Protesters want the Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, to allow encampments of houseless people to persist in public parks. They point to Centers for Disease Control guidelines that call for allowing encampments to stay in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, if other individual housing options are not available.
Whether such options are available is a disputed point.
Monday’s action included as many as 80 people at its peak, which retraced the steps of around a dozen people the night before, from Seminary Park to Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s house. He lives in the Elm Heights neighborhood, south of the Indiana University campus, about a three-quarter mile walk from Seminary Park.
On Monday, the group continued from the mayor’s house to People’s Park on Kirkwood Avenue, where a teach-in was held, featuring speakers from Indiana University’s Rainbow Coalition, a relatively new coalition of multicultural groups on campus.
The night wrapped up around 11:30 p.m. as two houseless men pitched a tent at People’s Park, and protesters lined the sidewalk to form a wall against possible police action.
The MCDP statement asks that portable restrooms and handwashing stations be placed at the park as “the bare minimum.”
The statement also calls on elected representatives in city and county government to “work together in conjunction with local social service organizations, activists, and those that are experiencing homelessness to build a coalition and work together on a long-term solution.”
The MCDP statement advocates “allocating funds for long-term housing for those unhoused…”
That echoes a sentiment that has begun to get more frequent mention in local discussions, which is summarized in the slogan, “housing first.” That contrasts with the idea of putting “shelter first.”
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.
The city of Bloomington confirmed to The Square Beacon on Thursday afternoon that the mayor, John Hamilton, has appointed commercial real estate broker Chris Cockerham to fill the vacancy on the city’s plan commission. The plan commission is a nine-member group, five of which seats are appointed by the mayor.
The vacancy was created in January, when Nick Kappas was not reappointed.
In a statement sent to The Square Beacon city attorney Mike Rouker said, “[T]he Mayor was pleased to select Chris for service on the commission. We are very excited about this appointment, and we are looking forward to Chris and the rest of the plan commission getting back to the important work they do for our community.”
Reached by The Square Beacon on Thursday, Cockerham said, “I’m ready to serve and happy to serve. Hopefully, it works out.”
Sue Sgambelluri at a Sept. 17 candidate forum. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
Andrew Guenther at a Sept. 17 candidate forum. (Dave Askins/Beacon)
In late August, at a Democratic Party caucus, District 2 Bloomington city council candidate Sue Sgambelluri offered the gathering her thoughts on Democrat Marty Spechler’s run for the District 3 seat as an independent: “First, I want to congratulate District 3 on having replaced District 2 as the most interesting race this year. Well done!”