An uptick in downtown graffiti – on both public and private property – is getting attention from city officials, though in some cases their options for addressing it are limited. It's important to deal with graffiti quickly, as that's the best way to deter additional vandalism.
The City of Bloomington sends out crews to clean off or paint over tags on public property. You can report graffiti by calling the city's Safe and Civil City hotline at 812-355-7777 or using the city's online UReport system.
What if the graffiti is on private property? Then it's the responsibility of the property owner, and you need their permission to take action. Bloomington's Safe and Civil City staff can help with that – contact them at 812-355-7777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out the city's "How to Organize a Graffiti Clean-Up" site for graffiti-removal tips.
Another useful resource: The City of Milwaukee's detailed description of graffiti-removal techniques. The site gives advice on choosing the correct solvent, deciding whether to paint over the graffiti or wash it off, and dealing with graffiti on different types of surfaces, such as concrete, stone, brick, metal or wood.
Seattle's "Red Wagon Paint Out" is another approach. That city provides tips for preventing graffiti, as well as free materials – delivered in a little red wagon – and training for volunteers to deal with graffiti.
Graffiti is unlawful conduct under Chapter 14.36.050 of the City of Bloomington code. It's a violation of Indiana Code 188.8.131.52, punishable as a Class A misdemeanor if property damage is more than $750 and less than $50,000, or a Level 6 felony if damage is over $50,000.
With priorities on quality of place and workforce attraction, the 2020 grant cycle for the Community Impact Funding Initiative is now underway.
The initiative, administered by the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, funds projects that are "forward thinking, community changing in their implementation, practical in their application and unique to the community." Typically, grants are awarded in the $10,000 to $50,000 range.
The current cycle will emphasize projects identified as priorities in the recent Monroe County Quality of Place and Workforce Attraction Plan. These priorities were shaped with input from an advisory team of 35 that included Erin Predmore, CEO of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, and Christopher Emge, the Chamber's Manager of Talent and Education.
Examples of the plan's priorities:
On Wednesday, Aug. 7, the Community Foundation will hold an Impact Grant workshop from 10 a.m. until noon at the Fountain Square Ballroom, 101 W. Kirkwood. The event is designed to provide details on the priority focus areas and discuss the application process. You can RSVP for this workshop by emailing Marcus Whited at email@example.com.
The complete timeline:
Aug. 7 – Impact Grant workshop at Fountain Square Ballroom
Sept. 6 – Letters of Intent due to Community Foundation
Sept. 23 – Selected applicants receive invitations for full proposals
Oct. 30 – Full proposals due to Community Foundation
Dec. 12 – Grant awards announced; funding available
Click here for details on the Community Impact Grant Initiative. To read the full Monroe County Quality of Place and Workforce Attraction Plan, click here.
The Bloomington/Monroe County performing arts sector adds over $4 million annually to the local economy and supports more than 160 jobs here, according to a recent analysis commissioned by Cardinal Stage.
Gabe Gloden, the professional theater's managing director, presented results of the study at the Chamber Speaker Series on July 18.
The analysis focused on three organizations: Cardinal Stage, Buskirk-Chumley Theater, and the Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center. The economic impact of the entire arts sector would be even greater, Gloden noted.
Other key takeaways:
That last data point should be food for thought, Gloden said, as the community thinks about investing in the arts through ticket sales, sponsorships or grants. If there aren't local opportunities for participating in the arts, this community would be losing revenue – including money spent at local restaurants and hotels – to other areas.
Exposure to the performing arts also has been linked positively to increased civic engagement, improved academic achievement, social and emotional learning, and development of tolerance and empathy.
The study was conducted in the spring of 2019 by graduate students of the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Click here to read the full report.
Duke Energy has proposed a rate hike, filing its request with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) on July 2. The IURC is required to approve this kind of utility rate adjustment.
On average, commercial customers would see a 16.7% increase. Rates for industrial customers would increase on average between 11.3% and 16.3%, while residential customers would have an average rate increase of 19% (or about $23 more per month).
According to an Indy Star report, this is the first time Duke Energy has requested a rate increase in almost 20 years.
If approved by the IURC, rates would be phased in over two years beginning in the spring/summer of 2020. Before then – possibly as early as the fall of 2019 – the IURC will schedule public hearings to gather input on the proposed increases.
The change would raise the firm's revenue by roughly $395 million annually.
Duke Energy cites several reasons for the request:
– Investments tied to growth in its customer base;
– Transitioning to renewable energy sources and closing some of the company's Indiana coal-fired plants sooner than previously planned;
– Costs associated with increasing the system's reliability and reducing power outages;
– Complying with stricter federal rules that require closing the firm's coal ash basins;
– Installing "smart meters."
In Indiana, Duke Energy serves customers in 69 counties, including Monroe County. Click here to read a fact sheet about the proposed rate increases.
On the third Thursday of each month, Downtown Bloomington Inc. hosts a breakfast meeting that's open to the public. This month, the event drew about three dozen people who gathered at Graduate Bloomington.
The meeting primarily consists of updates from everyone who attends. Here's a sampling from the July 18 session (* = Chamber member):
Curtis Smith, executive director of the Ivy Tech* Center for Lifelong Learning: He highlighted several upcoming events, including Girls Rock Bloomington, a 5-day camp that starts July 22. Campers (ages 8-18) will perform original pieces at a concert on Saturday, July 27. He also announced that he'll be leaving his position soon to take a job in Arizona. Interviews for his replacement are already underway.
Mary Catherine Carmichael, City of Bloomington* Director of Public Engagement: The city's downtown alley improvement project has been delayed, in part because of challenges in coordinating with local utilities, higher-than-expected costs, and the availability of contractors.
Don Weiler, partner with Bailey & Weiler Design/Build*: Higher costs for materials, coupled with a labor shortage, are driving up prices this season in the building industry. Dan is an incoming Chamber board member.
Jeremy Goodrich, Shine Insurance*: The business recently relocated to the Graham Plaza building at College and 6th. Jeremy also oversees the podcasting studio at The Mill, and he encouraged everyone to check it out.
Betsy Trotzke, Communications and Marketing Director for the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County*: Applications are being accepted for the Community Impact Grants, and a workshop for applicants will be held on Aug. 7. Also, the deadline to apply for a 2020 Lilly Scholarship is Aug. 26.
Trent Deckard, Monroe County Council: Work is nearly finished on the county's Limestone Greenway, a 1.7-mile trail that connects to the City of Bloomington's B-Line and Rail Trail. Trent plans to hold three listening sessions in Bloomington this fall, dates/locations TBD.
Malcolm Abrams, publisher of Bloom Magazine*: The monthly magazine will be launching a Community Awards this year, recognizing local business, charity, the arts and diversity. The awards will be presented at a gala in December.
The DBI's next breakfast meeting is on Thursday, Aug. 15. Sign up for the group's e-newsletter here.
The U.S. Small Business Administration is in this area through July 18 to help businesses and residents apply for low-interest disaster loans if their property has been hit by recent tornadoes, high winds or severe storms.
Areas in Indiana covered by the SBA disaster declaration include the counties of Monroe, Brown, Greene, Jackson, Lawrence, Morgan and Owen.
SBA staff have set up a Disaster Loan Outreach Center at the North Monroe Fire Station #5, 5081 N. Old State Road 37 in Ellettsville during the following times:
Thursday-Friday, July 11-12: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Saturday, July 13: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Monday-Wednesday, July 15-17: 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Thursday, July 18: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
September 3, 2019 is the application deadline for loans to cover physical property damage.
Get details at DisasterLoans.sba.gov or call 800-659-2955.
Click here for additional information on qualifications, terms and how to apply.
The site plan for the city's new 4th Street parking structure will be considered by the Bloomington Plan Commission at its July 8th meeting. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. at city hall, 401 N. Morton, and will include a public hearing on the project. [UPDATE: Commissioners pushed back action on this project until their Aug. 12 meeting. Watch the July 8 meeting on CATS.]
Click here for the 4th St. garage section of the Plan Commission packet.
Citing its importance to the downtown business community, the Chamber has supported this project, which replaces an aging structure on the same site. Additionally, the garage will provide parking for an expanded Monroe County Convention Center, which the Chamber also supports.
According to information provided to the Plan Commission, the new 4th St. garage will be six stories high (75 feet, 8 inches tall at its highest) with 510 parking spaces, 40 indoor bicycle spaces and 10 bike lockers. It also calls for 11,189 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor, including office space for city staff, and public restrooms.
Entrances will be from both 3rd and 4th streets. This will require variances from the city's Board of Zoning Appeals. That's because current zoning doesn't allow for vehicle entrances onto 3rd Street, and the proposed width of the 4th Street entrance exceeds the allowable maximum per city code.
The design also assumes that the city will acquire the parcel at the southeast corner of the site, currently owned by Juan Carlos Carrasquel of JuanSells.com Realty Co. While negotiating with Carrasquel, the city has also filed a Complaint for Condemnation with the Monroe County Circuit Court, beginning the process to buy the land through eminent domain. A memo to the Plan Commission states that the city's legal department "has advised that moving forward with a conditional approval is valid."
Click here for additional background on this project.
Other items on the July 8th Plan Commission agenda include final plan approval for the Ridge Group Inc.'s 130 apartment units, part of the Sudbury planned unit development (PUD) on West Ezekiel Drive, and adoption of the city's proposed Transportation Plan.
Click here to download the full meeting packet.
Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton won't be facing any independent challengers in the Nov. 5 municipal election. And unless official write-in candidates file by noon on July 3, many residents in the city won't be going to the polls. That's because except for Districts 2 and 3, there won't be any competition in other districts or citywide races. [UPDATE: No write-in candidates filed by the July 3 deadline.]
Elections generally aren't held unless there are contested races or official write-in candidates. The decision not to have an election is made by the Monroe County Election Board.
Monday, July 1 at noon was the filing deadline for independent candidates. According to Karen Wheeler, Monroe County election supervisor, one potential candidate for mayor – Nile Arena – submitted fewer than 230 signatures, far less than the required 522 needed to be put on the ballot. No one else filed to run for mayor.
Sunday, June 30 was the deadline for political parties to meet and select candidates for the Nov. 5 ballot. In Bloomington, the Republican Party did not caucus this year, Wheeler said.
Write-in candidates do not have to submit signatures or be chosen by caucus. They simply need to complete the appropriate paperwork and file it with the Monroe County election staff by noon on July 3. If a write-in files to run for mayor, clerk or an at-large council seat, then elections will be held citywide. [UPDATE: No write-in candidates filed by the July 3 deadline.]
Competition for Council in Districts 2 & 3
District 3 will see the most competitive race. Ron Smith, who won the May 7 Democratic Party primary, will run against two independents: Marty Spechler and Nick Kappas.
In District 2, Republican Andrew Guenther and Democrat Sue Sgambelluri will be on the Nov. 5 ballot.
Again, if no one files to be a write-in candidate for mayor, clerk or for other districts or at-large council seats, only voters in Districts 2 and 3 will be casting ballots on Nov. 5.
Voter Registration Deadline: October 7
Monday, Oct. 7 is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 5 election. Click here for a voter registration application form. For information about voting requirements, photo ID regulations, absentee voting and more, check out the 2019 Indiana Voter Registration Guide or the Monroe County Election Central website.
You know summer has officially arrived with the opening of the Monroe County Fair! Though the fair lasts for about a week – from June 28 through July 7 – the work to make it happen takes place year-round.
A big part of that effort is handled by the fair Board of Directors. This year, officers are James Stanger (president), Jay Walters (1st vice president), John Daniel (2nd vice president), Tonya Clark (secretary), Tami Amick and Karen Britton (treasurers). They've already started plans for 2020, including recruitment of new board members.
Interested in serving? Elections to the board take place in October. To be added to the ballot, contact Tonya Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-327-3634.
Tonya was recently interviewed by Chamber CEO Erin Predmore for the Chamber's 3 Things podcast about what's happening at the fair. You'll find out how to register a team for mud volleyball, how to tell the difference between a fair queen and princess, and how pigs are judged. (Hint: It's not about how cute they are.)
Listen to the episode here – and be sure to subscribe to future 3 Things on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you download your podcasts. Meanwhile, see you at the fair!
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy