NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Erin Predmore was published in the Oct. 9, 2020 Bloomington Herald-Times.
This year, the presidential election is sucking all the oxygen out of the room as we head toward Nov. 3. It’s certainly a crucial race and not just for the business community.
But here’s the thing: While presidential candidates receive much-deserved attention and scrutiny, many of the down-ballot races go virtually unnoticed. How many times in the past have you filled out your ballot and wondered: “Who the heck are these people?”
The candidates we elect for local and state offices have a direct impact on our daily lives. They make decisions that impact businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and individuals. They decide how our tax dollars are spent. They make policies and regulations that affect how your business can operate and whether you can thrive. They hire and oversee our school superintendents. They determine how laws are applied. And most of them do this in relative anonymity.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is working to help our members and others in the community be more informed voters. We’ve launched an online, nonpartisan guide for elected positions that represent all or parts of Monroe County. Please check it out at ChamberBloomington.org/2020-general-election.
You’ll find information, including short video interviews, for candidates in these races: U.S. Congress District 9, Indiana Senate and Indiana House of Representatives, Monroe County Council and Commission, other Monroe County elected offices, Monroe County Circuit Court, and trustees for Monroe County Community School Corp. and Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corp.
We encourage you to research the candidates by reading reports in the Bloomington Herald-Times and other media, by visiting the League of Women Voters’ Vote411.org, by reviewing each candidate’s campaign materials, and by contacting candidates directly if you have questions. We hope the chamber’s online resource guide can be part of that mix.
Of course, knowing about the candidates is just part of the puzzle. Getting people to the polls is a heavy lift, too. In 2016, turnout in Monroe County was about 53%. If that were a grade, we’d be failing. We can do better.
Early voting started Tuesday. What are you doing to ensure our community gets at least a passing grade in turnout this year?
We understand that many businesses shy away from anything to do with elections, citing concerns over being political. We get it. But voting itself is foundational to our democracy. Encouraging your employees to vote and pointing them to nonpartisan resources is an act of citizenship, not politics.
Publicize resources like the ones mentioned above. Encourage your employees to take advantage of early voting hours — go to MonroeCountyVoters.us for a list of hours at Election Central, 401 W. Seventh St. Make sure your staff knows if they are eligible for an absentee ballot. Provide flexibility if employees need to take time to vote on Election Day. Host an Election Day pizza party to celebrate democracy.
Put up a Vote Now or Vote Early sign in front of your business.
You’ll be seeing those signs around town, thanks to a partnership with the Chamber, the League of Women Voters and Monroe County Election Central. The league’s Vote Early signs are available for your business — you can pick one up at the chamber office at 421 W. Sixth St.
And look for periodic “flockings” of Monroe County’s Vote Now signs in front of businesses around town. Volunteers are planting dozens of signs at different locations, where they’ll alight for a few days before moving on.
Critical mass is important in making an impact, whether we’re talking about signs or voter turnout. Please help our community ensure a strong, informed showing on Nov. 3.
The 2020 General Election is on Tuesday, Nov. 3. In addition to the race for U.S. President, many candidates are running for local, state and federal office. To help voters navigate their options, the Chamber has launched a nonpartisan resource guide for elected positions that represent all or parts of Monroe County.
In addition to general resources about the voting process, the site includes information about candidates for U.S. Congress District 9, Indiana Senate and House of Representatives, Monroe County Council and Commission, Monroe County Circuit Court, other Monroe County elected offices, and the school boards for Monroe County Community School Corp. and Richland-Bean Blossom Schools.
Not sure who's on your ballot? Go to the League of Women Voters Vote411 site, enter your address and get a listing. Or search for your ballot on the Indiana Voter Portal by clicking the "Who's On The Ballot" link.
The City of Bloomington is hosting a public forum on Oct. 6 to review a site plan for the redevelopment of the current IU Health Bloomington Hospital area. The event begins at 6 p.m. and will be held online. Residents can participate by registering here, or watch the event on Facebook or CATS.
Participants will be asked to take part in three 25-minute workshops featuring interactive discussions about the plan. The workshop topics will be Access + Connections, Open Space, and Land Use + Neighborhood Character.
The next public forum will occur in December, when the master planning consultant, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), will present a finalized plan. The master planning team is also working with the Hospital Reuse Committee, a group of more than 30 community members who have been involved with the city on this project since 2015. Chamber CEO Erin Predmore serves on that group.
Additional information, updates, and input opportunities are available on the project website.
Two vacancies are open on the 5-member Bloomington Transit board of directors, which oversees the city's public transit system. Both vacancies are appointed by the Bloomington Council, with terms through July 2022 and 2023.
Board members are required to attend monthly board meetings, to serve in any officer role as elected by the full board, and to provide oversight for the organization. Monthly compensation is $100.
More information about Bloomington Transit is online at BloomingtonTransit.com.
The Hoosier Safe Six campaign, a collaboration led by the Chamber, kicked off a community-wide effort to keep Bloomington and Monroe County healthy, safe and open. The initiative was launched as Indiana University students return to town amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19.
The campaign includes customizable graphics that businesses and organizations can use, a "real talk" roommate discussion guide, and the Hoosier Safe Six Pledge to support the community.
The effort is a collaboration with the Chamber, Indiana University, Ivy Tech Bloomington, the City of Bloomington, Monroe County Health Department, Monroe County Community School Corporation and Richland-Bean Blossom School Corporation.
UPDATE: The LWV has distributed all its signs and they are no longer available.
The League of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County is seeking locations for yard signs encouraging people to vote early and to check their voter registration for the Nov. 3 election.
To host a sign, contact Tom Duffy at email@example.com or 812-345-2544.
The voter registration deadline is Oct. 5. In-person early voting starts Oct. 6. More information, including how to request an absentee ballot, is on the Monroe County Election Central website and the Indiana Voter Portal.
Interested in volunteering to help guide local government policy and decisions? Both the City of Bloomington and Monroe County are seeking applicants for vacancies on their respective advisory boards and commissions.
For the City of Bloomington, there are vacancies on more than 20 boards and commissions, including the parking commission, historic preservation commission, Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association, and the farmers market advisory council. Click here to view all vacancies. Click here to apply.
Monroe County does not post specific vacancies, but takes applications at any time. Click here for a list of advisory boards and commissions. Click here to apply.
The Bloomington Parks & Recreation Department is surveying residents for its 2021-2025 master plan.
Click here to take the survey.
Click here to read the current 2016-2020 master plan.
A master plan is required in order to receive grants from the state and federal government and other sources. It is also required for accreditation from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). In June, the Bloomington Board of Park Commissioners approved a $72,500 contract with Troyer Group Inc. to develop the plan.
As part of ongoing work to develop the 24-acre site where the IU Health Bloomington Hospital is now located, the City of Bloomington is asking for feedback on preliminary design concepts.
Consultants hired to develop the site's master plan (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) have developed three concepts based on input so far. A presentation of their work is available here.
Click here to take the survey.
Click here to view the project's website.
The Monroe County Health Department is recruiting volunteers for the Medical Service Corps to help with local health and safety work.
Volunteers currently are being deployed to help with the COVID testing site. When a COVID vaccine is available, volunteers will be needed to help at county health clinics.
Click here for more info. To sign up, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy