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.
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.
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 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.
NOTE: This article that highlights President & CEO, Eric Spoonmore's, involvement was published in the August 10, 2022 B Square Bulletin by Dave Askins. Photos are gathered from the article as well.
While a lot of details remain to be worked out, Monroe County councilors appear receptive to the basic idea of transferring ownership of the county’s convention center and related properties to the city of Bloomington.
The city’s hoped-for timeline for getting the deal done is the end of September.
At their regular meeting on Tuesday, county councilors took turns responding to a pitch from Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Eric Spoonmore, who is their former colleague, and Bloomington deputy mayor Don Griffin. The two gave a somewhat longer version of the proposal that county commissioners had heard during public commentary at their regular meeting last Wednesday.
The city’s pitch comes in the context of some political pressure to use the food and beverage tax, enacted in 2017 by the county council, for its lawful purpose—to expand the convention center. The hoped-for collaboration between the city and the county on a joint effort at expansion was stalled even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
One fear is that the state legislature will sunset food and beverage taxes in its 2023 session, which could be somewhat countered by action now to get the food and beverage tax revenues obligated through a bond issuance.
NOTE: This article that highlights President & CEO, Eric Spoonmore's, involvement was published in the August 3, 2022 B Square Bulletin by Dave Askins.
The city of Bloomington is now interested in purchasing Monroe County’s convention center and possibly other land from the county government, in order to pursue the expansion of the facility.
That’s the message that was conveyed to county commissioners during public comment at the start of their Wednesday meeting, when Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce president Eric Spoonmore told the commissioners that “a viable path forward for convention center expansion” could “involve a transfer of assets from the county to the city.”
Spoonmore said the city of Bloomington is “willing to reasonably compensate the county.” No dollar figures were mentioned by Spoonmore or by deputy mayor Don Griffin, who followed Spoonmore to the public mic.
Griffin wrapped up his remarks in under a minute, saying, “We’re ready to talk. I’m ready to listen. And let’s move forward.”
The expansion project which was supposed to be a joint venture of the county and city governments, has been stalled since early March 2020, before the pandemic hit. The county and the city were having trouble coming to terms over the selection of members for a capital improvement board, which could provide governance for the expanded convention center.
If the city were the sole governmental entity undertaking the expansion, that work would not require the kind of close collaboration between the city and the county, which up to now has not been achieved.
NOTE: This "Your Turn" guest column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the April 24, 2022 Bloomington Herald-Times.
NOTE: This "It's Your Business" column by Chamber CEO Eric Spoonmore was published in the March 11, 2022 Bloomington Herald-Times.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is excited to cover the candidates and issues leading up to Primary Election Day on May 3. Be sure to mark your calendars — early voting in Monroe County begins April 5, and voters will have several local, state and congressional candidates to nominate.
Primary winners from each party will then run for the general election on Nov. 8, along with nonpartisan school board candidates.
The chamber encourages all eligible voters to exercise their right to vote in the 2022 primary election. Voting during the primaries is a crucial element of our democracy and is an expression of what is most important to our voters. From policies to programs, and everything in between, primary elections are an opportunity to nominate leaders who will fight for what you feel is paramount to the success of the greater Bloomington community.
PRESS RELEASE: The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Opposes Current Local Income Tax Proposal
Bloomington, IN – 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.
This blog contains press releases, other news updates from the Chamber, news articles and radio interviews featuring interviews with the Chamber and team members, and much more!