The Advocacy division of the Chamber often finds itself at odds with pieces of local and state legislation. We do not have the heft to support every item we would like. Many education initiatives fall into this category. Supporting next Fall’s MCCSC referendum to increase property taxes for pay hikes to the teaching and other staff members remains a great use of our limited capital. Quality of life, the largest driver of economic development begins with the value of our schools. Pushing for additional funds for transit, including opening BT to unincorporated areas has also been positive. Ushering people to work without vehicles and providing a less congested means for others enhances our lives.
Recently, I spoke to the Monroe County Commissioners thanking them for their role in several recent initiatives. This is an important aspect of my job. These are hard-working public servants. We will not always agree, which is a positive development. We need to have discourse on issues that affect our community. However, even during disagreements, it’s vital to let these officials know they are playing a positive role in our community. Below is my June 22nd statement:
One of the areas we encourage is promoting civic duty. Part of this includes involvement in our local government, participating on boards and commissions. We encourage our Chamber members to get involved and find an area they have an interest in.
Notable County Openings:
Information on rising fuel costs and Duke Energy electric bills--a message from Duke Energy Indiana President Stan Pinegar
Hoosiers are paying more at the grocery and gas pump and may be noticing higher electric bills as well. We want to share background on what’s driving Duke Energy electricity costs and what we’re doing to help.
Since mid-2021, costs for coal and gas to produce the energy that powers Indiana homes, businesses and assembly lines have increased significantly. Fuel accounts for a significant portion of our electric costs, averaging as much as 30% of a total bill. That’s why when there are volatile energy markets, it can have a big impact.
In fact, Duke Energy Indiana is seeing the highest sustained prices for fuel that we have witnessed in a decade. Global demand and tight fuel supplies as well as labor shortages at coal mines and railroads are affecting the cost of the power we produce as well as what we purchase in the energy markets. We also have been working to overcome supply chain challenges to ensure we have sufficient supplies of fuel available for summer and winter—the times of highest electric demand.
These are not permanent rate increases. Fuel costs rise and fall, and we pass those costs to our customers with no markup, so customers pay what we pay. Our priority is to purchase fuel at the best possible price, through steps such as long-term contracts and using a diversity of suppliers. To lessen the impact on customer bills, we are spreading recovery of some of these fuel costs over a longer period to reduce the rate impact.
Unfortunately, as we approach the summer, the bill impact will continue to increase, and we expect that to continue throughout the year. If you are struggling financially to pay your electric bill, contact us at 800.521.2232. We can discuss payment plans and resources for help.
We also recommend tools such as High Bill Alerts and Budget Billing that can help customers to manage their bills. Financial assistance also is available through our Share the Light program, where eligible customers can receive up to $300 in energy bill assistance. You can find more information on these programs at Lower My Bill ToolKit - Home - Duke Energy (duke-energy.com).
We have found that many of our customers are missing out on state and federal assistance programs for which they are eligible. To learn more, visit Indiana Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program | Benefits.gov.
We know that higher electric bills can be a hardship for many, and we want to connect customers to resources for help.
Last night, primary election candidates waited eagerly to see if they would receive their party's nomination for the general election come this fall. With a number of races being close calls, there was much anticipation as the votes were counted. After a final count, the following candidates have won their party's nomination. If you're still interested in learning more about the candidates, click on their title of office to read their bio. Congratulations to the following winners!
U.S. House of Representatives, District 9
On Wednesday night, the City Council took no action on the local income tax (LIT) increase until their regularly scheduled meeting was set for May 4th. This is the .0855 point increase proposed by Mayor John Hamilton. Council Member Sue Sgambelluri was absent, preventing her from voting. These “special circumstances” require the members to be in-person to participate.
The Chamber made a public comment that reiterated our belief that the current proposal was too massive with little in the way of inclusivity with the rest of the county. We also restated our belief in the needed investments in public safety and transit. You can watch our full comments HERE. Also, Chamber President Eric Spoonmore recently had a guest column for the Herald Times. We recommend reaching out to your council representative to share your views with them.
At the current stage, there appears to be no consensus among the Council members on the scope of such a tax increase. Councilmember Steven Volans made an impassioned plea for the full amount of the proposal. This was a similar position to council members, Matt Flaherty, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, and Kate Rosenbarger. Jim Sims was a bit more cautious reminding his colleagues of the need for compromise. Skepticism of the amount and the timing was made by Ron Smith and Dave Rollo. Councilmember Smith was especially apprehensive about the proposal based on his discussion with his constituents and county elected officials. He did not feel this to be an inclusive process. Dave Rollo believed there had not been enough attention paid to the budget as far as finding other sources of funds for these projects.
The eight council members who were present asked questions of the administration. Council Members Rollo and Volan brought the fund balance CRED (Community Redevelopment Economic Districts to Controller Jeff Underwood. The Thomson District has expired while the downtown region expires in June. Also brought up was the surplus as it relates to the Public Safety LIT that was passed in 2016 to fund the call center.
To help you get a better understanding of who the Monroe County Sheriff Candidates are and what their goals are if elected to office, the Chamber has constructed an easy-to-read chart with highlights from candidates' responses to a questionnaire sent out in March. Respondents were asked which three challenges were a top priority for them and how they plan to address those challenges next term.
If you would like to read their full responses, follow this link to the Chamber's Sheriff Candidate's page.
Thank you to all of the candidates for taking the time to fill out this survey. If you are interested in learning more about the other candidates, head over to the Chamber's 2022 Primary Election page to read more about those vying for party nominations.
The Chamber weighed in on the issue of the local income tax proposal (LIT) at last night’s Bloomington Common Council meeting. We shared the preliminary results from a survey of our members and community residents. In total, 196 people responded at that time with just over 90 percent being against the proposal as written. About 60 percent of respondents stated public safety is their top priority area. You can hear our comments at the meeting last night by clicking here.
The council was considering new revenue proposals for a nearly four-hour duration. One of the proposals was mayor John Hamilton’s 0.855 percent LIT increase. This translates into an extra $85 to be paid on every $10,000 of taxable income for all Monroe County residents.
Chamber President, Eric Spoonmore asked the council to take more time to find a solution to public safety. “They’re (law enforcement) only asking for 1.5 million additional dollars to meet the salary needs. Let’s start there and figure that out first.”
The council is set to cast a final vote next week, but it is unclear if that timeline will stick. They took a non-binding straw poll which ended up 3-1-3. Councilmembers Sims, Rosenbarger, and Flaherty voted in favor, Councilmember Ron Smith was the lone vote against, while Councilmembers Rollo, Sgambelluri, Sandberg took a pass. Based on the demographic make-up of the LIT council, just eight Bloomington City Council members could implement the tax increase for all County residents. This would then bypass the County Council’s input.
The mayor’s office put forth his call for an additional $18 million in revenue which equates to a 64 percent increase in the Monroe County LIT.
Earlier this month, the Monroe County Black Democratic Caucus and the Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus, 9th District hosted two candidate forums at the Bloomington City Council Chambers. Candidates who were in-person for this event were eager to share how their backgrounds and experiences make them uniquely qualified for office. If you missed this or would like to learn more about the candidates before you vote early, please follow the links attached to the office titles below.
Recorder (Link to Youtube)
Remember, early voting is now taking place at the Old NAPA building at 302 S Walnut St, Bloomington, IN 47401 from 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. If you need any additional information on early voting or voting on election day, follow this link to the Monroe County Election Central. Thank you to the Monroe County Black Caucus and the Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus, 9th District for hosting this event!
One area of importance for my job is simply listening. An issue that has come up is the safety of the Johnson Creamery smokestack. It is currently a hazard that has the B-line fenced off in that area. Engineers insist that the current height of 140 feet will need to be reduced to 60 feet. My first thought is that a visually dated non-functioning structure serves little use besides being a landmark of our heritage. A landmark that will include continued maintenance. My sense of practicality failed to see the purpose.
However, having talked with a string of community stakeholders, I underestimated the importance of the smokestack to the skyline of Bloomington. My appreciation and understanding have grown based on a compelling case. It is essential to recognize landmarks that are significant to community members. This complex once housed employees in nearby neighborhoods. To many, the larger value is that the Creamery represents an iconic complex representative of a distinct coal-fired industrial architecture.
My interest in this stems from having worked at the Creamery Building, the once long-term home of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. The aesthetics of the building remain a drab red brick found in many desolate small-town centers. The interior of this facility is dated, musty, with little warmth or character beyond the mural dedicated to the creamery era. The opportunity cost of requiring any more funds than necessary on this property to me seemed ill-advised. Well, maybe I was wrong. The Power of listening in full effect.