Photos: Hawk eats dove

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On Friday afternoon, The Beacon left the climate strike at city hall early to walk over to the county courthouse for the meeting between county and city officials about the convention center expansion. It’s been a contentious issue.

Along the way, a Cooper’s hawk was spotted with a rock dove in tow.

The meeting among the city and county officials was way more in the spirt of a true and equal partnership than the encounter between the hawk and the dove. More on that later. For now, here’s what wildlife looks like in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.
Continue reading “Photos: Hawk eats dove”

Monroe county election board looks ahead to 2020 after imposing one fine, waiving two others, finding no violation of electioneering law

Members of Monroe County’s election board met Thursday afternoon to review some logistical issues related to elections in 2020 and to wrap up some loose ends from this year’s municipal elections in Bloomington. Continue reading “Monroe county election board looks ahead to 2020 after imposing one fine, waiving two others, finding no violation of electioneering law”

UDO Update: Height limit for residential single-family stays 40 feet, multi-family use still permitted in multi-family zones, parking maxes same

Bloomington’s city council dispatched with 20 more amendments to the updated unified development ordinance (UDO) on Tuesday night. That brought the total to almost 60 since the council started convening some sessions in mid-November dedicated only to UDO amendments. Continue reading “UDO Update: Height limit for residential single-family stays 40 feet, multi-family use still permitted in multi-family zones, parking maxes same”

Union head on police contract OK’d by city council: “I would be remiss if I told you the members were happy about it.”

Bloomington police officers now have a contract with the city for the next three years, through the end of 2020. The four-year deal, approved by the city council on Wednesday night, stretches back to the beginning of 2019, when the current contract expired.

Officers have been working this year under an “evergreen” clause of the old contract.

The 2-percent raise for this year was not applied retroactively, though it feeds into the schedule of raises each year for the next three years, which range from 2.65 to 2.9 percent.

Instead of applying the raise retroactively, which according to city staff would have been administratively too complex, officers received a $1,000 bonus. The bonus is about $60 less than 2 percent of the base salary for an officer, which was $52,916 in 2018.

Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Don Owens Memorial Lodge 88, told the city council that the main point of contention—about which the union members were not happy—was a move away from seniority as the sole factor in determining shift assignments.

The council approved the contract and the salary ordinance as separate items. The votes were unanimous. Continue reading “Union head on police contract OK’d by city council: “I would be remiss if I told you the members were happy about it.””

Monroe County commissioners want convention center deal done sooner than end of year, Bloomington city council OKs revised food and beverage tax request

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Monroe County commissioners at their Dec. 4, 2019 meeting. From left: Lee Jones, Julie Thomas, Penny Githens. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Some increased pressure on Monroe County’s board of commissioners and Bloomington’s mayor generated some activity on Wednesday, if not progress, on the question of the stalled convention center expansion project.

In a week, it likely will be easier to tell how much of the activity counts as progress.

Late last week, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, and county elected officials started an extra push for a speedier resolution to the disagreements between the city and the county that have stalled the project since late May.

Part of Hamilton’s push included relenting on the question of equal representation for governance of the expansion project. Hamilton committed in writing to equal appointments by the city and county.

Hamilton’s effort can be analyzed as at least two-pronged.

Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners want convention center deal done sooner than end of year, Bloomington city council OKs revised food and beverage tax request”

Vote postponed on Bloomington request for food and beverage tax money, opens week-long window for possible progress on convention center expansion

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Monroe County attorney Margie Rice (left) reads aloud from some city council meeting minutes as Bloomington’s corporation counsel Philippa Guthrie looks on at the Tuesday afternoon meeting of the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FBTAC).

[Note: The timeline at the end of this piece has been updated to include links to documents released at the Wednesday, Dec. 4 meeting of the Monroe County board of commissioners.]

On Tuesday afternoon, the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FBTAC) voted to postpone for a week Bloomington’s request for an additional $2.35 million of tax money to go with the $4 million that FBTAC approved in January of this year.

Food and beverage tax money, collected since early 2018, is required to be spent on an expanded convention center and related tourism.

Between now and the next meeting of the FBTAC on Dec. 10, it looks like county and city elected officials will either clear a path forward for the convention center expansion project or likely face at least the possibility that it won’t be built in the foreseeable future. Continue reading “Vote postponed on Bloomington request for food and beverage tax money, opens week-long window for possible progress on convention center expansion”

Opinion: Hey, Bloomington city council, got time for better bus routes?

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On Monday morning, two Bloomington Transit buses head out from the downtown transit center north on Walnut Street. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

In January 2020, the next edition of Bloomington’s common council will take office.

The first law passed by the new nine-member local legislature should be called the “Last Call Public Transit Time Ordinance.”

The new law would require that city council meetings end before the last public bus of the day leaves the general area of downtown and city hall, where city council meetings are held.

It would help ensure that people who rely on public transportation can attend city council meetings and stay until the end. It would also encourage councilmembers maintain some basic knowledge about Bloomington Transit bus schedules.

But here’s the most important consequence of the law: For councilmembers who think longer meetings are essential to doing the People’s business, the law creates an incentive to find the money to run buses later.

That’s important, given a proposed new route configuration from Bloomington Transit that would reduce evening service on half of its routes, even while maintaining the same total number of service hours.

BT has conducted a month’s worth of public sessions to introduce the new proposal. The final meeting is Tuesday, Dec. 3 from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Downtown Transit Center. The BT board isn’t expected to make a decision until early next year. [Take the BT survey on the new route proposal here: Survey Link] Continue reading “Opinion: Hey, Bloomington city council, got time for better bus routes?”

New four-year Bloomington police contract could get one-step approval by city council next week

Negotiations between Bloomington and its police union, which have lasted the better part of two years, concluded in mid-November with ratification by the union of a new four-year contract.

The contract runs through 2022. The agreement and its corresponding salary ordinance appear on the city council’s meeting agenda next week for Wednesday, Dec. 4. The new agreement includes raises each year between 2 and 2.9 percent. Continue reading “New four-year Bloomington police contract could get one-step approval by city council next week”