Part of my role here at the Chamber is to take calls from members on issues they are having with government. One of the areas I hear quite a bit about is the lack of beauty in our Kirkwood-Square area. It may appear to be a trivial issue but aesthetics matter. It is the first impression visitors have of Bloomington. Below are some examples related to planters that do not meet the eye test. One of those planters does not fit where an outside group does the maintenance. it's pretty easy to spot.
At the October 19th City of Bloomington Common Council Meeting, I took the opportunity to both thank them for the council for their role in the budget process and bring up the issue of beautification.
I first want to commend this body for its deliberation on the sometimes-grueling budget process. While the LIT increase created a flush of revenue, it did not make the hearings any easier for the council. The Chamber appreciates making transit, infrastructure, and public safety a real priority in this community. We must never lose sight of local governments’ purpose to simply provide the essentials to its citizens: paved roads, garbage pickup, well-kept parks, and safe streets. Much like all of you, this budget cannot serve our priorities exactly, but through the democratic process, we manage.
Secondly, I want to bring up beautification. I walk around these streets downtown, and I can’t help thinking we as a community can do better. This may appear to be a trivial issue. However, I’m reminded of the work of Lady Bird Johnson. In the midst of her husband’s “War on Poverty,” she made beautification her priority, her passion project. Many visitors whether they are here for Lotus Festival, a football game, or a college tour first impression of our fair city is the Kirkwood-Square area. What do they see? The planters look drab and uninviting, what’s been planted while maybe native to the land, aesthetically does not meet the eye test. Often, we see visibly broken bottles and cigarette butts in these planters. The alleyways we claim as an asset suffers from poor lighting with too many visible above-ground wires to look welcoming. It’s easy for us residents to become numb to some of these eye sores but that is not how visitors see it. Please, take a fresh look for yourself next time you are strolling in the central corridor of our beloved city.
This brings me to my final point, The CRED Funds which were brought up during the LIT debate as means to fund public safety capital projects within the district. My records show the Downtown CRED, Fund 922 with just over 10.5 million dollars in it. These funds were collected from the businesses within the district with the intent to invest this money back into this area for community revitalization enhancement, CRED. We do not want to see these funds simply revert to the general fund with no real purpose, used for the next pet project. This obliterates the initial legislative intent and does a disservice to the business community that paid into the fund. We need to invest these monies back into the downtown district, maybe that includes beautification?
On October 12th, 2022, city councilmembers voted unanimously to approve the mayor's proposed budget for the 2023 year. Last year's Economic Development Local Income Tax (ED-LIT) rate increase helped to expand the city's combined budget to 228.5 million dollars, a 28 percent increase from last year's 178-million-dollar budget. Under the requirements of the ED-LIT additional funds were allocated to areas like city services and workforce investments, climate change preparedness and mitigation as well as equity and quality of life for all.
The biggest topic of discussion that night, however, was the five percent salary increase to American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) employees. Members of this labor union argued that this percent increase is not enough to meet higher costs of living. Negotiations between the city and AFSCME are still ongoing despite the budget's approval.
To read more about Mayor John Hamilton's 2023 proposed budget, click HERE.