Opinion | Bloomington city council’s legislative process should require an anti-racist step; training by locals would help

What if every ordinance and resolution considered by Bloomington’s city council had to be scrutinized and debated publicly based on this question: How is this legislation anti-racist?

cropped anti-racism reading Screen Shot 2020-08-01 at 5.25.18 PM
Under city code, Bloomington’s city regular council meetings are scheduled for the first and third Wednesdays of the month. If three readings were required for an ordinance, the legislative process would take at least a month, from start to finish.

I think building such a step into the city council’s regular process could complement Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s recent proposed response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is to “recover forward.”

The idea is not merely to restore Bloomington’s economic health, but to make it better than it was before. The same goes for two other areas—climate justice and racial justice.

Hamilton’s proposal includes the idea of changing the way Bloomington does things, so that we are combatting racial injustice in a way that reflects community values.

Here’s one way to build a separate step into the city council’s process, so that all legislation gets scrutinized through an anti-racist lens: Add an anti-racist reading to the legislative routine.

Currently, the normal process is that every ordinance must get read twice, at separate meetings, before it is enacted. A resolution currently just needs one reading.

The idea would be to add an occasion designed to discuss the ways the item does or does not serve the city’s anti-racist policy goals—an occasion called the “anti-racist reading.”

For ordinances, the anti-racist reading would be sandwiched between what are currently the first and second readings. For resolutions, the anti-racist reading would come after what is currently the first and only reading.

To engage in that discussion would, I think, require some training, which would equip city councilmembers with some tools that would make that kind of work easier. Continue reading “Opinion | Bloomington city council’s legislative process should require an anti-racist step; training by locals would help”

IU Health COVID-19 response: Capacity limits mean dialing down elective procedures, shifting patients to deal with recent surge

At IU Health’s hospital in Bloomington, the area’s recent surge in COVID-19 cases has pushed administrators to find ways to make space for new patients.

A month ago in Monroe County, the seven-day average of confirmed new positive COVID-19 cases had settled around 2. That has increased to around 17 at the end of July. Not every positive case requires hospitalization. But those increased numbers have pushed IU Health’s Bloomington facility towards its capacity.

On Friday, MaryAnn Valenta, IU Health’s regional director for strategic integration, said the hospital is responding to the recent surge by reducing the number of elective procedures and transferring patients to other hospitals inside and outside the region. Where they’re transferred is based on “the location that makes the most sense to each patient based on bed capacity.”

Valenta’s remarks came during Friday’s weekly press conference on COVID-19 response with local leaders from the city, county and university. Continue reading “IU Health COVID-19 response: Capacity limits mean dialing down elective procedures, shifting patients to deal with recent surge”

10K COVID-19 tests a day: Indiana University’s reopening plan to include diagnostic and surveillance testing

cropped covid presser carroll Screen Shot 2020-07-31 at 1.17.05 PM
Screenshot of Friday July 31, 2020 press conference of local Bloomington leaders. It was conducted on the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

As part of its campus re-opening plan, Indiana University is planning to use a combination of diagnostic and surveillance testing, in a program that will see up to 10,000 COVID-19 tests done in a single day.

That was Friday’s news from Aaron Carroll, associate dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine. Continue reading “10K COVID-19 tests a day: Indiana University’s reopening plan to include diagnostic and surveillance testing”

Bloomington mayor: Proposed 2021 budget will reduce sworn police from 105 to 100

During a panel discussion with other city officials, live streamed Thursday afternoon on Facebook, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton put numbers to an idea he mentioned in a speech two weeks ago.

cropped-09-28-2019-police-patch-IMG_4703

The 2021 budget proposal, which the mayor will eventually present to the city council in mid-to-late August, would reduce the number of sworn officer positions with the Bloomington police department (BPD) from 105 to 100.

The budget is scheduled for adoption in October.

The idea is to re-allocate the money for five sworn officers to at least five new non-sworn positions—a mix of social workers and neighborhood resource specialists, Hamilton said.

The move comes in the context of calls nationwide and locally to “defund the police.” Continue reading “Bloomington mayor: Proposed 2021 budget will reduce sworn police from 105 to 100”

15-minute free PUDO parking starts Aug. 1 in downtown Bloomington

During the COVID-19 pandemic, aversion to dine-in eating at restaurants or leisurely browsing inside retail stores has put a premium on finding a spot to park just for short while.

Patrons are looking to park just long enough to grab take-out food, or an item that’s been set aside by a store owner for quick pick-up.

PUDO pilot Screen Shot 2020-07-30 at 9.01.40 AM
Green dots are locations of parking meters in downtown Bloomington. Purple dots are 15-minute temporary spaces, part of a pick-up, drop-off (PUDO) pilot starting Aug. 1 lasting at least through Sept. 30. (Image links to dynamic version of map)

One measure of the interest in alternatives to dine-in or in-store service is search interest on Google for the word “delivery.” It tripled in late March, compared to a month earlier.

The city of Bloomington announced this week that it will resume enforcement of parking meters on Aug. 1, after a few months of allowing people to park for free for two hours.

The city is also rolling out a pilot program to support those local businesses whose potential customers are more likely to become actual customers, if they have easier access to short-term parking.

Starting Aug. 1, at least through Sept. 30, some of the the downtown’s roughly 1,500 spaces with on-street parking meters will be converted to 15-minute free parking spots, meant for pick-up and drop-off purposes. The shorthand to describe the spaces is the acronym PUDO. Continue reading “15-minute free PUDO parking starts Aug. 1 in downtown Bloomington”

$130K awarded to community non-profits by Monroe County through annual grant program

SophiaTravisBarChart 2020Community service grants to 33 organizations totaling $130,000 were announced and approved by Monroe County’s council at its work session Tuesday evening.

The awards were made after deliberations at earlier public meetings by the Sophia Travis community service grants committee, which includes two citizen members.

The grant program was renamed six years ago in honor of Sophia Travis, who served on the county council from 2004 to 2008. She worked as a councilor to “assure the applications for the limited funds available for support would be considered in a fair, even-handed and transparent process,” according to the renaming resolution. Continue reading “$130K awarded to community non-profits by Monroe County through annual grant program”

Start for MCSCC students delayed until Aug. 12, online-only at first

On Tuesday night, the board of the Monroe County Community School Corporation voted unanimously  to accept revisions to the district’s re-opening plan proposed by superintendent Judith DeMuth.

cropped MCCSC board meeting Screen Shot 2020-07-28 at 6.38.22 PM
Screenshot of the MCCSC board meeting of July 28, 2020

A resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country, state and local region, has led to concerns about the safety of students, teachers and staff.

Highlights of the revisions include a delay to the start for students until Aug. 12.

At that point, instruction will be online-only—at least to start. A re-evaluation of the situation will be done by Sept. 11. Families will get a week’s notice before a change from online instruction.

Teachers will start Aug. 5 and use the time from then until Aug. 12 to prepare for online-only instruction. Continue reading “Start for MCSCC students delayed until Aug. 12, online-only at first”

MCCSC board expected to finalize school re-opening plan at Tuesday night’s board meeting

On Monday morning, a half dozen people showed up at the Monroe County health department’s temporary location in the Showers building on Morton Street.

They held signs with slogans like, “Shut it down, now! Start over! Do it right!” They were  advocating for a stronger statement from health officials on the question of re-opening schools.

They’re concerned about a start to the school year amid a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the area, and across the state.

News reporters narrowly outnumbered demonstrators. Organizer Debbie Fish, a former teacher and educational professional, said she expects a stronger continent at a rally planned for Tuesday at the district’s education resource center on Miller Drive.

That’s where the board will be meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, partly in-person and partly by videoconference.

Fish said she is concerned that if schools start up now, and teachers have to go back into the classroom, some will take the semester off. There may be some who will just quit the profession of teaching, Fish fears.

Early in the meeting, the agenda for Tuesday includes a re-entry plan overview by superintendent Judith DeMuth and a board discussion with possible modifications. A resolution on adopting a plan for re-opening schools is the final point of business, after a dozen other business items.

The meeting will be live-streamed at www.mccsc.edu/boardmeeting

The board’s Tuesday decision is expected to be based on potential additional information presented by the teachers union and the county health health department. Continue reading “MCCSC board expected to finalize school re-opening plan at Tuesday night’s board meeting”

Bloomington city council gets first formal look at mayor’s $2.4 M plan to jumpstart recovery in fall 2020, gives positive review but wants more detail

At a committee-of-the-whole meeting on Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council had several questions for mayor John Hamilton about the initial part of his “Recover Forward” plan.

GRAPHIC for App Ord

The plan has city government playing a “counter-cyclical” role in the context of the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The initial phase of the plan relies on just shy of $2 million of existing general fund money and another $400,000 of funds from other sources, to provide additional support for sustainable development, jobs, and housing.

Most of the questions from councilmembers on Wednesday amounted to requests for additional detail about the programs that the mayor wants to fund. They’d received an initial briefing a couple weeks ago at a work session.  But the most recent information they’d received still lacked the level of detail some councilmembers wanted.

On Aug. 5, the city council will hold another committee meeting on the topic, with possible enactment of the appropriation ordinance on Aug. 12.
Continue reading “Bloomington city council gets first formal look at mayor’s $2.4 M plan to jumpstart recovery in fall 2020, gives positive review but wants more detail”

IU adjusts with test-on-arrival approach to fit COVID-19 testing landscape, Monroe County positive cases continue to rise

Indiana University still wants all students to be tested for COVID-19 before they start classes in the fall.

The expectation of universal testing was part an update sent to Indiana University faculty and staff on Friday (July 24). It matched the message from the university’s assistant vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White, at Friday’s weekly press conference of community leaders.

The novel part of Friday’s announcement was the hybrid test-on-arrival approach that the university will take to getting all students tested.

Those students who are not tested within a 10-day window before arrival will now be tested after arrival. The testing program will be organized by the university itself. Continue reading “IU adjusts with test-on-arrival approach to fit COVID-19 testing landscape, Monroe County positive cases continue to rise”