Advisory groups give green light to city council on 7th Street: Remove parking for protected bicycle lane

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Segment of 7th Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Bloomington.
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The images shows the segment of 7th Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street. The top image shows current parking and lane conditions. The lower image is a rendering of the 7-Line protected bicycle lane project. Both images link to an animated .gif of them alternating.

On Thursday, at its first regular meeting since the end of January, Bloomington’s parking commission reviewed the protected bicycle lane project that’s going to be built on 7th Street sometime in 2021.

It was in front of the commission because the 7-Line, to be built as a two-way bicycle path on the south side of the roadway, will require the removal of 113 on-street metered parking spaces. It’s the loss of parking spaces that has generated some concern among property owners along the corridor, among them the Monroe County government.

Parking commissioners gave a unanimous recommendation in support of the planning and transportation staff’s finding—that the three-quarter-mile bicycle lane from the B-Line Trail to the Indiana University campus at Woodlawn supports several goals of the city’s comprehensive plan and squares up with the city’s transportation plan.

As Beth Rosenbarger, Bloomington’s planning services manager, pointed out to parking commissioners, the city’s transportation plan calls for a protected bicycle lane along 7th Street. Continue reading “Advisory groups give green light to city council on 7th Street: Remove parking for protected bicycle lane”

7-Line protected bicycle lane: a bicentennial bond backgrounder

The 7-Line is a planned protected bicycle lane running east-west across downtown Bloomington towards the Indiana University campus.

It gets the numeric part of its name from 7th Street, where the 11-foot wide, two-way path will be constructed along the south side of the roadway, sometime in 2021. The non-numeric part of its name is patterned on the B-Line Trail, the north-south multi-use path along the former CSX railroad route that stretches 3.1 miles from Adams Street to Country Club Drive.

The 7-Line will connect to the B-Line just east of Madison Street.

The project has received increased exposure in the last week, as final design details are worked out.

Last Thursday (June 18), the project was introduced in more detail to the public. On Wednesday this week, the traffic commission was asked to weigh in on the changes to city code that are required for the removal of 113 metered parking spaces and the elimination of east-west stop signs at most of the cross streets.

This Thursday (June 25) the parking commission is getting its second look at the project, after discussing it at a work session earlier in the month.

The now-estimated $2 million construction cost will be paid for with parks bonds, which the city council and the board of park commissioners approved in late 2018, over a year and a half ago.

The three series of bonds, totaling $10.27 million were promoted by Bloomington mayor John Hamilton as “bicentennial bonds,” and pitched to the council as “a gift to the future, honoring Bloomington’s two hundred year anniversary.” Continue reading “7-Line protected bicycle lane: a bicentennial bond backgrounder”

Initial thoughts on policing from public to Bloomington city council committee: Sell Bearcat armored vehicle; re-open Joseph Smedley case

A meeting held last Thursday by Bloomington city council’s four-member public safety committee got some initial comments from the public on the topic of policing in the city.

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Opening remarks from committee chair Jim Sims included the statement: “We are here to listen to you, the public.” Sims wrapped up his remarks by saying, “A deeper look into the local law enforcement operations is warranted. We just know that tonight we are here, and we need to listen.”

Sims indicated there would likely be additional such meetings.

During public comment at the committee meeting, an appeal to sell the Bloomington police department’s (BPD’s) Bearcat armored vehicle—purchased two years ago for $225,000—came from a dozen different commenters. They want the proceeds to be spent on social services.

That echoed the call from Black Lives Matter (BLM) B-town Core Council to sell the Bearcat and defund the police made during a June 6 Facebook event.

Others called for the re-opening of the Joseph Smedley case from 2015. An event listed on Facebook, held a year after the 20-year-old’s death, described the case: “In the fall of 2015, a young Black student, Joseph Smedley, went missing and was later found dead in Griffy Lake. The overall lack of appropriate response…left many Black students and folks in the neighboring community feeling as if their lives did not matter.” Continue reading “Initial thoughts on policing from public to Bloomington city council committee: Sell Bearcat armored vehicle; re-open Joseph Smedley case”

Bloomington’s city council awards $319K in social services grants

At its meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council accepted the recommendation of its Jack Hopkins social services funding committee and approved the allocation of $318,795 in funding for requests from 24 different nonprofits.

Annotated R Bar Chart History of Jack Hopkins Funding 2020 Apps

The program has awarded almost $4.5 million dollars to local social services nonprofits since 1993. In the last few years, the amount has been around $300,000 each year.

The top award this year went to Hoosier Hills Food Bank, which received $30,000 for a COVID-19 food purchasing project. Continue reading “Bloomington’s city council awards $319K in social services grants”

Bloomington drops company’s public towing contract after son’s racist rant, but license for private tows could be granted

On Thursday, the city of Bloomington used a seven-day out clause in its contract with Ken’s Westside Service and Towing to terminate its contract with the company for public tows. Those are tows that are requested by city police, not private property owners.

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Bloomington mayor John Hamilton in a screen grab of June 12, 2020 press conference conducted on Zoom. (Image links to closed-captioned YouTube video of the press conference.)

The company could still eventually be licensed by the city to do private tows, under the city’s new program regulating companies who do such work.

Termination of the contract for public tows was the city’s response to a self-recorded video of a racist statement posted online by the owner’s son, commenting on the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in late May. In the video, the son says: “That officer did us a favor… Ya’ll can hate me, do whatever…” In the video he’s wearing the company’s uniform shirt—he was an employee.

The officer to which the remark referred was Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who on May 25 pinned Floyd down with a knee-on-neck hold for about nine-minutes, killing him, a scene that was caught on video. It was the event that prompted nationwide protests against police brutality, including the local Enough is Enough march last week and the BLM-sponsored Black Against the Wall Facebook discussion.

The owners of the company, Ken and Kathy Parrish, posted a statement on Facebook saying they had fired their son: “With a heavy heart I have dismissed my son of his duties here with us at Ken’s Westside.” Continue reading “Bloomington drops company’s public towing contract after son’s racist rant, but license for private tows could be granted”

Bloomington city council OKs hire of next administrator/attorney at $85K

Without stating at their Wednesday meeting how much they planned to pay him, Bloomington city councilmembers approved the hire of Stephen Lucas as their next administrator/attorney.

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In this Square Beacon file photo, Stephen Lucas (right) confers with city attorney Mike Rouker during a Bloomington city council meeting.

Lucas is the current deputy to Dan Sherman, who is retiring at the end of July, after around 30 years on the job of administrator/attorney.

Responding to an emailed query from The Square Beacon, Lucas said the job will pay him $85,000.

His current salary for the deputy position is $66,300, he said. Continue reading “Bloomington city council OKs hire of next administrator/attorney at $85K”

Bloomington looks to relax regulations on businesses to aid recovery from COVID-19 impact

From now at least through Sept. 30, Bloomington businesses will be given a break on application fees for new signs, and on compliance with certain code requirements on signage.

In addition to that, restaurants and retail stores along Kirkwood Avenue will be able to expand their outdoor seating and marketing to take up more of the sidewalk than would normally be allowed. That’s just in connection with a planned trial street closure on the weekend of June 19.

According to Alex Crowley, director of the city’s economic and sustainability department, the relaxation of code requirements is part of the city’s effort to help the business community recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Final approval of one package of proposals is scheduled for the June l7 city council meeting. Continue reading “Bloomington looks to relax regulations on businesses to aid recovery from COVID-19 impact”

Bloomington city council postpones vote on giving staff job to current deputy

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In this Square Beacon file photo, Stephen Lucas (right) confers with city attorney Mike Rouker during a Bloomington city council meeting.

An anticipated vote to name Stephen Lucas as Bloomington’s city council attorney/administrator starting on Aug. 1 was postponed by the council at Wednesday’s meeting.

The council will take up the question again at a special session now scheduled for June 10.

Lucas has served as Bloomington city council attorney/administrator Dan Sherman’s deputy for about nine months. Sherman is retiring after around 30 years on the job.

The nine-member council voted 9–0 last week to make Lucas an offer, without posting the position or conducting a search. The full council’s action last week followed a recommendation from the council’s administration committee made the Friday before. Continue reading “Bloomington city council postpones vote on giving staff job to current deputy”

Public, private nonconsensual towing now squared up in Bloomington

In action taken Wednesday night at its regular meeting, Bloomington’s city council approved a change to local law that makes the fees match for two kinds of non-consensual towing.Cropped-No-Parking-Dunn-IMG_9764

Drivers who get their car towed, because city police ordered it, will now pay the same amount as drivers who get their car towed because they’ve parked it illegally on private property.

The new ordinance increases from $125 to $135 the total base fee that tow companies are allowed charge.

The new local law also requires authorized towing companies to release vehicles after payment of 20 percent of the total fees owed, if the owner signs an agreement to pay the remainder. The ordinance also clarifies that storage charges can’t be assessed until a vehicle has been in storage for at least 24 hours. Continue reading “Public, private nonconsensual towing now squared up in Bloomington”

County, city committees: Open Door Law is a numbers game

Two three-person committees were disbanded by the Monroe County council last Tuesday. One was an “executive committee” established at the start of the year.  The other was a “COVID‐19 budgetary and fiscal review committee” created at the end of March.

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A seven-member county council is a governing body under Indiana’s Open Door Law, and a three-member committee can be, too, if it’s appointed by the council  and it’s been delegated authority “to take official action upon public business.”

Councilors aren’t against the idea of subsets of Monroe County’s fiscal body working on public policy issues. But they want to avoid inadvertent violations of Indiana’s Open Door Law (ODL).

Councilors received a five-page memo, dated April 27, from the county’s legal department  with an overview of the ODL requirements and exemptions.

Last Tuesday’s vote made it about a month after the memo was issued, when the council decided to dissolve the two committees. But one member of the budgetary committee, Marty Hawk, had already resigned—around the time the memo was given to councilors.

Several new committees were established by Bloomington’s city council at the start of the year, on a 5–4 vote. It generated enough controversy that councilmembers continue even now on occasion to conduct implicit debate about the existence of standing committees, when they’re deliberating on other topics.

Do the county council’s committees pose risks for ODL violations that the Bloomington city council’s new standing committees don’t? Not inherently. But the numbers work against the county council and for the city council when it comes to ODL violations. Continue reading “County, city committees: Open Door Law is a numbers game”