Bloomington public safety board briefed on 10 sworn officer vacancies, non-arrest approaches to policing

At a special Tuesday night meeting, Bloomington’s five-member board of public safety was briefed on the monthly activity of the city’s fire and police departments.

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Screenshot of Jun 23, 2020 meeting of Bloomington’s board of public safety.

One highlight was the 10 open jobs for sworn officers reported by Bloomington police department (BPD) captain Ryan Pedigo. The 2020 budget authorizes 105 positions.

Board members got some reaction from BPD chief Mike Diekhoff to calls that have been made across the country and locally to defund police. Continue reading “Bloomington public safety board briefed on 10 sworn officer vacancies, non-arrest approaches to policing”

County councilors give final OK for $100K for Monroe County township assistance

At their Tuesday work session, Monroe County councilors gave the final approval needed to authorize up to $100,000 to augment the assistance that township governments normally give their residents.
Stacked Bars for TWP Assistance

Helping residents bridge gaps to pay for essentials like utilities, housing, food, healthcare, funerals and emergency shelter is a routine part of township government service.

But this year, because of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, townships are expecting to see more than the usual number of requests. Continue reading “County councilors give final OK for $100K for Monroe County township assistance”

Up to $100K in Monroe County rainy day funds to go towards township resident assistance

Stacked Bars for TWP Assistance

On the Monroe County council’s work session agenda for Tuesday is the approval of an interlocal agreement that will boost township assistance programs by up to $100,000.

The money would come from the county’s rainy day fund.

County commissioners already gave their approval at their regular meeting on June 17.

The move comes as some rent and utilities moratoriums, related to the COVID-19 health emergency, are set to expire.  They’re tied to Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s executive orders. Continue reading “Up to $100K in Monroe County rainy day funds to go towards township resident assistance”

Partisan case for partisan judges: Who rules on lawsuit over Bloomington plan commission seat?

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Art based on one of the recusals made by assigned judges in Guenther & Ellis v. Cockerham & Hamilton.

On June 9, a lawsuit was filed in Monroe County’s circuit court disputing the mayoral appointment of the plan commission seat where Chris Cockerham had sat the day before.

In the lawsuit, Andrew Guenther asserts that he has been duly appointed by GOP Monroe County chair William Ellis, and should serve on the commission instead of Cockerham.

It’s not yet decided which judge will hear the case. Owen County circuit judge Kelsey Hanlon, who’s facilitator of District 20, has been asked to appoint a special judge. One of 26 judicial districts the state, District 20 is made up of Monroe, Owen, Lawrence, and Greene counties.

What makes picking a judge a challenge for this case? Partisanship. Continue reading “Partisan case for partisan judges: Who rules on lawsuit over Bloomington plan commission seat?”

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”

12 new COVID-19 cases in Monroe County most on single day since outbreak started

In a press release issued late Wednesday afternoon, Monroe county’s health department said it’s investigating a spike in confirmed COVID-19 cases, after the state’s dashboard, updated every day at noon, showed 12 new cases for the county.

The 12 new confirmed COVID-19 cases reported on Wednesday were logged on June 16, according to the Indiana State Department of Heath’s dashboard. That is the highest number for any single day in Monroe County since the first case was recorded on March 21. Continue reading “12 new COVID-19 cases in Monroe County most on single day since outbreak started”

Bloomington public bus ridership starts to claw back a bit from COVID-19 impacts

REVISED R Output Monthly BT ridership for COVID report May 19JUNE 16 OUTPUT

Last month the Bloomington Transit (BT) board got clear look at the impact the COVID-19 pandemic was having on fix-route bus ridership. The April numbers were down about 90 percent from April a year ago.

On Tuesday, the May monthly ridership numbers reported at BT’s board meeting  were still dramatically down from the same month a year ago—34,256 rides this May compared to 133,798 in May of 2019.

But that’s a 74-percent drop—which reflects an improvement compared to last month, even if a small one. Continue reading “Bloomington public bus ridership starts to claw back a bit from COVID-19 impacts”

Food and beverage tax group OKs expansion of eligibility for COVID-19 relief

REVISED R Output FOOD AND BEVERAGE REVENUE BY MONTH YEAR OVER YEAR June 16 update

Even though it’s physically located inside the Bloomington city limits, the Monroe County History Center is now eligible for a grant through an already established county government program that’s designed to support businesses and nonprofits impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s the specific effect of a decision made at a Tuesday afternoon meeting of the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC). But the FABTAC’s decision applies to any entity “whose purpose and mission is to support the entire county in tourism related endeavors.”

What’s new for the county’s grant program is the suspension of a rigid geographic requirement that a grantee be located outside the Bloomington city limits.

The FABTAC is a seven-member group made up of city and county electeds, and three owners of businesses that collect the 1-percent food and beverage tax from their patrons. Continue reading “Food and beverage tax group OKs expansion of eligibility for COVID-19 relief”

Fallout from Facebook statement: Bloomington city staff apologize, farmers market committee disbanded

A statement posted a week and a half ago on Bloomington’s farmers market Facebook page—the same day as the “Enough is Enough” anti-police-brutality demonstration—has resulted in the disbanding of the group that posted the statement.

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Zoom participant list for FMAC meeting on June 15, 2020. Names with a blue hand have “raised their hand” to speak during public comment. Attendance at the meeting peaked at around 160 people.

At its Monday night meeting, the farmers market advisory council (FMAC) voted to disband the broadening inclusion group (BIG), after seven of BIG’s nine members had already resigned.

Their resignations came after a post on Facebook made by the group, which included the statement, “Our hearts break for every lost, angry, and aimless young black man and woman who commit violent crimes and claim the lives of other black men, black women, and black children—their lives matter.” The statement was denounced as racist by several hundred commenters.

Monday nights FMAC vote to disband the BIG was 6–1, with two absences, which were caused in part by audio difficulties that made parts of the meeting, conducted on the Zoom videoconferencing platform, difficult to follow.

What are the next steps after the vote to disband the BIG?

Responding to an emailed question from The Square Beacon, Paula McDevitt, Bloomington’s director of parks and recreation, said staff will be reviewing the FMAC chat and transcript of the recorded comments. “We will share them with the board of park commissioners,” McDevitt said.

Continue reading “Fallout from Facebook statement: Bloomington city staff apologize, farmers market committee disbanded”