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Bloomington City Council speaks on giving tax breaks to developers


Last night the Bloomington City Council questioned the criteria for granting tax breaks to developers. The company, Big O Properties, asked for a tax abatement from the city for a proposed mixed-use development on South Walnut Street downtown.

Danise Alano-Martin, the city’s Director of the Economic and Sustainable Development, recommended the council approve the abatement request. Alano-Martin says the development meets the criteria of enhancing the community character, using sustainable building materials, and reversing the cessation of growth associated with the one-story building that is currently on the property.

Jason Carnes, who also works in the Economic and Sustainable Development department, presented calculations showing a projected increase in property value that would generate tax revenue for the city.

In a preliminary vote the council showed favor for a three year-tax abatement for the development. But multiple members expressed disappointment about offering a tax cut to a residential property that does not include affordable housing.

“I like this project,” said Council member Dorothy Granger. “I appreciate the changes that you came back with…I am very disappointed at the prices of the apartments. I couldn’t afford one. But I know that’s what things go for in this community. I just want to put it out there that I’m very much for more affordable housing for working people.”

Council member Dave Rollo also commented: “I think my biggest disappointment is the rent, the affordability, and in the future I would really emphasize the affordability component. It’s very important, I think, to everyone here on the Council.”

Five Council members voted for the tax break. Councilmember Marty Spechler voted no and Councilmembers Darry Neher, Steve Volan and Andy Ruff abstained.

Local Activist Speaks Out On Relocation of Bloomington Hospital


A local activist gave a detailed history of what is now IU Health Bloomington hospital last week during a Bloomington City Council meeting. Rita Lichtenburg is a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She set out specific actions she hopes the council will address to encourage the hospital to stay in its location on Second Street.  Lichtenburg raised the issues that a nicer facility was not as import as a sufficient number of nurses and doctors giving high quality care.  She also stated that location needed to  be discussed, a twenty five member task force should be brought back, that there is not enough transparency with the hospital’s board of directors, and that the directors should discuss what the location change will mean.

Council President Dave Rollo told Lichtenburg that a resolution along those lines is being discussed.

The Race is on for Political Positions In Bloomington


Races have officially begun for political positions at the city of Bloomington. All candidates were required to file by last week.  Monday was the deadline for candidates to reconsider and withdraw their names from the ballot. There are now four candidates for mayor of Bloomington. That’s three Democrats and one Republican. Another Democratic candidate, Adam Mikos (MY-cuss), filed to run last week, but he said the local Democratic party encouraged him to back out.  Mikos determined that at this time it was better not to fight and withdraw from the race.

Mikos said he might still decide to run as an independent. The three remaining Democrats are Darryl Neher, John Hamilton and John Linnemeier (LINN-uh-MEYER). They will compete in the primary election this spring. The winner will face John Turnbull, the lone Republican running for mayor.  In the races for Bloomington City Council, there were a couple other quick withdrawls this week that benefitted established Democrats. Two candidates, Emily Courtney and Bill Phan (fawn) both filed to run on Friday and then backed out on Monday. Neither Courtney or Phan returned calls from WFHB. They both filed to run as Democrats for the three at-large seats on the Council. After Courtney and Phan withdrew, that left only three Democrats in the race for the three at-large seats, effectively eliminating competition for those positions on the Council. Those remaining three are all incumbents: Andy Ruff, Susan Sandberg and Tim Mayer. There are six other seats on the Council up for election this year. Five of those six races are contested. Visit WFHB dot ORG for a complete listing of candidates in Bloomington’s municipal elections.

Indiana’s Economic Recovery Has Been Slower Than Most

A new report finds that the current national economic recovery is leaving Indiana households behind, ranking us 34th in the nation. According to new data released by the Corporation for Enterprise Development think-tank, Indiana has among the lowest rates of small business ownership in the nation, ranking 48th for microenterprise ownership. Microenterprise ownership is defined as a business with fewer than five employees. Indiana was also ranked nationally 35th for small business ownership and 43rd for overall rate of business creation. The Corporation for Enterprise Development produces annual scorecards that highlight programs and pro-business policies they say help low-and-moderate citizens create more secured financial futures through small business ownership.

Candidates For Bloomington Mayor and City Council

The following candidates have filed to run for mayor of Bloomington or one of the nine positions on the City Council. Their names will appear on the ballot during the primary election May 5.



- John Hamilton (D)

- John Linnemeier (D)

- Darryl Neher (D)

- John Turnbull (R)


City Council


District 1

- Kevin Easton (D)

- Chris Sturbaum (D)


District  2

- Dorothy Granger (D)


District 3

- Allison Chopra (D)

- Marty Spechler (D)

- Mike Satterfield (D)

- Nelson Shaffer (R)


District 4

- Dave Rollo (D)

- Philippa Guthrie (D)


District 5

- Gabe Colman (D)

-  Kurt Babcock (D)

- Isabel Piedmont-Smith (D)


District 6

- Steve Volan (D)

- Ronald Patton Jr. (D)



- Tim Mayer (D)

- Andy Ruff (D)

- Susan Sandberg (D)

Bloomington Plan Commission Approves New Hotel Downtown


A new hotel seems headed to the heart of downtown Bloomington. Last night the city Plan Commission approved plans for a 146-room hotel known as the Graduate.

The hotel is planned for the corner of Kirkwood Avenue and Lincoln Street. Currently the Old National Bank is on that site, but there are plans for the bank to build a new branch just down the street.

There was more than an hour of public comment before the Plan Commission held its vote.

Many residents were upset about the size of the 70-foot-tall hotel. Others were upset about the loss of the parking lot at Old National Bank.

The bank currently allows some churches to use its lot outside of business hours.

Gov. Pence Promises To Shorten ISTEP+ Assessment

by David Murphy Governor Mike Pence has signed an executive order to shorten the length of the 2015 ISTEP+, which is scheduled to be administered in March.

The order is Pence’s response to the uproar that followed last week’s announcement that this year’s tests would take more than twice as much time for students to take as they did last year.The average time is up from around 5 hours to around 12 hours.

Pence’s proposal would only take effect after the appointment of a so-called assessment expert and a presentation of the ensuing report to the State Board of Education and the Department of Education. Today, Pence’s office announced that he had named Edward Roeber, a private sector testing consultant, to carry out his wishes.

This flap over I-STEP+ is only the latest in a long line of problems and complaints the test has caused since its inception. Since teacher pay and promotion is increasingly based on the performance of students on the tests, many say there is increased pressure to ‘teach-to-the-test.’

Some teachers now prefer teaching in schools and districts where higher socio-economic conditions tend to boost test scores. At the other end of the spectrum, poorer schools and districts, which produce lower test results, are put on track for eventual privatization. The most recent estimate is that the state department of education paid outside firms and consultants $31 million for the tests.

At the local level, the Monroe County Community School Corporation had to add five days to the school calendar year just to administer the test when it was originally introduced. On top of that administrative cost is the supplemental time and cost of test preparation, pre-testing, and test processing.

Last year, the test practice time was about an hour. This year it has grown to six hours.

Other problems have arisen in the actual application of the tests, including computer glitches during tests, errors in score calculation, and even the fudging of results, the most notorious being when former state superintendent of education, Tony Bennett, was caught raising the score of a charter school run by a big GOP donor. ISTEP + testing begins next month in Monroe County and across the state.

Bloomington is at gold standard for community biking


Bloomington’s status as a bicycle-friendly community has been elevated to gold-level by the League of American Bicyclists. Vince Caristo, the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator, spoke to the City Council last night.
Caristo says this places Bloomington in the top 25 cities to accommodate for bicycle enthusiast. He is also very proud of Bloomington’s promotion in the award from 4 years prior.
Bloomington has seen an 88% increase in bicycle facilities overall according to Caristo.

Caristo said that the honor was due in large part to the Council’s own initiatives, which have changed Bloomington’s infrastructure in ways that have increased ridership in Bloomington.

Caristo said the city’s painted bike lanes and a free, updated bike map have made bike-riding more accessible. He also highlighted the civil streets education campaign’s multiple transportation partners. Caristo said that the percent of bike commuters have quadrupled since 2013

The percentage of bike commuters is determined using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Council member Steve Volan asked how close Bloomington is to receiving the highest possible designation for bike friendliness.
Bloomington council members still says we have awhile before Bloomington can receive a platinum bicycle rating, considering it took them four years to receive a gold since their last award.

Council member Marty Spechler asked if the city was considering a bike rental program, which he had enjoyed as a tourist in other cities. Caristo said that is has been discussed in the past and will also be on the agenda for the next meeting of the bicycle pedestrian safety commission. That meeting is Monday February 9th.

Senator Coats; U. S. Senate Interrogate Health and Human Services Over 2016 Department Budget


The U.S. Senate’s Finance Committee, including Indiana Senator Dan Coats, aggressively questioned Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell for three hours this morning. The interrogation was part of the Committee’s review of President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget for the Department. Correspondent Alycin Bektesh has this report.

In Indiana, 193,567 people are signed up for coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

4th Street Parking Garage Is Under Repair


Visitors to downtown Bloomington’s 4th street parking garage, between College and Walnut streets, may have been disconcerted this winter to see the facility held up by metal poles and entire groups of parking spaces blocked off by scaffolding. The ongoing work is just routine maintenance, according to Susie Johnson, Director of Public Works for the City. She says that the construction involves routine preventive maintenance for the future.

Monday through Friday the Fourth Street garage is free for the first three hours. After that, it costs 50 cents an hour, half the cost of the parking meters on the street. After 6pm the 4th street garage is the only free parking garage downtown. It is also the oldest, and requires adjustments to its drainage flow and paving. The City is paying Indianapolis-based contractor Carl E Most & Son one hundred and eight thousand dollars for the repairs. Johnson said the project is weather dependent and is being done in stages so as not to block off too many of the spaces at one time.

A restructuring of Bloomington’s city government last year moved parking enforcement responsibilities from the Public Works Department to the Bloomington Police Department. But Public Works is still responsible for maintaining city properties, such as the garage.

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