Now added to the agenda of next Tuesday’s meeting of Bloomington’s city council is an ordinance that’s designed to provide some additional administrative powers to the city’s mayor, John Hamilton.
The additional powers are meant to provide some flexibility for the city’s executive to act swiftly in response to emergent issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As currently drafted, the ordinance includes a mix of permanent and relatively temporary measures. One part of the ordinance would amend the city code on human resources policies. That part would be permanent—it would be made a part of local law. But the wording of the new policies in the code means they’re triggered only if a national or state disaster emergency is declared.
Two other parts of the proposed ordinance appear to be worded so that they apply only as long as Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s current statewide disaster emergency order is in effect. That order has been extended through May 5.
A cone set out in front of Function Brewing on 6th Street in downtown Bloomington reserves a spot for beer pickup during the COVID-19 shutdown. April 3, 2020. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)
The marquee of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Kirkwood Avenue in downtown Bloomington on April 3, 2020. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)
For the last week or so, the marquee of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater on Kirkwood Avenue in downtown Bloomington has featured a quote from Mr. Rogers—some advice to young children about looking for the helpers.
Vote by mail (no-excuse absentee voting) has already been approved as an option for the June 2 primary election in Indiana. On April 22, the state’s election commission will meet and possibly consider a mail-only election.
The view through the east window of Election Central at 7th and Madison streets on Friday morning. Deputy clerk Tressia Martin (left) and election supervisor Karen Wheeler conduct the logic and accuracy test of the new Hart Intercivic voting equipment.
It’s possible that Indiana’s state election commission will make a decision at its April 22 meeting to eliminate in-person voting from this year’s primary election, now scheduled for June 2.
As they wait out the roughly three weeks until a possible state-level decision, Monroe County election officials are hoping that most voters will eventually take advantage of the vote-by-mail option, which already been made available to all voters for this year’s primary.
In a press release issued Friday morning, the city of Bloomington has announced that a second city employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The confirmed positive case announced on Friday was for a parks and recreation department employee.
According to the press release, the parks and recreation worker was placed on leave Monday, March 30, and tested for COVID-19, because they were showing symptoms consistent with the virus. The positive result of the test was returned yesterday (Thursday, April 2), according to the release.
According to the press release, the city is now tracing the parks and recreation employee’s contacts and following Centers for Disease Control guidelines
This is the second positive COVID-19 test for a city of Bloomington employee. The first, for a firefighter, was reported last Saturday.
About six weeks ago, on Feb. 20, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, gave his annual “state of the city” address. The mayor’s basic theme was “everyone counts”—a riff on the decennial census that’s taking place this year.
Before the speech, in the lobby of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, where Hamilton delivered his remarks, Beverly Calender-Anderson was passing out literature about the census. She was encouraging people to make sure they get themselves counted. Calender-Anderson is director of Bloomington’s community and family resources department.
As the proceedings were called to order at the Buskirk-Chumley, city council president Steve Volan took some time at the podium to add a piece of “flair” to his lapel—a button promoting participation in the census.
In his brief remarks on the census, Volan focused on the importance of getting students counted correctly: “Students are to be counted, as the census says, where they ‘usually reside’. So it’s important that everyone who is in Bloomington be counted here.”
Details of the drive-through-only approach were revealed in a press release issued late Wednesday this week. Orders for this coming Saturday, April 4, the scheduled opening day of the summer market, have to be placed by the end of the day on April 2.
Also in future weeks, the market will operate on a Thursday ordering deadline for Saturday pickups.
At its meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council took the next procedural step towards getting $2 million worth of already-collected food and beverage tax revenue, into the hands of the private sector.
The goal is to provide bridge funding for local employers and employees who have been impacted by the COVID-19 viral epidemic.
The bridge is supposed to span the time it will take for more robust federal aid to land in local hands.
Based on the timeline sketched out on Wednesday by city controller Jeff Underwood, the money could be ready for distribution as soon as the end of next week, April 10.
The steps involved would include a city council approval of the appropriation at its second reading at a Tuesday, April 7 meeting.
The appropriation would then need a final sign-off by the Indiana Department Local Government Finance, which Underwood hopes to get by April 10. At that point, the money would be available, Underwood said at Wednesday’s meeting.
Most people’s resources are stretched thin right now, due to pandemic-related issues. And it’s fair for many people to think about conserving their resources, instead of investing in local news reporting.
It should be an easy choice between a contribution to an independent local news operation like The Square Beacon and a donation to the myriad nonprofits and bricks-and-mortar businesses that have been devastated by COVID-19.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Bloomington area local businesses can now seen on charts and graphs.
The pandemic has spiked the county’s initial unemployment claims to four times the number seen during the highest week of the 2008–2009 economic downturn. Even higher numbers could be recorded next week. Unemployment numbers are released on Tuesdays.
In addition to fresh unemployment figures, this Tuesday brought a first detailed look at Bloomington’s effort to use $2 million of food and beverage tax money, as well as other funds, to provide economic relief to businesses and workers .
In a press release issued Tuesday morning, the United Way of Monroe County announced the distribution of nearly $300,000 in grants to area non-profits to help them as they respond to the local impact on critical human services needs from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also included in Tuesday’s press release is the announcement by the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County of more than $30,000 in “rapid response” grants to nonprofits, to help with supplies, equipment, remote-work technology and staffing.
A third announcement in Tuesday’s press release comes from the Bloomington Health Foundation (BHF), which contributed $25,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, coordinated by the United Way. BHF also matched $25,000 worth of individual contributions to that fund.