Factual corrections to statements about fire protection tax allocations sought by Monroe County councilors

Last week, a committee of the Monroe County tax council voted against a recommendation to allocate $353,700 of public safety local income tax (PS-LIT) money to support requests made by four rural fire departments in the county.

The news was not embraced by the Monroe County council at their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday. The review of applications for funding had been delegated to the county council, and it was the county council’s recommendations that the PS-LIT committee rejected.

County council president Eric Spoonmore called the tax council’s committee vote “incredibly unfortunate, frustrating, disappointing.” Spoonmore added, “I thought the recommendations that were made were thoughtful…and that the proposals that were put forth by the rural fire departments were very much necessary.”

Councilor Geoff McKim said there were some “materially incorrect” statements made during the committee meeting that need to be corrected on the record, before a final vote is taken.

McKim and Cheryl Munson represented the county council on the committee, casting the only two votes in favor of direct allocations to rural fire departments. Continue reading “Factual corrections to statements about fire protection tax allocations sought by Monroe County councilors”

Analysis: Parallels between Republicans in General Assembly, Democrats on Bloomington city council

cropped juxtaposed city hall state captial MG_2411In 2017, Bloomington filed suit against Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, over an annexation law that was enacted by the state legislature as a part of that year’s biennial budget bill.

Indiana’s Supreme Court is still weighing the arguments in the case, which were presented in January this year.

As Monroe County residents inside and outside Bloomington continue to wait for the state’s highest court to rule, it’s worth remembering the reasons why Bloomington filed its lawsuit.

When those reasons are recalled, in the context of a potential new local law in front of Bloomington’s city council, it’s hard to miss the parallels—between the approach taken by Republican-dominated legislature of 2017 and today’s Bloomington city council, which is composed entirely of Democrats.

In Bloomington’s view, when the annexation law was incorporated into the biennial budget bill, that caused the legislation to be unconstitutional—because it was not confined to a single subject, as required by the state’s constitution.

The annexation law was also unconstitutional special legislation, according to Bloomington, because it applied to Bloomington, and only Bloomington.

On the local level, a remarkable parallel to the 2017 annexation legislation could unfold in connection with an ordinance that Bloomington city councilmembers might enact this Wednesday.

It involves a proposal to change the way neighborhood permit parking zones work. Continue reading “Analysis: Parallels between Republicans in General Assembly, Democrats on Bloomington city council”

Script almost ready to run for Bloomington city council’s OK of $2 million COVID-19 recovery

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A $2.4 million package of recovery programs, first pitched to the city council by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton at a July 10 work session, is now on course for approval at this Wednesday’s city council meeting.

The money is already in city coffers, Hamilton said last Wednesday afternoon.

So as soon as the appropriation is approved, the money can start paying for the programs it is meant to support. That includes a coding school to be hosted by The Mill, to train underemployed people to program computers.

Hamilton’s comments last Wednesday came during a video conference on the proposed funding package. Continue reading “Script almost ready to run for Bloomington city council’s OK of $2 million COVID-19 recovery”

Monroe County election board prepping for in-person polling numbers based on regular rules for absentee voters

The reduced number of polling sites that Monroe County used for the June 2 primary is not a part of current planning for November voting. That’s the latest word from the county election board’s meeting last Thursday.

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For the general election, the county election board is looking to use all its regular sites and maybe more, not just the seven it selected for the primary from the 34 that it typically uses.

That’s because it was only for the primary election that no-excuse absentee voting was approved by the state’s election commission this spring—during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A larger number of absentee voters means fewer people at the polls on election day.

No-excuse absentee voting is unlikely to be enacted for this year’s general election, based on Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s remarks at his press conference last Wednesday.

Holcomb is not inclined to allow mail-in balloting, except for the limited exceptions that are already listed out in the state’s election law. Continue reading “Monroe County election board prepping for in-person polling numbers based on regular rules for absentee voters”

Parklets add to outside dining options in downtown Bloomington

 

At least through Sept. 30, patrons of some restaurants in downtown Bloomington will be able to feed themselves at tables set up the street, in spaces where drivers normally feed a meter to park their cars.

Called “parklets,” they’re one of a few different approaches the city is taking to help restaurants recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s current 4.5 order leaves in place a restriction on restaurants preventing them from operating at any greater than 75-percent capacity.

The parklets launched this week with a couple of blocked-off areas on the west side of College Avenue on the courthouse square. The concept won approval from the Bloomington board of public works at its Aug. 4 meeting. Continue reading “Parklets add to outside dining options in downtown Bloomington”

Democrats challenge Green Party write-in candidate for judge based on loss in primary

 

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From left: Jennifer Crossley, chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party; Al Manns, currently a write-in Green Party candidate for the Division 1 circuit court race; Randy Paul, co-chair of the Monroe County Greens.

For the Monroe County Division 1 circuit court race, it’s certain that the November ballot will show two names: Republican Carl Lamb and Democrat Geoff Bradley.

What’s not yet certain is whether a blank will have to appear on the ballot where a voter could write a different name: Al Manns.

On July 6, Manns filed the paperwork required for write-in candidates and indicated an affiliation with the Green Party. He now appears on the Secretary of State’s official list of candidates.

But on Friday morning in Indianapolis at the state election division, Monroe County Democratic Party chair Jennifer Crossley hand-delivered a challenge to the write-in candidacy that Manns wants to mount. Continue reading “Democrats challenge Green Party write-in candidate for judge based on loss in primary”

Monroe County sheriff’s deputies to get regular training updates with Lexipol policy management program

Sometime before December, the 44 sworn officers under the Monroe County sheriff will start taking monthly training on policies they’re supposed to follow.

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Monroe County Sheriff’s Office on 7th Street, looking north. Image links to Google Street View from which it is taken.

They’ll also get regular testing on the policies, according to Monroe County sheriff Brad Swain.

On Wednesday morning, county sheriff Brad Swain described the training and policy management program to county commissioners this way: “It will be as much a part of their work week as making sure their car is safe and all their equipment is good.”

The range of policies to be reviewed on a routine basis include those from 21st Century Policing  and #8CANTWAIT, Swain told commissioners.

The #8CANTWAIT policies require that law enforcement agencies: ban chokeholds; require de-escalation; require warning before shooting; require exhaustion of all alternatives before shooting; impose a duty to intervene; ban shooting at moving vehicles; require use of force continuum; require comprehensive reporting.

At their regular Wednesday meeting, the three county commissioners gave their unanimous support for the one-time “implementation fee” of $9,425 for the Lexipol system, that will, according to Swain, put the policies “all at their fingertips, their phone apps, as well as their within their car.” Continue reading “Monroe County sheriff’s deputies to get regular training updates with Lexipol policy management program”

On split vote, public safety income tax committee recommends: No “off-the-top” allocations this year for rural fire departments

A committee of the Monroe County tax council voted Tuesday morning against a recommendation to allocate $353,700 of public safety income tax money to support requests made by four rural fire departments in the county.

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Screenshot of the Aug. 4 meeting of the PS-LIT committee of the local income tax council of Monroe County. It was conducted on the Zoom video conferencing platform.

The potential direct allocation of funds to the fire departments would have made up about 4.5 percent of the $7.8 million that the committee was using as a conservative estimate for the total amount it could allocate for 2021.

The distribution of local income tax revenues for 2021 is based on 2019 income tax filings, which have been delayed because of relaxed deadlines due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vote on the seven-member PS-LIT (public safety local income tax) committee was 2–5 for the direct allocation of the funds to the Monroe County Fire Protection District, and fire departments serving Richland, Bean Blossom, and Benton townships.

The tally flipped to 5–2 for the committee’s vote on its recommended allocations for 2021 public safety income tax revenue.

The dispatch center—which is a public safety answering point (PSAP)—is recommended to receive its requested budget of $2,247,490.

The remaining amount is recommended to be divided, through a property-tax-footprint-based formula, among Bloomington, Monroe County, Ellettsville and Stinesville. In round numbers, that works out to about $2.8 million for Bloomington, $2.5 million for Monroe County government, $165,000 for Ellettsville and $1,100 for Stinesville. Continue reading “On split vote, public safety income tax committee recommends: No “off-the-top” allocations this year for rural fire departments”

Bloomington RDC OKs payment of property taxes connected to real estate deal for convention center expansion

On Monday night, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) approved the payment of some property taxes, on land it does not (yet) own.

The uncommon circumstance arose from the fact that when the RDC purchased the Bunger & Robertson property on College Avenue last year for $4,995,000, the deal did not include two parcels making up the north part of the parking lot that serves the building.

That portion of the parking lot has different owners. Based on a count using aerial images from the Monroe County GIS database, the two parcels include around 45 parking spaces.

The RDC is still looking to buy the parking lot parcels, so they can be used for the Monroe County convention center expansion project. That’s why the RDC bought the Bunger & Roberston real estate.

The convention center expansion is currently paused due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For now, the RDC is leasing the two parking lot parcels from the owners. The deal approved by the RDC in May includes a contractual agreement that the RDC pay $3,500 a month, for an annual total of $42,000.

But the contract also includes a requirement that the RDC pay the property taxes on the parcels.

It was payment of the property taxes that the RDC approved at its regular Monday night meeting. Continue reading “Bloomington RDC OKs payment of property taxes connected to real estate deal for convention center expansion”