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Bloomington opens its streets

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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.

Out with the Old: Demolition Plans Upset Local Residents

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As you approach Indiana University from the west, after passing through downtown and continuing along 7th or 10th streets, you come upon a neighborhood with brick roads, hundred-year-old houses and a mixture of university and residential property. The area, known as the University Courts Historic District, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

It’s home to WIUX radio, the Mathers Museum of World Cultures and the Collins Living-Learning Center. And it’s now at the center of a controversy about what may soon be the newest neighbor there, the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, commonly known as the FIJI house.

“The university and the (IU) Foundation and the FIJIs have been talking about finding a new home for the FIJIs for some time now,” University spokesman Mark Land said.

Land says the university wants the land where the current FIJI house is located, in the 600 block of East 3rd Street.

“The IU Foundation has reached an agreement with the FIJIs to essentially exchange properties. So the Foundation would get the FIJI house…and the FIJIs would get the properties down on Woodlawn, that they would then use to build a new house,” Land said.

But those properties along Woodlawn are not vacant. There are six houses there, including one originally designed for a former IU football coach who was hired in 1916. The city’s official brochure for walking tours of the neighborhood describes the house as Bloomington’s best example of Prairie Style architecture, a style commonly associated with the architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

“This is really the finest example of one of the old neighborhoods,” said Jon Lawrence, the president of Bloomington’s Council of Neighborhood Associations. “It was originally occupied by faculty, famous coaches…as that original group of faculty started aging and moved out of their houses, the houses started switching off occasionally into rentals and the university was buying up the property.”

The announcement that these six houses would be demolished to make way for a fraternity house did not sit well with Lawrence, or with many others interested in historic preservation in the city. Neighbors also complained, and much of the city Council meeting last week was spent discussing the issue.

But technically the Council and even the city’s Historic Preservation Commission has no power to stop the deal. Which, according to Land, is why city government and community members weren’t consulted before the university reached an agreement with the FIJIs.

“The city doesn’t really have any jurisdiction over this piece of property, over this area,” Land said. “It’s university-owned property…we’ve decided that this is how we always handle these kind of deals.”

The university has historically been allowed to do what it wants with the land it owns, even if that land is within the city of Bloomington. Other property owners are routinely required to obtain permits and occassionally approval from elected or appointed boards and commissions when they want to build or demolish or even change the uses for their properties. Most would certainly run in to problems if they attempted to demolish houses on a national register of historic places. But the university has no such restrictions.

Critics of the demolition have pointed out discrepancies between the university’s master plan, passed in 2010, and the recently announced deal with the FIJI house.

The master plan describes University Courts as a “enhanced residential neighborhood, complete with front porches, stoops, brick-lined streets, and gas lamps.” It goes on to say “this neighborhood can be developed as a residential district for faculty and visiting professors.” Several critics have questioned how moving in a fraternity would encourage professors to live there.

Jeannine Butler, a member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission who also lives in the University Courts area, said “We have a lot of students in our neighborhood and for the most part they are very good about being quiet late at night…The difference is you’re talking about students who live in a house where there may be 10 or 12, or (in the case of a fraternity) you’re talking about 100. There’s a big difference.”

IU did offer the fraternity other locations before settling on the plan to demolish the houses. Recently all new Greek housing at IU has been located in the area along North Jordan Avenue. This is the first time in more than half a century a fraternity or sorority has been allowed to build anywhere else. And according to Land, that’s because the circumstances are different this time.

“The FIJIs already have a location that they like,” Land said. “In most of the cases where (Greek organizations) have built out there…the North Jordan extension was a move up for them…In this case, the FIJIs have a location that they like and that they’ve been established at for years.”

Representatives from the Fiji house said the fraternity would not comment for this story. So WFHB News couldn’t ask them how they liked their current house. But a newsletter released this summer said the house is QUOTE “very rapidly approaching the point of being impossible to keep properly repaired and is becoming a competitive disadvantage for recruiting the best young men.”

According to the newsletter, the fraternity determined that the only viable solutions other than to move would be to tear down the house or do a massive renovation. Both of those options would require the fraternity to come up with all the money themselves, and the newsletter says it would also require the brothers to move out and find temporary housing for at least a year. The fraternity’s house corporation reportedly evaluated the possibility of asking IU to approve either of those options, but determined IU would probably turn them down, ultimately forcing them onto North Jordan with all the other new Greek housing.

Many critics of the move say there are probably hidden motives for the university’s decision to allow the frat to take the historic properties.

“The FIJI alums and the people who are in the (FIJI House Corporation) are well off and very influential and probably huge donors to IU,” Butler said. “And IU isn’t gonna tick them off.”

There are undoubtedly some powerful FIJIs connected with IU, although no one interviewed by WFHB pointed to anyone in particular as having special influence.

Gov. Mike Pence is an alumnus of the fraternity, although he attended Hanover College, not IU. So is the CEO of the Whirlpool Corporation, Jeff Fettig, who is also on the Board of Directors for the IU Foundation, which arranged the land swap deal. But Land insisted power and money had nothing to do with the agreement.

Regardless of the reasons behind the deal, the recent issue has brought up new concerns about the sometimes awkward dynamic between the university and the city that surrounds it. Without any local control even much transparency about the university’s actions, Lawrence said there is reason for local property owners to be wary.

“This is a huge concern to all neighborhoods in Bloomington because no matter where you are, the university can purchase the house next door and tear it down,” Lawrence said. “Nobody else can do that.”

Land said it may be months or years before the deal with the university is complete. He said the fraternity first must prove it has the financial ability to build a new house on the property.

Daily Local News- September 16th, 2013

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Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane laid out a plan to enroll students around the state in early childhood education programs; Bloomington will stage its first Open Streets event this weekend- joining a recent trend in larger cities around the world; Citizens from Morristown, Indiana are banding together to stop a gas-fired power plant proposed by tyhe Omaha-based company Tenaska.

FEATURE
Earlier this summer the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity announced it had reached a deal to relocate its frat house. The fraternity is currently located on east 3rd street. But the deal it made with Indiana University would put the new house in the University Courts neighborhood on the western edge of campus. The plan has upset some in Bloomington, partly because it requires the demolition of six historic homes. Assistant News Director Joe Crawford has that story for today’s WFHB feature.

ACTIVATE
Jodi Chatelain and Kenny Bundy talk about working at the Recovery Engagement Center.

CREDITS
Anchors: Maria McKinley and Doug Storm,
Today’s headlines were written by David Murphy and Yvonne Cheng,
Our Engineers are Lauren Glapa and Chris Martin,
Our Editor is Drew Daudelin,
Activate is produced by Jennifer Whitaker
Executive producer is Alycin Bektesh.

Activate! – Recovery Engagement Center: Jodi Chatelain and Kenny Bundy

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Jodi Chatelain and Kenny Bundy talk about working at the Recovery Engagement Center and how involvement with the REC is an amazing experiencing for those volunteers in recovery and for those volunteers who are not. For the REC, service is the highest calling.

WFHB’s Interchange Investigates the US Constitution for “Constitution Day”

Did YOU know there was a thing called “Constitution Day”?  Is Constitution Day constitutional?  Do you know what the 3rd Amendment is?

 
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
 
A law establishing “Constitution Day” was created in 2004 with the passage of an amendment by Senator Robert Byrd to the Omnibus spending bill of 2004. Before this law was enacted, the holiday was known as “Citizenship Day”. In addition to renaming the holiday “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” the act mandates that all publicly funded educational institutions provide educational programming on the history of the American Constitution on that day. In May 2005, the United States Department of Education announced the enactment of this law and that it would apply to any school receiving federal funds of any kind. This holiday is not observed by granting time off work for federal employees.

For this edition of Interchange, host Lisa-Marie Napoli, a member of the PACE [Political and Civic Engagement] faculty, interviews Tim Lovelace from the Maurer School of Law and Eileen Braman from Political Science Department.  We encourage community members to send suggestions for questions to ask our guests to our Interchange email address: interchange@gmail.com.  PACE will also solicit questions from IU students.

The Porch Swing – Episode 109: September 13, 2013

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Steve Volan: The First Internet Date
As the Internet begins to spread its web, a young college student takes advantage of one of its foundational uses.Elizabeth Newton: Lessons Learned
A scary misadveture during semester in Brazil teaches an overconfident student that sometimes host mom knows best.

Citizens show support for 8th Street’s historic homes

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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.

Hola Bloomington – September 13, 2013

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Hostess Maria Auxiliadora  Viloria y Carlos Bakota, interview Lillian Casillas director of LA CASA Latino Cultural Center IU and celebrating their 40th Anniversary. Also Luis vs Luis, Heydi Encarnacion with her health segment. Information about the NHHM (National Hispanic Heritage Month) and the events of the week.

Plan Commission rejects move for Taste of India

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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.

 

Indiana’s representatives weigh in on military action in Syria

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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.

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