Showers West police-fire expansion update: Out for bids in November, construction start in 2024

By November of this year, construction bids are expected to be put out for the expansion of Bloomington’s city hall building into Showers West—which is supposed to house a new police headquarters, and the administrative offices for the fire department.

That was one key takeaway from a city council work session held at noon on Friday.

The hoped-for timeline was described on Friday by project architect Chris Hagan from StudioAXIS. Hagan’s firm was selected by Bloomington for the project in April, after a different firm, Hoefer Welker, had initially been selected in March.

The timeline drew some pointed questions from council president Sue Sgambelluri. Offering some skeptical commentary on the timeline was police union president Paul Post, who was seated at the work session table.

Also in attendance at Friday’s work session—which was held in the Allison Conference room—was Kerry Thomson, the almost certain future mayor of Bloomington starting in 2024. She’s the Democratic Party’s nominee and the only candidate on the ballot, with no registered write-ins.

Thomson took a seat along the back wall with the rest of the public. Around 50 minutes into the meeting, which was scheduled for an hour, councilmember Ron Smith made a gambit to allow Thomson to offer a comment. Smith’s gambit was firmly declined by Sgambelluri, who was presiding over the meeting. Continue reading “Showers West police-fire expansion update: Out for bids in November, construction start in 2024”

Convention center expansion: Bloomington city council looking to make CIB pick by early September

The Bloomington city council’s one appointment to a new seven-member capital improvement board (CIB) could be made at the council’s Sept. 6 meeting.

That’s the timeframe that city council president Sue Sgambelluri announced on Wednesday.

The CIB, which was created under state law by Monroe County commissioners on July 5 , is supposed to provide the governance structure for an expansion of the Monroe Convention Center.

The city of Bloomington has an online application for all board and commissions,  which now includes a box that can be checked for the capital improvement board. Continue reading “Convention center expansion: Bloomington city council looking to make CIB pick by early September”

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 primary election notebook: A closer look at results in Bloomington’s city council district races

The winners of the four contested Bloomington city council district races on Tuesday were Isabel Piedmont-Smith (District 1); Kate Rosenbarger (District 2); Hopi Stosberg (District 3); and Shruti Rana (District 4).

That’s an even split between two incumbents and two newcomers. The incumbents are Piedmont-Smith and Rosenbarger. The newcomers are Stosberg and Rana.

They’ll be the Democratic Party’s nominees in the Nov. 7 city elections.

Those basic results have been known since election night. In the meantime, The B Square has discerned a few noteworthy facts about the election numbers. Continue reading “2023 primary election notebook: A closer look at results in Bloomington’s city council district races”

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”

Alea iacta est: May 2, 2023 primary election results, served when ready

Primary Election Day polls for May 2, 2023 have now closed in Monroe County.

The cutoff time was 6 p.m., which made for a 12-hour voting day. But anyone in line by 6 p.m. has to be allowed to cast a ballot.

Bloomington voters are electing party nominees for mayor, clerk, and nine city council seats. Ellettsville voters are electing party nominees for clerk/treasurer and town council.

Preliminary results from Bloomington and Ellettsville precincts will be published as updates to this article as they are available.

Monroe County clerk Nicole Browne wrote in her 5 p.m. emailed message: “Please do not anticipate any results before 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m.”

Voters who joined the line just before the closing of the polls are just one reason that results can’t be reported immediately at 6 p.m..

Geography also plays a role. There’s some physical distance that has to be covered, when teams from Primary Election Day polling locations across Bloomington and Ellettsville pack up their ballots, the memory devices from the ballot scanners, and other election documentation, and turn in the whole package to Election Central. Continue reading “Alea iacta est: May 2, 2023 primary election results, served when ready”

2023 Bloomington primary: Black Lives Matter B-town assesses Democratic Party candidates

Early Saturday (April 15), Black Lives Matter B-town  released its assessment of Democratic Party city primary candidates who responded to a survey that included 10 questions for all candidates and two questions just for mayoral or city council candidates.

Pull quote from the questionnaire. The quote reads: Do you believe that these trainings are effective to actually prevent racism, homophobia, transphobia and bias from happening in city government?

Sent the questionnaire were Democratic Party primary candidates for Bloomington mayor, city clerk and city council. The questionnaire was not sent to candidates affiliated with the Republican Party, because BLM B-town does not consider the party to be in alignment with its basic principles.

According to BLM B-town, their candidate assessments are provided to voters for informational purposes—they are not endorsements.

Candidates were given seven days to fill out the questionnaire, and were sent subsequent reminders after the survey was sent, according to BLM B-town

A total of 18 candidates wrote out answers to the questionnaire. It was designed to allow assessments of candidates in the categories of: Awareness, Position, Vision, Voices at the Table, Commitment & Effectiveness, Passion & Comportment.

Candidates are assessed on a scale ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”.

Some candidates did not respond to the questionnaire. About those candidates, BLM B-town wrote: “[C]andidates’ refusals to provide answers for this Voter’s Guide should remind us that the majority of the Bloomington political landscape is built to sustain anti-Black practices.”

BLM B-town gave candidates who did not respond to the BLM B-town questionnaire an assessment of “strongly disagree.” Continue reading “2023 Bloomington primary: Black Lives Matter B-town assesses Democratic Party candidates”

Bloomington city council District 3 Democratic Party Primary: Ron Smith, Hopi Stosberg, Conner Wright

The Democratic Party’s May 2 primary election for city council District 3 is a choice between Ron Smith, Hopi Stosberg, and Conner Wright.

One Republican candidate has declared for District 3 Bloomington city council—Brett Heinisch.

This write-up provides specific background on the District 3 city council Democratic Party’s primary race, as well as general background.

April 20 is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot. Application for an absentee ballot, verification of voter registration, and a preview of the ballot are available through the Indiana secretary of state’s voter information portal.

Early voting started on April 4 at Monroe County’s election operations center, which is located at Walnut and 3rd streets. Continue reading “Bloomington city council District 3 Democratic Party Primary: Ron Smith, Hopi Stosberg, Conner Wright”

Chatbot vs. Bloomington candidates for city office

With each election cycle, the League of Women Voters hosts a website with candidate profiles. It’s called Vote 411.

Chatbot icon with text: As an AI language model, I cannot seek elected office in the city of Bloomington, Indiana.

Included below are links to all the LWV profiles for all candidates in Bloomington’s city primary elections—for mayor, clerk, and city council.

The Vote 411 profiles include the answers that candidates have written to questions posed by LWV.

What if the same questions were posed to a chatbot that has been trained on a giant corpus of text, to respond to conversational prompts?

The B Square posed the LWV’s questions to ChatGPT, which is an artificial intelligence chatbot developed by a company called OpenAI. It was released late last year. (GPT stands for Generative Pre-training Transformer.)

The LWV questions were given minor tweaks, like swapping in “Bloomington, Indiana” for “the city” to give ChatGPT a shot at providing answers that reflect the unique circumstances of Bloomington.

Another tweak: In places where the LWV questions use the second-person pronoun “you,” some kind of passive voice construction was swapped in. That’s because ChatGPT tends to respond with a disclaimer of sorts when asked about itself. For example, “As an AI language model, I have never tasted maple syrup, …”

Readers are invited to use ChatGPT as a kind of baseline, to judge the answers given by candidates. Is a given candidate’s answer better than a chatbot’s? Continue reading “Chatbot vs. Bloomington candidates for city office”

Holcomb visits Bloomington, Cook Group president tells locals: “We can’t sit around and wait for the governor…to solve our problems.”

On Thursday, the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon at the Monroe Convention Center featuring Indiana governor Eric Holcomb.

The main event highlighted Holcomb as he fielded questions from Indiana University president Pamela Whitten, as the two sat in easy chairs in front of an audience of about 450 people.

But for many in attendance, it was the remarks delivered by Cook Group president Pete Yonkman, towards the start of the program, that might have left a more lasting impression. Cook is Bloomington’s second largest employer behind Indiana University.

Yonkman said at the start that he did not have prepared speech to deliver, as he does on most occasions.

But the impromptu remarks that Yonkman did make were organized around one basic theme: Bloomington’s local leaders need to overcome their differences to make progress on important issues.

Specific issues that Yonkman highlighted included housing, conditions at the county jail, and the lack of progress on the convention center expansion. Continue reading “Holcomb visits Bloomington, Cook Group president tells locals: “We can’t sit around and wait for the governor…to solve our problems.””