City clerk’s complaint prompts investigation, decision by city council to make public a summary: No evidence of racial animus by council staffer

In early August, Bloomington’s city clerk, Nicole Bolden, filed a complaint about the city council’s attorney/administrator, Dan Sherman, alleging that he was “disrespectful and rude” in his questioning of her about the posting of required legal notices for a meeting of the council’s rules committee. Bolden, who is black, further alleged that Sherman’s behavior, who is white, may have been motivated by personal animus related to her race or some other reason.

On Wednesday night, in a vote that was split 6–1–1, Bloomington’s city council decided to accept a statement of its executive committee and approve a motion to release publicly the summary of an investigation into Bolden’s allegations. The investigation did not find evidence to support Bolden’s allegations.

Some councilmembers who voted for the motion said they did so to clear Sherman’s name.

Chris Sturbaum was absent. Allison Chopra voted against the motion. Steve Volan, one of the executive committee members, abstained from the vote. Continue reading “City clerk’s complaint prompts investigation, decision by city council to make public a summary: No evidence of racial animus by council staffer”

County, city disagreement defused with oral agreement to pursue CIB for convention center expansion, down to working out details

Two days short of the second anniversary of the Monroe County council’s vote to enact a 1-percent food and beverage tax, city of Bloomington and county officials have agreed on the basics of the governance structure for a $59-million convention center expansion.

By law, the tax has to be spent on the expansion of the current convention center facility or related economic development projects.  The current facility is located on the southwest the corner of College Avenue and 3rd Street.

The oral agreement, in principle to pursue a capital improvement board (CIB), was reached at Wednesday morning’s regular work session of the county commissioners. The session was attended by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, a handful of city councilmembers and other city staff. Continue reading “County, city disagreement defused with oral agreement to pursue CIB for convention center expansion, down to working out details”

Monroe County’s council loads legislative gun, holds it to food-and-beverage tax’s head as prelude to Wednesday’s convention center negotiations

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Monroe County’s council on Dec. 10, 2019. From left: Cheryl Munson, Peter Iversen, Trent Deckard, Eric Spoonmore, Kate Wiltz, Geoff McKim, and Marty Hawk. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

[Update at 1:18 p.m. Dec. 11, 2019: This piece has been updated at the end to include action from Wednesday morning]

At their Tuesday night meeting, Monroe County councilors helped set the stage for Wednesday morning’s negotiations between county commissioners and Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, about the governance of the convention center expansion project.

Will it be a statutorily-enabled capital improvement board (CIB) or a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that decides the site plan, acts as the architect’s client, and eventually owns the facility?

The county council’s stage-setting work included approval of a resolution that expresses the council’s support for the CIB option, with a 3-3-1 split of appointments between the city and the county on the seven-member board. The county and city would get three appointment apiece, with the seventh member appointed by the first six.

But on Tuesday, the county council also set in motion what had previously been more or less an implicit threat: If the county commissioners cannot agree on a governance model and put it in place to implement the $59 million project, the county council will exercise its power to sunset the food and beverage tax. The county council enacted the tax two years ago on a 4–3 vote.

Two alternatives were given a first reading on Tuesday to sunset the tax. No votes were taken. [Ordinance A] [Ordinance B] Continue reading “Monroe County’s council loads legislative gun, holds it to food-and-beverage tax’s head as prelude to Wednesday’s convention center negotiations”

4th Street parking garage may be off plan commission agenda for 3 months

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The JuanSells.com building at 222 S. Walnut next to the empty lot where the 4th Street parking garage stood, as it appeared on Dec. 2, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Every month starting in August, Bloomington’s plan commission followed a pattern. The commission continued to the following month’s meeting one of its agenda items—the city’s proposed site plan for a replacement garage at Fourth and Walnut streets.

Demolition of the old structure, with its 352 parking spaces, started in September and is now complete.

Sometimes the continuances were done administratively. But in November, commissioners took a unanimous vote on the continuance.

On Monday, at December’s regular meeting, the pattern was interrupted. The city withdrew the petition. Continue reading “4th Street parking garage may be off plan commission agenda for 3 months”

Ruff runs for 9th District Congressional seat, wraps up 20 years on Bloomington city council

In a press release sent Monday morning, Bloomington city councilmember Andy Ruff, a Democrat, announced he’s running for the 9th District U.S. Representative seat currently held by Republican Trey Hollingsworth. Continue reading “Ruff runs for 9th District Congressional seat, wraps up 20 years on Bloomington city council”

Convention center expansion deal between Bloomington and Monroe County looks possible by year’s end

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City councilmember Steve Volan (center), is flanked by deputy mayor Mick Renneisen and county commissioner Julie Thomas at Friday’s meeting about the convention center expansion. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Last Friday, city and county officials met for two hours about the convention center expansion. It was the latest in of a flurry of recent efforts to bridge longstanding disagreements on governance of the project. What entity will have control, direction and eventual ownership of the project—a capital improvement board or a 501(c)(3) non-profit? Continue reading “Convention center expansion deal between Bloomington and Monroe County looks possible by year’s end”

Decision on Bloomington farmers market future to be made in January: “The First Amendment has not changed since July.”

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City council chambers were packed on Saturday afternoon for a panel discussion on the future of Bloomington’s farmers market. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

A decision about if and how Bloomington’s farmers market will operate next year won’t come until Jan. 9. That announcement was made by Mary Catherine Carmichael, director of public engagement for the city of Bloomington, to a crowd that packed city council chambers on Saturday afternoon. Continue reading “Decision on Bloomington farmers market future to be made in January: “The First Amendment has not changed since July.””

UDO Update: Last proposed amendments to updated zoning include increased height for R4, timeline for payment-in-lieu procedures

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Illustration of building forms for the new R4 (residential urban) zoning district in the update of Bloomington’s unified development ordinance.

This Tuesday’s special session of Bloomington’s city council could wrap up the last of 69 numbered amendments to be considered to the update of the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO).

The council started considering UDO amendments in mid-November, during special sessions dedicated just to such amendments. Continue reading “UDO Update: Last proposed amendments to updated zoning include increased height for R4, timeline for payment-in-lieu procedures”

Opinion: Convention center expansion should be designed from ground up as Net Zero facility

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“Climate Action Now” banner hung at city hall on Dec. 6, 2019. A meeting between county and city officials about the convention center expansion was taking place at the same time at the climate strike sit-in. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council is set to approve an appropriation ordinance for around $6 million of food and beverage tax money. It’s for an architect to design the expansion of the convention center at College Avenue and 3rd Street. Continue reading “Opinion: Convention center expansion should be designed from ground up as Net Zero facility”

Photos: Climate Strike Bloomington Dec. 6, 2019

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On Friday, Dec. 6, 2019, a coalition of several groups staged a sit-in at Bloomington’s city hall. The Beacon captured some of the activity there, before heading over the county courthouse to cover a city-county meeting about the convention center expansion.

In this audio clip, the city hall foyer reverberates with voices of climate strikers singing “Little Bird”: [mp3 file of Little Bird]