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Third Annual Bike Summit brings local bike community together to promote safety

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The Third Annual Bike Summit, a yearly event the City of Bloomington holds to bring the local bicycle community together, takes place this Saturday. This year’s Summit will focus on education. Vince Caristo, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for Bloomington says they’re trying to raise awareness about the Civil Streets Initiative.

“We need help and participation to get the message out about safety and common courtesy in our streets, our largest public space,” Caristo says.

The city says its goal for the Bike Summit is to improve safety, and to reduce the frustrations and unsafe behaviors that lead to crashes.

“First of all, as more and more people walk and bike in the community, there are a lot of questions about the rights and responsibilities of people in the street and we want to address that,” Caristo says, “Secondly, we want to improve safety in the community. Every year there are about 12,000 crashes in the city and Monroe County and maintaining safe transportation system is always a goal for the city.”

The event begins at 2 p.m. this Saturday at Bloomington City Hall, in the Council Chambers.

 

Bloomington Plan Commission Delays Decision For Lots Under Construction on Kirkwood

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The Bloomington Plan Commission held off on making a decision October 7th about the first phase of a major development project downtown along Kirkwood Avenue. The Bloomington-based firm, GMS-Pavilion Properties, has proposed development on five different lots downtown. The project would include new apartments and a new building for Old National Bank. Planning Department Director Tom Micuda described the project as an opportunity for the city and that the sites are a rare opportunity for key development.

Although Micuda said the project presented an opportunity, he went on to recommend denial of the proposal before the commission. That proposal included details for just one of the five lots that are part of the overall project.

“We’ve been looking for a comprehensive proposal for these properties,” Micuda says, “We wanted to give you the opportunity to look at a plan for all four lots and be able to look at diverse opportunities for new development. Ultimately, we weren’t able to get that.”

The building before the commission would be located on the southeast corner of Kirkwood and Lincoln. It is proposed to be three stories tall and include the new Old National Bank as well as eighteen apartments.

Steve Hoffman, with GMS-Pavilion Properties, said the firm tried to negotiate with city planners for almost a year.

“We have come an extremely long way in our discussions with the planning staff,” Hoffman says, “And we feel that we’ve worked pretty well with them.”

Hoffman said the firm reduced the number of apartments in the overall plan, at the request of planning staff. He said they also included owner-occupied condos, and what he called a fifty-foot boutique hotel, again to accommodate concerns from staff.

But he said the negotiations hit roadblocks when it came to the details. For example, Hoffman said the firm was willing to commit to building the hotel, but not to designing the building until they found a company to run it.

Micuda said the developers did suggest compromises. But he said their original proposal, which was almost all residential buildings, was so far from the Planning Department’s vision for the area that those compromises didn’t go far enough.

“There are times where we did get close, but I would not describe the city as completely unreasonable,” Micuda says, “In fact fairly early in the process, the city was straightforward in our vision for the properties. We put that information out early enough so we could reach to an agreement.”

The commission sided mostly with the Planning Department, saying they wanted a comprehensive plan for the five lots. Commission member Chris Sturbaum said the approval process might seem difficult to the developers, but he said it was that way for good reason.

“People complain about the process, but it’s like sausage: the more you work at it, the better the end product will be,” Sturbaum says, “Kirkwood is worth it and we can have the same kind of discussions if we can satisfy this legitimate concern and desire for diversity on Kirkwood.

Commission member Joe Hoffman suggested the overall project be brought forward at a future meeting as a planned unit development, or PUD. A PUD is a way of grouping multiple buildings with different uses into a single plan.

No decision was made about whether to use the PUD framework, but the Commission voted unanimously to delay a vote on the project until a future meeting.

Bloomington Police Collect Unwanted Prescription Drugs

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The Bloomington Police Department will be participating in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, October 26th. Department personnel will collect old, unwanted, and unused prescription drugs to be safely disposed.

Joe Qualters, captain of the Department’s Detective Division, says this is a bi-annual event sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“The goal is to get all those unneeded and unwanted prescriptions out of the home to avoid the possibility of abuse or theft,” Qualters says, “Many times it’s difficult to find a place to dispose of these types of drugs and this provides an initiative to provide a collection point for those drugs.”

“I think it’s important to know that since the DEA has intitiated this, they have collected over 2.8 billion pounds of drugs,” Qualters says, “We in Bloomington have participated three times before and we’ve collected over 500 pounds of prescription drugs for disposal.”

The event will be held this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The collection site will be set up on South Lincoln Street, on the east side of the Bloomington Police Department.

Latest Study Finds Indiana Manufacturing Industry Strong and Growing

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Earlier this month, the certified public accounting firm Katz, Sapper & Miller LLP released the results of their seventh annual Indiana manufacturing survey.

The statewide study of employers in Indiana’s largest industry shows growth in Hoosier manufacturing.

According to the survey, nearly 80 percent of respondents over the last two annual surveys describe their businesses as “healthy” or “stable,” while nearly half used the term “challenged” to characterize their operations in 2009 and 2010.

The survey finds more than 70 percent of Hoosier manufacturers are actively investing in capital and labor, while less than 5 percent are continuing to cut costs across the board.

Human capital also continues to be a major obstacle confronting Indiana manufacturers. Survey respondents identified skilled production workers as the most significant labor shortage facing their companies.

The survey was commissioned by Katz, Sapper & Miller and developed in partnership with the IU Kelley School of Business – Indianapolis, Conexus Indiana and the Indiana Manufacturers Association.

 

IU student brings message of acceptance to Bloomington

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Indiana University Junior Kaleb Crain will see the culmination of a years-long effort to spread acceptance and support for Indiana University students when Judy Sheppard  brings her lecture “The Meaning of Matthew” to Whittenberger Auditorium tomorrow evening.

As an IU freshmen, Crain, a Bloomington native,  experienced hate slurs from an anti-gay demonstrator on campus,  who singled out Crain in front of a crowd and stated that he was wheelchair-bound because of homosexual sins. While this angered Crain, it was a second personal tragedy that showed Crain that there was a need for supportive voices like those of Judy Shepard on campus.

WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh speaks with Crain about the effort behind tomorrow’s lecture.

Third Annual VA ‘Stand Down’ This Thursday To Help Local Veterans In Need

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This Thursday Bloomington will host the third annual South Central Indiana Veterans Affairs Stand Down.

A large group of locally based service organizations, along with the City of Bloomington and the Monroe County government, will sponsor the local effort to help American military veterans facing housing problems and poverty.

Mary-Jane McNabb, a social worker with the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs, explains the origins of the Stand Down.

“Back in the Vietnam era, when soldiers came back from the field, they would come back to what’s called a ‘stand down’ where they got fresh clothing or new shoes or whatever they needed,” McNabb says, “The idea behind the Stand Down now is to provide veterans that are experiencing homelessness to services like free haircuts, flu shots and helping them get signed up for any government benefits they might need. We want to put all these things in one location to make things easy.”

The Stand Down project is a national, collaborative effort between local offices of the veteran’s administration, federal, state, and local government agencies, and community organizations who serve the homeless.

“Just having all the support from the community has been invaluable,” McNabb says, “Without that, we wouldn’t be able to do as much as we can. After the VA provides the opportunity for the event, then the community steps in and takes over. Hopefully this year we hope to reach out to more veterans in surrounding counties.”

Veterans who attend the event will receive essential supplies such as clothing, hygiene kits, blankets, gloves, scarves and other basic supplies.

“I’m a social worker so I continue to see a lot of these veterans on a regular basis and seen how the Stand Down has benefited them through the years,” McNabb says.

The local Stand Down is Thursday October 17 from 10 am to 2 pm, at the American Legion, Post 18, located on West Third Street in Bloomington.

A free lunch will be provided. The Shalom Community Center will provide a free shuttle service to and from the event every fifteen minutes.

Attendees must provide proof of their veteran status in order to be admitted, with either a Defense Department Form 214 or a VA issued identification card.

 

 

As Government Shutdown Continues, Local Group ‘Concerned Citizens’ Holds Rally In Front Of Rep. Todd Young’s Office

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Despite it being closed and empty, a demonstration took place yesterday outside of Representative Todd Young’s Bloomington office, to protest his role in the federal shutdown.

A local group called the Concerned Citizens of Monroe County held a rally at the Showers Plaza office of Congressman Young, to demand he put aside partisan interests and work to end the shutdown.

It came together by a group of concerned citizens that weren’t all Democrats, although many were, says Trent Deckard, Chair of the Monroe County Democratic Party.

“We’re concerned about the shutdown and we wanted to voice our opinions to Congressman Young and let him know this is having an effect on folks,” Deckard says.

A furloughed federal employee spoke for the group along with other people voicing their concerns.

Unfortunately for the attendees, there was no one at the office to hear the protest, or speak to any of the protesters.

“The door was closed, the lights were off and there was a sign saying it was closed indefinitely,” Deckard says, “Congress is exempt from the shutdown and Young could have chosen to have his office open with a skeleton staff. We decided to do this last Thursday and there were 80 people there. I’m sure at some point he caught knowledge of this but he didn’t have anyone there. We had a closed door facing us and that’s kind of reflective of how things are but we went ahead anyway.”

In light of his status as Chair of the County Democrats, we asked Deckard if he could offer any predictions about how these issues will pan out – whether to continue funding government operations at least until December, and whether to raise the debt ceiling to avoid a federal default.

“I never thought the shutdown would get this far,” Deckard says, “While I watch the news, I think to myself that surely it will work out but I’m getting more and more skeptical. Mr. Young needs to come forward and say that he is representing folks in Indiana that need services in this healthcare bill. Until he says this, Ted Cruz and those driving the position will keep pushing their agenda and that doesn’t reflect who we are in Indiana. As we get closer and closer to Thursday, it’s hard to stay optimistic.”

The deadline for raising the federal debt ceiling is this Thursday. If a resolution is not passed by Congress and signed by the President by then, the government will be prevented from borrowing funds to fund the deficit and debt, effectively creating a debt default.

The latest report from Washington is that the most recent effort to end the impasse has failed.

The Strike Mic – October 15, 2013

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This week on The Strike Mic, a musical and informational event will address the recent layoffs of Indiana University staff, as well as the decision to dismantle the Indiana School of Journalism.

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.

Polling Results on Indiana’s Marriage Amendment

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Freedom Indiana is challenging survey results released by the Indiana Family Institute (IFI) concerning gay marriage rights in Indiana. Earlier this month the IFI released poll results showing strong support for a marriage amendment among Hoosier voters. According to its news release, two-thirds of Indiana voters favor defining marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman. Jennifer Wagner, communication director for Freedom Indiana, said according to their survey more than 60 percent of Hoosiers do not think amendments should be made to address the issue of same sex marriage, and more than 70 percent say they believe same sex couples deserve more legal recognition.

“We strongly disagree with their polling results,” Wagner said. “To us, the Indiana Family Institute poll is an outlier, we question the methodology that they used because it doesn’t match up with any other polling that’s been done on this issue, either statewide or nationally.”

Wagner said Freedom Indiana’s survey was conducted by a respected GOP pollster, Christine Matthews, who has been polling in Indiana for two decades, most notably for former Governor Mitch Daniels.

“There have been other polls recently done statewide,” Wagner said, “by Ball State, by WISH-TV, that show the issue of the marriage amendment is roughly evenly split. And then when you further ask Hoosiers, what do they think about legal protections for same-sex couples, do they think that the constitution is the place to have this conversation, it becomes even more on our side of the issue.”

The IFI’s work, according to their website, focuses on “public policy, research, and education regarding the health and well-being of all Hoosier families.” Freedom Indiana is opposed to an amendment that would permanently alter the Indiana Constitution’s definition of marriage.

Hoosier National Forest closes due to lapse in funding

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WFHB News Director Alycin Bektesh speaks with Judi Perez, Public Affairs Officer for the Hoosier National Forest about the local impact of the federal government shutdown.

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