Proposed Bloomington law to protect houseless encampments to get first reading on Feb. 17

A new local law that would provide certain protections to people living in city park encampments will get a first reading in front of Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday (Feb. 17).

That’s two weeks later than the Feb. 3 first-reading date that had initially been floated by sponsors of the ordinance—councilmembers Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger, and Isabel Piedmont-Smith.

The proposed new law comes after a decision by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, to clear a Seminary Park encampment in early December and again in mid-January.

On Sunday morning (Feb. 14), no tents were set up Seminary Park and no one was congregated there.

Highlights of the proposed new law include a requirement of 15-day notice by the city to a houseless person living in a city park encampment, before they and their belongings can be removed from the park.

The new law is being proposed in the context of a “Houseless Bill of Rights” that had been circulated by activist Vauhxx Booker just after the first clearance of Seminary Park in early December. One point of overlap between the proposed new ordinance and the “Houseless Bill of Rights” is the requirement of a 15-day notice before people are removed. Continue reading “Proposed Bloomington law to protect houseless encampments to get first reading on Feb. 17”

Opinion: Bloomington’s new city seal ordinance delivers insight into a possibilities for better legislative process

An ordinance that establishes a new city seal for Bloomington does not appear on the city council’s regular meeting agenda for Wednesday, Dec. 2.

Yet that is the date when it was proposed by the city clerk to be effective.

Those two morsels make for some pretty thin civic gruel in the post-Thanksgiving news cycle. But it’s not too thin to feed a proposal that would tweak the city council’s legislative process.

One part of the approach served up here would change a single line of the local code, which prohibits any debate on a new law when it is first introduced to the city council.

The other change to the process would make routine for all legislation a practice that the city council already uses for the annual budget: Councilmembers submit written questions, which are then answered by staff in writing, and posted for the public to review.

Before looking at that proposal in a little more detail, it’s worth adding a little meat to the legislative soup of the city seal. Continue reading “Opinion: Bloomington’s new city seal ordinance delivers insight into a possibilities for better legislative process”

Analysis: Parallels between Republicans in General Assembly, Democrats on Bloomington city council

cropped juxtaposed city hall state captial MG_2411In 2017, Bloomington filed suit against Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, over an annexation law that was enacted by the state legislature as a part of that year’s biennial budget bill.

Indiana’s Supreme Court is still weighing the arguments in the case, which were presented in January this year.

As Monroe County residents inside and outside Bloomington continue to wait for the state’s highest court to rule, it’s worth remembering the reasons why Bloomington filed its lawsuit.

When those reasons are recalled, in the context of a potential new local law in front of Bloomington’s city council, it’s hard to miss the parallels—between the approach taken by Republican-dominated legislature of 2017 and today’s Bloomington city council, which is composed entirely of Democrats.

In Bloomington’s view, when the annexation law was incorporated into the biennial budget bill, that caused the legislation to be unconstitutional—because it was not confined to a single subject, as required by the state’s constitution.

The annexation law was also unconstitutional special legislation, according to Bloomington, because it applied to Bloomington, and only Bloomington.

On the local level, a remarkable parallel to the 2017 annexation legislation could unfold in connection with an ordinance that Bloomington city councilmembers might enact this Wednesday.

It involves a proposal to change the way neighborhood permit parking zones work. Continue reading “Analysis: Parallels between Republicans in General Assembly, Democrats on Bloomington city council”

Bloomington city council tees up new local law to regulate non-consensual vehicle towing

If you leave your car in a private lot where you’re not allowed to park, you risk getting your vehicle towed at your own expense. That’s not really news—for Bloomington or any other place.

What is new for Bloomington is a proposed ordinance to regulate companies that provide towing service to parking lot owners. Such companies would have to pay the city $350 a year for a “non-consensual tow business license” and face, on first offense, a $2,500 fine for failure to obtain a license.

The $350 license fee is the same as what a one-year license cost for mobile food vendors in Bloomington, according to the staff memo in the city council’s information packet.

The ordinance will get a first reading next Wednesday night, which means no debate and no final action will be taken on it at that meeting. At most, the council could refer the proposed ordinance for consideration by its committee of the whole on the following Wednesday or some other time in the future. Continue reading “Bloomington city council tees up new local law to regulate non-consensual vehicle towing”