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The Strike Mic – December 3, 2013

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This week on The Strike Mic, a student talks about the unfair hiring and firing practices of Indiana University maintenance faculty.

Weekend storm swept through the Midwest, see how it affected Bloomington

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The wind and rain storm that swept through Indiana, as well as its neighbors to the west and northeast, set records according to the National Weather Service. John Kwiatkowski, Science and Operations Officer in the Indianapolis provided information on the amount of rain that fell during the period, the sustained wind gusts, and tornado activity in south central Indiana.

“People might be surprised that Sunday, the storms were tearing along,” Kwiatkowski said, “A lot depends on where you are, but a lot of rain didn’t fall down in Bloomington area.”

Mr. Kwiatkowski said that the National Weather Service doesn’t record wind speeds as systematically as it does precipitation. However, he did say that 30-40 mph winds occurred in Monroe County, and that the highest recorded in Bloomington was about 40 mph. He also said there may have been winds up to 70 mph in Bloomington, but none were recorded.

There were no confirmed reports to tornado touchdowns in Monroe County. However, the strongest ones reported in Indiana on Sunday were fairly close by, to the southwest and southeast of us, in Daviess and Washington counties, both of which measured at two on the wind force scale. And, Bedford, to our immediate south, registered a EF-one strength tornado.

“We had 26 tornadoes Sunday, and that’s counting the entire state,” Kwiatkowski said, “That’s the second highest daily totaled that’s ever been recorded.
Ian Connor, of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, told us today that the department is still doing damage assessments for southern Indiana. The department is requesting that individuals go online to the department website at in.gov/dhs and click on the link in the middle of the page titled ‘report damage from severe weather.’

Bloomington Hospital to fire 50 people by end of year

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Bloomington Hospital has announced that it will eliminate 50 positions by the end of the year.

A statement, signed by Mark Moore, President & CEO of IU Health Bloomington – the name given to Bloomington Hospital after IU’s takeover – justifies the job cuts in order reduce expenses in order to, quote, prepare for sweeping changes in healthcare.

This announcement comes in the wake of the parent company’s statement in September that it would be cutting 800 jobs across all of its affiliated hospitals. Indiana’s other large hospital group, Saint Vincent’s, announced last June that it had laid off 865 employees.

Accompanying IU health’s September statement on the planned job cuts was a claim that its income for the first six months of 2013 was up 20 percent.

However, IU Health claimed the massive jobs cuts were a necessary response to declining reimbursements and admissions.

These kind of job losses in Indiana hospitals has been predicted in consequence of national events, especially the cuts in Medicare payments to health care providers included in the across-the-board federal spending reductions under Congressional sequestration as well as the planned cuts in Medicare reimbursements under the Affordable Care Act, as it comes into operation.

However, even greater declines in public use of healthcare providers in Indiana was predicted after Indiana Governor Mike Pence chose to not participate in the largely federally financed expansion of  Medicaid under the ACA, which would have provided health care coverage for several hundred thousand more  Hoosiers.

 

Business Outlook Panel Finishes Indiana Tour in Richmond, Expect Economy Growth in Next Year

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The 42 annual tour of the business outlook panel wound up its final presentation yesterday in Richmond, Indiana.

The panel is an annual activity of Kelly School of Business. A group of economists and financial experts who get together each year on October to understand the latest trends in the economy and predict where the economy is heading in the year ahead. Experts will also go around the state over the span of the couple of weeks to most of Indiana’s major cities and talk with audiences in those places about how they see economy shaping up.

There are different members of the panel that deal with the global, national and local economy, Director of Indiana Business Research Center Jerry Conover said.

“We always look forward to hearing what the business people and community leaders across the state are thinking,” Conover said.

Conover says they expect 2014 will begin with unimpressive growth and continue job growth. As the year progress in 2014 though, we will expect to see a stronger growth toward the year end. To put that in figure, it is estimated that the overall economy measured in GDP will expand at about 2.5 percent rate.The employment will grow nationally by a little more than 2 million jobs. Unemployment by the end of the year should be down to 6.5 percent nationally.

Conover says the main factors to growth are the continued low interest rates making borrowing affordable for business and propping up higher stock market prices as a result.

“Employers have been increasingly optimistic, though there is still a lot of hesitation,” Conover said, “They’re a little bit more willing to invest in new facilities and to hire staff. They’re not nearly yet to the level they were prior to the recession, but we do see progress coming along.”

According to Conover, Indiana mirrors national economy in many respects though the unemployment has continued to be higher than national average. The most recent figure was 8.1 percent for the state, whereas nationally it’s about 1 percentage point lower.

“We expect for the coming year that unemployment will drop in Indiana, probably somewhere in the upper 6 percent range,” Conover said, “Pay roll jobs will grow by about 55,000 more jobs, and that would be stronger growth than we’ve seen this year.”

Meanwhile, manufacturing continues to be a key factor in creating new jobs in Indiana since the recession. Yet, manufacturing employment and wages are not growing nearly as fast as they had been several years ago.

Conover explains that is because firms during the downturns were able to find ways to make their production more efficient, by improving technology, improving processes that didn’t requires many people to do the job. Once those improvements were made, factories are turning out more products and more dollar value of their output even though they don’t have many employees as they used to.

Conover also adds that employment growing substantially more in nonmanufacturing sector. Healthcare services has been one of the big areas. There has been a lot of job growth in various parts of healthcare sector.

Deer reductions to close 21 Indiana state parks

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21 Indiana state parks will be closed temporarily for deer reductions by local hunters . They do this annually, Mike Mycroft, chief of natural resources for the Department of Natural Resources State Parks and Reservoirs, said.

“It’s mainly to manage the impact of high density deer herds on the native habitat throughout the parks,” Mycroft said.

The parks affected are Brown County, Chain O’Lakes, Charlestown, Clifty Falls, Fort Harrison, Harmonie, Indiana Dunes, Lincoln, McCormick’s Creek, Ouabache, Pokagon, Potato Creek, Prophetstown, Shades, Shakamak, Spring Mill, Summit Lake, Tippecanoe, Turkey Run, Versailles, and Whitewater Memorial. For Fort Harrison, Indiana Dunes, Spring Mill, and Turkey Run, a public standby drawing to fill spots left vacant will take place on these properties, each morning of the reduction.

Mycroft says the standby drawings are used to counter low attendance at these four parks, compared to the other parks being affected.

The dates for the temporary closings will be today, Nov. 19, and Dec. 2 and 3. The state parks will be closed to the general public the evening before each of these two efforts, and reopen the morning after each two-day reduction.

The Strike Mic – November 19, 2013

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On today’s Strike Mic, Morgan tells us about the Trad Youth student organization and what it is doing to the community.

Body found on Hillside Drive

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The Bloomington Police Department reports that a dead female’s body was  found on Hillside Drive, at High Street. Captain Joe Qualters says they found the body after 1:45 p.m. and that preliminary reports show no foul play. The identity of the body has not been determined.

Captain Qualters says the department has not received reports of anyone with this description missing, and commented on whether or not she is believed to be a local resident.

The Police Department expects to release more information on the body in the coming hours with an autopsy scheduled tomorrow.

Historic conservation districts adjust to new ordinance

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The Bloomington City Council debated last week on a new ordinance that will affect the city’s historic conservation districts.

These districts are established to regulate construction and demolition, in order to prevent radical change in the affected neighborhoods. They are often supported by homeowners who oppose large new student housing complexes, or other developments that locals believe would negatively affect the neighborhood.

But the new city ordinance would force conservation districts to become even more restrictive after three years, by elevating them to full-fledged historic districts.

City Attorney Patty Mulvehill said the new rule would bring the city into compliance with the state law.

The potential change means that the city’s two conservation districts, in the McDoel Gardens and Prospect Hill neighborhoods, will automatically become full historic districts.

In those districts, all changes to the exterior of structures would have to be approved by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Council member Chris Sturbaum, who represents the district that includes Prospect Hill, said the change is unfortunate but necessary.

“This isn’t something that people who selected the conservation district wanted. They wanted the district in a way of protecting their neighborhood with the lightest kind of restriction on what they can do to their property,” Sturbaum said, “This is changing, and this is not something anyone wanted to happen, it just happened when we understood that we were outside the strict regulation.”

The Matlock Heights neighborhood on the north side of the city is currently working to become a conservation district.

Council member Susan Sandberg, who lives in the neighborhood, said her neighbors are prepared to deal with the new law.

“Matlock Heights knows what they have to do to maintain their conservation statues, and they’re fairly confident that they will have the votes and the community interest to maintain the level they were comfortable with.”

A majority of property owners would have to vote in favor of keeping the conservation district to prevent its elevation to a full historic district. Sturbaum said he supports the idea of conservation districts, and worries that new restrictions could make neighborhoods hesitant to seek the designation.

“Our regret was the harm that would be done to the tool that would preserve these neighborhoods that would allow change,” Sturbaum said, “We’re going to talk to the state and see if we can’t, over time, do some work on the legislation for the future.”

The council voted unanimously to approve the new city ordinance. Sturbaum asked the city to be patient with the neighborhoods that have been elevated to historic districts against their wishes.

Bloomington first in Indiana to win walk-friendly award

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The City of Bloomington is now a Bronze Walk Friendly Community, an award given by The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center for its walkability initiatives and programs.

A walk-friendly community, according to the program, represents a town or city improving pedestrian safety and walkability through programming, planning, and policies.

Vince Caristo, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, says Bloomington was awarded for its great urban trail system and walk-friendly zoning ordinance.

“While not all of our intersections are accessible, our percentage is quite high compared to around the country,”Cariso says.

Bloomington is one of eight communities recognized in the latest round of the program, and the first community to receive the designation in Indiana.

“I think we’ve found that communities in Indiana and across the country have a healthy competition with each other when it comes to these types of awards,” Cariso says, “Bloomington was also the first to have a Complete Streets policy, and that paved the way for other communities to do the same. We can be a resource for other communities who want to do this and also raise awareness that things like this exist.”

The Walk Friendly Community program aims to encourage towns and cities around the country to prioritize a safer walking environment.

 

The Strike Mic – November 12, 2013

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This week on The Strike Mic, a discussion about Indiana University’s luxury dorms, and how they influence higher tuition rates and city-wide gentrification.

Tune in every Tuesday for a new edition of  The Strike Mic, a weekly update from your friends and neighbors working to strengthen the voice of IU students and staff.

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