$50K for “Public Health in Parks” gets OK from Bloomington board, after sharp scrutiny

A new program called “Public Health in Parks” got unanimous approval from Bloomington’s four-member board of park commissioners at a special meeting called for Tuesday night.

The program is a partnership between the parks department, Centerstone, Inc., IU Health Bloomington, and Monroe County’s health department. Centerstone is a nonprofit that provides mental health and substance use disorder services.

It builds on an existing arrangement between the parks department and Centerstone. The existing agreement is a jobs program—Centerstone clients work with park operations staff at landscaping and maintenance tasks. Also approved on Tuesday was an addendum to the agreement that expands the existing program.

The $50,000 in funding for Tuesday’s two agenda items was approved by Bloomington’s city council on Aug. 12  as part of a $2 million COVID-19 recovery package.

The board’s vote on the new Public Health in Parks initiative was unanimous, but came with some sharp criticism from board member Les Coyne. He sees the possibility of “mission creep” and wants the program considered in the context of the parks department’s mission. If it’s going to include social services, Coyne wants that to be implemented in the context of the parks comprehensive plan.

Coyne’s motion to approve the program included a requirement that the board of park commissioners be included in the initial evolution of the program, scheduled for December. Also a part of Coyne’s motion was a requirement that it be called an “experiment” not a “pilot”—so that “we don’t have any notion of committing to it in the future.”

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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.

FMAC Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 6.52.34 PM
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”

Bloomington park commissioners OK lower sales percentage as food and beverage artisan fee, but COVID-19 makes much of it moot

cropped parks meeting Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 8.59.58 PM
Kathleen Mills, chair of the board of park commissioners, was the only person present at city hall for the March 24, 2020 meeting of the board. That’s possible under a governor’s order given last week. Based on a new order issued on March 23, no onsite anchor is necessary for a public meeting. The whole meeting can be conducted by videoconference or teleconference. This is a screen grab of the Facebook live stream the city used to supplement the usual CATS coverage.

In a 3–0 vote at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Bloomington park commissioners approved a reduction in the fee that food and artisan vendors are supposed to pay for their space at the Bloomington farmers market.

The new official fee for the 2020 market season will be 7.5 percent of gross sales, which is 2.5 points lower than the fee that was charged in previous years. It’s not as much of a reduction as the farmers market advisory council had recommended, which was 5 percent this year, with an eye towards converting it to a flat fee.

It’s not a fee that’s going to be charged, though, according to Becky Higgins, recreation services division director. The market won’t be able to operate as it usually does, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Higgins told park commissioners the city  won’t be charging its food and artisan vendors, or its farm vendors, any fees for the first couple of months of the market this season. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners OK lower sales percentage as food and beverage artisan fee, but COVID-19 makes much of it moot”

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”