Monroe County commissioners OK contract with BLM Bloomington for anti-racism training, don’t require other electeds to take it

At their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved a $6,000 agreement with Black Lives Matter Bloomington for a day of anti-racism training next year.

The six-hour day of training by eight BLM facilitators is currently scheduled for Jan. 30, 2021. But that date could change by agreement between the commissioners and BLM.

Also at their Wednesday meeting, the commissioners approved revisions to the Monroe County personnel manual that, among other items, address the kind of training that will be provided by BLM. It won’t require elected officials to take BLM’s training.

Commissioners had postponed the revisions to the personnel manual from the previous week. Some wording in an initially proposed added section had caused county councilors to amend the 2021 salary ordinances. The councilors’ amendment tied the ordinances to the personnel manual as it stood, before any revisions were made.

The initial revision had read: “[A]ll elected officials and full time employees will be required to participate in a training…”

The version approved by commissioners on Wednesday reads: “[A]ll full time, non-law enforcement, employees, with the exception of those working under the authority of the Prosecutor and Board of Judges, will be required to participate in training.” Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners OK contract with BLM Bloomington for anti-racism training, don’t require other electeds to take it”

Monroe County mulls $3 million in capital projects for yearly GO bond issuance, after concept gets kicked around in debate on local income tax increase

At last Tuesday’s meeting of Monroe County’s council, county board of commissioners president Julie Thomas presented a list of projects that could be funded using proceeds from a $3-million general obligation (GO) bond.

Introductory text of a past year’s ordinance used to authorize Monroe County’s issuance of general obligation bonds.

It’s a routine strategy for the county, each year to set property taxes at a high enough rate to generate enough revenue to cover the repayment of short-term general obligation bonds.

The list presented by Thomas for this year included: trucks and heavy equipment for the highway department; support vehicles for the highway department; parks ADA projects; replacement of core switches in the justice building; radios for sheriff’s office; handheld narcotics analyzer; county vehicle refresh; renovations related to office move by highway and surveyor; and trail connections.

On Tuesday, the list did not appear to generate any red flags for county councilors. Last year, commissioners proposed a $5-million bond that drew sharp enough scrutiny from councilor Marty Hawk that the list of projects was trimmed down to about $3.3 million. This year’s proposal will get more consideration in the next few weeks before a vote is taken.

The idea of issuing GO bonds to fund capital projects made its way into recent deliberations in front of the Bloomington city council, during its deliberations on a possible increase to the countywide local income tax (LIT). The council’s vote was 4–5, so the proposal did not achieve even the simply majority to move it forward for consideration by the rest of the tax council. Continue reading “Monroe County mulls $3 million in capital projects for yearly GO bond issuance, after concept gets kicked around in debate on local income tax increase”

Split votes on race-related topics by city, county electeds

Wednesday is the usual meeting day for two local elected bodies—Bloomington’s city council and Monroe County’s board of commissioners. This week they each approved legislation involving anti-racist efforts.

The city council approved a resolution endorsing a proposal for art featuring the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”

The county commissioners approved a $292,500 contract with a consultant to provide diversity training.

Both approvals came without the full support of the elected groups. In a rare non-unanimous vote on the three-member county board, commissioner Penny Githens dissented on the approval of the diversity training contract.

On the city council, Dave Rollo abstained from the vote on the art project, which left the proposal with eight of nine city councilmembers in support of it.

Continue reading “Split votes on race-related topics by city, county electeds”

Monroe County commissioners get preliminary OK for $10K salary increase

At their budget work session on Thursday, the third in as many days, Monroe County councilors voted 5–2 to set the salaries for the three county commissioners at $46,000, which is about $10,000 more than they were paid last year.

From the on-screen live spreadsheet used by Monroe County councilors to track their budget revisions during their Sept. 10 work session, which was conducted on the Zoom videoconferencing platform.

It’s about $14,000 less than the figure that commissioners had requested.

Thursday’s vote set the amount that will be included in the advertised budget, which will get a final vote in mid-October.

Procedurally, the councilors voted to reduce the three line items for each of the commissioners in their proposed budget from a requested $60,133 to $46,000.

Commissioners had asked for around $60,000, which would have put them on roughly equal footing with other Monroe County electeds like the auditor, treasurer and recorder. It would have also made their compensation on par with county commissioners in Tippecanoe County. Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners get preliminary OK for $10K salary increase”

Monroe County officials apologize: Change to denser zoning went through automatically when 90-day window was missed

A 5.34-acre parcel just south of Bloomington, where just a single house stands, now has the right zoning for the eventual construction of a couple dozen residences.

The developer is Charles Layne LLC with Bynum Fanyo & Associates as the engineering consultant.

In Monroe County’s zoning scheme, the parcel has been rezoned from Estate Residential I (REI) to High Density Residential (HR). The old zoning allowed for just one residence per acre. The new zoning, with some commitments made by the developer, makes for a density of around 4.2 residences per acre.

The news of the rezoning was announced at Wednesday morning’s regular meeting of Monroe County’s board of commissioners. It came with apologies all around.

The Holland Pines rezoning was not the result of a decision made by the three commissioners. It was due to a missed deadline. Continue reading “Monroe County officials apologize: Change to denser zoning went through automatically when 90-day window was missed”

100th anniversary of women’s voting rights commemorated by Monroe County commissioners as COVID-19 uncertainties linger in fall election prep

Aug. 26, 2020 was Women’s Equality Day in Monroe County.

Making it so was a proclamation from Monroe County’s three county commissioners, which they issued at their regular weekly meeting on Wednesday morning.

The occasion was the 100th anniversary of another proclamation, issued by U.S. Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby, which formally incorporated the 19th Amendment into the Constitution, and gave women the right to vote. Colby’s proclamation was made possible eight days earlier, on Aug. 18, 1920, when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment.

Wednesday morning’s proclamation from county commissioners included a general call to exercise the right to vote: “We encourage Monroe County voters to honor the sacrifices made to attain the right to vote and to cast their ballot in the 2020 general election.” Continue reading “100th anniversary of women’s voting rights commemorated by Monroe County commissioners as COVID-19 uncertainties linger in fall election prep”

Opinion | Recovering four words: true and equal partnership

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This Square Beacon file photo is from a joint meeting of city and county officials on the convention center expansion that took place in 2019.

Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, gave a speech last week on Thursday, released in a Facebook video, that revealed the basic approach the city will take to spur a local recovery from the economic impact of COVID-19. It’s a program the mayor is calling “Recovering Forward.”

The speech prompted a response from county elected officials in the form of a pointed press release issued late this Friday afternoon.

By way of background, the mayor had sketched out the initial part of his recovery plan at a Bloomington city council work session the Friday before. To jump start the effort, the initial part of the plan includes a request to the Bloomington city council for a $2-million appropriation.

Overshadowing the rest of the speech was the mayor’s renewed pitch for an increase to the local income tax, something he’d announced as a goal on New Year’s Day. The amount of the proposed increase last week was reduced—from a half point to a quarter point—compared to the proposal he’d made earlier.

The way the local income tax works is already a point of friction between Bloomington and Monroe County government.

But escaping mention in the local press was this passage from the mayor’s speech:

I’ll note that the City’s recovery investment can and I believe should be in parallel with a similar county government investment in recovery, with their also-healthy financial reserves. I’ve urged our colleagues in county government to expand their support for eviction protection, for our public health system, for the criminal justice system reforms so sorely needed, and for other recovery needs.

That paragraph from the address, among others, piqued the interest of the mayor’s “colleagues in county government”—who wondered why the mayor felt it was his place to urge them to do anything at all.

They wondered even more why the mayor was urging them to do things they believe they’re already doing. Continue reading “Opinion | Recovering four words: true and equal partnership”

No word from prosecutor: July 4 Lake Monroe incident involving Bloomington activist gets tried in court of public opinion

As of early Tuesday morning, there was still no word from the Monroe County prosecutor’s office on possible charges arising from an incident that took place at Lake Monroe on July 4.

cropped 2020-07-14 microphones mic press conference

In a Facebook post the following day, local activist and Monroe County human rights commissioner, Vauhxx Booker, described himself as “almost the victim of an attempted lynching.”

Since then, demonstrations with a few hundred people have been held on the courthouse square in downtown Bloomington and Booker has given a few press conferences. At one of the press events he and his legal counsel called for a federal grand jury to be convened.

On Monday, David Hennessy, an attorney who represents Sean Purdy and Caroline McCord, two of the people who were involved in the incident, and whom Booker is accusing, gave a press conference.

Hennessy argued a case for his clients, saying that Booker was “the instigator and the agitator” in the incident. Continue reading “No word from prosecutor: July 4 Lake Monroe incident involving Bloomington activist gets tried in court of public opinion”

Monroe County maxes out its $400K of COVID-19 relief using food and beverage tax money

At its regular meeting on Wednesday morning, the three-member board of Monroe County commissioners approved the 10th and probably final round of grants as part of its program to give relief to businesses and nonprofits that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That brought the total amount awarded by the county to right around $400,000, distributed to over 30 different entities involved in tourism-related enterprises.

The total amount of tax proceeds recommended by the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) for the purpose COVID-19 relief by the county was $400,000.

One of the awards given by commissioners on Wednesday morning was a $10,000 loan to a previous grant recipient, Trailhead Enterprises. The money, which will pay for an air-conditioning unit, is supposed be paid back by Aug. 1, according to county attorney Margie Rice.

The other two grant awards on Wednesday went to Rising Star Gymnastics for $25,000 and The WonderLab Museum of Science, Health & Technology for $65,000.

Continue reading “Monroe County maxes out its $400K of COVID-19 relief using food and beverage tax money”

Advisory groups give green light to city council on 7th Street: Remove parking for protected bicycle lane

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Segment of 7th Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Bloomington.
College to Walnut Screen 7-Line aerial 10.33.35 PM
The images shows the segment of 7th Street between College Avenue and Walnut Street. The top image shows current parking and lane conditions. The lower image is a rendering of the 7-Line protected bicycle lane project. Both images link to an animated .gif of them alternating.

On Thursday, at its first regular meeting since the end of January, Bloomington’s parking commission reviewed the protected bicycle lane project that’s going to be built on 7th Street sometime in 2021.

It was in front of the commission because the 7-Line, to be built as a two-way bicycle path on the south side of the roadway, will require the removal of 113 on-street metered parking spaces. It’s the loss of parking spaces that has generated some concern among property owners along the corridor, among them the Monroe County government.

Parking commissioners gave a unanimous recommendation in support of the planning and transportation staff’s finding—that the three-quarter-mile bicycle lane from the B-Line Trail to the Indiana University campus at Woodlawn supports several goals of the city’s comprehensive plan and squares up with the city’s transportation plan.

As Beth Rosenbarger, Bloomington’s planning services manager, pointed out to parking commissioners, the city’s transportation plan calls for a protected bicycle lane along 7th Street. Continue reading “Advisory groups give green light to city council on 7th Street: Remove parking for protected bicycle lane”