Possible reform of Bloomington boards, commissions gets study by city council committee

Clockwise around the table from right: City councilmembers Matt Flaherty and Isabel Piedmont-Smith; city of Bloomington public engagement director Kaisa Goodman; city council deputy attorney Ash Kulak; and city councilmember Sue Sgambelluri. On screen in the upper left of the frame is Bloomington city clerk Nicole Bolden. he meeting took place in the city council’s “library” room. (May 25, 2023)

On Thursday night, a special city council committee met to move ahead with a closer look at reforming various processes related to Bloomington’s boards and commissions.

Also up for consideration by the four-member committee are possible recommendations on merging some of the city’s roughly 50 boards and commissions.

The committee is hoping to wrap up its work on board and commission reform by the end of the year.

The committee was appointed by council president Sue Sgambelluri at the council’s first meeting of the year. It was the same meeting when she was elected by her colleagues as this year’s council president.

In addition to Matt Flaherty as chair of the committee, Sgambelluri appointed as members the three officers of the council—including herself (president), Isabel Piedmont-Smith (vice president) and Dave Rollo (parliamentarian). Rollo did not attend Thursday’s meeting. Continue reading “Possible reform of Bloomington boards, commissions gets study by city council committee”

First appointments by Sgambelluri as new Bloomington city council president: Special committee on council processes

After serving the past two years as vice president of the Bloomington city council, Sue Sgambelluri has been chosen  by her colleagues as council president for 2023.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the vote on Sgambelluri’s selection was 8–1, with dissent from Steve Volan. Even though the vote was not unanimous, the split was not as severe as last year’s 5–4 tally that gave Susan Sandberg the gavel for 2022.

One big source of contention for the last three years on Bloomington’s city council has been disagreement about how the legislative process should be handled, and the role of committees in that process.

The legislative process was the topic of Sgambelluri’s first act as council president, after assigning seats on the dais. She established a four-member special committee on council processes, to be chaired by Matt Flaherty, who served as parliamentarian in 2021.

As members of the new committee Sgambelluri also included herself, new council vice president Isabel Piedmont-Smith, and this year’s parliamentarian, Dave Rollo. Continue reading “First appointments by Sgambelluri as new Bloomington city council president: Special committee on council processes”

City council committee pores over coffee rules, grounds its work on city employee manual

At last week’s meeting of the Bloomington city council’s rules committee, Isabel Piedmont-Smith said at one point to her colleagues, “A cup of coffee? Come on, I don’t care!”

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Not a topic of discussion by the Bloomington city council’s rules committee was the question of fancy thumb rests on coffee mugs. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The specific question of whether councilmembers should allow someone to buy them a cup of coffee was not on the committee’s agenda.

But the issue arose as they were sorting through the contents of the city’s employee manual.

Chair of the committee, Steve Volan, said the manual requires city employees to report any gratuities, courtesies and prizes, like meals and beverages to the city’s ethics officer—if they receive such items during the course of normal working hours.

For the committee, Volan said, that meant a decision about whether councilmembers should report their receipt of courtesies, like cups of coffee. And if councilmembers are supposed to report the courtesies, to whom should they be reported? Continue reading “City council committee pores over coffee rules, grounds its work on city employee manual”

From the public speaking podium to the ear of the rules committee: Floor amendments

Carol Thompson took a turn at the public podium during the Bloomington city council’s meeting on the night of Aug. 14. She objected to some legislation the council had approved the week before, which regulated electric scooters.

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On Aug. 14, Carol Thompson spoke about scooter legislation that had been approved the week before by the city council. (CATS screenshot)

Besides her lack of enthusiasm for one amendment, which under certain conditions allows scooter parking on the soft-scape between the sidewalk and the street, Thompson conveyed an objection to the process. “The public had no advanced notice that this amendment was going to be introduced and voted on, during the same night,” she said.

That amendment on scooter parking had not been a part of the original package of legislation or included in the legislative packet distributed the Friday before. It was added the same night “from the floor” by councilmember Steve Volan. Still, as an amendment to other legislation, it apparently conformed with the council’s general procedure, laid out in Title 2 of the city code, that “Every ordinance shall be given two readings before a vote may be taken on its passage…”

The following morning, as the hour approached 9 a.m., Thompson’s words got an implicit mention at a meeting of the city council’s rules committee. The council’s administrator/attorney, Dan Sherman, asked towards the end of the committee meeting when it would be appropriate to suggest an additional topic for the rules committee’s consideration.

When Volan, who chairs the rules committee, gave him the nod, Sherman said: “Thinking about last night, it would be be nice to talk about floor amendments and how we handle them.”

Volan’s quick response was: “Good call.” None of other members of the committee—Dorothy Granger, Jim Sims and Isabel Piedmont-Smith, or city clerk Nicole Bolden (ex officio)—had an objection to adding floor amendments to the set of items to be considered. Continue reading “From the public speaking podium to the ear of the rules committee: Floor amendments”

City Council’s rules committee makes council personnel a top priority

At the first substantive meeting of the Bloomington city council’s rules committee on Friday, a few priorities were identified for future work.

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The notice that was posted for the meeting of the council’s rules committee on Friday, Aug. 5, 2019. A week earlier, an attempted meeting of the committee was abandoned when questions arose over adequate notice under Indiana’s Open Door law.

The four top priorities are: the council’s personnel; meeting procedures, including time limits; a council policy manual; and a clean-up of city code on boards and commissions.

Those items were identified by the four-member committee, which now consists of Steve Volan, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Jim Sims and Dorothy Granger. Granger is the council’s vice president. She was added to the committee by the council’s president, Dave Rollo, in the week since the rules committee’s first attempted meeting.

Personnel was elevated to top priority for the committee’s next meeting, because council administrator/attorney Dan Sherman is hiring a deputy administrator/attorney to fill a recent vacancy. And Sherman is planning to retire sometime in the next several months.

Councilmembers at Friday’s committee meeting were keen to have some input on the hire of Sherman’s deputy. They also said they wanted Sherman to be the one who makes the decision. Continue reading “City Council’s rules committee makes council personnel a top priority”

Bloomington city council rules committee off to rough start

A meeting of the Bloomington city council rules committee on Monday evening was postponed to some other time, after less than 10 minutes of conversation.

The council’s administrator/attorney, Dan Sherman, questioned whether the meeting had been properly noticed, and that led to some sharp exchanges between him and City Clerk Nicole Bolden, an ex officio member of the committee.

When Bolden told Sherman, “…your behavior has been reprehensible, and incredibly rude and unprofessional,” councilmember Steve Volan, who was chairing the proceedings, said, “I think we should postpone this meeting.”

The rules committee has not existed for something like a decade, but was reconstituted by city council president Dave Rollo at the council’s June 12 meeting. Rollo named councilmembers Volan, Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Jim Sims to the committee and Bolden as an ex officio member.

Continue reading “Bloomington city council rules committee off to rough start”