: Impact on public library, public bus depending on distribution method”

First Black woman chosen by Monroe County Dems for council: “Yes, I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.”

Jennifer Crossley was chosen at Sunday afternoon’s Democratic Party caucus to fill the vacant seat on the seven-member Monroe County council.

That means she’ll be stepping down as chair of the Monroe County Dems. Instead of Crossley, presiding over the caucus proceedings on Sunday was party vice chair David Henry.

The caucus was held in the auditorium of the Monroe County Public Library.

In her remarks delivered before the vote, Crossley said, “I’m running to fill this seat because I truly feel and believe that representation matters. And it is important to me that individuals from different backgrounds, lived experiences, and socio-economic statuses are in elected positions and get a seat at the table.”

Crossley added, “And as a Black woman, I feel that I bring this to this table. This is a historic moment in our county and our party, because if voted in this caucus today, I would be the first Black woman to serve on the county council.”

Crossley wrapped up her point by saying, “Yes, I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.” Continue reading “First Black woman chosen by Monroe County Dems for council: “Yes, I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams.””

Library board votes to spend more, cut less forest for new branch

The animated image alternates between options for the new library branch with (1) a single wing of surface parking to the west and a parking garage under the building and (2) two wings of surface parking, one to the west and one to the east. Drawings, which were included in the library board’s meeting information packet, are by Matheu Architects.

On Tuesday night, the board of the Monroe County Public Library voted unanimously in favor of a design for its planned new branch that incorporates a parking garage under the 21,000 square-foot building, instead of relying on a second wing of surface lot parking.

The branch will include a total of about 105 parking spaces.

The option with the parking garage means a smaller footprint for the new construction. Architect Christine Matheu’s drawings show it wedged into the southwest corner of the forested site near Batchelor Middle School just southwest of Bloomington.

The garage option means that fewer trees in the forested area will need to be cut down to allow the new library branch to be built. The area was planted with tree seedlings by school kids over the first decade of the millennium.

It was one of the factors that led board members to support spending about $900,000 more—$12.1 million compared to $11.2 million—for the design with a parking garage. Continue reading “Library board votes to spend more, cut less forest for new branch”

Bloomington research notes: Sleuthing parking meters with microfilm and the movies

In two weeks, the parking meter turns 84 years old. The first one was installed in Oklahoma City on July 16, 1935.

Cool Hand Luke Screen Shot 2019-07-02 at 10.27.45 AM
From the opening sequence of the film, “Cool Hand Luke,” where the title character lops off the heads of several parking meters.

Three decades later, the same invention that discourages motorists from making greedy use of public space made possible the release of “Cool Hand Luke.” The film starred Paul Newman as the title character, who was sentenced to two years in prison—for lopping the heads off some parking meters.

Parking meters will be recognized as a different kind of cinematic highlight by aficionados of the movie “Breaking Away,” which was shot right here in Bloomington, Indiana. Continue reading “Bloomington research notes: Sleuthing parking meters with microfilm and the movies”

Monroe County Public Library a source of map collections showing Bloomington’s past annexations

In 2017, Bloomington began the process of annexing area into the city that would have increased the land area of the city by about 60 percent.


Later that year, the state’s General Assembly built into the budget bill a change to annexation law that effectively singled out Bloomington and paused any annexation plans for five years.

Bloomington filed a lawsuit, contending that the General Assembly violated two different parts of the state’s constitution: One limiting bills to single topics and another prohibiting special legislation.

On Tuesday, March 26, the two sides will be giving oral arguments in front of Judge Frank M. Nardi to complement the written arguments and counterarguments they’ve already submitted to the court. Continue reading “Monroe County Public Library a source of map collections showing Bloomington’s past annexations”