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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WFHB Correspondent David Murphy speaks with Todd Young, Indiana District 9 representative in the House, about the latest version of a federal funding bill now being sent back to the senate for approval. The stalemate in Congress over continuing to fund federal government operations has not been resolved, as the midnight deadline approaches. The House majority, led by Republicans and in particular Tea Party activists, has sent several bills to the Senate, all of which tie continued funding of government operations until mid-December to a one-year delay in implementing the compulsory individual health insurance provision in the Affordable Care Act, plus several other related and unrelated tax and regulatory provisions. Meanwhile, the Senate majority, led by Democrats, has passed continuing funding bills with the House addendums, including the Obamacare delay, removed. About an hour ago, the House passed, and sent over to the Senate, another bill with the Obamacare one-year delay included.
If the Senate and the House do not come up with a compromise that President Obama accepts, with few exceptions, federal government operations will cease as of midnight tonight. Government employees will not come to work and will not be paid, and government services to the public will cease.
Bloomington will stage its first Open Streets event this weekend, joining a recent trend in larger cities around the globe. Between 10am and 3pm this Sunday, West Kirkwood Street between Rogers Street and College Avenue will become a temporary festival.
“It’s an opportunity for people to just do whatever they wish, in the street” says Anna Dragovich, Senior Transportation Planner and an organizer of the event. The free event will feature interactive physical activities, as well as live music and other performances. Visitors will be able to try free exercise demo classes and activities located along the route. Open street festivals traditionally have a broad array of commercial and non-commercial vendors, providing information and samples of their offerings. Though Dragovich commented that Bloomington’s festival focuses more on physical activity.
“This is a free opportunity in which we can engage each other through basically playing in the street, and playing just happens to be physical activity,” said Dragovich.
The inaugural Open Streets event is sponsored by the Planning Departments of Bloomington and of Monroe County and the Center for Sustainable Living. Dragovich says she hopes it can be made into an annual event, and possibly tried in other parts of the county.
This week the Bloomington City Council heard from residents who are unhappy with plans to demolish six historic houses on West 8th Street to make way for a fraternity house. The council doesn’t hold power to regulate the properties, which are owned by Indiana University. But Council member Steve Volan said he was glad to see the group of concerned citizens. IU announced its plans to demolish the historic houses and sell the vacant lot to the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
“I’m really angry at the Fiji house – and this is really about power and money” said
Sandy Cole, who lives about two blocks from the proposed fraternity house. Speakers also took aim at IU for agreeing to the deal. Because of IU’s status as a state institution, it is not subject to the same city ordinances that could make it difficult for the fraternity to demolish the houses on its own. Melissa Cox-Ash said the houses are important elements of a well-preserved historic district.
Although the city government is not involved in the deal, speaker Micol Siegel said the demolition of historic houses fits with other recent developments in the city. She said Bloomington is increasingly catering to affluent students. The Bloomington Historic Preservation Commission has written a letter to IU in opposition to the project, but so far the university has said it plans to move forward with the sale.
The Bloomington Plan Commission rejected a plan Monday to relocate the Taste of India restaurant to a building on East 3rd Street. The project included constructing a new building that would house the restaurant and five apartments. But nearby residents and property owners voiced concern about a lack of parking in the area, which is on the southern edge of the downtown business district.
The commission considered the proposal at a meeting in August, but it delayed a decision partly because of the lack of parking spots. Member Pat Williams said the plans didn’t change enough in the month between meetings.
The project was rejected by a vote of seven to two. The commission also voted to allow the business to reconsider its proposal, and return in as little as thirty days.
Senator Dan Coats, who sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement this week announcing his disagreement with the authorization of a U.S. military strike against Syria. He wrote, “I do not believe a targeted, limited military strike on Syria is in the direct national security interests of the United States. Therefore, I do not support a resolution authorizing the president to take military action in Syria. There is no doubt that the Assad regime used long-banned chemical weapons to murder its own people. This horrific act demands a worldwide response of condemnation. However, the president has not justified his request to engage the United States militarily in Syria.” Coats was interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN and elaborated on his stance there. Senator Joe Donnelly’s office confirmed that he has not taken a stance on the issue yet. Representative Todd Young said in a statement that, “After listening to the speech, I have not been persuaded to support military action in Syria” and went on to say that he is waiting for more detailed information.
Judge John M. Sedia of Lake Superior Court made a ruling on Right to Work legislation this evening, stating that the recent Indiana legislation is unconstitutional. Sedia agreed with the petitioners, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, that the legislation violates Article 1 Section 21 of the state constitution. The ruling will most likely be appealed and the case would then head to the Indiana Supreme Court. Indiana was the first state to pass Right to Work legislation in almost two decades when the bill went through in 2012.
The Monroe County Commission approved a new law August 23 aimed at keeping homeless people from sleeping on the Courthouse lawn. The law formally establishes hours of operation for the Courthouse grounds.
“This summer, people have taken to camping on the courthouse grounds and that’s resulted in trash and bodily waste to the degree that the public health of the safety crew and people visiting is in peril” says County Attorney David Schilling.
People experiencing homelessness have been sleeping on the courthouse lawn for months. There is no Interfaith Summer Shelter this year, and the city of Bloomington has shut down informal shelters on 11th street and in a city parking garage. Commission member Iris Kiesling asked how this new law would be enforced. Schilling said they’d put up signs saying the hours of the lawn and violation of the hours would be grounds for a trespass violation. The official hours of operation for the courthouse lawn are now 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day. Kiesling said the County has taken measures to make it “less fun” to sleep on the lawn, but she didn’t say what those measures were.
“Businesses around the courthouse can see what’s going on and are concerned. It’s a shame because we have such a beautiful courthouse and I’d hate to see that getting destroyed,” Kiesling said.
All three members of the Commission voted to approve the ordinance. The wording of the law will have to be published in the Herald-Times before police are allowed to impose fines for violating it.