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‘Race Across America’ Bike Tour Coming Through Bloomington

Next week, bicyclists on a country-spanning race will be trickling through Bloomington.

Participants in the annual Race Across America road race will set off from Oceanside, California June 10 on their way to Annapolis, Maryland. They are expected to start coming through Time Station 39, in Bloomington, starting around Monday, June 16 through to the weekend. There are different categories of racers, male and female, single, double and team.

Jim Schroeder, a local resident and bicycling enthusiast, is the captain of Station 39, which will be on College Mall Road, in front of Casa Brava restaurant. He says this race is unique in it’s length and time.

Race Across America is not like the notable Tour races, Schroeder says its harder with a longer distance in shorter time.

The race draws competitors from across the globe, especially Europe where ultra-marathon bike racing is popular. The European teams are professional bike racers, sponsored by corporations. Schroeder says that it costs at least $30,000 to finance a team, which includes riders, crew, equipment and supplies. Many of the racers raise funds from pledge donations which they donate to their favorite charity.

It is expected that the leading competitors in the Race Across America ultra bicycling marathon race will be coming through Bloomington starting Monday, June 16 and continuing into the weekend.

They will be riding south-west along the 45/46 bypass, loop around the mall along 3rd St, Hillcrest, and College Mall Road, and checking in with their time in front of Casa Brava Mexican restaurant.

Hoosier Hills Food Bank Provides Monthly Food Boxes To Low-Income Seniors

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Starting in June, Hoosier Hills Food Bank (HHFB) will begin providing monthly boxes of food for up to 100 low-income senior citizens in Monroe County. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program is already operational in Brown, Crawford, Orange, and Martin counties.

Potentially eligible seniors must complete a program application and will be scheduled for an interview to document their eligibility. Casey Steury, the Director of Programs for HHFB, says to be eligible, they must be 60 and over, live in Monroe County and be 130% of the poverty level or less.

Funding for the program is  provided by the US Department of Agriculture and Indiana State Department of Health, but Steury says that volunteer power is really what runs the program, and that without volunteers getting the word out about the program, many eligible seniors who don’t have access to internet or newspapers wouldn’t know that help was available.

The HHFB provides food for soup kitchens and shelters but the monthly food delivery program is the one time they get to interact directly with the people who benefit from their work.

“This senior program is the one program where we actually get to hand boxes directly to these seniors,” Steury says. “Because they get this food they don’t have to decide between buying food or medicine this month.”

The seniors then provide feedback on how this program has helped to improved their lives.

About 7% of Monroe County’s senior population are living below the poverty level.

Indiana Board of Pharmacy Bans Synthetic Drug Compounds

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The Indiana Board of Pharmacy has banned four compounds that are used to make the synthetic drugs K2 and spice. The board is working closely with Indiana State Police to pass emergency rules to battle the ever-changing chemical formulas.

These synthetic drugs are extremely dangerous because the majority of users are youth that may think these are natural substances. K2 and spice are synthetic forms of with highly unpredictable effects. Communications Director for the Indiana Board of Pharmacy Nick Goodwin reflects on the dangers of these synthetic drugs.

“The dangers are widely documented,” Goodwin says, “Recently, 4 kids from Columbus, IN were hospitalized and were on synthetic drugs.”

Goodwin says there are misconceptions to the legality and safety of these kinds of synthetic drugs.

Reported effects of synthetic cannabinoids include increased heart rate, anxiety, hallucinations, paranoia, seizures, and chest pain. No official studies have been conducted, but data show that 11,000 people ended up in the emergency room in 2012 from smoking these substances.

Goodwin says this emergency rule will go into effect next Friday.

Once this rule is in effect, Indiana State Police will begin to prosecute providers of these synthetic drugs if the banned compounds show up in the lab tests of their products.

Local Police Recieve Grant To Buy New Audio & Video Equipment

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Local police are planning to spend a $29,000 grant on new audio and video recording equipment. The Monroe County Commission accepted the County’s portion of the funding at a meeting May 30.

County attorney Jeff Cockerill said the money would be split between the County Sheriff’s Department and the Bloomington Police Department.

“This fund is to prevent violent crime,” Cockerill says. “The city will use their portion to install audio and video equipment in their  interview rooms and the county will use its portion to continue the in-car video system purchases.”

The grant money comes from a federal grant program through the Department of Justice. The Commission voted unanimously to approve the expenditure.

IU Art Museum Director Retires

Adelheid ‘Heidi’ Gealt has announced her retirement as the IU Art Museum Director. Gealt has been director since 1987.

Bruce Cole, Professor Emeritus of Art History and Comparative Literature has been assigned chair of a search committee to recruit a new director.

The new successor will be responsible for upholding the mission of the IU Art Museum to advance the academic goals of IU and enrich the cultural lives of society by preserving and researching original works of art.

A committee of 10 faculty members are interviewing candidates and intend to hire a new director by July 1.

Election Board Struggle With Complex Voter Laws

The Monroe County Election Board struggled with the complexities of election law May 16 as they decided whether to invalidate some ballots cast during the May 6 primary election.

The Board met to consider provisional ballots, which voters cast when poll workers have questions about their eligibility to vote. In one case, County Clerk Linda Robbins said a homeless man voted at the wrong polling place.

William Ellis, a substitute Board member representing the Republican party, said he would like to count the vote. But Ellis said that wasn’t possible because the voter used the wrong ballot, meaning he would have voted in some of the wrong races.

“Being homeless is a hard enough hardship and the vote, if all being equal, I’d be inclined to make this valid,” Ellis says. “It’s hard to prove where you live if you aren’t living anywhere.”

Ellis participated as a Board member even though he plans to run for office in November. Ellis has said he plans to seek the Republican nomination for County Assessor during a caucus this summer.

The Board members were not allowed to look at the provisional ballots they considered. That restriction became an issue when one voter’s paperwork was sealed in an envelope along with the ballot.

The Board voted to rule that ballot invalid. The Board considered some provisional ballots that were cast by voters who did not bring IDs to the polls. Robbins, who opposes the state’s voter ID law, recommended counting one of those ballots.

She said poll workers might not have instructed the voter on how to ensure their vote would be counted after Election Day.

“I do believe the photo ID is a burden for certain individuals,” Robbins says.

Later in the meeting, Robbins said the complex rules for casting provisional ballots are often a source of confusion during elections.

“Filling out a provisional ballot at the polls has been a huge challenge for us,” Robbins says. “It’s very confusing for everybody. Frankly, I’ll commend anybody that has the patience to stay there and must really want to vote to go through that process.”

The Board voted to invalidate two provisional ballots cast at retirement homes. The voters had been registered to vote at previous residences.

Community Concerned With I-69 Sediment Erosion

A contractor helping supervise I-69 construction insisted May 9 contractors are doing all they can to prevent pollution from the project. In a presentation to the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee, Jeremy Kieffner outlined the various strategies contractors use to prevent erosion. Over the past year waterways near Section 4 of the new interstate have been contaminated with sediments washing away from construction areas.

Kieffner works for the Evansville-based firm, Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates. He told the group road projects always present erosion issues.

Kieffner did not directly address the erosion issues caused by Interstate 69 and he didn’t take questions from the Committee. After the presentation several committee members said they had doubts the state is following proper procedures with the construction. Committee member Andy Ruff has been a long-time opponent of I-69.

“I worked in battling sediment erosion with construction sites and it’s not an easy law to enforce or follow,” Ruff says.

Ruff said the sediment is probably damaging ecosystems in the waterways near Indian Creek, where some of the most contamination has occurred. Committee member Cheryl Munson, who lives in the Indian Creek area, said problems continue there. Munson said she’s hopeful erosion won’t cause as many problems in Section 5 of the interstate, which runs through Bloomington.

Crews have already begun clearing properties in Section 5 in preparation for construction of the interstate.

Bloomington’s 2014 Art Project Grants Awarded

The recipients of the City of Bloomington’s 2014 Art Project Grants have been announced. Grants are made available to nonprofit organizations that participate in activities that revolve around the arts. The purpose of these grants are to support and enhance a high level of artistry around the community. Miya Michaelson, Assistant Economic Development Director for the Arts, talks about this year’s change in how often these grants are given to the community.

“They used to give out grants twice a year and this year was the first time to give out just one a year,” Michaelson says.

Michaelson says the organizations that apply for these grants have increased over the years, and funds have also increased. Additional advertising through news releases, emailing previous applicants with the necessary guidelines, and online allows everyone an equal opportunity to apply.

The grants are given to an organization after considering three categories. Artistic quality, community impact and organization capacity are three factors in deciding who is eligible to receive the grants.

The Arts grant helped established perennial recipients like the Krampus Night activities, and the Bloomington Creative Glass skills pumpkin patch project. There were fifteen recipients for the 2014 grant, the full list can be found online on the city’s art page.

Indiana’s membership nonprofits hard hit through recessions

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In the latest report in a series of nonprofit examinations authored by Indiana University professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs Kirsten Grønbjerg, findings show that membership-based nonprofits are especially hard hit by economic recessions.

Indiana Nonprofit Membership and Related Employment, 1995-2011

BPAC Protests Drone Use

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A demonstration this evening on the courthouse square is part of a larger day of action called Days of Remembrance, a nationwide effort to bring attention to United States drone use.

“The U.S. drone program operates outside of the rule of law, essentially acting as judge jury and executioner,” says Timothy Baer, an organizer with Bloomington Peace Action Coalition

Names being read during the event are compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism from news sources in the regions that have been hit by done attacks, a part of a larger project by BIJ called “Naming the Dead.” The names will include 62 school children killed in an attack to a religious school in Pakistan.  Baer says reading the names out loud brings a human element to a military tactic that has removed the hardships of war from those who carry out the attacks.

“Those who are killing people, they are removed from the kill-zone,” says Baer. “They are typically thousands of miles away.”

Today’s rally is being held on the courthouse square between 5 and 6 pm, coinciding with events nationwide as well as a quilt exhibition also protesting the use of drones on display in the Monroe County Public Library through May 18th.  The Bloomington Peace Action Coalition has proposed a local resolution for passage by the Bloomington City council.  Baer says it is important for local legislatures to take a stand against actions made by the federal government, and sees continued drone warfare as increasing safety risks in America.

“The actions we are taking are in no way decreasing terrorism, they are without a shadow of a doubt increasing it, we are essentially creating more enemies than can be destroyed.”

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