Post-flood recovery: Monday signing of local disaster declaration part of Monroe County’s two-pronged approach to aid, officials caution against high hopes

On Monday, Monroe County board of commissioners president Julie Thomas signed a declaration of local disaster, because of weekend flooding that hit downtown Bloomington and other areas of the county.

The disaster declaration will appear for ratification on the three-member board’s regular meeting agenda on Wednesday.

A declaration of local disaster, under Indiana Code 10-14-3-29, will “activate the response and recovery aspects of all applicable local or interjurisdictional disaster emergency plans.”

Such a declaration could also make homeowners and business owners alike eligible for reimbursement of uninsured flood damages by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

But the county’s emergency manager, Allison Moore, told a gathering of about 25 business and nonprofit leaders on Monday morning that nothing is guaranteed to be reimbursed.

Still, a disaster declaration would “help our cause,” Moore said, in connection with another approach the county is taking. The second approach is to ask the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) for low-interest loan assistance. Continue reading “Post-flood recovery: Monday signing of local disaster declaration part of Monroe County’s two-pronged approach to aid, officials caution against high hopes”

Houseless advocates march from Seminary Park to People’s Park to protest clearance from public spaces

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The clearance of an encampment at Bloomington’s Seminary Park in early December and again last week prompted on Monday the second protest in as many nights.

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.

Protesters left soon after that, and as of 8 a.m. on Tuesday, the tent was still there. Another second, larger one had been added. Continue reading “Houseless advocates march from Seminary Park to People’s Park to protest clearance from public spaces”

People’s Park mural will say “BLACK LIVES MATTER” at least through August, maybe a few months longer

cropped 2020-06-26 BLM mural IMG_3349
On June 19, 2020, the “Welcome to Bloomington, you belong here” mural at People’s Park in Bloomington was painted over with the phrase, “BLACK LIVES MATTER.” (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

At their regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington arts commissioners discussed the future of the People’s Park mural.

Three weeks ago, on the day of Juneteenth (June 19)—a celebration marking the emancipation of slaves in the U.S.—the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” were painted over the top of the existing mural. The Bloomington Arts Commission (BAC) had commissioned artist Eva Allen to paint it in 2017.

The addition to the mural came in the context of of nationwide and local demonstrations, prompted by Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, along with other recent police killings of Black men and women. Floyd was killed on May 25 by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, when the police officer pinned Floyd down with a knee-on-neck hold.

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s assistant director for the arts, Sean Starowitz, described the layering of the phrase over the top of the existing mural as a “well-intentioned addition the mural, in terms of the color choice and how it was laid out.”

The Wednesday meeting took place in the context of anti-racism demonstrations that took place on each of the previous days, prompted by recent local incidents.

He told BAC members that “repairs” would not be done to the mural, and it will not be “buffed”—which is the technical term for painting over a mural to make the wall blank again. That’s due in part to the fact that the contract with Allen—who painted the “Bloomington” mural—expires at the end of August.

After that, the future of the wall is uncertain, because the mural is part of a public-private partnership that includes the owners of the Bicycle Garage, whose wall is the canvas for the mural.

Right now, it looks like the maximum time the current state of the wall would persist involves a scenario where the owners don’t paint it over, and the BAC administers a public process for hiring an artist who’ll conduct community engagement— something that might take around six months. Continue reading “People’s Park mural will say “BLACK LIVES MATTER” at least through August, maybe a few months longer”

Activist on “BLACK LIVES MATTER” mural overlay: “It’s something we can all dance to.”

Sometime mid-afternoon on Friday a week ago, an anonymous artist, not commissioned by the property owners, drew new letters across the mural in Bloomington’s People’s Park, spelling out the words: “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

That’s the way the mural will look for at least the next few months, Bloomington city officials have said. And some local activists would like the wall to be preserved as it is. Continue reading “Activist on “BLACK LIVES MATTER” mural overlay: “It’s something we can all dance to.””