Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Eric Spoonmore spoke today in favor of the Monroe County Commissioners’ historic vote to establish a Capital Improvement Board (CIB) to facilitate and manage the long-awaited Monroe Convention Center expansion project.
“The Chamber is 100% in support of forming the Capital Improvement Board,” Spoonmore said prior to the vote. “We thank the county commissioners for their leadership. This CIB is a momentous step toward achieving substantive progress on this important project in our community,” he continued.
The newly formed CIB will be composed of seven appointed members. Two appointments will be made by the mayor of Bloomington, two appointments will be made by the county commissioners, one appointment will be made by the county council, and one appointment will be made by the Bloomington city council. Those six appointees will vote to select the seventh member of the CIB.
NOTE: This article that features The Chamber's President & CEO, Eric Spoonmore, was published on June 28, 2023 in the B Square Bulletin by Dave Askins. Photos are provided by B Square Bulletin.
The long-planned expansion of the Monroe Convention Center, which has been stalled since March 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, could take a small step forward next week.
At their regular meeting next Wednesday (July 5), Monroe County commissioners are likely to consider and approve an ordinance that will establish a seven-member capital improvement board (CIB) to provide the governance structure for the expansion. [2023-06-28 draft ordinance]
Expectations about next week’s action are based on the discussion at a Wednesday work session, which was held by commissioners following their regular meeting.
The previous night, at a county council work session, attended by commissioner Penny Githens, the council passed a motion made by councilor Geoff McKim, which supported the path that the commissioners are now taking.
NOTE: This interview with the Director of Advocacy & Public Policy, Christopher Emge was originally aired by Bloomington's Voice Glass in the Afternoon on Monday, June 5th, 2023.
Bloomington mayoral candidate forum: Sharp difference in perspectives on crime, city-county relations
NOTE: This article that highlights The Chamber's Elect Connect: Mayoral Forum on Business event was published on April 11, 2023 in the B Square Bulletin by Dave Askins. Photos are provided by B Square Bulletin.
At a forum for mayoral candidates hosted on Monday night by the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, not a lot of new, additional daylight emerged between the three candidates as far as their known policy positions.
But a sharp difference in perspective emerged in response to a couple of the questions—one involving public safety and another involving the working relationship between city and county governments.
Moderating the forum was Paul Helmke, who was a three-term mayor of Fort Wayne, and is a professor of practice at Indiana University’s O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
NOTE: This article with featuring Government Relations Manager, Jim Shelton, was originally published on March 6, 2023 in the Indiana Daily Student by Marissa Meador.
Amid continued opposition from members of the public, the Community Justice Response Committee for Monroe County met again on Monday to move forward with plans for a new county jail. The committee was initially formed in May 2021 to review reports that described poor conditions in the jail and currently meets two times per month.
Built in 1986, the jail was described as having “far exceeded its structural and functional life cycle” in one of the consultant reports. Since then, there has been little movement on the push for a new jail, with the previous plan of building a jail in the southwest corner of the city failing to receive approval from the Bloomington City Council.
A key player in the opposition movement is local advocacy group Care Not Cages, which hosted a block party in front of the courthouse in advance of the meeting. The event recognized this week as the Week Against Mass Incarceration and hosted Jauston Huerta, the director of Forever On Course United in Solidarity Initiatives, as a speaker. FOCUS Initiatives is an Indiana-based organization that aims to help people transition out of prison life and re-enter society.
On Wednesday, January 18, Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President Eric Spoonmore addressed the Bloomington Common Council to express deep concern about numerous violent crimes that have occurred in the community over the past several weeks and months including rape, stabbings, shootings, attempted murders, and murders among other egregious acts.
The Chamber fully supports the law enforcement agencies that make many sacrifices each day to protect and serve our city, working tirelessly around the clock to keep residents and businesses safe. The Chamber also recognizes that the Bloomington Police Department (BPD) is experiencing a significant shortage of police officers, which only exacerbates current public safety challenges for both BPD and the community.
Given the rash of troubling incidents, the Chamber encourages elected leaders to act with the highest level of urgency to address the current police officer shortage and ensure that our highly skilled police department has all the personnel and resources needed to meet its critical mission to the community.
“Safety always comes first, and the optimum levels of public safety can only be achieved for our community when we have a fully staffed police department,” said Spoonmore. “We have excellent police officers, but we need about 25 more of them. It’s our highly skilled team of officers that so often make the difference.”
Spoonmore also noted that elevating police staffing to the necessary levels should be the community’s top public safety priority. “City leaders have demonstrated they can ambitiously pursue innovative initiatives city-wide, including the new gigabit fiber infrastructure project and dramatic decreases to carbon emissions. I am confident that we can also aggressively solve the police shortage with that same spirit of innovation and ambition,” Spoonmore said.
PRESS RELEASE: The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Community Conversation on Justice Reform to be held on Tuesday, November 15th
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is inviting interested parties for lunch and conversation on Justice Reform on Tuesday, November 15th at the Elks Lodge located at 400 N. Walnut St. in Bloomington.
“This important discussion will inform the public on the many complexities of our local system of criminal justice including the need for a new jail facility in Monroe County,” said Eric Spoonmore, the Chamber’s President & CEO.
What Justice Reform Entails. There will need to be a new justice center to replace the one built in 1985. According to the 2020 Criminal Justice & Incarceration Study conducted by the RJS Justice Services, “The jail facility is failing and cannot ensure consistent and sustainable provision of constitutional rights of incarcerated persons. The report goes on to declare, “daily inmate population exceeded the jail’s functional capacity on most days since 2004 and all days per year consecutively since 2015.” Beyond the new justice center, the study reveals that 75-80% of the daily 250-320 inmates have some sort of mental illness or substance abuse issue. The current facility does not have the space nor the staff of mental health professionals to address this issue.
NOTE: This article that highlights The Chamber's Elect Connect event was published in the October 5, 2022 B Square Bulletin by Dave Askins.
On Monday evening, several candidates for local and regional office made an appearance at a networking event hosted by the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce (GBCC) at The Mill, a co-working space north of city hall.
Each candidate got a chance to deliver a quick three-minute stump speech.
This B Square roundup is limited to candidates in contested, partisan races where both candidates appeared.
That leaves out school board races, which are non-partisan.
But one takeaway from Monday’s event was the position taken by school board candidates on the Monroe County Community School Corporation ballot referendum. Each of the three MCCSC school board candidates who attended Monday’s event expressed strong support for the levy increase that appears on the ballot. The three who spoke were: Daniel O’Neill (District 3); Ashley Pirani (District 3); and Erin Wyatt (District 1).
If it’s passed, the referendum would set the school referendum levy rate at $0.185 for eight years, which would increase the average residential taxes paid to the schools by about 35 percent, according to the ballot question wording. The ballot language says the additional money will support the retention and attraction of teachers and staff and enhance programs in STEM, the arts, and special education.
The last day to register to vote in the Nov. 8 election is Oct. 11. Early voting for the Nov. 8 election starts on Oct. 12.
In Monroe County, early voting will take place at the election operations building at 3rd and Walnut streets.
The GBCC has set up a website with a roundup of information on candidates. An additional resource for information about candidates is the The League of Women Voters Vote411 website.
NOTE: This Noon Edition interview with Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the September 9, 2022 WFIU Noon Edition by Nathan Moore.
Discussions between city and county officials over the Monroe Convention Center’s expansion and ownership continue. Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton’s administration offered to buy the convention center for $4 million to accelerate its expansion. The expansion is expected to cost tens of millions to complete.
The purpose of this expansion is to host larger events, increasing tourism dollars and boosting the local economy.
The goal for the city administration and local businesses leaders is to get a deal done by the end of the month, but some county officials say they don’t support the city’s plan.
A main funding source for the center is a 1% food and beverage tax that has collected more than $14 million. That tax could be threatened in the next legislative session.
NOTE: This article that highlights President & CEO, Eric Spoonmore's, involvement was published in the August 31, 2022 B Square Bulletin by Dave Askins. Photos are gathered from the article as well.
On Wednesday at noon, the possible expansion of the county convention center was the topic of a meeting of Monroe County and Bloomington officials.
The gathering at the county courthouse included county commissioners, some county councilors, city councilmembers and the mayor’s office.
It was the first time that representatives from all four groups had sat at the same table on that topic since early March of 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
After about 45 minutes of conversation, the group had not made much progress, but agreed it was worth another meeting.
The city wants to get a deal done by the end of September. So “sooner rather than later” was the city’s wish for a next scheduled meeting.
One twist that emerged on Wednesday was the possibility that a convention center deal between the city and the county could hinge on Bloomington’s approval of a rezone for land that the county wants to use for construction of a new jail.
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