Bloomington’s city council OKs 2020 budget, declines to set pay for police, cites ongoing labor talks

On Thursday night, Bloomington’s city council approved just five of the six items on its agenda that make up the legislative package covering the roughly $170 million budget for 2020.Single Bar Barchart of City Budget

The one item that didn’t get approved was the salary ordinance that sets police and fire salaries—they’re part of the same ordinance. It was put off, with a motion to table, which passed 9–0 on the nine-member council.

The decision to table the question appeared to be based on a hope for some kind of breakthrough in collective bargaining negotiations between the city and the police union.

A meeting with the city, the police union and a mediator, is scheduled for Oct. 24. The talks, which started with four meetings in 2018, did not conclude with an agreement by the end of that year, which was the end of the contract. So Bloomington police have been working thorough 2019 under a so-called “evergreen” clause.

Councilmembers also got clarification Thursday night that the proposed salary ordinance for 2020 means police would paid the same next year as they were in 2018. “It doesn’t appear that anyone wants that,” councilmember Steve Volan said.

Two factors seemed to give councilmembers the comfort they needed to entertain the idea of putting off a vote on the police and fire salaries.

They learned Monday night from council attorney/administrator Dan Sherman that they did not need to pass the salary ordinance by Nov. 1—which is the deadline for passing tax rates and appropriations. They also learned from controller Jeff Underwood that he had authority to pay firefighters and police through the end of 2019, based on the current salary ordinance.

The council will need find time to approve a new salary ordinance by the end of the year if police and firefighters are going to get paid in 2020. That will mean fitting it into a schedule packed from now until the end of the year with hearings and deliberations on the updated Unified Development Ordinance. Continue reading “Bloomington’s city council OKs 2020 budget, declines to set pay for police, cites ongoing labor talks”

First reading of Bloomington 2020 budget: “The two issues are police and climate change.”

At a special meeting held on Wednesday night, the Bloomington city council got a formal first reading of the half dozen ordinances that make up the 2020 budget, proposed by Mayor John Hamilton’s administration.

At their committee-of-the whole meeting, which followed on the heels of the special meeting, the council took a series of non-binding straw votes on the ordinances.

The outcome of those straw votes formed a record of their discontent.

They’re disappointed that the city and the police union have not yet reached an agreement after more than 18 months of negotiation, and they’re frustrated by the sheer volume of conflicting information about staffing levels, morale, recruitment and retention that they’ve heard from the police union and administration.

They’re also disappointed that the mayor declined to add a top-level position to manage the city’s response to climate change.

The areas of disappointment will not have surprised the administration or the watching public. Councilmembers had voiced many of the same concerns during a series of departmental budget hearings held over four days in August. Continue reading “First reading of Bloomington 2020 budget: “The two issues are police and climate change.””

New tree study for Bloomington measures canopy at 38 percent, climate strikers demand 60 percent

A key stat from a new tree inventory for the city of Bloomington, released on Tuesday, found its way into a list of climate activist demands presented to Mayor John Hamilton on Friday.

The demands were presented to the mayor a little after 3 p.m. by around 400 people who marched from Dunn Meadow, where Bloomington’s Climate Strike activities had started, to city hall. The third point on the list was:

Get the City of Bloomington to 60% Tree Coverage.

Based on a report delivered on Tuesday to Bloomington’s board of park commissioners  by Aren Flint, an urban forester with Davey Resource Group (DRG), the maximum tree canopy that Bloomington could achieve is 61 percent of its 15,000 acres. So the demand is essentially to max out Bloomington’s potential canopy. (The layer of leaves, branches and trunks of trees that block the view of the ground from above is called the “canopy.”)

The climate strikers’ demand noted that Bloomington’s tree canopy now covers just 38 percent of Bloomington’s area. That’s the figure from Tuesday’s new report, which is a 2018 analysis. Continue reading “New tree study for Bloomington measures canopy at 38 percent, climate strikers demand 60 percent”

Hey, Wait a Minute | The art of putting CATS on YouTube by yourself

Note: “Hey, Wait a Minute” is an occasional B Square Beacon series that highlights meeting minutes and other documentation of local government meetings in the Bloomington, Indiana area.

Thursday BH Screen Shot 2019-09-02 at 9.52.43 AM
Screenshot of YouTube version of Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019 Bloomington’s city council budget hearings. Link to time point in video: [200:38]

A couple of weeks ago, I described the automatically generated YouTube transcripts of Bloomington city council meeting videos as providing “a fantastically easy way to search through a video to find the exact spot you want to watch.” And I’ll say it again: It’s great that CATS (Community Access Television Services) is now uploading videos of regular city council sessions to YouTube.

But why would you ever want to watch some specific part of a city council meeting?

Maybe you’d like to hear exactly what a councilmember said about a particular topic with your own ears. What, for example, did Isabel Piedmont-Smith actually say about funding for the arts during the city council budget hearings? Continue reading “Hey, Wait a Minute | The art of putting CATS on YouTube by yourself”

2020 budget prompts Bloomington city council thoughts on climate change: From definitional questions to golf courses

Drop shadowed Sustainability Ord_05-15 (1)
Extracted from the 2005 ordinance that established the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Wednesday’s departmental budget hearings in front of Bloomington’s city council returned to a couple of themes from Monday’s session on the budget overview.  On Monday, councilmember Dave Rollo asked questions about the city’s preparedness for a looming economic downturn. And Isabel Piedmont-Smith questioned whether the budget generally did enough to address climate change.

On Wednesday, the topics of the economy and climate change led to some of the most energetic councilmember speaking turns of the four-day series of hearings. The more animated councilmember remarks came after some members of the public gave commentary on the budget of the Economic & Sustainable Development Department.

Continue reading “2020 budget prompts Bloomington city council thoughts on climate change: From definitional questions to golf courses”

Climate change, looming recession highlight city council response to mayor’s budget speech

Reactions from some Bloomington councilmembers to the administration’s proposed 2020 budget on Monday included two major questions: whether the budget does enough to address climate change; and whether Bloomington is ready for a looming recession. Continue reading “Climate change, looming recession highlight city council response to mayor’s budget speech”