2016 versus 2020: Shades of difference leave Indiana still red, Monroe County still blue

From 2016 to 2020, not a lot changed in the general election results in the state of Indiana for the top of the ticket.

In the Hoosier state, Republican Donald Trump had 57.1 percent of the vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton. Against Joe Biden, Trump tallied about the same percentage—just one-tenth of a point lower.

But Biden did 3 points better than Clinton, with 41 percent compared to Clinton’s 38 percent. In 2016, Libertarian Gary Johnson drew almost 5 percent of the vote.

The county-by-county tally yielded a different winner in just one of Indiana’s 92 counties. In Tippecanoe County, Biden squeaked out a 0.2 point margin over Trump, a place where Trump was four points better than Clinton four years ago. That made a total of five counties blue this year, compared to four in 2016.

But the shades of difference across counties give some insight that might not be apparent from statewide or county totals.

To get a better idea of where things improved for each party, The Square Beacon plotted the difference in margins between 2020 and 2016 for the presidential race in those years.

In the shaded maps of presidential race results that are published with this article, red indicates that Trump’s margin compared to Biden was better than Trump’s margin compared to Clinton. Darker shades of red indicate a better margin for Trump in 2020 than in 2016. Blue means that Trump’s margin compared to Biden was worse than his margin compared to Clinton. Continue reading “2016 versus 2020: Shades of difference leave Indiana still red, Monroe County still blue”

COVID-19 stats continue bad trend across state, Monroe County: “These are your friends, these are your neighbors.”

Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders to talk about COVID-19 response came on another day of bad COVID numbers for Monroe County and the rest of Indiana.

Brian Shockney, who’s president of IU Health’s south central region, said in his region, a total of 4,438 inpatients had been tested and 556 of those have been “very, very sick.”

Shockney described the patients this way: “These are your friends, these are your neighbors. These are those people that you know, your family members.” He added, “This is a serious disease and we need to take it seriously, now more than ever.”

Monroe County itself, which includes IU Health Bloomington and Monroe Hospital is showing a continuous upward increase in patients, Shockney said. Visitor policies have been revised to eliminate visits, with a few exceptions.

Current statewide hospital census totals, according to the Indiana State Department of Health dashboard, have hit 3,077 patients. That’s about 75 percent more than the spring peak.

Confirmed case case counts continue to climb. On Friday, the statewide 7-day rolling average per day stood at around 6,500, which is six times higher than the average at the start of October. The countywide rolling average now stands at 109 confirmed cases per day, which eclipses the mid-September high of 94. That earlier spike was chalked up to the return to campus by Indiana University students. Continue reading “COVID-19 stats continue bad trend across state, Monroe County: “These are your friends, these are your neighbors.””

Updated: COVID-19 reduces by 4 (was 2) already short Bloomington dispatch staff, police chief says adequate resources still available

[Updated 2:30 p.m Nov. 17, 2020: Shortly after this piece was published on Tuesday afternoon, the city of Bloomington announced that two additional dispatchers, for a total of four, have been diagnosed with COVID-19.]

On Monday, the city of Bloomington reported three additional employees had been added to the tally of city workers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic hit Monroe County, bringing the total to 20.

Dispatcher attrition/retention. Rows correspond to employees in Bloomington’s police department who are dispatchers (telecommunicators) including supervisors and managers. Columns correspond to payroll distributions starting in January 2020, and ending in early November, according to the city’s online financial system. Cells shaded green are those containing any payments.

Two of them are dispatchers who answer 911 calls at the central emergency dispatch center that serves the area both inside and outside the city.

According to Monday’s press release, one dispatcher was tested last Friday (Nov. 13) after being in quarantine for five days after first showing symptoms. Close work contacts of that employee have been alerted, according to the release.

The other dispatcher was tested Wednesday (Nov. 11) and was quarantining since first having symptoms the day before. No close work contacts were identified for that employee, according to the release.

In light of the ongoing challenge to fill open positions at the dispatch center, which is already understaffed, The Square Beacon asked Bloomington police chief Mike Diekhoff how the department will approach covering for the two sick dispatchers.

Diekhoff said the department will still be able to maintain adequate coverage of the center.

Part of the strategy that could be used is a contingency plan involving Indiana University’s police department, which has its own dispatch center, Diekhoff said. A combination of moving staff from one dispatch center to the other, and simply transferring phone lines, is part of the contingency plans that have been in place for years, he said.

As an example of a partial implementation of that contingency, Diekhoff gave the temporary relocation of dispatchers to IU dispatch while the central dispatch facility was being disinfected after the two dispatchers received their positive COVID-19 diagnoses.

Continue reading “Updated: COVID-19 reduces by 4 (was 2) already short Bloomington dispatch staff, police chief says adequate resources still available”

Monroe County provisional ballots resolved, poll worker calls election staff “rock stars”

This was three-member county election board on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020,  resolving provisional ballots cast on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. From left: Carolyn VandeWiele (Democrat), Hal Turner (Republican) and Monroe County’s clerk, Nicole Browne. (Screenshot from Zoom conference call.)

Election results were ready in Monroe County on election night on Tuesday, Nov. 3, around 11 p.m.

Those initial results will now get altered, possibly by as much as 15 votes either way, which won’t be enough to change the outcome of any races.

The tweak to the results comes from the provisional ballots that got resolved on Friday by the county’s three-member bipartisan election aboard.

If there’s any kind of dispute or conflict at the polls, the law gives a voter the chance to cast a provisional ballot, which then gets reviewed by the three-member bi-partisan election board.

On Friday, the board reviewed 110 provisional ballots. By The Square Beacon’s count, 15 of them got accepted, each by separate unanimous vote of the board. Continue reading “Monroe County provisional ballots resolved, poll worker calls election staff “rock stars””

Saturday update: Indiana’s 8,427 COVID-19 cases almost 2K more than previous daily high

Monroe County’s new testing site across the B-Line Trail from the Seminary Kroger store,  is due to open Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. Currently planned hours are: 8 a.m. – 3 pm on Monday and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays and 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on the first and third Saturdays of the month. [press release] Walk-ins will not be accepted. Residents who want to be tested at the new site are required to register and make an appointment through an online portal before arrival.
On Saturday, the state of Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard logged 8,427 new confirmed cases, which was easily a new daily high since the pandemic started.

It’s 1,851 more cases than the previous daily high, just two days before.

The peak daily confirmed case high during Indiana’s spring surge was almost an order of magnitude lower: 946 on April 26.

In Monroe County, the 112 new cases recorded on the dashboard put the rolling 7-day daily average number of cases at 64. That’s about two and a half times the number of confirmed cases averaged through most of October.

Increased positivity rates, across the state and locally, show that it’s not just the increased number of tests that accounts for the increased number of cases. Monroe County’s 7-day rolling average of positive tests is now sitting at about 5.1 percent. The statewide number is more than twice that, at 10.9 percent. Continue reading “Saturday update: Indiana’s 8,427 COVID-19 cases almost 2K more than previous daily high”

Bloomington zoning map revision process headed towards up-down city council vote in first half of 2021

Public engagement for Bloomington’s zoning map revision process is underway, with three Zoom video-conference meetings now in the books and at least three more now listed on the city’s zoning map project page.

The image alternates between dark gray districts, which are currently zoned PUD, and the colors of the districts to which they’re proposed to be rezoned. The image links to the PUD story map created by the city’s planning staff.

Two meetings are scheduled that will each combine two controversial topics. The first topic is where to put the newly defined R4 district on the map. The second topic is possible changes to the text of the unified development ordinance (UDO), to allow for duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes in all the residential areas of the city.

The first of the R4-“plexes” meetings is set for Thursday this week, starting at 5:30 p.m. The project page also includes a link for a 9 a.m. Thursday “office hour” with a city planner, who will be available to take questions.

Where R4 (Residential Urban) districts are placed on the zoning map is controversial because R4 includes duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes as by-right, permitted uses, which some residents are opposed to allowing in areas that have up to now allowed only single-family houses.

Another way that “plexes” could be added to older neighborhoods is through a text amendment to the UDO that would change the allowed uses for R1 (Residential Large Lot), R2 (Residential Medium Lot), and R3 (Residential Small Lot) districts. Those districts would be changed to allow “plexes” as permitted or conditional uses.

One significant detail about the eventual process—which has emerged over the first set of meetings—involves the lack of flexibility that city councilmembers will have when the map revision reaches them for consideration next year.

Responding to a question to planning staff and the legal department from The Square Beacon, planning and transportation director Scott Robinson said that the city council will have just three options after it receives a recommended map from the plan commission: (1) adopt the proposal; (2) reject the proposal; (3) do nothing for 90 days. If the city council does nothing, the plan commission’s recommendation is enacted automatically.

That means the city council can’t amend the map, then adopt its amended map.

That’s different from changes to the text in the unified development ordinance. The city council could make amendments to the proposed changes to the text recommended by the plan commission, and adopt those changes as amended. Continue reading “Bloomington zoning map revision process headed towards up-down city council vote in first half of 2021”

Celebration of Biden/Harris victory at courthouse: “All of our elected officials, whether you are Democrat or Republican, you will be held accountable.”

At noon on Sunday, around 250 people gathered on the Monroe County courthouse lawn in downtown Bloomington, Indiana, to celebrate the results of last Tuesday’s presidential election.

The Associated Press reported on Saturday, about 24 hours earlier, that Democrats Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had clinched victory over the Republican Trump/Pence ticket.

A handful of leaders from activist groups addressed the crowd over a PA system.

Some of the remarks could be counted as basking in the glow of a partisan victory. Many were a bit more pointed, challenging those assembled to tackle the work that lies ahead.

Lindsey Batteast, with the Rising Rainbow Coalition, warned:  “All of our elected officials, whether you are Democrat or Republican, you will be held accountable.” Continue reading “Celebration of Biden/Harris victory at courthouse: “All of our elected officials, whether you are Democrat or Republican, you will be held accountable.””

Pandemic racks up 5K confirmed cases in Hoosier state, another daily high

Saturday’s noon kickoff for the football game in Bloomington, between Indiana University and the University of Michigan,  coincided with the daily update to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The 38–21 victory by the Hoosiers put a total of three in the win column, against no losses, for the Hoosier squad so far in the COVID-19-shortened season.

On Saturday, the COVID-19 pandemic virus again put up big numbers statewide and in Monroe County.

The 5,007 cases recorded for Indiana counted as another daily high since the pandemic started. The statewide rolling average of confirmed COVID-19 cases now stands at 3,786, which is three and a half times greater than the rolling average on Oct. 1.

Monroe County saw its confirmed cases spike in late August through mid-September, when university students returned to campus. After that, the numbers subsided a bit. Through October, local numbers have not shown the kind of sharp increases seen statewide over the last month.

Still, the 70 cases that COVID-19 put up on the dashboard on Saturday brought the rolling average of Monroe County cases to 46. That compares to an average of 26 at the start of October. Continue reading “Pandemic racks up 5K confirmed cases in Hoosier state, another daily high”

Grease is the word…at the end of FOG: Bloomington council revises law on how restaurants keep fats, oils out of sewer

An aerial view of the Dillman Road wastewater treatment facility south of Bloomington, where grease from the city’s FOG (fat, oil and grease) program can be hauled, where it oxidizes in the sun. (The image is dated April 2020 in the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property records.)

“The way we handle grease at the [Dillman Road wastewater treatment] plant, it’s actually discharged into a lagoon where it is oxidized in the sun.”

That was city of Bloomington utilities (CBU) director Vic Kelson talking to the Bloomington city council on Wednesday about the grease that about 600 local restaurants clean out of their traps and are allowed to haul to the city’s wastewater treatment plant south of town.

The item on the city council’s agenda was a change to the ordinance on the FOG (fats, oils, and grease) program, which requires restaurants (food service establishments) to use grease traps to keep it from clogging up the city’s sanitary sewer system. The ordinance change was approved unanimously.

After the ordinance change, the program is still in place but gives restaurants a cheaper option in grease retention devices. The revised ordinance also establishes a “preferred pumper program” for haulers to take the grease from the traps, which have to be cleaned out on a regular basis, down to the city’s Dillman road facility. Continue reading “Grease is the word…at the end of FOG: Bloomington council revises law on how restaurants keep fats, oils out of sewer”

County commissioners, board of health move to beef up enforcement of COVID-19 health regs

On Wednesday at their regular weekly meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved a $25,000 contract with Security Pro 24/7 to help enforce the county board of health’s regulations, which were imposed to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

The idea initially is to focus enforcement on late night hours, according to Monroe County health administrator Penny Caudill. She said the compliance officers are supposed to “help businesses maintain that compliance, just to be there to remind people what the regulations are.”

Caudill added, “Some of the businesses have said that we get lots of out of town guests—they don’t always know what the regulations in Monroe County are.”

Among the county regulations is a non-commercial group gathering size limit of 50 people, which is larger than the city of Bloomington’s limit of 15.

The county also limits bars to offering only tabletop seating, and no bar service. That’s a regulation that could be revisited by the board of health in a couple of weeks.

On Thursday, the board of health gave its own unanimous approval of the agreement with Security Pro 24/7.

The board also took action to revise its COVID-19 regulations to allow for enforcement of its regs by Security Pro 24/7. Continue reading “County commissioners, board of health move to beef up enforcement of COVID-19 health regs”