Plan commission lawsuit: Injunction filed against meetings; Bloomington wants amended complaint dismissed

Bloomington’s plan commission is scheduled to convene a regular monthly meeting on Monday, July 13.

3-guenther kappas cockerham
From left to right: Andrew Guenther, who claims that he’s the rightful appointee to the city plan commission seat; Nick Kappas, who served in the seat through 2019; Chris Cockerham who was appointed by the mayor to the seat.

The meeting agenda  includes two residential projects—one on 3rd Street near the police station, and another at Johnson Creamery—which together could mean 179 additional bedrooms for Bloomington’s housing inventory.

Andrew Guenther won’t be helping to decide whether those projects are approved. That’s because the city of Bloomington has rejected Guenther’s claim to a plan commission seat, which is based on an attempted appointment by the Monroe County’s Republican Party chair, William Ellis.

Instead of Guenther, it will be Chris Cockerham serving in that seat on Monday. Cockerham is a Republican, who’s the choice of Bloomington’s mayor, Democrat John Hamilton. Cockerham has already served for one meeting as plan commissioner, on June 8, which is what prompted a lawsuit.

A court hearing is now set for Aug. 5. If any part of the hearing goes Guenther’s way, it might not be Cockerham who serves in the seat for the next while. Guenther and Ellis are asking the court to keep Cockerham on the sidelines of any plan commission meetings, until the matter is resolved. Continue reading “Plan commission lawsuit: Injunction filed against meetings; Bloomington wants amended complaint dismissed”

UDO Update: Bloomington’s plan commission OKs city council amendments, elects officers, moves Trinitas PUD forward

Plan commission Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 11.47.16 PM
Jillian Kinzie adds the vice president tab to her nameplate, a position on Bloomington’s plan commission to which she was elected Monday night. (CATS screen grab)

At a meeting that took less than an hour Monday evening, Bloomington’s plan commission voted unanimously to approve the version of the updated unified development ordinance (UDO) that the city council adopted last year.

Commissioners also elected officers. Brad Wisler will continue as president, and Jillian Kinsey will serve as vice president.

The plan commission also sent a proposed planned unit development, from Trinitas Development, to the city council with a unanimous positive recommendation. The proposed project is on 39.29 acres on West 17th Street, southeast of the I-69 and SR 46 interchange.

The Trinitas development proposes to include 387 housing units, with a total of 825 bedrooms and 458 parking spaces. Trinities is proposing to turn over to the city 45 single-family lots to be used was whatever housing the city sees fit. Continue reading “UDO Update: Bloomington’s plan commission OKs city council amendments, elects officers, moves Trinitas PUD forward”

District 3 city council race: 2-point margin for Democrat Ron Smith over independent Kappas

The three-way race on the ballot for Bloomington’s city council District 3 seat wound up a close two-way contest between Democratic Party nominee Ron Smith and independent Nick Kappas. Independent Marty Spechler was a distant third.

Just 23 votes, or 2.4 percentage points, separated Smith from Kappas. Smith received 448 votes (46.3 percent), Kappas 425 votes (43.9 percent), and Spechler 95 votes (9.8 percent).

Of the seven precincts in District 3, Kappas won four of them. Kappas had 20 more votes than Smith among voters who cast ballots on Election Day—Kappas tallied 354 votes, compared to 334 for Smith. But Smith had a bigger advantage among voters who cast their ballots early—Smith got 114 of those votes compared to 71 for Kappas. Continue reading “District 3 city council race: 2-point margin for Democrat Ron Smith over independent Kappas”

Bloomington city council campaign filings: Party support means Republican candidate enjoys 20-to-1 funding advantage over Democrat

cropped 10-18-2019 voting central-IMG_7239
The banner for early voting hangs at Election Central at 7th and Madison streets in downtown Bloomington. Early voting starts Oct. 21. The deadline for filing campaign finance reports for the period ending Oct. 11 was last Friday at noon. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Friday at noon was the deadline for pre-election campaign finance filings in Bloomington’s city council races. Election Day is Nov. 5.

The campaign finance forms filed for Bloomington’s District 3 city council race by were pretty much politics as usual.

One District 3 candidate, independent Marty Spechler, didn’t file the paperwork by the deadline, which is not smiled upon by election officials, but is not all that uncommon. The other two District 3 candidates, Democrat Ron Smith and independent Nick Kappas, together raised in the neighborhood of $3,000.

But the way that sum was divided between the independent and the Democrat was maybe a little unusual for Bloomington’s political culture, which is mostly dominated by Democrats. The $2,350 in itemized contributions collected by Kappas for the filing period was more than twice as much as the $973.22 shown on Smith’s paperwork.

Definitely unusual was the  nearly 20-to-1 funding gap between Republican Andrew Guenther and Democrat Sue Sgambelluri in District 2.  Guenther’s contributions totaled $37,375, compared to $1,919.70 for Sgambelluri. That includes $8,000 for Guenther reported separately as a large donation, after the reporting period ended.

The largest part of contributions to Guenther’s campaign, including the separately reported $8,000, came from the Monroe County Republican Party. Added to the $22,500 donated to Guenther by the party since the reporting period started (on April 13), it would bring Guenther’s Republican Party total to $30,500.

The Republican Party’s filing shows that of its  $31,790 in itemized contributions, $30,000 came from a single donor, Doug Horn.

On Nov. 5 this year, city council Districts 2 and 3 are the only districts where elections are being held. Elections are not being held in Bloomington’s other four districts because the county election board cancelled them, because none of the races were contested there, and no citywide races were contested. Continue reading “Bloomington city council campaign filings: Party support means Republican candidate enjoys 20-to-1 funding advantage over Democrat”

Key topics for District 3 city council race forum: convention center, transportation

cropped 10-16-2019 kappas spechler smith IMG_7062
From left, Bloomington  District 3 city council candidates: Ron Smith, Nick Kappas and Marty Spechler. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

At a forum held on Wednesday night for Bloomington city council candidates in District 3, an audience of around a dozen Bell Trace residents heard from the three candidates who are on this year’s ballot: Nick Kappas (independent), Ron Smith (Democrat), and Marty Spechler (independent).

Bell Trace is a senior living community on the city’s east side. Residents had questions about two specific topics: transportation and a planned convention center expansion downtown.

The timing for those topics squares up with a couple of public meetings planned before the end of the month, on Oct. 29. One is the kickoff to a series of meetings hosted by Bloomington Transit about a proposed new route configuration, which has been studied for more than a year.

Another meeting set for Oct. 29 is a joint meeting of the city council and the county council about the plans for the expanded convention center.

All three candidates expressed support for the convention center expansion. Mayor John Hamilton, who was having dinner at Bell Trace with his mother-in-law, dropped by the forum to express his support for fellow Democratic Party primary winner Ron Smith. Hamilton was also asked about the convention center. He said he was “a little worried” about it, but was confident that it would move forward. Continue reading “Key topics for District 3 city council race forum: convention center, transportation”