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A standing-room-only crowd gathered last night in the Bloomington City Council chambers to discuss recent concerns over crime on Kirkwood Avenue. The forum was a response to the owners of Nick’s English Hut and other downtown businesses who have complained about panhandling, drug use and other behaviors they say are bad for business. City Council member Steve Volan hosted the event. Volan says two different groups, students and the homeless, tend to be the subject of most complaints.
Volan invited Bloomington Human Rights Commission member Byron Bangert, Decarcerate Monroe County member Erin Marshall and Nick’s English Hut owner Susan Bright to speak. Bright is responsible for beginning the public discussion about downtown behavior last week. She sent a letter to local businesses titled “Bum Commerce” on Kirkwood. Last night, Bright apologized for using the word “bum”. But she suggested new legislation to target panhandlers.
Many at the forum said too much negative attention has been focused on homeless and impoverished residents. Marshall, from Decarcerate Monroe County, asked concerned citizens to examine what makes them fearful or upset about certain behaviors.
Several members of the audience made comments or asked questions of the panelists. Sam Frushour says he often walks around town because he is unable to drive.
Another speaker was a man named Rob, who says he is currently homeless. He had two suggestions for dealing with the issues downtown.
Volan told the group it would take more than simply the city government to address the issues businesspeople have mentioned. He pointed out that the County government, the state and Indiana University all set policies that affect downtown Bloomington.