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?

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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”

Demonstrators call on Bloomington, Monroe County electeds for action, not words on racism

On Monday evening at the southeast corner of the Monroe County courthouse in downtown Bloomington, Jennifer Crossley introduced herself to a gathering of around 400 people. She used her community leadership credentials: She’s the chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party.

But she told the group she wasn’t going to talk about that role. “Before I am a leader in this community, I am Black,” she told them.

The demonstration was pulled together on short notice. What brought out demonstrators at 5:30 p.m. on Monday were some events that unfolded over the weekend that showed racism is still deeply rooted in the Bloomington community.

On Sunday, Vauhxx Booker, who is an activist and a member of Monroe County’s human rights commission, posted to Facebook a video showing parts of an incident at Lake Monroe on July 4. The video shows him being held down against a tree trunk by a white man who would not let him go. According to Booker, the man told his comrades several times to “get a noose.”

Signs and chants, “Erika, do your job!” identified one elected official from whom the demonstrators wanted action. They want Monroe County prosecutor Erika Oliphant to prosecute those who assaulted Booker. [Updated at 1:45 p.m. on July 7. The latest word from the prosecutor’s office as of 1:37 p.m. is: “The Indiana Conservation Officers continue to conduct interviews and collect evidence related to this case. They have been providing us with regular updates on the progress of their investigation. We anticipate receiving the case soon. As soon as that happens, we will thoroughly review all of it and determine what charges are appropriate.”] Continue reading “Demonstrators call on Bloomington, Monroe County electeds for action, not words on racism”

Protest at Bloomington park board meeting yields 2–1 vote on farmers market rules of behavior

Bloomington’s board of park commissioners voted 2–1 on Tuesday night to adopt new rules of behavior at the city’s farmers market. Dissenting was the newest board member, Israel Herrera.

The rules specify how and where protests are allowed at the farmers market.

Herrera told The Square Beacon after the meeting that his vote was based on the concerns that meeting protestors had conveyed—from the public podium and their seats in the audience—about the possibility of increased police violence in the coming season, due to the new rules. People who speak up should not be forced to shut up, he said.

The 2–1 tally was enough to pass the measure on the four-member board. One seat is currently vacant. The city’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, told The Square Beacon the board needs a majority of those present to approve a motion. Continue reading “Protest at Bloomington park board meeting yields 2–1 vote on farmers market rules of behavior”