During a weekly joint press conference on Friday afternoon, Mayor John Hamilton announced plans to close sections of Kirkwood to vehicular traffic 24/7 through the end of the year. Those sections are between Dunn and Grant, and from Washington to Walnut. The block between Indiana and Dunn will be closed weekends only. North/south cross streets will remain open.
Since this summer, sections of Kirkwood have been closed from Thursday through Sunday to allow restaurants to set up tables for customers in the street. It allows for additional seating with distancing requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some restaurant owners have been advocating to keep the closing throughout the week so that they can set up tents with heaters during inclement weather.
Erin Predmore, CEO of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, was a guest on the Oct. 16, 2020 WFIU Noon Edition, focused on how COVD-related festival cancellations are impacting southern Indiana.
Other panelists were Judy Epp, Spencer Pride fundraising director; Diana Choate, Monroe County Fall Festival president; and Elaine Bedel, Indiana Destination and Development Corporation secretary and CEO.
Click here to listen to a recording of the discussion. Read the WFIU report: "Bloomington Chamber CEO Talks Effects of Local Event Cancellations."
Monroe County is now offering reimbursements for expenses related to COVID-19 for up to $20,000. The previous limit was $10,000.
The reimbursements are made possible with funds from the federal CARES Act. Examples of approved expenses include cleaning or disinfection supplies, personal protection equipment (like face masks), and costs associated with changing your business model (such as restaurants that started offering curbside or take-out).
Details and a reimbursement form are available here.
During a 5-hour meeting on Sept. 16, the Bloomington City Council voted down an 0.25% local income tax increase proposed by Mayor John Hamilton. The vote on the 9-member council was four in favor, five opposed.
Voting against the proposal were Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Susan Sandberg, Sue Sgambelluri, Jim Sims and Ron Smith.
The Chamber also had opposed the increase, and CEO Erin Predmore spoke against it in the public commentary portion of Wednesday's meeting. “A lack of public process makes this tax proposal impossible to support,” she said.
The Chamber looks forward to working with City of Bloomington and Monroe County decision-makers, as well as state legislators and the public, to collaboratively address our community's challenges together in the coming months.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is urging the Bloomington Common Council to vote against Mayor John Hamilton’s proposal to increase the local income tax (LIT) by 0.25%.
“A lack of public process makes this tax proposal impossible to support,” said Erin Predmore, the Chamber’s President & CEO. “Adding to the community’s tax burden is an important decision and should be guided by a clear community consensus. That work hasn’t happened.”
In an online survey of Chamber members taken this week, 73% of respondents opposed the current proposal and an additional 18% opposed it at this time. Only 9% supported the proposal.
The Chamber’s concerns about the proposed tax increase include:
Lack of public engagement. The mayor proposed this tax increase in mid-July, but there was no subsequent attempt at public engagement until recently. The proposal was not mentioned during the August budget presentations, when it would have been an obvious and relevant point of discussion. Feedback from the community should be incorporated at the start of the process as a way to determine whether a tax is needed and how much is needed, not after a tax increase has been implemented.
Lack of a compelling, sustainable plan. The current proposal is a grab bag of projects, including park trails, a composting program, a new transportation demand management job and more. The projects add to the city’s financial burden while lacking a coherent vision for how the LIT investments will be sustained. Before imposing a tax increase – especially one designed to spur economic development – the city needs to ensure a measurable return on investment and a long-term plan for supporting these investments. It is irresponsible to continue a cycle of taking property off the tax rolls, raising taxes and adding to the city’s financial commitments.
Lack of collaboration. This proposal harms much-needed collaboration between the city and county, and with state legislators. The Monroe County Council has issued a statement urging the city to postpone this proposal, and we agree. Ignoring county officials risks damaging the important city-county relationship, which is already frayed. Further, city officials need to build stronger relationships with state legislators. Speculation about possible actions during the next legislative session is being used to justify pushing through this tax increase. The Chamber urges leaders of the City of Bloomington to strengthen intergovernmental relationships for the benefit of our community.
There’s precedent for a different approach. In 2016, a LIT increase for public safety was passed with broad support for a focused purpose. The current proposal does not reflect that kind of community buy-in.
“Businesses and individuals are stressed from the COVID-19 pandemic and face an uncertain future,” Predmore said. “Without a thoughtful, collaborative process and a sustainable plan, we can not support this tax increase and we urge Bloomington councilmembers to vote against it.”
Bloomington Council is holding its 2021 budget hearings from Aug. 17 through Aug. 20. All sessions start at 6 p.m. Here’s the lineup:
MONDAY, 8/17: Zoom link
Overview, HR, Clerk, Legal, IT, Council, Controller, Mayor
TUESDAY 8/18: Zoom link
Fire and Police
WEDNESDAY 8/19: Zoom link
Public Transit, Housing Authority, HAND, Economic & Sustainable Development, Community & Family Resources, Parks & Rec
THURSDAY 8/20: Zoom link
Utilities, Planning & Transportation, Engineering (new department), Public Works (includes animal control, parking, street/traffic, etc.)
The 338-page budget book with more materials is posted here.
Note: This "It's Your Business" column by Erin Predmore, the Chamber's President & CEO, first appeared in the Aug. 14 issue of the Bloomington Herald-Times.
Earlier this summer, we unveiled an important historical marker for our community as a whole, for the business community and, most importantly, for the Black business community.
In the 1960s, a business called The Black Market operated in the spot where Peoples Park is located now. Owned and run by Indiana University grad student Rollo Turner, it was a Bloomington store celebrating Black culture, with African art, clothing and music. It was a welcoming place for Black IU students and community members to gather.
On Dec. 26, 1968, in a violent reaction to the civil rights movement, the Black Market was firebombed. What was one moment a thriving, locally owned business and center for Black culture became in the next moment a burning symbol of hatred and racism. The store was destroyed in the fire.
As time passed, this location became a gathering place for local students, civil rights activists and other residents. The family that owned it later gave this land to the city of Bloomington to be maintained forever as a public park — Peoples Park.
But as time passed, the story of this place — The Black Market, the firebombing, and its place in the history of the local civil rights movement — was left behind. People stopped telling others about it, and many residents never knew what happened here.
I first learned about this history almost two years ago, when the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce began working with leaders in the Black business community in an effort that led to the formation of the chamber’s Black-Owned Business Affinity Group. With their leadership, we partnered with the city of Bloomington to submit an application to the Indiana Historical Bureau. That work led to the installation of an historical marker at Peoples Park that we celebrated on July 31.
But really, we were celebrating our community’s Black business owners and acknowledging that what happened here in 1968 still matters to Bloomington today. We forget that history at our peril.
The treatment of people of color in Bloomington and Monroe County has been horrible, ranging from microaggressions at work to racial profiling to physical violence. Taking a stand against these behaviors is required by of all of us who want to be decent and humane.
For those who don’t believe this is a moral issue or don’t acknowledge that racism still exists here, at least consider the economic impact of our community’s reputation. This summer, our office has fielded calls and emails from individuals and groups who were no longer willing to come to Bloomington because of the racist actions of some of our community members. In 2018, visitors spent over $418 million in Monroe County. What would we do if they all decided not to come back after the pandemic abates?
Here’s another harsh reality, from the Monroe County Quality of Place & Workforce Retention Plan: “Minority residents do not feel the sense of welcoming community that Monroe County prides itself on. The legacy of the KKK in the region is remembered and felt today. Recruiters have trouble attracting diverse candidates to the region, to Monroe County, and to Bloomington.”
Our community’s success is intricately tied to the success of our neighbors, friends and colleagues. We will all rise or fall together, and we can only rise by supporting those who need to be recognized as valuable members of our community. We must embrace the minority members of our community and stand for equality, equity and inclusion.
To all people of color, the chamber is glad you are here.
Three panelists representing different aspects of Bloomington's performing arts sector shared their views at an Aug. 13 Chamber Speaker Series event.
Topics in the wide-ranging discussion included the impact of COVID-19 on performing arts organizations, how groups are adapting in creative ways, infrastructure needs, ways that new collaborations are forming, and the need for ongoing support during these challenging times.
According to a 2019 study commissioned by Cardinal Stage, the Bloomington/Monroe County performing arts sector adds over $4 million annually to the local economy and supports more than 160 jobs here.
Click here to view a recording of the Speaker Series discussion.
In a speech on Thursday called "Recovering Forward," Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton proposed a raft of spending initiatives aimed at boosting the local economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a new 0.25% local income tax.
From his speech: "I know it is rarely popular to raise revenues, and that it is not easy during times of economic pressure. But we cannot Recover Forward without it. Without it, we will shortchange our future and Bloomington’s potential. And, being one of the lowest-tax cities in a low-tax state in one of the lowest-tax countries, we have fiscal room to do so. Recover Forward lets us dedicate these resources toward those most in need, and toward the Bloomington we want to become."
Click here for a transcript. A video of his speech is available at the bottom of that page.
In January, the mayor proposed an 0.5% local income tax for sustainability initiatives, but that proposal was abandoned when the pandemic hit.
The mayor does not have the authority to enact a local income tax (LIT). It would need to be approved by the elected fiscal authorities in Monroe County, including the Bloomington City Council and Monroe County Council, in weighted votes based on the proportion of the population that elected officials of each entity represents. Because Bloomington is the largest population base, an eight-vote majority of the Bloomington City Council could pass a LIT for the entire county.
About half of the proceeds would go to the county government.
If you missed the outdoor dining along closed sections of Kirkwood last weekend, you'll have another chance soon.
The Kirkwood Community Association is planning to close off two sections from Friday, June 26 at 5 p.m. through Sunday, June 28: 1) between Grant and Dunn, and 2) between Dunn and Indiana. They'll check the weather forecast on Thursday to confirm the closing, according to Bob Costello, the KCA president and owner of Village Deli.
The first weekend of closing Kirkwood, from June 19-21, was viewed as a success. Participating restaurants with expanded outdoor seating included Village Deli, Nick's English Hut, Osteria Rago and Lennie's.
They'll skip July 4 weekend, Costello said, but hope to continue the closure for future weekends throughout the summer. The closure allows restaurants to expand their outdoor dining areas and give pedestrians a safe way to walk past as the community continues COVID-19 physical distancing.
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy