New Bloomington city council districts: Vote put off at least until Oct. 6

After more than two hours of deliberation on Wednesday, the Bloomington city council postponed until Oct. 6 further consideration of new boundaries for city council districts.

The council’s special meeting, now set for Oct. 6, coincides with the Democratic Party’s Vi Taliaferro Dinner—an annual fundraiser that is scheduled to start at the council’s usual meeting time of 6:30 p.m.

That’s why the all-Democrat council voted 9–0 to convene its special meeting for Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. The council set a time limit of one hour.

The council’s annual calendar had already called for a committee meeting on Oct. 6—which is a Thursday, instead of the usual Wednesday. The one-day shift avoids a conflict with Yom Kippur, which falls on Wednesday. The council canceled that committee meeting in favor of the one-hour special meeting.

On Oct. 6, the council could vote to adopt the new map that has been recommended by Bloomington’s redistricting advisory commission.

Another option would be to reject the map, and send the matter back to the five-member redistricting commission with the reasons for the council’s rejection.

Or the council could again postpone any decision. Continue reading “New Bloomington city council districts: Vote put off at least until Oct. 6”

Opinion | Dereliction of duty: When Bloomington city councilmembers abstain on $30-million votes

On Wednesday night, Kate Rosenbarger and Steve Volan abstained on the vote granting a $30-million tax abatement for Catalent—but not because they had some financial conflict or even an appearance of one.

The resolution passed with six votes in favor, one more than the five-vote majority it needed.

Rosenbarger was in a quandary—she doesn’t believe in tax abatements generally, but said it was “silly” for Catalent not to pursue the abatement. What was her way out of the dilemma? To abstain.

Volan also said he found the concept of tax abatements problematic, and complained that Catalent was not willing to make some additional commitments—for example, allowing a developer to build housing on Catalent land.

Volan could not vote yes, but wanted to make a “show of good faith to Catalent.” What was his show of good faith? To abstain.

For anyone who likes to do math, it’s puzzling why an abstention would count as a show of good faith. An abstention contributes the same as a no vote towards reaching the required five-vote majority: Zero. There’s no extra negative arithmetical weight attached to a no vote. Continue reading “Opinion | Dereliction of duty: When Bloomington city councilmembers abstain on $30-million votes”

Pitch for Bloomington city council standing committees seen by executive branch as a fastball

“Is council a co-equal branch of government or isn’t it?” That’s a rhetorical question posed by Steve Volan, this year’s president of Bloomington’s city council, about the relationship between the council and the city’s administration.

Volan asked the question during a contentious work session held last Friday afternoon in city hall’s Hooker Conference Room. All nine councilmembers attended at least part of the session, along with a dozen and half staff members, among them several department heads and deputy mayor Mick Renneisen.

The friction that emerged between Volan and staff members, and with some of Volan’s city council colleagues, stemmed from a pending resolution, introduced by Volan at the city council’s first meeting of the year, on Jan. 8.

Volan proposes to use existing city code to establish seven four-member standing committees. Already established is a land use committee, to which zoning legislation has been referred for the last two years. Continue reading “Pitch for Bloomington city council standing committees seen by executive branch as a fastball”

2020 Bloomington city council: Out with the old, in with the new

At the last city council meeting of the year, on Dec. 18, 2019, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, delivered proclamations to the four outgoing councilmembers.

On Jan. 1, 2020, four new councilmembers were sworn in to start four-year terms, along with the five returning councilmembers, the mayor, John Hamilton, and the city clerk, Nicole Bolden.

Starting around noon on New Year’s Day in the city council chambers, the oaths of office for Bloomington’s 11 elected officials were administered. Continue reading “2020 Bloomington city council: Out with the old, in with the new”

First round of primaries advances six candidates to next round of Bloomington Comedy Festival

About 20 candidates are vying for the presidential nomination of the Democratic Party this year.

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Ballot for June 19, 2019 preliminary round of the Bloomington Comedy Festival competition. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

It’s a paltry number compared to the field of 40 who are campaigning to be named the Funniest Person in Bloomington. The 11th edition of the Comedy Attic’s Bloomington Comedy Festival (BCF) will culminate in the finals held on Aug. 28.

The comedy caucuses kicked off Wednesday with five-minute sets from each of 10 performers. The tally of ballots from audience members put six candidates into the next round of competition. Advancing to the second round are: Jonas Schrodt, Steve Volan, Neal Meyer, Jan Gudaitis, Dan Paswell and Bob Nugent. Continue reading “First round of primaries advances six candidates to next round of Bloomington Comedy Festival”

Bloomington city council districts don’t guarantee geographic diversity (Or: Steve Volan is the center of the political Bloomiverse)

City Councilmember Steve Volan lives almost exactly in the middle of Bloomington.

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The blue cross hairs pinpoint the geographic center of Bloomington. Pink circles represent incumbents on the city council. Orange triangles represent challengers in this year’s elections. (Dave Askins/The Beacon)

The center of Bloomington’s area—the centroid calculated by a piece of geographic information software called QGIS—lies a few feet west of Indiana University’s Henderson Parking Garage on Atwater Avenue.

And of the nine people who represent Bloomington residents on the City Council, the one who lives closest to that exact geographic center of the city is Steve Volan. It’s about a quarter mile from the parking garage to his place. Continue reading “Bloomington city council districts don’t guarantee geographic diversity (Or: Steve Volan is the center of the political Bloomiverse)”