Hey, Wait a Minute | YouTube says Bloomington councilmember Allison Chopra is right: Four hours is way too long for a city council meeting

Note: “Hey, Wait a Minute” is an occasional B Square Beacon series that highlights meeting minutes and other documentation of local government meetings in the Bloomington, Indiana area.

Cropped for Beacon youtube interface Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 1.42.31 PM

Bloomington’s city council meetings are now available on YouTube. That’s a good thing.

But I want more.

I think every local government body in Bloomington should take steps to have the video of their meetings posted on YouTube.

Why?

It’s not because YouTube offers a gadget for making a hyperlink that starts a video at a specific spot. CATS offers a gadget, too. And the syntax is the same—just add &t=N at the end of the URL, where N is the number of seconds from the start of the video.

Meeting videos should be uploaded to YouTube, because YouTube offers an automatic transcription service. YouTube’s automatic service offers two giant benefits: (1) a transcript that can be copy-pasted from YouTube to the text-processing software of your choice; (2) closed captions superimposed on the video itself. Continue reading “Hey, Wait a Minute | YouTube says Bloomington councilmember Allison Chopra is right: Four hours is way too long for a city council meeting”

Up to 44 more parking spaces now possible on Dunn Street

Residents won’t see the changes immediately, but Bloomington’s city council voted unanimously Wednesday night to approve an ordinance revision to allow for more parking on Dunn Street.

Cropped 08.13.2019 dunn street - 1
Dunn Street at 10th looking south. Aug. 12, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The ordinance change allows the street to be reduced  to one travel lane.

The legislation approved by the council on Wednesday also revised a neighborhood permit parking zone boundary for residents who live on 17th Street.

The south side of 17th Street was added to the newly established neighborhood parking permit Zone 6, in the Garden Hill neighborhood, west of the Indiana University football stadium. Continue reading “Up to 44 more parking spaces now possible on Dunn Street”

Consequence of farmers market closure: Extra $50 permit from county health department for alternate locations

Vendors who moved to a different location during the recent two-week suspension of Bloomington’s farmers market had to get a $50 temporary permit from the county health department.

Cropped 08.03.2019 chilis IMG_0417
Susan Welsand, the Chile Woman, was exuberant on Saturday Aug. 3, 2019 at the alternate location for farmers market vendors behind the east-side Bloomingfoods in the former Kmart parking lot.  (Dave Askins/Beacon)

That was the news from Penny Caudill, the county’s health administrator, as delivered to Monroe County commissioners at their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

Permits from the health department for vending at a farmers market are issued to individual vendors not the market as a general site, Caudill told The Beacon.

Caudill said her department had reviewed whether it would be possible to waive the fee for the temporary event permits, which her department issued to the displaced vendors. It wasn’t possible, she said. Continue reading “Consequence of farmers market closure: Extra $50 permit from county health department for alternate locations”

City Council preview Aug. 14, 2019: One travel lane for Dunn Street mulled, based on traffic study

After postponing the question at its Aug. 7 meeting, Bloomington’s city council will take up the issue on Wednesday (Aug. 14) of adding parking to Dunn Street, between 6th and 10th Streets. The proposal is to reduce the two-lane, one-way street to a single travel lane.

Cropped 08.13.2019 dunn street - 1
Dunn Street at 10th looking south. Aug. 12, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The Dunn Street parking proposal is part of some legislation that also revises a neighborhood permit parking zone boundary for residents who live on 17th Street. What’s proposed is to add the south side of 17th Street to the newly established neighborhood parking permit Zone 6, in the Garden Hill neighborhood, west of the Indiana University football stadium.

The legislation revising the parking ordinance is a second reading, so action by the council would be the final vote.

The council’s Wednesday agenda also features a first-reading item—an appropriation ordinance to supplement Bloomington Transit’s 2019 budget. The local public transit agency recently received federal grant awards that will allow it to purchase $1,128,000 worth of new buses—one battery-electric bus for fixed route service and two buses for para-transit service. The grants cover $902,401 of the cost.

Next week on Tuesday, the council will hear Bloomington Transit’s 2020 budget proposal, as part of a four-day Monday-through-Thursday series of presentations from all city departments about their proposed budgets for the next year.

In 2020, Bloomington Transit will be budgeting for an additional four battery-electric buses at a cost of $1 million apiece—contingent on winning the kind of grants that are funding 80 percent of the cost of the electric bus in Wednesday’s appropriation ordinance.

Continue reading “City Council preview Aug. 14, 2019: One travel lane for Dunn Street mulled, based on traffic study”

City of Bloomington: Farmers market to reopen at usual time, place this Saturday

After announcing on July 29 that Bloomington’s farmers market would be suspended for the following two Saturdays, Mayor John Hamilton issued a press release on Tuesday Aug. 13 that announced the resumption of the farmers market.

Cropped 08.13.2019 farmers market - 1 (2)
The view northwest towards the City of Bloomington’s farmers market venue from the Morton Street parking garage. In the foreground is part of the 2013 sculpture “Illuminated Fruit” by  Andrew Huddleston and Amy Brier (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The farmers market will re-open on Saturday, August 17 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Showers Common, the usual time and place.

The general background for the temporary market closure was described this way in the City’s initial press release: “Since the recent public discussion of ties between a vendor at the market and white nationalist causes and groups, the City has identified increasing threats to public safety.”

The press release also hinted at more concrete reasons: “…[I]nformation gathered identifying threats of specific individuals with connections to past white nationalist violence, present the potential for future clashes.”

Tuesday’s release describes several measures meant to improve security and make people feel safe:

  • Cameras to monitor the site
  • Two public streets will be closed to traffic during market hours. The idea is  to create a larger “comfort zone” for the market crowd. (Morton Street from 7th Street to just south of the Smallwood garage entrance, and 7th Street between Morton and the B-Line Trail; 8th Street will be closed west of the market to the entrance of the Cook Medical Center).
  • Police presence will be increased.
  • New “market ambassadors” will welcome market visitors.
  • New signage will indicate areas designated for flyering and publicize the market’s rules.

The press release says people who want to become “market ambassadors” should contact the city. Continue reading “City of Bloomington: Farmers market to reopen at usual time, place this Saturday”

$900K worth of awards for Bloomington Transit buses to get first reading in front of city council

A total of $902,401 in competitive federal grants recently won by Bloomington Transit (BT) will allow the local public transit agency to buy three new buses—two for its BT Access para-transit service and one for the fixed-route service.

Cropped 08.12.2019 bus and dunn - 2
A Bloomington Transit bus (diesel) navigates its way south under the railroad bridge at 10th Street.

All the buses are replacement vehicles, part of a regular program to keep the fleet up to date.

The new fixed-route bus will be a battery-electric vehicle, one of two that Bloomington Transit is now planning to order. The first battery-electric bus was already in the 2019 budget.

The electric buses are expected to arrive in late 2020 or early 2021.

A press release issued by the city about the federal grant awards touted the benefits of electric buses. They include: cost-effectiveness; zero direct carbon emissions; reduction in dependency on fossil fuels; and quietness of operation.

On Wednesday (Aug. 14, 2019) the city council is scheduled to get a first reading of the necessary appropriations ordinance. That ordinance totals $1,128,000 because of the 20-percent local share that BT will need to contribute towards the cost of the buses. Continue reading “$900K worth of awards for Bloomington Transit buses to get first reading in front of city council”

Bloomington farmers market numbers dramatically down, Tuesday announcement on re-opening

Anecdotal reports of attendance being down this year at Bloomington’s farmers market were confirmed with some numbers  on Monday during a Facebook livestream event hosted by the mayor’s office.

Parks and recreation department administrator Paula McDevitt said there’d been 19,000 market visitors this July compared with 40,000 last year.

R Bar Annotated Farmers Market Participations

That’s consistent with the total figures to date reviewed by The Beacon.

The FB live-stream came during the two-week hiatus for the market, declared by Mayor John Hamilton due to public safety concerns.

During Monday’s FB live-stream, Hamilton said he would announce on Tuesday how the market would re-open. By Monday afternoon, the city had not confirmed that the market will be open as usual on Aug. 17. Continue reading “Bloomington farmers market numbers dramatically down, Tuesday announcement on re-opening”

City Council’s rules committee makes council personnel a top priority

At the first substantive meeting of the Bloomington city council’s rules committee on Friday, a few priorities were identified for future work.

City_Council-20190807-Packet (2)
The notice that was posted for the meeting of the council’s rules committee on Friday, Aug. 5, 2019. A week earlier, an attempted meeting of the committee was abandoned when questions arose over adequate notice under Indiana’s Open Door law. 

The four top priorities are: the council’s personnel; meeting procedures, including time limits; a council policy manual; and a clean-up of city code on boards and commissions.

Those items were identified by the four-member committee, which now consists of Steve Volan, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Jim Sims and Dorothy Granger. Granger is the council’s vice president. She was added to the committee by the council’s president, Dave Rollo, in the week since the rules committee’s first attempted meeting.

Personnel was elevated to top priority for the committee’s next meeting, because council administrator/attorney Dan Sherman is hiring a deputy administrator/attorney to fill a recent vacancy. And Sherman is planning to retire sometime in the next several months.

Councilmembers at Friday’s committee meeting were keen to have some input on the hire of Sherman’s deputy. They also said they wanted Sherman to be the one who makes the decision. Continue reading “City Council’s rules committee makes council personnel a top priority”

Consolidation of fire protection now on the horizon for five Monroe County townships, maybe more in future

On Thursday night, Monroe Fire Protection District chief Dustin Dillard addressed a handful of Bloomington Township residents at a meeting held at the fire station on Old State Road 37.

Cropped two fire chiefs 08.09.2019 fire district meeting - 6
Monroe Fire Protection District’s chief Dustin Dillard (left) and Northern Monroe Fire Territory chief Joel Bomgardner at the Aug. 8, 2019 meeting held at the Bloomington Township fire station on Old SR 37. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Bloomington Township is not yet a part of the the fire district Dillard leads, which is made up of three townships in the southwest part of Monroe County—Perry, Clear Creek and Indian Creek. It was just at the start of this year that Indian Creek was added as a member.

A current proposal is to add two more townships to the mix. One is in the southwest corner of the county—Van Buren Township. The other is the unincorporated part of Bloomington Township, which would make it the first area north of the county’s midline to become a member of the Monroe Fire Protection District.

Among the benefits described at the meeting for adding two townships to the district are: protection of the tax levy from annexations by the City of Bloomington; an initial lowering the tax rate for residents of Bloomington Township (but it would increase in the second and third years); administration of county fire departments under one umbrella; and the distribution of expenses over a larger tax base.

Dillard also expects the expansion of the Monroe Fire Protection District (MFPD) to lead to the re-programming of dispatch software to reflect automatic aid between the City of Bloomington and township areas. Continue reading “Consolidation of fire protection now on the horizon for five Monroe County townships, maybe more in future”

4th Street parking garage site plan review delayed a month

The Bloomington plan commission’s already-started review of the city’s 4th Street parking garage site plan proposal won’t resume until Sept. 9.

Continued until Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 4.31.29 PM

The Monday, Aug. 12, meeting packet, which was posted on the city’s website Friday afternoon, includes the parking garage site plan under the heading: “Petitions Continued To: September 19, 2019”

Based on the outcome of deliberations at the July 8 meeting of the plan commission, discussion of the 4th Street parking garage was expected to be continued at the Monday, Aug. 12 meeting, with a possible vote on the question.

Why is the site plan review being continued an additional month? And how can a continuance to September happen without the plan commission voting to continue the issue to September?

The answers to both those questions were provided by city planner Jackie Scanlan in response to an emailed question from The Beacon.

She wrote: “Per our Rules and Procedures, Article VIII (B), petition continuances can be approved by [planning and transportation] if the requests are made more than a week before the hearing. That is what occurred in this case. The petitioner (City) requested continuance in response to the desire of some Plan Commissioners to wait until the eminent domain process is further settled.” Continue reading “4th Street parking garage site plan review delayed a month”