Bloomington city council enacts law intended to prevent long meetings

On a 7–2 vote at its regular Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council enacted an ordinance that is intended to prevent its meetings from lasting longer than five and a half hours, or going past midnight.

Dissenting were council president Jim Sims and Susan Sandberg. The ordinance was authored by councilmember Steve Volan.

When it was first introduced on Sept. 1, the ordinance had wording that could be interpreted as putting an automatic end to city council meetings after five and a half hours or at 11:59 p.m., whichever comes first.

The wording on first introduction also allowed any single councilmember to cause a meeting to be adjourned after five and a half hours or at 11:59 p.m., whichever comes first.

On Wednesday, Volan offered the council two mutually exclusive possible amendments.

One amendment made explicit the automatic termination of meetings when either of the the time points were reached.

The other alternative required at least two councilmembers in order to force an end to a meeting—one to move for adjournment and another to second the motion.

That’s the amendment that the council adopted for the ordinance that it eventually passed.

That means the ordinance as enacted does not require an end to meetings after five and a half hours or at midnight. It just gives any two councilmembers the option of ending a meeting at those time points. Meetings will be able to continue past those times without remark or action by councilmembers. Continue reading “Bloomington city council enacts law intended to prevent long meetings”

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”

Hey, Wait a Minute | Milking meeting minutes from 2017 for all they’re worth—sounds like fun

Note: “Hey, Wait a Minute” is an occasional B Square Beacon series that highlights meeting minutes and other documentation of local government meetings in the Bloomington, Indiana area.

Image links to audio with transcript. (Click on the blue arrow at the bottom of the screen to play the audio.)

At last Wednesday’s Bloomington city council meeting, city clerk Nicole Bolden got a thank-you from councilmember Susan Sandberg.

Sandberg had asked at the council’s Friday work session if councilmembers could be provided with the minutes for some meetings that took place in 2017.

It was in 2017 when the council took up the question of annexations, a process that was stopped by the state legislature that year.

After a Supreme Court decision in Bloomington’s favor late last year, on Wednesday, the council re-started the annexation process.

Bolden forwarded to councilmembers the 2017 meeting minutes. And on Wednesday, Sandberg said, “I found [the meeting minutes] to be very helpful, just kind of bringing my memory back to where we were in the process.”

How does a Zoom video conference auto-transcript stack up against the clerk’s meeting minutes? Continue reading “Hey, Wait a Minute | Milking meeting minutes from 2017 for all they’re worth—sounds like fun”

Bloomington’s annexation restart shows a couple of wobbles, still on steady course for Aug. 4 public hearings, September votes

At its regular meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council restarted the process, which had been suspended in 2017 by action of the state legislature, to annex eight separate areas into the city.

The re-start comes after Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled in a 3–2 split decision late last year that the state legislature’s action was unconstitutional.

The eight different areas that are being considered for annexation would add 9,255 acres to Bloomington’s land area and an estimated 14,377 people to the city’s population.

The city council’s annexation-related action on Wednesday involved one resolution for each of the eight areas to adopt its new fiscal plan, and one ordinance on the annexation itself. The ordinances were first introduced in 2017.

That meant on Wednesday, the ordinances got technical amendments to revise several mentions of dates. But no votes were taken on the ordinances as amended. Those votes are planned for September.

One wobble in the restarted process was the 6–3 outcome of the vote on the adoption of the fiscal plan for Area 7. All the other votes on Wednesday were unanimous.

Area 7 is labeled in the annexation materials as the “North Bloomington Annexation Area.” The area has been described as having more cows and chickens than people. Its estimated 115 people, spread over 896 acres, gives it a population density of 0.12 people per acre.

Dissenting on the Area 7 fiscal plan vote were Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Dave Rollo, and Susan Sandberg. Piedmont-Smith said, “I think it’s too rural.”

But it’s the final votes on the ordinances that will have an impact on whether areas are annexed. Those votes are currently scheduled for mid-September.

Councilmember Matt Flaherty said, “I don’t take my vote on on either resolutions or amendments to ordinances tonight to mean that I am in support of a particular area for annexation.” He added, “I think we’ll continue to consider kind of all aspects of this as we move forward. This is just a step in the process.”

The date for the public hearing on the ordinances is currently set for Aug. 4. Continue reading “Bloomington’s annexation restart shows a couple of wobbles, still on steady course for Aug. 4 public hearings, September votes”

Bloomington city council votes to repave College Mall Road on split vote

At its regular meeting Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council voted to approve an appropriation ordinance that includes, among other things, a reclassification of funds to pay for a repaving of College Mall Road.

The project, which extends between 3rd Street and Moores Pike, is planned for later this summer.

The vote, which was split 6–3 on the nine-member council, came as the clock ticked towards 10:30 p.m., about four hours after the meeting started.

Dissenting on the vote were councilmembers Steve Volan, Matt Flaherty, and Kate Rosenbarger.

The meeting was fraught with procedural wrangling that could be traced to lingering discord from the beginning of the year over the establishment of four-member standing committees of the council.

In the end, the council’s action on Wednesday provided funding for two street projects, which are supposed to start this summer. One is a repaving project—College Mall Road, southward from 3rd Street to Moores Pike.

The other project includes improvements to the intersection at Sare Road and Moores Pike and construction of a multi-use path south of there. Continue reading “Bloomington city council votes to repave College Mall Road on split vote”