Column: Bloomington city council should quickly kill ordinance on meeting length, focus instead on budget, annexation and climate change

Introduced at last Wednesday’s Bloomington city council meeting was a possible new local law (Ordinance 21-34) that would attempt to put a time limit on city council meetings.

Probably every current and future Bloomington resident would welcome a world where the meetings of the local legislature did not last until 3:30 a.m.

Of course that’s exactly what happened on March 3 this year, when the city council debated an ordinance on protections for homeless encampments. The council was evenly split 4–4 on the substance of the issue, because one councilmember was absent due to a family tragedy.

Does Bloomington’s city council need yet another procedural tool, in order to avoid an overlong meeting like the one on March 3?

Of course not.

The council already has some tools that could have been used to do the job.

Should the Bloomington city council now invest any of its collective energy trying to repair the technical flaws in the proposed ordinance by considering amendments? No. The proposed ordinance cannot be salvaged through amendments.

The city council should instead start taking a hard look at the toxic procedural dysfunctions that often lead to 3-hour meetings  that could have ended at the 2-hour mark. Or 2-hour meetings that could have ended after 45 minutes. Or committee meetings that need not have been scheduled in the first place.

Instead of wallowing in the mire of patch-wise procedural revisions, the city council should instead focus first on its actual business.

Among its currently pending items are the 2022 budget, the annexation proposal, and climate change. Continue reading “Column: Bloomington city council should quickly kill ordinance on meeting length, focus instead on budget, annexation and climate change”

Opinion: It would be great if Bloomington’s government followed its own laws

This coming week offers a great chance to learn how Bloomington’s city government works. From Monday through Thursday, the city council will hold hearings on the mayor’s proposed budget for 2021.

cropped what I did on my summer vacation
Image links to Bloomington’s body of local law in Municode.

Every department begins its presentation by addressing the question: Why do we even exist?

Everyone in the city of Bloomington should try to tune in for at least part of this weeklong civic event.

Parents could use it as a reward for finishing homework on time: If you finish these math problems, I will let you watch the budget hearings.

Some Bloomington citizens might wonder about the start time for the budget hearings. Each night’s hearing starts a half hour earlier than for a regular city council meeting—6 p.m. instead of the usual 6:30 p.m.

That’s possible, because budget hearings aren’t “regular meetings” of the city council, which are prescribed to start at 6:30 p.m. under Bloomington law. The regular meeting start time was changed from 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. by enactment of an ordinance in late 2016.

Other Bloomington citizens might not wonder so much about the clock time as about the time of year for the budget hearings. Why the third week in August? Why not earlier, say in the third week of July? Continue reading “Opinion: It would be great if Bloomington’s government followed its own laws”