Last summer, right when I started putting a full effort into reporting for The Square Beacon, Bloomington’s city council took its summer break. For six weeks, from the second half of June, through the end of July, the city council didn’t meet.
Now added to the agenda of next Tuesday’s meeting of Bloomington’s city council is an ordinance that’s designed to provide some additional administrative powers to the city’s mayor, John Hamilton.
The additional powers are meant to provide some flexibility for the city’s executive to act swiftly in response to emergent issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As currently drafted, the ordinance includes a mix of permanent and relatively temporary measures. One part of the ordinance would amend the city code on human resources policies. That part would be permanent—it would be made a part of local law. But the wording of the new policies in the code means they’re triggered only if a national or state disaster emergency is declared.
Two other parts of the proposed ordinance appear to be worded so that they apply only as long as Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s current statewide disaster emergency order is in effect. That order has been extended through May 5.
Vote by mail (no-excuse absentee voting) has already been approved as an option for the June 2 primary election in Indiana. On April 22, the state’s election commission will meet and possibly consider a mail-only election.
The view through the east window of Election Central at 7th and Madison streets on Friday morning. Deputy clerk Tressia Martin (left) and election supervisor Karen Wheeler conduct the logic and accuracy test of the new Hart Intercivic voting equipment.
It’s possible that Indiana’s state election commission will make a decision at its April 22 meeting to eliminate in-person voting from this year’s primary election, now scheduled for June 2.
As they wait out the roughly three weeks until a possible state-level decision, Monroe County election officials are hoping that most voters will eventually take advantage of the vote-by-mail option, which already been made available to all voters for this year’s primary.
Details of the drive-through-only approach were revealed in a press release issued late Wednesday this week. Orders for this coming Saturday, April 4, the scheduled opening day of the summer market, have to be placed by the end of the day on April 2.
Also in future weeks, the market will operate on a Thursday ordering deadline for Saturday pickups.
At its meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council took the next procedural step towards getting $2 million worth of already-collected food and beverage tax revenue, into the hands of the private sector.
The goal is to provide bridge funding for local employers and employees who have been impacted by the COVID-19 viral epidemic.
The bridge is supposed to span the time it will take for more robust federal aid to land in local hands.
Based on the timeline sketched out on Wednesday by city controller Jeff Underwood, the money could be ready for distribution as soon as the end of next week, April 10.
The steps involved would include a city council approval of the appropriation at its second reading at a Tuesday, April 7 meeting.
The appropriation would then need a final sign-off by the Indiana Department Local Government Finance, which Underwood hopes to get by April 10. At that point, the money would be available, Underwood said at Wednesday’s meeting.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Bloomington area local businesses can now seen on charts and graphs.
The pandemic has spiked the county’s initial unemployment claims to four times the number seen during the highest week of the 2008–2009 economic downturn. Even higher numbers could be recorded next week. Unemployment numbers are released on Tuesdays.
In addition to fresh unemployment figures, this Tuesday brought a first detailed look at Bloomington’s effort to use $2 million of food and beverage tax money, as well as other funds, to provide economic relief to businesses and workers .
According to the press release, the firefighter was one of three firefighters recently quarantined after potential or confirmed exposure to the COVID-10. It was five days earlier, on March 23, when BFD was notified of the firefighter’s confirmed exposure.
At its Friday afternoon meeting, the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) unanimously approved a request to use $2 million in already-collected tax money to assist businesses inside the city of Bloomington that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At a 2:30 p.m. press conference on Thursday, Indiana’s governor Eric Holcomb was asked by a reporter to respond to criticism that his stay-at-home order didn’t go far enough.
The order is supposed to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, which has killed 17 people so far in Indiana since the first case was confirmed on March 6. Three weeks later the number of confirmed cases stood at 645.
The order, which went into effect on Wednesday, allows for a raft of exceptions, for businesses considered “essential”—including retail stores that sell alcoholic beverages and businesses that provide real estate services.
Was the order having an impact? Holcomb’s answer: Yes.
Holcomb’s response included the fact that his stay-at-home order has a requirement on the continued operation of essential businesses. They’re supposed to continue to operate only if they can maintain a six-foot distance between people, including customers standing in line, a concept that’s now called “social distancing.”
Holcomb applied the same social distancing concept to outdoor recreational activities. Allowed under the stay-at-home order are, for example, walking, hiking, running, or bicycling.
Holcomb encouraged people who go outside, especially on days like the one the day before, when skies were sunny and temperatures hit the mid-60s.