Tasers for Bloomington police: Department prepares for pilot program on less lethal weapon

In a Sept. 5, 2023 news release, the Bloomington police department (BPD) announced that officers would soon be piloting the use of electronic control weapons, commonly known as tasers.

For Bloomington police officers, the tasers will be added to pepper spray and collapsible batons as options that are less lethal than a gun.

On Sept. 19, at the most recent meeting of Bloomington’s five-member board of public safety, BPD deputy chief Scott Oldham said that he does not expect the tasers to be deployed for the pilot before the start of 2024. It will take some time for an officer to be certified to train other officers in the use of tasers, and then additional time to train officers, Oldham said.

While the board of public safety was briefed on the decision to add tasers to the set of less lethal options for BPD officers, the board did not have decision making authority on deployment of tasers.

Tasers were discussed with the board at its June and July monthly meetings this year.

But the board’s feedback can be traced to a year before that, when board member Isak Asare asked Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff about the department’s planned pilot program. Continue reading “Tasers for Bloomington police: Department prepares for pilot program on less lethal weapon”

Election notebook: Ballot inspections, Salt Creek vacancy

Monday was the legally mandated chance for the public to inspect proofs of  ballots that will be used in Monroe County’s upcoming Nov. 7 municipal elections.

Ballots were on display from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Election Central (7th and Madison streets).

The ballots had been laid out for inspection on a long table by the county’s election division staff, led by election supervisor Ryan Herndon.

Arriving shortly after 9 a.m. to inspect the ballots were a couple of the Democratic Party nominees for Bloomington city offices—Nicole Bolden and Sydney Zulich.

Seeking her third four-year term, Bolden is unopposed on the ballot for city clerk. Zulich is seeking her first four-year term as the District 6 Bloomington city council representative.

All the Democratic Party nominees on the ballot are unopposed, except for Hopi Stosberg, who is competing with Republican Brett Heinisch to represent District 3 on the Bloomington city council.

Based on the sign-in sheet at Election Central, Stosberg and Heinisch dropped by to inspect ballots later in the day. Isabel Piedmont-Smith, who is the Democratic Party’s nominee for District 1 city council, also dropped by to inspect ballots later in the day. Continue reading “Election notebook: Ballot inspections, Salt Creek vacancy”

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”

Jennifer McCormick kicks off gubernatorial campaign in Bloomington

A little after 7 p.m., Jennifer McCormick arrived at Switchyard Brewing Company on North Walnut Street in downtown Bloomington with her 2024 gubernatorial campaign team.

McCormick is vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination as the governor of the Hoosier state.

The campaign launched with a late-Wednesday filing, then hit the road Thursday, starting in New Castle, where she grew up. From there, it was on to Terre Haute, then Evansville, and finally Bloomington.

McCormick’s name will be recognizable as Indiana’s superintendent of public instruction, elected in November 2016, running as a Republican.

The office of superintendent was abolished in 2021—replaced by the secretary of education, who is appointed by the governor. Also in 2021, McCormick announced she was changing her political affiliation to the Democratic Party.

Around 40 local Bloomington Democrats were on hand to greet McCormick, who gave brief remarks when she hit the door, then a few more words from the lectern that had been set up in front of a stack of kegs and pallet of cans. Continue reading “Jennifer McCormick kicks off gubernatorial campaign in Bloomington”

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 5 Democratic Party Primary: Shruti Rana, Jenny Stevens

The Democratic Party’s May 2 primary election for city council District 5 is a choice between Shruti Rana and Jenny Stevens. There is no Republican candidate in District 5.

This write-up provides specific background on the District 5 city council 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 5 Democratic Party Primary: Shruti Rana, Jenny Stevens”

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”