Questions from Supreme Court justices point to heart of annexation law case involving Bloomington: Was the governor the right person to sue?

In 2017, Bloomington filed suit against Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, over a law enacted by the state legislature as a part of the biennial budget bill.

As Bloomington’s city attorney, Mike Rouker, described the legislation on Thursday morning, during oral arguments in front of Indiana’s Supreme Court, the law “prohibited Bloomington and only Bloomington from taking any further action toward its ongoing municipal annexation…” Continue reading “Questions from Supreme Court justices point to heart of annexation law case involving Bloomington: Was the governor the right person to sue?”

Bloomington still wants to take 222 Hats building, asks court for permission to file new action with different parking garage design

On December 20 last year, a Monroe County circuit court judge ruled that Bloomington could not use eminent domain to take the JuanSells.com building (222 Hats) in order to build a replacement garage on a larger footprint. The building is just south of the site where the 352-space 4th Street parking garage once stood.

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Looking south on Dec. 25, 2019, from 4th Street across the empty lot where the city’s 352-space parking garage previously stood. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Now, according to a request filed Dec. 30 and posted by the circuit court on Jan. 2, Bloomington wants to amend its eminent domain action to factor in the key point of judge Holly Harvey’s ruling.

The ruling hinged on the fact that the proposed design of the replacement garage would include non-residential commercial space on its ground floor, disqualifying it from the public purpose that such a taking is supposed to serve.

Harvey found that “the retail use of the proposed Project, which cannot be separated from the public aspect, prohibits the taking of the 222 Hats Real Estate.”

What Bloomington is doing is not appealing Harvey’s ruling. Instead, the city is asking to amend its filing on the taking of the property. The amended filing would propose a parking structure design without the ground-floor retail component, on which its first effort foundered. Continue reading “Bloomington still wants to take 222 Hats building, asks court for permission to file new action with different parking garage design”

Thursday morning: Internet stream for Bloomington’s arguments in front of Indiana Supreme Court on annexation law

On Thursday morning, oral arguments will be heard by Indiana’s Supreme Court in the case involving Bloomington’s constitutional challenge to a 2017 law that suspended its in-progress annexation process.

Bloomington won a favorable ruling on both of its constitutional arguments in the lower court. Briefly put, the court agreed with Bloomington that the law was impermissible special legislation and that it violated the single-subject rule.

It’s Gov. Eric Holcomb, the defendant in the case, who has appealed to the state’s highest court.

People who want to watch the city argue the case in front of the state’s highest court can watch the online video stream on Thursday, Jan. 9, starting at 8:58 a.m. That’s two minutes before the five justices are scheduled to hear arguments.

City attorney Mike Rouker will present Bloomington’s case, as he did during the lower court hearing in late March last year. Continue reading “Thursday morning: Internet stream for Bloomington’s arguments in front of Indiana Supreme Court on annexation law”

Routine animal shelter agreement: A tasty, rounded treat for Bloomington city council’s first meeting of 2020

(Dogs pictured were available for adoption at Bloomington’s animal shelter on Jan. 6, 2020.)

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council kicks off 2020 with its first meeting of the year, when it handles organizational matters like the election of new officers.

Some other non-organizational action items also appear on Wednesday’s agenda, among them a $350K interlocal agreement between Bloomington, Ellettsville and Monroe County on splitting costs for Bloomington’s animal shelter. It’s a routine agreement that’s been ratified for several years based on an agreed-upon formula that assigns costs on a per-animal basis.

Another routine interlocal agreement, under which Monroe County administers the building code for the city and the county, also appears on Wednesday’s agenda. It dates back to 1996 and has been extended at regular intervals for the last quarter century.

A third action item the council is expected to handle on Wednesday is a proposal to use existing city code to establish standing committees to distribute some of the council’s work. Continue reading “Routine animal shelter agreement: A tasty, rounded treat for Bloomington city council’s first meeting of 2020”

Bloomington city councilmember: It’s now time for standing committees, and time limits on speaking turns

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At its Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 work session,  Bloomington city councilmember Steve Volan introduces the specifics of one possible approach to establishing a slate of four-member standing committees, to which the city council could refer legislation. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

At a work session held on Friday, Bloomington city councilmember Steve Volan introduced a proposal he’s put on the agenda for the council’s first meeting of the year, on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

Volan’s resolution would use existing city code to establish several four-member standing committees, adding to the already-existing land use committee. The land use committee is the subset of councilmembers to which planned unit developments (PUDs) have been referred for the last couple years, after getting a first reading in front of the council.

Much of Friday’s discussion focused on the role of standing committees in the process of approving legislation. But Volan’s arguments for standing committees include the idea of better equipping the council, as the legislative branch, to carry out its defined role as a check on the executive. Continue reading “Bloomington city councilmember: It’s now time for standing committees, and time limits on speaking turns”

Bloomington’s mayor pitches half percent countywide income tax increase to generate $8M annually for climate action

A proposal to increase the local income tax (LIT) that’s collected in Monroe County by a half percent came from Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, after swearing-in ceremonies for the city’s 11 elected official were complete on New Year’s Day.

The half percent increase would bring the total income tax levy to 1.845 percent from the current total of 1.345 percent. It’s estimated to generate about $8 million for allocation by Bloomington’s city government and another $8 million for Monroe County government officials.

Hamilton wants the tax to be enacted by the local income tax council (LITC) sometime in the next six months. It’s not not yet clear what, if any, deadlines might need to be hit to ensure that new LIT revenue would appear in local coffers as soon as possible. Continue reading “Bloomington’s mayor pitches half percent countywide income tax increase to generate $8M annually for climate action”

2020 Bloomington city council: Out with the old, in with the new

At the last city council meeting of the year, on Dec. 18, 2019, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, delivered proclamations to the four outgoing councilmembers.

On Jan. 1, 2020, four new councilmembers were sworn in to start four-year terms, along with the five returning councilmembers, the mayor, John Hamilton, and the city clerk, Nicole Bolden.

Starting around noon on New Year’s Day in the city council chambers, the oaths of office for Bloomington’s 11 elected officials were administered. Continue reading “2020 Bloomington city council: Out with the old, in with the new”

Analysis | What 2 years worth of roll call votes confirm: 9 Democrats on Bloomington’s city council mostly agreed, but not always

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Analyzing the raw statistics of roll call votes for Bloomington’s city council show that most of the time, the nine elected members of the local legislative branch are in agreement. It’s not a surprising result, given that they are all affiliated with the same party. They’re all Democrats.

A closer look at voting patterns might at first suggest that two departing councilmembers, Chris Sturbaum and Allison Chopra, could be outside the council’s mainstream of political thought, and separate from each other.

But factoring in attendance and a couple of isolated voting topics probably accounts for their apparent maverick status. They probably fit comfortably in the same corral as their fellow Democrats.
Continue reading “Analysis | What 2 years worth of roll call votes confirm: 9 Democrats on Bloomington’s city council mostly agreed, but not always”

Analysis: After lower court ruling against Bloomington, when does 4th Street parking garage get rebuilt?

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Looking south on Dec. 25, 2019, from 4th Street across the empty lot where the city’s 352-space parking garage previously stood. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Christmas morning dawned bright over the now empty lot at 4th and Walnut streets where a parking garage once stood. It offered 352 spaces for people to park their cars, then go to work, shop, or take care of errands in the downtown area.

The demolition started in earnest in late September and was done by early November.

After last Friday’s court ruling, the now smoothed-over dirt lot will probably remain empty for at least a few more months.

Likely to be completed ahead of the 4th Street parking structure replacement is a new 379-space city parking garage for the Trades District. In a press release issued on Dec. 24 the city announced that preparations for construction would start this Friday. It’s scheduled to be completed about a year from now.

For the 4th Street structure, the city of Bloomington is still sorting out its options. A Monroe County circuit court judge ruled on Friday in favor of the property owner in the city’s eminent domain lawsuit. Continue reading “Analysis: After lower court ruling against Bloomington, when does 4th Street parking garage get rebuilt?”