Park board decision to keep public control of Bloomington farmers market includes restrictions on speech

Continue reading “Park board decision to keep public control of Bloomington farmers market includes restrictions on speech”

Ruff runs for 9th District Congressional seat, wraps up 20 years on Bloomington city council

In a press release sent Monday morning, Bloomington city councilmember Andy Ruff, a Democrat, announced he’s running for the 9th District U.S. Representative seat currently held by Republican Trey Hollingsworth. Continue reading “Ruff runs for 9th District Congressional seat, wraps up 20 years on Bloomington city council”

Second Monday in October is now Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Bloomington

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Agnes Woodward, a Cree from the Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, who now lives in Bloomington, returns to her seat after speaking to the city council during public commentary in support of declaring Indigenous People’s Day. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The second Monday in October is now recognized as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Bloomington, Indiana. This year that’s Oct. 14.

The city council voted unanimously in favor of the resolution putting the day permanently on the calendar, after Mayor John Hamilton proclaimed last year’s Oct. 8 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

It doesn’t mean that city employees get another holiday. Rather, the resolution says it’s “an opportunity to celebrate the cultures and values that Indigenous Peoples of our region add to the communities in Bloomington, throughout Indiana, and globally.” Continue reading “Second Monday in October is now Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Bloomington”

Bloomington’s wait begins: State’s appeal of annexation ruling now fully briefed

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Indiana state capitol in Indianapolis, late August 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Continuing its methodical path through the judicial system is an appeal by the governor to the Indiana Supreme Court. The state is seeking to  overturn a lower court ruling made in April, which found that a 2017 law blocking Bloomington’s annexation process was unconstitutional on two separate grounds.

On Friday, the State of Indiana filed its reply to Bloomington’s response to the state’s initial papers. With that, according to the state’s online document system, the case in front of the state’s highest court is now “fully briefed.” Continue reading “Bloomington’s wait begins: State’s appeal of annexation ruling now fully briefed”

Analysis: Small, older batch of voters will decide Bloomington municipal elections this year

The headline for this piece is unlikely to surprise anyone with just a scant knowledge of local Bloomington politics or national election trends.

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Shown are the two districts where Bloomington city elections will be held on Nov. 5 this year, with the names of candidates who will appear on the ballot. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Still, it’s worth adding some precision to some general ideas.  Bloomington’s quadrennial municipal elections—held the year before presidential contests—attract few voters. And those who do vote are older than average.

Based on turnout in past years, I think maybe 1,500 voters will participate in Bloomington’s Nov. 5 elections. That’s about 3 percent of city voters in the registered voter file provided by the Monroe County election supervisor’s office in early July.

Based on participation in past elections, more than half of those 1,500 voters will be older than 60. That’s almost three decades older than the average registered voter in Bloomington.

It’s unfair, of course, to compare an estimated maximum of 1,500 voters this November to the number of registered voters in all of Bloomington. That’s because elections will be held in just two of six city council districts this year. The other four district seats on the city council are uncontested. Also uncontested are races for all city-wide offices—mayor, city clerk and member-at-large city council seats.

Adjusting for just the roughly 16,000 registered voters in District 2 and District 3 combined, an estimated maximum turnout of 1,500 works out to around 9 percent. That doesn’t add up to a point of civic pride.

For District 2, my working estimate for maximum turnout is about 500 voters. I think if one of the two candidates gets more than 250 votes, that will be enough to win the seat. For District 3, I don’t think the turnout will be more than about 1,000 voters. I think if any of the three candidates gets more than 375 votes, that will be enough to win.

For both districts, I think the average age of voters this November will be older than 60.

After the jump, I’ll lay out the numbers behind those estimates. Continue reading “Analysis: Small, older batch of voters will decide Bloomington municipal elections this year”

Bloomington press conference on farmers market covers First Amendment, gun laws, possible exclusion of a vendor

After announcing on Monday (July 29) that Bloomington’s farmers market would be suspended for the next two Saturdays, Mayor John Hamilton held a press conference on Wednesday morning to address the situation.

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Left is Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton. Right is farmers market vendor for 34 years, Linda Chapman of  Harvest Moon Flower Farm. July 31, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Monday’s press release gave the general background for the market closure: “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.”

At Wednesday’s press conference, when Hamilton and the city’s chief of police, Mike Diekhoff, responded to questions from the press on the topic of threats, they didn’t provide additional details on the exact nature of the threats.

Hamilton said, “The threats were enough to identify particular individuals that meant to us, we saw a threat of violence in the market. And given the realities that I talked about, we felt it was critical for public safety to hit pause.”

Hamilton led off the press conference with about 15 minutes worth of prepared remarks, then fielded questions, first mostly from the press, then from others.

Hamilton’s prepared remarks framed the issue of public safety in terms of two challenges: (1) Indiana’s permissive gun laws; and (2) “a toxic stew of bigotry and hatred, of intolerance and divisiveness, that is being brewed by many, all across the country, including our own President.” Continue reading “Bloomington press conference on farmers market covers First Amendment, gun laws, possible exclusion of a vendor”

Analysis: Buttigieg speech pitched foreign policy highlighting the local, but just one kind of local

South Bend mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg delivered a speech on foreign policy at Indiana University in Bloomington on Tuesday morning. I sat with the general public in the sixth row of the IU Auditorium.

It was a speech that seemed crafted to resonate in places like Bloomington and other cities home to higher educational institutions. That’s not all of America. Continue reading “Analysis: Buttigieg speech pitched foreign policy highlighting the local, but just one kind of local”

Judge says legislation that halted Bloomington’s annexations in 2017 is unconstitutional for two reasons

In a ruling issued late Thursday afternoon, Judge Frank Nardi found that legislation enacted by the Indiana state legislature in 2017—a law that halted the city of Bloomington’s annexation efforts—is unconstitutional for two separate reasons.

The city brought suit against Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb two years ago over the issue. Nardi’s ruling agreed with Bloomington’s position on both substantive points. First, Nardi found that the legislation was impermissible special legislation under the state constitution, because there were no unique characteristics of Bloomington that justified singling out only Bloomington as the one city that needed to pause its annexation efforts for five years. Second, Nardi found that the legislation violated the single subject clause of the state constitution, because it was included in the biennial budget bill of 2017. Continue reading “Judge says legislation that halted Bloomington’s annexations in 2017 is unconstitutional for two reasons”

Question of burden adds some flavor to oral arguments in Bloomington’s annexation lawsuit

At a Tuesday afternoon hearing lasting around an hour, the two sides in an ongoing annexation lawsuit between the City of Bloomington and Gov. Eric Holcomb presented oral arguments.

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The Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center at 301 N. College, where a March 26 hearing on the City of Bloomington’s annexation lawsuit took place.

Judge Frank Nardi did not issue a ruling from the bench. The March 26 hearing was held at the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center in downtown Bloomington.

The City of Bloomington filed the lawsuit in 2017 over the state legislature’s decision to build into its budget bill a change to state annexation law. It was a change that effectively singled out Bloomington and paused any annexation plans by the city for five years.

Bloomington contends that because the new annexation law was incorporated into the 2017 biennial budget bill, it violates the State Constitution’s requirement that legislation be confined to a single subject.

Bloomington’s lawsuit also states that the new annexation law violates the State Constitution’s clause prohibiting “special” legislation. The constitutional claim involving special legislation hinges not merely on the fact that the new annexation law applies only to Bloomington. The claim arises from the city’s contention that the attempted justification for the law’s unique application is not adequate.

To some extent, the two sides spent their time on Tuesday rehashing arguments they’d already submitted to the court.

The oral presentations, however, featured a slightly different flavor from the written briefs—especially on the part of the city, and its claim that the new annexation law is unconstitutional under the special legislation clause. The ingredient that city attorney Mike Rouker added to his oral remarks was “burden.” Continue reading “Question of burden adds some flavor to oral arguments in Bloomington’s annexation lawsuit”