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Bloomington Plan Commision Approves Bank Plans, Delays Hotel Plans

Old National Bank is one major step closer to moving its downtown Bloomington branch.

On December 8, the Bloomington Plan Commission approved plans for a two-story building on the corner of Kirkwood and Lincoln. Old National plans to vacate its current branch, which is just one block west, and move those operations to the proposed building.

The company developing the project, GMS-Pavilion Properties, has been negotiating with the city for years.

City Planner Jim Roach said the Planning Department is happy with the recent progress.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we believe this building meets all city requirements and there are no parking or residential density issues,” Roach says.

Plans for the building originally included a third story as well as 17 apartments. Over the past year the developer scrapped those elements, making the proposal better comply with the city’s zoning rules. Plan Commission members had few complaints about the current proposal.

But Commission President Jack Baker did have an issue with the brick developers plan to use, saying in order to keep the vibrancy and quirkiness of the street, they should use a more reddish color.

The brick currently proposed for the building is more earth-toned than Baker wants.

Steve Hoffman, from Pavilion Properties, said his company can’t do much to change that part of the plan, because it’s what the bank asked for.

Baker proposed an amendment that would require the developer to work with staff to consider a new color of brick. But that amendment didn’t pass.

The Commission later approved the plans for the entire building unanimously. It still needs approval from the Bloomington Board of Zoning Appeals before construction can happen. By moving into a new building, Old National hopes to clear the way for a new hotel on the site of its current branch.

But there have been complaints about the hotel proposal. The Commission delayed a vote on that plan at the December 8 meeting and won’t take it up again until February.

Rally Against Injustice – Slideshow

Food-cart Fiasco

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The Bloomington City Council is still struggling with how to regulate food trucks. The Council debated eight separate amendments to the proposed rules governing mobile vendors at a meeting last night. City staff put forward the original draft of the regulations, which establish where and when the vendors can operate and set limits on how much noise they can make. The Council considered several changes to the legislation, including one amendment to the noise limits. Council member Steve Volan co-sponsored the measure. He says that it will increase the generator level from 60 to 70 db.

Although the change increases the allowable noise from 60 decibels to 70, one food truck operator said the amendment would actually reduce the amount of noise her generator could produce. Darlene Gonzalez is the owner of Juancho’s Munchies.

Most Council members were unclear about how to set the noise limit. Although Volan co-sponsored the amendment, he suggested it might be best to withdraw it.

The Council later voted down the amendment, which leaves the noise limit at 60 decibels, which is approximately the level of a normal conversation from 3 feet away. Several Council members said they expect to revisit the noise issue early next year. Council member Marty Spechler said it may be all but impossible to set a specific limit that seems reasonable to all involved.

The Council also heard extensive public comment about a rule that forbids food trucks from operating within 50 feet of restaurants. Talia Halliday, who helps organize the Bloomington Handmade Market and runs a shop called Gather, said she likes to work with food trucks.

Several food truck operators and other members of the public said the rules seem aimed at protecting brick and mortar restaurants from an increasingly popular group of food trucks and carts. Patty Mulvihill, a city attorney who helped draft the regulations, responded to that claim.

Council member Susan Sandberg was upfront about her interest in protecting established restaurants. Sandberg said she wanted to be sure those businesses were happy with the new rules.

Quick Reads – December 4, 2014

- Governor Mike Pence delivered his education agenda this morning, looking ahead to the start of the 2015 legislative long-session which he termed the “education session.” Pence stressed his support for vouchers and charter schools, boasting that in the four years since it was enacted, the Indiana school voucher program has become the largest in the country, serving nearly 30,000 students. Pence also said that educators should be monetarily rewarded for good progress results but that no extra funding should be used for this, saying instead that money should be spent more wisely. Also presented today was an executive order rescinding in it’s entirety, a previous executive order under which he created the Center for education and career innovation, a move seen by many as a power grab from democratic state superintendent Glenda Ritz. Ritz released a reaction statement today reading “While dissolving CECI is certainly welcome news, there are other aspects of the Governor’s legislative agenda that are concerning for public education in our state. I look forward to working with the Legislature and the Governor on the Department of Education’s legislative agenda and other critical issues during the upcoming session.”

- A new coalition of business groups is launching a campaign in support of legislation to allow Sunday sales of packaged liquor in Indiana. A press release from Hoosiers for Sunday Sales reports they have backing from consumer and business groups including the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and more than 25,000 citizens who have signed a petition in support of Sunday sales. Similar bills have been brought before the legislature for the past seven years and have been defeated because of opposition from the packaged liquor store lobby. Although all retail outlets would be allowed to sell packaged liquor on Sunday if the laws were changed, the Liquor store lobby says liquor stores would be at a disadvantage. They claim that more of Sunday sales would be made at grocery and convenience stores where people tend to shop on Sundays anyway, and that would mean decreased revenue for packaged liquor stores. They claim that this competition with the larger grocery and convenience store chains could drive some of the smaller, local liquor stores out of business. Supporters of the change say Sunday liquor sales are already legal in Indiana in bars and restaurants. And thirty-eight states, including all the states bordering Indiana, allow sale of packaged liquor on Sunday. According to Hoosiers for Sunday Sales website, it is estimated that Indiana loses 10-12 million tax dollars each year by not allowing Sunday sales.
A recent WISH-TV/Ball State Hoosier Survey found that 52% of Hoosiers favor Sunday sales. The next legislative session begins on January 6th and there will most likely be a bill to repeal bans on Sunday sales.

- Bloomington is celebrating Krampus Night this Saturday. Bloomingtonians will dress up as the hairy horned beast as well as his counterpart Saint Nicholas. Originating from Alpine Europe around the 17th century, the Krampus is a tall horned monster covered in hair. Just as Saint Nicholas rewards good children with presents, the Krampus frightens children into behaving. The Krampus Parade is at 6:00 PM on Madison street starting at 4th street and ending at the Showers Common. The very first Krampus Bazaar is going to be held at the Showers Common from 5:30 to 7:00 PM. Afterward, Downtown Bloomington will be infested with these creatures as late as closing time at the local bars and restaurants. Krampus Night is produced by Krampus Legend and Arts Workshop, a local Bloomington organization.

Tenth Street Closed Over Christmas Break

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Indiana University plans to shut down 10th Street on campus for almost four weeks over winter break. The university asked the Bloomington Board of Public Works to approve the closure at a meeting December 2nd. Drivers will have to detour around 10th Street, which will be closed from Jordan Avenue to Fee Lane. IU’s real estate director, Jason Banach (BA-nek) said the closure is the result of a project to improve the sprinkler system at the Wells Library.

IU asked to close the street starting December 18th until January 12th. Board of Public Works President Charlotte Zietlow said there would be complaints despite many students being out of town.

Bill Riggert, one of the engineers working on the project, said the construction work will be difficult. The university is extending a water main to provide additional water for the sprinklers in the Wells Library.

Despite those concerns, those working on the project said they were confident it would be finished in time to reopen 10th Street on January 12th, when students will return from break.

IU Professors Awarded Grant to Study Acetaminophen

Three IU professors have been awarded an National Institute of Health grant to study acetaminophen liver toxicity. Acetaminophen is a common pain reliever found in hundreds of over the counter and prescription drugs. But too much can cause liver damage. According to a press release from IU, acetaminophen-induced liver failure is the leading cause of liver failure in the United States. IU professors James Glazier, James Klaunig and Kenneth Dunn are working on a multi-disciplinary computational model to study the mechanism of this toxicity. The collaboration among these professors and their research groups brings together expertise in computational biology, advanced microscopic imaging techniques, and extensive chemical and biological expertise in pharmacology and toxicology. The researches hope these models will allow the study of interactions of various processes and systems in the body, and reduce the use of animals in toxicity studies. This research will be conducted in IU laboratories in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

City of Bloomington Chosen to Host Several Girls’ National Softball Championships

Bloomington will host several national softball tournaments during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. During its annual Council meeting in Reno, Nevada the Amateur Softball Association, or ASA, acknowledged its search of many sites for the 2016 National Championship season. Bloomington successfully bid during last year’s ASA meeting when it was chosen to host the ASA Girls’ 16-under Class B Northern National tournament. In a very competitive process, each year the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department. partnering with the Visit Bloomington program attends the ASA council meeting where it lobbies for Bloomington as a tournament venue. Hundreds of city hopefuls from across the U.S. attend the ASA meeting to promote their communities’ assets, accessibility, and tournament amenities. In a press release from the City of Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan states QUOTE “It is an honor being chosen by the ASA as the destination for their national tournament. Events like these are what make our continued investment in the community so worthwhile.” Bloomington was awarded the James Farrell Award of Excellence at the ASA’s Council meeting for hosting one of the highest rated tournaments in 2014, the USA/ASA Girls’ Class A 12-under Fast Pitch National Championship, held last July. According to the ASA, a host city must receive an overall rating of 95 percent or more from the ASA representative, the Umpire-in-Chief, and the national office to receive a James Farrell Award of Excellence.

Educators Express Beliefs On Teacher Evaluation Process In Current IU Center of Education Survey

Researchers from Indiana University’s Center on Education and Lifelong Learning recently issued a policy brief from a comprehensive survey of current Indiana educators regarding their beliefs about teacher evaluations and their confidence in the evaluation process. The survey addressed the measurement of student growth and achievement, the new teacher-evaluation legislation, and how changes in the teacher evaluation process have affected teaching and learning. Findings indicate that superintendents view the evaluation system more favorably and have more confidence in it than do the teachers they are evaluating. However, data gathered also suggest there is an opportunity to secure teacher support for meaningful change in policy and guidance. IU Center on Education researchers provided a variety of recommendations for meaningful changes. Suggestions include creating differentiated rating systems for district teacher evaluation plans that recognize plan quality, reviewing the methodology, using weights for student growth in the evaluation system; anchoring the weight and measure of student growth and teacher evaluation in research; and reviewing how evaluations are linked to compensation. Hardy Murphy, co-author of the research brief, described the primary goal of the research as QUOTE “a fairly comprehensive view of educator feelings about significant changes in teacher appraisal in the state of Indiana and the perceived impact upon teaching and learning in districts across the state.” Murphy says he hopes the Center’s findings will provide insights into the development of policy and legislation requiring changes in the evaluation of teachers.

New Suicide Support Group to Begin in January

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Beginning in January, the City of Bloomington and Bloomington Meadows Hospital will establish a new suicide support group for teens and children in the community involving free ongoing monthly meetings for community youth affected by suicide. City of Bloomington Health Projects Manager Nancy Woolery and Clinical Social Worker Peter Link of the Bloomington Meadows Hospital will collaborate to facilitate the group meetings. To address the needs of grieving local youth after recent suicides in Monroe County high schools and IU Bloomington, Woolery and Link attended a training in Indianapolis conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or AFSP. This training focused on teaching adults the skills to facilitate a peer grief support group for teens and children. Bloomington hosts a similar support group for adults in the community. Woolery, who also co-chairs the Monroe County Suicide Prevention Coalition, said that the youth support group will have a different approach than its adult counterpart.

The youth suicide bereavement support group is the first of its kind in Bloomington, and Woolery plans to meet with the AFSP again soon for further guidance. According the AFSP website, their organization works to address suicide stigmas through public education. Woolery said Bloomington group will also make an effort to create a space where suicide is not viewed with stigma.

Meetings for the free adult group “Survivors of Suicide” take place in the Monroe County Public Library every fourth Sunday of the month from 1 to 3 p.m. The exact dates and location for the youth support group have yet to be determined.

Historically Low Voter Turnout Results Reported for the 2014 General Election

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Secretary of State Connie Lawson released the official voter turnout report yesterday for the 2014 general election. Indiana’s turnout was 30 percent overall, but some counties such as Martin, Ohio, Perry, Pike and Spencer had at least a 48 percent turnout rate. Jay County was the only district with a turnout higher than 50 percent. Monroe County was one of the lowest in Indiana, with only 26 percent of registered voters casting a ballot. Although the low turnout was not unexpected, nationwide it was the lowest percentage turnout since World War II. Monroe County Clerk Linda Robbins said that the turnout was low because people are growing more and more weary of politics.

Robbins also said that age groups played a big role in the turnout, and that 83 percent of the voters were over 45. She said that younger people don’t think their votes have the power to make a difference–but Robbins says that they do.

Robbins said that young people need to be more involved. And she thinks that it needs to start in schools.
Robbins thinks that political awareness needs to start before high school, and that schools should emphasize how students can be a part of community and government in history classes.
Even into her adult years, Robbins said that she felt passive toward the government. But after working in healthcare and learning about the unfairness of health insurance, she became interested in politics. Robbins made inquiries to all of the then-presidential hopefuls about their stances on healthcare. She received one response. It was from Barack Obama’s campaign. A few months later she received an invitation to help with the primary election in Iowa.

That was the first time she had been asked to participate, she said. And so she did. Robbins returned home and worked on elections, eventually running for her current position as County Clerk. Robbins said that she has higher hopes for voter turnout next year, when more high-profile races will take place. She said that she hopes political parties and candidates will work to involve young people in the election.

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