October 2019 Newsletter

Friends,

Did you get the chance to hear Dolores Huerta a couple weeks ago – the civil rights and labor leader extraordinaire still organizing and advocating at age 89?! She wowed an overflow crowd at IU during Hispanic Heritage Month.

Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez. He got more of the national attention, but she was at least the equal in impact and energy. (And btw it was she who made “Si se puede” the famous rallying cry – despite its connections to two other men.) I still remember as a kid my family supporting the grape boycott, and how it raised national awareness (and won positive results for workers).

Huerta began as a school teacher in the 1950s, but said “I couldn't tolerate seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farm workers than by trying to teach their hungry children.” And she did. Look her up – she’s an inspiration.

You feel Huerta’s moral condemnation against national trends today: attacks on immigrants and assaults on programs that help hungry families; cutting health care to poor women and families and loosening protections against environmental toxins; giant tax cuts to the privileged, and a criminally low minimum wage.

Huerta knows that as a country we’re lately becoming desensitized, and we need to wake up. I can hear her call for leadership to reclaim our country from the gangster at the top and all those who accommodate him. These past couple of weeks have shown how off the rails our national government has fallen. It’s come back time. Listen, Dolores Huerta is calling us.

Si se puede. SI SE PUEDE!!!!

Democratically yours,
John

P.S. Democracy Lab is one local effort to re-sensitize and re-organize. Our campaign supports eleven local organizations, thru the county Democratic Party, who all work for justice and opportunity. They are part of the Si se puede gang. Please consider helping us support them with a small donation; check out the details here.
Democracy Lab organizations:
Democracy for Monroe County
Democratic Women's Caucus
Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus--9th District
Indiana Young Democrats of Monroe County
Indivisible
Monroe County Black Democratic Caucus
Monroe County NOW
Ninth District Disability Caucus
No Space for Hate
Planned Parenthood
Stonewall Democrats of South Central Indiana

September 2019 Newsletter

Friends,

It’s easy to get caught up in frustrations and disappointments of the frantic, 24/7 news cycle. It can be difficult to keep our balance and perspective.

Last Saturday in Bloomington was a great day for restoration. Our fair city’s downtown was abuzz with some of what makes Bloomington life rich.

I hope you got to join tens of thousands of people and sample some of what went on within about a half-mile square downtown:

  • PrideFest: The sixth annual local celebration of LGBTQ culture, ranked by Thrillist as the nation’s best college town pride, full of music and food and fun cranking up Kirkwood Avenue.

  • Fourth Street Art Fair: The 43rd edition of this annual festival that makes Labor Day weekend a stunning display of juried art from local artists, and those around the Midwest and beyond.

  • Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market: The 45-year tradition continues, of local food and growers, in a treasured and award-winning gathering of our community.

  • GarlicFEST and Community Art Fair: This all-ages celebration at the Waldron Hill Buskirk (Third Street) Park supports local artists and musicians. healthy lifestyle choices, and, well, all things garlic.

  • BubbleFest 2019: WonderLab hosted a weekend of all kinds of bubble blowing, bouncing and building, for families with curiosity and gusto—who learn while playing.

  • BTown Jazz Fest: The Convention Center where BTown Jazz hosted 10 hours of free hot jazz, from the incredible musicians of Bloomington and beyond, sharing their talents and lifting all spirits.

That was quite a Saturday, and of course beyond just those six events, many other things were going on too. Art and music and food and science and socializing made community happen. Not everything is sweetness and light. We continue to face challenges in our farmers’ market (referenced in last month’s column and the city website), and elsewhere. But let’s cherish the richness of life in Bloomington and keep making it better.

Labor Day traditionally starts the fall political season, so don’t forget the Hamilton Family Picnic coming up this Sunday afternoon!!

Join us Sunday, Sept. 8th in Bryan Park (Henderson St. side) from 4 to 7pm. We’ll kick off the fall municipal election season in style with great music, barbecue, and Democrats, including brief remarks from our two contested city council candidates, and some of next year’s governor candidates!

Democratically yours,

John

August 2019 Newsletter

Friends,

On a Tuesday morning in late July, several of us talked on my office phone with my friend Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. Nan was helping us think through options for our Farmers’ Market, where white supremacists were active. She shared Dayton’s experience dealing with a KKK rally and march in May that brought scores of assault weapons and white supremacists to town. “We got through it all with no injuries and no arrests, but did spend over $600,000,” Nan said, as she shared some advice about our market.

In part based on her advice, and other information, we announced suspension of our Farmers’ Market for two weeks. Just four days later, Nan’s own city was ripped apart with the latest mass shooting, with 9 killed and dozens injured, in 30 seconds of mayhem. That just hours after a white racist killed 22 in an El Paso store, aiming to kill people from Mexico.

Our hearts go out to victims of such violence, and to the families and communities that bear the loss. America has seen more than one mass shooting incident per day this year. Every mayor worries about whose community is next. We need to do more than worry.

I’ve joined hundreds of other US Mayors calling on the Senate immediately to join the House in passing common sense background check laws. [see letter] I plan to meet personally with our two U.S. Senators and our Representative, to share how misguided our gun laws are and to explain the need for new federal legislation. I’ve communicated with the Governor and the Attorney General to urge improvements in Indiana’s radical gun rights regime that prohibits local governments from taking common sense actions to protect public safety. I plan to connect with state legislative leaders as well.

In a democracy, politics is supposed to deliver the communities and country that we collectively desire. But on guns, our politics is completely wrecked. Many of our legislators and leaders have lost their way, and for that we need to show them the door. Thanks to Mom’s Demand Action and other advocates for keeping up the pressure, including at rallies across the country this past weekend.

And let’s remember that politics is what we need every day and during the next 15 months, to get to November 2020 and reclaim our country. Be ready. Be involved. Be steady.

Democratically yours,

John

PS: Remember to mark the Sunday after Labor Day for our 5th Annual Hamilton Family Picnic – Sunday, September 8th in Bryan Park from 4 to 7pm. We’ll kick off the fall municipal election season in style with music, barbecue, and Democrats, including governor candidates for 2020!

July 2019 Newsletter

Friends,

“Our diversity is our strength. Our unity is our power.” Those words from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi ignited the room of 1,400 Young Democrats of America who gathered in Indianapolis this month. Pelosi noted that 60% of the current Democrats in the House were female, people of color, or LGBTQ. That’s what 2018 elections did.

The young Democrats were fired up to build on that momentum. It was inspiring. As Pelosi also said to that diverse gathering of young leaders from across the country (which our campaign helped support, thanks to your support), “You’re not just our future, you are our present.” Pelosi spoke of the past too, noting the day was 171 years after the Seneca Falls Declaration of 1848, when brave women (and men) proudly affirmed that women and men are equal and should have equal rights. Progress is long and hard fought. 

Dawn and I recently had the chance to celebrate our 25th anniversary on a trip to Hawaii, where there is today no majority ethnicity or race. All are minorities. That’s the future of our country. That diversity is our strength, as a country and a community. And as a political party. 

It’s agonizing and infuriating to hear the outrageous, shameful racist calls to “go back to where you came from.” It’s heartbreaking and painful to realize that one of our country’s major political parties is so full of leaders who won’t call out racism or bigotry, who are content to allow fear-mongering and divisive rhetoric stream on and on. We have to do so much better as a country and community.

We’ve got local elections coming in less than four months and national ones in sixteen months. It’s imperative that we keep up the progress begun in 2018. 

Our diversity is our strength: let’s celebrate the most diverse set of Congresspeople, and Presidential and other candidates, ever. Let’s celebrate the growing diversity in local offices. 

Our unity is our power: Let’s remember after the primaries are done, we Democrats need to come together to power the change so desperately needed. That’s what it will take to meet the challenges of climate disruption and economic dislocation. To make sure every person in Bloomington has an affordable, decent home. Feels safe and welcome. Has a bright future.

Thanks for all you do and thank goodness for Speaker Pelosi, the House Democrats, the Young Democrats of America, and the Democrats of Bloomington!

Democratically yours,
John


PS: Remember to hold the Sunday after Labor Day for our 5th Annual Hamilton Family Picnic – Sunday, Sept. 8th in Bryan Park from 4 to 7. We’ll kick off the fall municipal election season in style with music, barbecue, and Democrats!

June 2019 Newsletter

Friends,

First, THANK YOU for your support and encouragement. Last month’s primary election went well, as we attracted 84% of the vote, and are positioned strongly for this fall’s general election. Dawn and I want to thank our campaign team, led by Kaisa Goodman with a wonderful cast of young progressive Democrats, and powered by many of you: phone callers, door knockers, event hosts, social media activists, and donors. Thank you!!

The efforts of our first term are on the right track – Bloomingtonians want to see a more equitable economy, more affordable housing, a more sustainable community offering a higher quality of life for all, and a transparent, innovative City Hall that takes on challenges and pursues opportunities energetically and actively.

That’s just what we’ll plan to keep doing going forward. We know that cities must keep progressing for our residents, in the face of infuriating moves coming out of State Houses and the federal government. Attacking the personal liberties of women. Ignoring the perils of climate change. Denying the need for common sense gun control. Stoking fears instead of building bridges. 

And speaking of cities, I’m excited to be joining Indiana’s most famous mayor these days, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for an event and announcement in South Bend on Tuesday, June 4th. Some of you may know that Bloomington became the first “CDFI Friendly City” in America last year, as we pioneered a new way to attract mission-oriented investments for local needs, like affordable housing, small business growth, and community facilities like day cares or health clinics.

Well, South Bend is signing up as well to become another CDFI Friendly City, and I have a hunch that Mayor Pete may get some more national coverage about this. I appreciate that my friend Pete has invited me up to join their announcement in a discussion about how to support a more inclusive economy. He’s an exciting voice, and high-integrity person, and an exceptionally talented leader making Indiana look a whole lot better on the national stage than some of our other notables.

Onward we go! Thanks again for all your support – past, present and future. My colleagues and I in city government sincerely appreciate the chance to keep improving the quality of life available for more people in Bloomington. It’s because of your help that we can do so.

Democratically yours,

John

P.S: As you’re making your summer plans, don’t forget to mark down the Sunday after Labor Day for our 5th Annual Hamilton Family Picnic – Sunday afternoon, Sept. 8th. We’ll kick off the fall municipal election season in style!

MAY 2019 NEWSLETTER

Friends,

Election Day is upon us!! Tuesday, May 7th, I hope you will vote and persuade all your registered neighbors, friends and co-workers to vote!!  (Unless folks have already voted early – THANKS!!)

Voting has been called an act of HOPE. It’s a duty of citizenship yes. An emblem of freedom and liberty yes. A fundamental right. And also a personal act of hope, of belief in positive action and change and progress. All across Indiana communities are voting in primaries to select their candidates for the next term, for communities to chart their future.

I’m very proud of our work together since January 2016. And I’m excited about making more progress together in the coming years. Thank you for your support: past, present, and future.

Senator Michael Bennett of Colorado made a speech a few months ago talking among other things about our nation’s founders. He reminded us that the original founders, yes, did great things. But they certainly missed a lot of things too. And we’ve had other founders in our country – thank goodness – since then. Founders of our country who fought against the sin of slavery. Founders of our country who finally got women the vote. Founders who passed Civil Rights laws of the 1960s and basic environmental rights in the 1970s. Founders who won the right to marry. 

We need more founders still: to remedy pervasive economic injustice, and racial legacies, and pending climate catastrophes, and to establish health care as a right. America always needs new founders, to reach closer to that more perfect Union. And remember that what we do every day in our community helps activate and enable more of these patriots, these desperately needed new founders.

Democratically yours,
John

PS: Remember after you vote – come join all us local Democrats for an election night gathering at The Mill, 642 N. Madison Street, starting at 6pm on May 7th! We’ll share results and entertainment and food and drink.

APRIL 2019 NEWSLETTER

Friends,

I am sorry it has been a little longer than usual between messages. A lot has happened in our local elections. And while the primary is underway and Election Day now is only a week away, it frankly seemed appropriate to let some things settle a bit.

Our community has been through some painful political times since I last wrote. My opponent in the primary recently heeded calls to drop her candidacy and resign her position as a county commissioner after newspaper articles disclosed misconduct involving a person providing services to the county as a contractor.

In addition to four uncontested primary races – mayor, clerk, and two council races – we have seven contested council seats. Please get out there and vote and support your candidates now and through the fall elections. And thank you for your continued support for our work for Bloomington’s future.

We’ve also lost two giants of Indiana politics: former U.S. Senators Birch Bayh and Richard Lugar. I knew both of them personally, and while they were very different individuals and fought for quite different political causes, they both embodied Hoosier values and integrity and great patriotism. They were both statesmen. Both military veterans. They were from another era when comity and mutual respect still held sway in Washington DC. Both climbed up Indiana politics – Bayh becoming Indiana’s youngest Speaker of the House before winning a U.S. Senate seat in 1962; Lugar as Indianapolis’s “Unigov” mayor and then Senator starting in 1976. (Both unsuccessfully sought the Presidency as well.)

I have a particular affinity for Bayh given our political alignment (and having worked with his son Evan). Let’s remember that progressive Hoosier Senator Birch Bayh: authored two amendments to the U.S. Constitution (presidential succession and 18-year-old voting) and led unsuccessful fights for two more (the ERA and eliminating the Electoral College – wouldn’t they have improved the country!). It’s said that Birch wrote more of the Constitution than anyone since James Madison! He led the effort to defeat two of President Nixon’s Supreme Court nominees (Haynsworth and Carswell), which led to Harry Blackmun’s confirmation (thanks for Roe v Wade!). He was a strong advocate for women’s rights, bringing us Title IX and the dramatic changes to women’s athletics that followed. And so much more.

Birch also was a great retail politician: energetic, back-slapping, friend-to-everyone, optimistic and positive about Indiana and America. Lugar deserves great credit for helping dismantle nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons around the world.

We will miss both Birch Bayh and Richard Lugar. They will both be long remembered as thoughtful, serious legislators who served our country honorably and well. And showed how to be a politician in the finest sense of the word.

May we find ways to return to politics imbued with dignity, integrity, and seriousness of purpose to solve problems and improve people’s lives.

Democratically yours,
John

P.S.: Remember to vote – early or on Tuesday, May 7th! And come join us for an election night gathering at The Mill, 642 N. Madison Street, starting at 6pm on May 7th  with refreshments and live music!

February 2019 Newsletter

Friends,

A couple weeks ago I was in Washington DC to receive a Leadership in the Arts award for our community (see link HERE). It was wonderful for the US Conference of Mayors and Americans for the Arts to affirm that Bloomington is a national leader in supporting the arts. We embrace that. (And kudos to our city arts leader Sean Starowitz.)

At the time, DC was under the federal government shutdown. As several mayors noted, no mayor could possibly shut down city government over a policy argument for one day, much less 39 days. We have to keep our governments operating 24/7, no matter what. We’d be run out of town on a rail if we shut down any part of government over a political dispute. And rightly so!

I noted a similar big difference between federal and local government back during the debate over the outrageous federal tax cut of 2017: No mayor or city council in America would pass a bill like that, with its debt-financed, enormous giveaway to the top 1%. (see op-ed HERE)

Being a mayor means you’re working every day to deliver basic services, and to help every resident pursue their dreams. We have open discussions about how best to do that, sometimes heated ones. But serving as mayor is a privilege and a public trust to help lead that process. I love improving the basics and also fighting for future opportunities.

As our re-election campaign for mayor kicks off in earnest, I’m reminded of what we walked into on January 1st, 2016. Bloomington was and remains a wonderful community, thanks to two centuries of good decisions and stewardship. But even more than we anticipated, there was a lot of catch-up and fix-up needed in the basics of city government. For example:
 

  • The water coming from our Lake Monroe plant was close to violating national safe Drinking Water standards, and getting worse

  • Fire engines and snow plows were breaking down on the way to jobs, and you literally could put your hand through their sides

  • Sanitation workers were suffering debilitating injuries as they hand-lifted two tons of trash every day

  • Aging water mains were breaking around the city at an alarming rate, as they had not been replaced on schedule

  • I-69 work was stalled due to terribly misguided privatization, causing driving hazards and delays

  • Performance reviews for most city employees hadn’t been held in years

  • Parking meters were failing to perform at acceptable (and contracted) levels

  • The recent major theft from city coffers haunted fiscal management issues

  • The city’s comprehensive plan and zoning updates were both years overdue

  • Four major projects along the B-Line – the Trades District, the Convention Center, the IU Health hospital move, and Switchyard Park – all needed leadership to get them moving forward


Everything on this list has been addressed in our first three years. We’re fixing problems. Maintaining our infrastructure. Picking up trash and recycling. Patrolling and plowing the streets. Making our community more sustainable. Updating policies and plans.

And beyond that, we’re tackling big challenges and pursuing opportunities directly. Affordable housing is front and center, with 600 more affordable bedrooms in the books, and hundreds more on the way. Job growth is impressive, with employers large and small preserving and adding thousands of jobs with new investments. The “String of Pearls” sees all four major projects moving forward actively. And we’ve put solar panels at 27 city facilities and supported solar in scores of private homes, invested in miles of new trails and paths, doubled our arts grants, supported pre-K for the first time, focused on local food, and much more.

I love this city and all the people in it. I love rolling up our sleeves together to do the basics right,and to pursue the future’s promises. Bright days are ahead. Thanks for all you do for our community. 

Democratically yours,
John

P.S.: Please join in the campaign to keep our momentum going another four years. Check out the campaign website HERE and get involved!