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.

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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

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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”

Bloomington park commissioners say no to status quo on food and beverage vendor fees at farmers market, possible decrease coming

At its Tuesday meeting, a short-handed board of park commissioners decided on a split vote to reject the city staff’s proposed fee structure for food and beverage artisans in the coming season at Bloomington’s farmers market.

Bloomington parks and recreation staff will now work to come up with an alternate fee structure proposal for food and beverage artisans.

The alternate structure could include lower fees and will likely be considered at the board’s February or March meeting. The farmer stall fee structure was already approved by the board in early January. Continue reading “Bloomington park commissioners say no to status quo on food and beverage vendor fees at farmers market, possible decrease coming”

Focus of Bloomington’s “fragile” farmers market in 2020: Decisions on time, manner and place

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Bloomington’s farmers market advisory council (FMTAC) takes a vote Monday night on a recommendation that the percentage of gross sales that food and beverage artisans pay to the market be reduced from 10 to 5 percent in 2020, with a goal of establishing a fixed fee on par with that paid by farm vendors. FMTAC did not take a vote for or against privatization of the market. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Jan. 9 next year, Bloomington’s board of park commissioners will make a decision about the future of the city-sponsored market, which last year featured 121 farm vendors and 17 food and beverage artisans. Continue reading “Focus of Bloomington’s “fragile” farmers market in 2020: Decisions on time, manner and place”

Uncertain future for Bloomington farmers market, still no decision on charges against protestors

At Monday’s meeting of the farmers market advisory council, held in Bloomington’s city council chambers, few answers about the future of the market could be gleaned from the group’s discussion. That’s partly because the group’s role is just advisory, to the city’s four-member board of park commissioners.

Department administrator for the parks and recreation department, Paula McDevitt, told the advisory council “[W]e do not have an announcement tonight about the future of the market…”

What makes the future uncertain has been a season of protests against a vendor with alignment to white-supremacist groups. The market was  suspended for two weeks in late July amid concerns about possible violence.

At Monday’s meeting, the market’s coordinator, Marcia Veldman, said attendance was off by about half compared to previous years. The last couple of years, the market has seen around a quarter million visitors in the course of a season, according to the city of Bloomington’s data portal.

For several vendors, the timeframe for making a decision about whether sell at the market next year is short. Rebecca Vadas is a honey vendor who also sits on the farmers market advisory council. She said at Monday’s meeting that she had to make a decision by mid-December. One of the decisions she has to make is how many bees to buy. “We’re all at a crossroads,” she said.

Bruce McCallister, who chaired Monday’s meeting, said after meeting with vendors and listening to them, “My takeaway was there are a lot of people really hurting [financially and personally] from this season and a sense of urgency to try and address that before next year.” Continue reading “Uncertain future for Bloomington farmers market, still no decision on charges against protestors”