Bloomington city council candidates asked: What are you going to do to combat white supremacy in your support of the arts?

widview group xy try IMG_3410Tuesday night at the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center, across from the derelict 4th Street parking garage, the audience filled a bit less than half the 132-seat auditorium. The performance was a political one, a two-act play of sorts, directed by Danielle McClelland, on behalf of a new arts group in town, called Arts Forward Bloomington.

Of the seven actors in Tuesday’s 90-minute drama, four are candidates in the two contested races for city council. The other three have their city council races already won, by default, with no opposition. District 2 and District 3 are the only areas of the city where elections will be held on Nov. 5.

Appearing on Tuesday for District 2 were Republican Andrew Guenther and Democrat Sue Sgambelluri. For the District 3 race, Democrat Ron Smith and independent Nick Kappas appeared; independent Marty Spechler did not attend.

McClelland said all candidates, including incumbents for clerk and mayor, were invited.

As executive director of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, McClelland is well-practiced in the duty of introducing a show. She told the audience that candidates would get five minutes each to respond to some questions, which they’d been given ahead of time. That was to be followed by questions from audience members, written on notecards.

Tuesday’s forum did not draw out much in the way of fundamental differences in candidates’ policies on public support of the arts. They all acknowledged the important threads that the arts weave into Bloomington’s social and civic fabric.

Their remarks featured a few mentions of the plan to expand the convention center. An expanded center could be a potential location for public art installations and a performance venue, they said. The night before, elected officials had gathered to meet about the planned convention center expansion—the existing one is a couple of blocks to the west of the Waldron Center.

The only overt politicking from a candidate came in response to the final question of the night on Tuesday, from the audience: What are Arts Forward Bloomington and the city council going to do to specifically to combat white supremacy in their support of the arts?
Continue reading “Bloomington city council candidates asked: What are you going to do to combat white supremacy in your support of the arts?”

Analysis: Small, older batch of voters will decide Bloomington municipal elections this year

The headline for this piece is unlikely to surprise anyone with just a scant knowledge of local Bloomington politics or national election trends.

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Shown are the two districts where Bloomington city elections will be held on Nov. 5 this year, with the names of candidates who will appear on the ballot. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Still, it’s worth adding some precision to some general ideas.  Bloomington’s quadrennial municipal elections—held the year before presidential contests—attract few voters. And those who do vote are older than average.

Based on turnout in past years, I think maybe 1,500 voters will participate in Bloomington’s Nov. 5 elections. That’s about 3 percent of city voters in the registered voter file provided by the Monroe County election supervisor’s office in early July.

Based on participation in past elections, more than half of those 1,500 voters will be older than 60. That’s almost three decades older than the average registered voter in Bloomington.

It’s unfair, of course, to compare an estimated maximum of 1,500 voters this November to the number of registered voters in all of Bloomington. That’s because elections will be held in just two of six city council districts this year. The other four district seats on the city council are uncontested. Also uncontested are races for all city-wide offices—mayor, city clerk and member-at-large city council seats.

Adjusting for just the roughly 16,000 registered voters in District 2 and District 3 combined, an estimated maximum turnout of 1,500 works out to around 9 percent. That doesn’t add up to a point of civic pride.

For District 2, my working estimate for maximum turnout is about 500 voters. I think if one of the two candidates gets more than 250 votes, that will be enough to win the seat. For District 3, I don’t think the turnout will be more than about 1,000 voters. I think if any of the three candidates gets more than 375 votes, that will be enough to win.

For both districts, I think the average age of voters this November will be older than 60.

After the jump, I’ll lay out the numbers behind those estimates. Continue reading “Analysis: Small, older batch of voters will decide Bloomington municipal elections this year”

Monroe County’s councilors want to know: How do propane, parking decks, PCBs, a pillar and polling equipment add up to $5.17 million?

A presentation from Monroe County’s three commissioners to the seven-member county council on Tuesday night listed out a dozen and a half projects they want to pay for with one-year general obligation (GO) bonds. The not-to-exceed amount that the commissioners want the county council to authorize is $5.17 million.

Adding up the cost of the individual projects might come to that total, but councilors weren’t provided that information by commissioners on Tuesday. And they expressed their wish to have that information before voting on the bonds.

The list of items includes: propane conversions for vehicles in the county fleet; sealing of a parking garage top deck; purchase of some land that was declared a Superfund site by the EPA in the 1980s; refurbishment of the Alexander Memorial; voting equipment that will be deployed in the 2020 spring primaries; and a raft of other items.

One way to arrive at the $5.17 million figure is to check the statutory limit for the maximum allowable bond issuance, above which the proposal becomes what the state legislature calls a “controlled project.” This year that limit matches the amount the commissioners want the county to bond for: $5.17 million—any higher and the bond issuance would be subject to remonstrance and potential referendum.

The GO bonds were just up for a first reading Tuesday night. The vote will come at the county council’s next regular meeting, which is set for Oct. 8. That gives the councilors some time get the kind of cost details they are looking for.

During the meeting, the council’s president, Shelli Yoder, put together an ad hoc committee to look at paying cash for a few items instead of bonding for them.

Marty Hawk summed up her lack up of support for the bond by pointing to the amount, which is more than twice as much as the amount for which the county has bonded in past years: “I just think it’s over the top.”

Besides the ad hoc committee, another outcome of the back-and-forth between the council and commissioners was scheduling a special work session, before the Sept. 24 session already on the council’s schedule, for the 10 elected officials to talk about the projects on the list.

Continue reading “Monroe County’s councilors want to know: How do propane, parking decks, PCBs, a pillar and polling equipment add up to $5.17 million?”

Now posted: The Beacon’s voter’s guide for 2019 Bloomington general elections

This November will mark the first election, dating back at least to 1967, that not all registered voters in Bloomington will able to cast a ballot for city offices—mayor, city clerk, and the nine-member common council.

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Shown are the two districts where Bloomington city elections will be held on Nov. 5 this year, with the names of candidates who will appear on the ballot. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

That’s because elections are contested in just two city council districts: District 2 and District 3. Voters in District 2 will choose between Andrew Guenther (R) and Sue Sgambelluri (D). In District 3, the choice is between Nick Kappas (I), Ron Smith (D) and Marty Spechler (I).

The Beacon’s voters guide includes short profiles of the five candidates in contested elections and links to other useful information. The guide also includes candidates in non-contested elections.

In areas other than District 2 and District 3, no elections will be held, because there are no contested races. Ballots in those districts will show just the contested races. That’s not automatic, but in areas where no races are contested, state law gives county election boards the authority to cancel them. And that’s what Monroe County’s election board did in August. Continue reading “Now posted: The Beacon’s voter’s guide for 2019 Bloomington general elections”

Contested Bloomington elections set for fall: None citywide, two of six council districts

Voters in city council Districts 2 and 3 are the only Bloomington residents who will have a choice at the November polls this year.

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Shown are the two districts where Bloomington city elections will be held on Nov. 5 this year, with the names of candidates who will appear on the ballot. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

In Monroe County’s election headquarters, at the intersection of 7th and Madison streets, the deadline for write-in candidates expired Wednesday at noon. By then, no write-in candidates had registered for Bloomington’s fall elections.

It was the final deadline for adding official candidates to the mix. The deadline for independent candidates to submit petitions had already passed on Monday.

Barring any withdrawals, that sets up contested races in two of the six council districts and none for the five citywide positions—mayor, clerk and councilmember at large. No election is held for races that aren’t contested.

That means voters in most of Bloomington, all except for the northern third of the city, won’t have a chance to go to the polls on Nov. 5. Continue reading “Contested Bloomington elections set for fall: None citywide, two of six council districts”

Filing deadline passes with no independent candidates for Bloomington mayor on the ballot

At Monroe County’s election headquarters at the intersection of 7th and Madison streets, election supervisor Karen Wheeler spoke with The Beacon around quarter to noon on Monday. Up to then, she said, no independent candidates for Bloomington mayor had turned in the minimum 522 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

A short while later, after confirming the clock read 12:01, Wheeler declared the deadline expired. cropped election registration sign 20190701_115854

Write-in candidates have until noon Wednesday, July 3, to file their paperwork.

The Republican Party is not fielding a candidate for mayor.

That means if no candidate registers as a write-in for the mayor’s race, incumbent John Hamilton is certain to serve as mayor for another four years, starting in 2020, even though no vote for that office will be held.

If no candidate registers as a write-in for any of the other citywide posts, that will mean no elections on Nov. 5 for most of the city of Bloomington, according to Wheeler. Continue reading “Filing deadline passes with no independent candidates for Bloomington mayor on the ballot”

Bloomington city council districts don’t guarantee geographic diversity (Or: Steve Volan is the center of the political Bloomiverse)

City Councilmember Steve Volan lives almost exactly in the middle of Bloomington.

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The blue cross hairs pinpoint the geographic center of Bloomington. Pink circles represent incumbents on the city council. Orange triangles represent challengers in this year’s elections. (Dave Askins/The Beacon)

The center of Bloomington’s area—the centroid calculated by a piece of geographic information software called QGIS—lies a few feet west of Indiana University’s Henderson Parking Garage on Atwater Avenue.

And of the nine people who represent Bloomington residents on the City Council, the one who lives closest to that exact geographic center of the city is Steve Volan. It’s about a quarter mile from the parking garage to his place. Continue reading “Bloomington city council districts don’t guarantee geographic diversity (Or: Steve Volan is the center of the political Bloomiverse)”

Could the blue bubble of Bloomington have a reddish tinge in City Council District 2?

When maps of election results in recent Indiana statewide races are color-shaded—with reds or blues where Republicans or Democrats won more votes—the Hoosier state is a sea of red with some blue islands.

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The few patches of blue for Indiana are consistent with a robust national pattern: Rural counties are stronger for Republicans; counties with higher urban populations, especially those with universities, are stronger for Democrats.

By way of example, in the 2018 Braun-versus-Donnelly U.S. Senate race, the Republican candidate (Mike Braun) carried most of the counties in the state. Monroe County, which is home to Bloomington’s Indiana University campus, went decisively Donnelly’s way, so it’s a dark shade of blue. Continue reading “Could the blue bubble of Bloomington have a reddish tinge in City Council District 2?”