During a Thursday night meeting of Bloomington city council’s four-member public safety committee, to hear public comment about the houseless encampment in Seminary Park, Monroe County sheriff’s deputies were patrolling county land further south off Rogers Street.
At Seminary Park, after the committee meeting ended around 9 p.m., word had already spread about two arrests made on the county’s property, which includes 87 acres that front Rogers Street north of Cherokee Drive.
A couple hours later, Seminary Park would see its own enforcement action.
Around 2 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Bloomington police department (BPD) officers told the houseless people living in the encampment near Seminary Park, south of downtown Bloomington, that they could not occupy the public right-of-way.
Helped by a couple dozen grassroots volunteers and nonprofit caseworkers from Wheeler Mission and Centerstone, several campers moved down the hill into the park itself.
The right-of-way is an area that can be enforced around the clock. The park closes at 11 p.m. That means the move several yards down the hill might have bought the campers 8–9 hours of extra time.
After about 2 hours and 45 minutes of deliberations on Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council eliminated two of its 11 committees.
Not surviving the night was the council’s sidewalk committee.
The council started with a resolution could have eliminated as many as four of its committees. But the council unanimously agreed to preserve its housing committee and its climate action and resilience committee.
The council’s sanitation and utilities committee was merged with the community affairs committee.
The council’s sidewalk committee was not exactly eliminated.
But on a 5–4 vote, the sidewalk committee’s function was assigned to the transportation committee. That function is to make recommendations to the full council on the use of about $330,000 from the city’s alternative transportation fund, which purpose is to reduce the community’s dependence on automobiles.
The 5–4 vote by itself did not eliminate the sidewalk committee.
By the end of the meeting, it was not clear if the elimination of the sidewalk committee would come at a future meeting, in a housekeeping resolution, or if it would be eliminated through an authorization given to the council attorney, on a separate vote, to make revisions to the resolution.
Getting a first committee hearing on Tuesday afternoon was a bill that would put the state legislature in a position to have a say on extending the Indiana governor’s executive orders related to a disaster emergency.
The bills are a reaction by legislators to Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s executive orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Holcomb, who is a Republican in a state where both chambers of the legislature have better than two-thirds Republican majorities, issued an executive order declaring a public health emergency on March 6, 2020. The governor has extended the executive order several times since then, in 30-day increments. The state of emergency is still in effect.
HB 1123 was authored by representative Matt Lehman, a Republican whose District 79 covers a swatch of the state that’s south of Fort Wayne.
Indiana’s department of health issued a press release just before noon on Monday (Dec. 11) saying that a new strain of COVID-19, previously identified in the United Kingdom, has been found in the state of Indiana.
According to the press release, the new strain does not cause more severe infections, but spreads easier. The state’s health commissioner, Kris Box, is quoted in the release saying, “It’s common for viruses to mutate, and we are seeing that occur with COVID-19.”
The quote from Box continues, “Because this strain of the virus can be transmitted more easily, it’s more important than ever that Hoosiers continue to wear their masks, practice social distancing, maintain good hygiene and get vaccinated when they are eligible.”
[Updated on Jan. 11, 2021 at 3:57 p.m. A spokesperson for the state’s department of health responded to a Square Beacon question about the possibility of separate tracking of the new strain by saying, “We do not intend to track it differently on the dashboard.” That’s because “It is normal for viruses to mutate, but the disease the virus caused – COVID-19 – is unchanged,” according to the spokesperson.]
Plotting out data is not everyone’s cup of tea. I once worked in a newsroom where the page designer dismissed a bar chart I’d built to support a piece I’d written: “If you’ve seen one bar chart, you’ve seen ‘em all.”
Even if you don’t have the inclination or skills to analyze the datasets in B Clear, it’s still worth rummaging around to see what’s there. If you don’t care to analyze the data, just scroll through the records.
Indiana’s state department of health announced mid-week that people 80 years and older are now eligible to register for an appointment to receive the vaccine. That was the main newsy bit at Friday’s press conference of local leaders about response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Up to now, just frontline healthcare workers have been able to get the vaccine.
As the first of the vaccine doses start to get distributed in Monroe County, the number of confirmed cases for the first week of the year has seen a recent upward trend. After trending downward for the last four weeks of the year, from a rolling 7-day average of around 100 cases to the mid-40s, the rolling average is now back up to around 75.
The adding up of raw case numbers was highlighted by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, at Friday’s health conference. Hamilton ticked through the stats for the number of city employees who have received a positive COVID-19 test.
Jan. 11 is still the date when Bloomington is planning to clear an encampment from the area around Seminary Park at 2nd Street and College Avenue, city officials say.
Estimates of the number of people who are staying there, reporting that they have no other place to go, vary from a dozen and a half up to more than 50, with additional numbers socializing there during the day.
Early the week of Jan. 4, city staff planted signs on stakes in the area, giving notice of the clearance date. It is described on the signs as “on or about” Jan. 11. Some of the signs were immediately pushed over by park campers.
The signs include the text: “It is our hope that everyone currently in the Seminary Park area will find safe shelter/housing alternatives by January 11 by taking advantage of the opportunities available through the agencies that serve those experiencing homelessness.”
The suggested contact points listed out on the signs include: Beacon/Shalom Center, Friend’s Place, Wheeler Mission, New Hope Family Shelter, Amethyst House, Perry Township trustee’s office, and Middle Way House.
Thursday’s board meeting included a report on a survey of people who worked the polls for the 2020 elections. The survey showed mostly positive results.
The elections also heard a review during public commentary from a voter’s perspective, given by longtime poll workers Marge and Jim Faber.
Marge Faber told the board, “As a voter, I want to tell you, that was the most fantastic voting experience I’ve ever had.” She added, “And given my age, that means over 60 years worth of voting, because I’ve never missed an election.”
After suggesting some additional signage for the Arlington Elementary School location, Faber wrapped up, saying, “Otherwise, it was fantastic. I should have written you a note earlier, and I forgot.” Thursday’s board meeting marked Faber’s 88th birthday.
At Thursday’s meeting, the chairship of the three-member board transitioned from one party’s appointee to the other, in a longstanding mutually-agreed tradition. Republican Party appointee Hal Turner, who chaired the board in 2020, passed the virtual gavel to Democratic Party appointee Carolyn VandeWiele. The third member of the board is the Monroe County clerk, who is currently Nicole Browne.
In his introductory remarks, Turner commented on the previous day’s events in Washington D.C. when pro-Trump rioters had stormed the Capitol.
“Yesterday, we saw not just an illegal act by 52 people who invaded the Capitol building, but also a gross insult to our democracy and the republic that makes our form of democracy possible,” Turner said.