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!

January 2019 Newsletter

Friends,

Happy 2019!!

Last month, as we announced my plans to seek a second mayoral term, Dawn and I remembered the voices that were so important four years ago, heard at more than 60 house parties and in hundreds of individual conversations about our community and our future:

  • “Where are my kids going to work in Bloomington?” – With the decades-long decline of major manufacturing jobs and a growing reliance on service sector jobs, how will Bloomington increase good jobs?

  • “What can we do about housing that just gets more and more expensive?” – shutting out new families and those without substantial means, and threatening our way of life.

  • “How do we protect our fundamental public safety?” – as our city saw increased violent crime over the preceding 10 years, and some sensed a decline of civility.

  • “What are we doing about climate change and protecting the natural world?” – as current policies seemed inadequate to the global and local threats.

  • “How do we protect what we love about Bloomington, both physically and in quality of life? – in the face of development pressures, unattractive buildings, population growth, and the like.

  • “And how about public education?” – to assure this highly educated community has public schools that allow all our kids to thrive and reach their potential.

We heard more questions from city employees, like:

  • “How can I do my job with equipment that is falling apart?” – such as fire engines that would stall out during an emergency call, dump trucks so rusty you could put your hand through them, and snow plows that wouldn’t run.

  • “Why can’t we just TRY some things, even if they’re hard or might not work?” – because we know many things that need to be addressed, but we shy away from difficult decisions or controversial topics.

These questions motivated our administration from day one. They’re why we keep fighting for Bloomington’s future every day. I’m seeking a second term to keep up our strong positive momentum.

You can get lots of details about all the great progress on job growth, affordable housing, more efficient and innovative government, improving public schools, and more, at the city website HERE, or my campaign website HERE.

Of course, much work remains, and none of us should be satisfied with where we are as a community. We have neighbors who are struggling mightily with poverty, or substance use disorder, or illness, or prejudice, or violence, or inadequate wages, and more. We have future potential neighbors who want to be here but don’t feel welcome or don’t see job opportunities or can’t find affordable housing.

And as we’ve been fighting for Bloomington’s future, no doubt we’ve occasionally stepped on some toes. Sometimes we’ve stubbed our own toes, as we’ve tried to tackle a lot of big, complex challenges, like affordable housing and sustainability (especially in the face of often hostile state and national governments). But as I promised on day one, we’ll keep fighting and striving to make Bloomington a city that welcomes everyone, that works for people from all walks of life, and that always aims high.

Dawn and I are so grateful to get the chance to live here, and work here, and join with all of you to keep this progressive city moving forward. In the face of a conservative state and infuriating national headwinds, we relish keeping our community on track to the better future that we want, and that the next generations depend upon. Thanks for all you do.

Democratically yours,
John

Ps: Thanks to the hundreds who helped ring out the Bicentennial Year at City Hall on December 31st. We’re off to the next 100 years for Bloomington! Please check out the campaign website and get involved HERE.

DECEMBER 2018 NEWSLETTER

Friends,

Dawn and I hope many of you can join us tomorrow, Tuesday, December 4th for a launch party for re-election! We will gather at the County Democratic HQ between 5:30 and 7pm, with a brief program at 6pm - mostly a thanks for all the work we’ve done thus far and excitement about what we can do together going forward.

Last month’s election brought some encouraging change – biggest Democratic pick up in Congress since Watergate, important governors and 100s of state legislative seats turned blue (inc. 4 in Indiana), and a clean sweep in county-wide offices here. It also brought some major disappointments, with our incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly and the awesome Liz Watson coming up short, as well as some nail-biters tilting the other way in Georgia, Florida, and Texas.

Locally, we should be reinvigorated to do all we can to make our progressive Bloomington thrive. To show that living our values makes our communities more welcoming, more successful, and more compassionate, allowing people from all walks of life to enjoy an outstanding quality of life.

Let’s talk climate change, where current battles over fundamental values and priorities have enormous stakes. In October the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the gold-standard UN-sponsored group, announced alarming predictions about 2040, just over 20 years away. Then late last month a congressionally mandated report laid out the devastating effects of a changing climate on the national economy, health and environment. While the White House and Congress deny reality.


What’s a place like Bloomington to do? Communities large and small, around the country and the planet, must make ourselves successful examples of sustainable living. Places like Bloomington with important advantages – away from coastlines, with abundant fresh water, temperate climate, good ‘bones’ of infrastructure and agriculture, strong progressive values – especially should be exemplars of welcoming, sustainable communities.

In fact, Bloomington and other U.S. cities are leading the charge to meet the goals of Paris, despite President Trump’s outrageous abandonment of that vital agreement. We’ve dramatically expanded solar generation. We invest in sustainable mobility. We support compact urban development and local food. We support good jobs and fairness and equity. We protect and nurture natural resources.

And last month, building on this momentum, Bloomington adopted our first detailed, ambitious sustainability plan. We will implement and continuously update the plan together to preserve a high quality of life here with:

  • a strong, sustainable economy with plentiful good jobs

  • great infrastructure for sustainable water, energy and mobility

  • housing of many types, in sustainable design and placement, for people of all incomes

  • vibrant local food and agriculture

  • a culture of inclusiveness, justice, innovation and creativity

  • abundant and protected natural and wild places, parks and trees

  • a commitment to reason and facts, and responsiveness to the world around us  

Bloomington and other cities are leading. Thanks for your part. Our future depends on it.

Democratically yours,
John


Ps: Hope to see you Tuesday, December 4th at 5:30pm, 4th and Madison at County Demo HQ! And consider joining for a New Year’s Eve Party, ringing out our Bicentennial Year, at City Hall, Dec. 31st.

November 2018 Newsletter

Friends,

As of two days before the Mid-Term Elections, Democrats are predicted to take back the House and Republicans to hold the Senate. Lots of state races of import. We’ll see soon.

In the meantime, keep encouraging everyone to VOTE!! Keep making phone calls. Knocking doors. Sending emails. We’ve set new records with early voting in Monroe County and also with days of canvassing and calls and contributions. Our community knows that turnout wins elections, and friends help friends vote. We have loads of great local, state and federal candidates to help over the finish line these next two days.

It is daunting to keep our footing after a string of recent terrible events: pipe bombs sent to maim Democratic leaders, an anti-Semitic slaughter at a Pittsburgh synagogue, a racist attack in Louisville that seemed a copycat attempt of Charleston, and a misogynist shooter at a yoga studio. Caustic, divisive, shocking rhetoric continues to pour out of the White House. Fear-mongering – including outrageous, racist, scurrilous attack ads – stirs up prejudice, resentment, hate speech and hate crimes.

A century ago, the great poet William Butler Yeats in The Second Comingwrote:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
             The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
             Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
             …
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
             Are full of passionate intensity.

No matter what happens on Election Day, we certainly are in for a long-haul effort to help the “centre” hold. I don’t mean the political center. I mean the human center, of decency, compassion, inclusion and respect that undergirds our society. Those values and behaviors are being eroded daily. For political purposes in my view – though of course these values should transcend partisan lines. 

We local communities that constitute America must hold strong. We must daily reaffirm and nourish those values in our efforts and our interactions. I am so often so proud of how frequently the people of Bloomington do just that. So many do bring “all conviction.”

It’s going to take that and more over the coming years. Continued and deepened commitment to justice and peace and mutual respect. Starting locally and emanating outward. It’s a long-haul effort, a relay race of the generations – and the current relay leg is proving especially challenging, in part due to backlashagainst our historic election of Barack Obama and near-election (were it not for the electoral college) of our first woman president.

Yes, I believe like Dr. King that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice. But progress is neither consistent nor automatic. As so many of you do, we in Bloomington must keep our shoulders to that bending every day. No matter what happens on November 6th, we have a lot of work ahead of us to meet our challenges together. 

Democratically Yours,
John

Ps: So let’s all GOTV through Tuesday – and then consider joining Election Eve to watch returns come in with the Monroe County Dems at Rhino’s (331 S. Walnut Ave).

October 2018 Newsletter

Friends,

What just happened? Raw power, that’s what.

Justice Kavanaugh sits now as the fifth vote for a VERY conservative bloc of Justices. He will likely extend significantly the 50-year run of a majority of Supreme Court members being appointed by Republican Presidents. (Even though 4 of those 5 current Justices were appointed by Presidents who didn’t command a plurality of popular votes on their election. Even though the Senators confirming Kavanaugh represent only 44% of the American population. See more inexcellent article by Marty Lederman here)

But that is done. Along the way, survivors of assault were re-traumatized, by the treatment of Dr. Blasey Ford, by the curtailed FBI role, by the pompous and bull-headed push from the party with the power. For one reminder of the meanness, see Sen. Kamala Harris describing Trump’s speech here (at about 3:30 of the video).

Our Senator Donnelly did the right thing, and deserves our thanks. Senator Young toed the party line and disregarded thousands of Hoosier survivors and millions of Hoosier women.

So much has been written already about the possible fallout of this appointment and this Court. Every day, I'm learning more about the threats confronting our democracy from my wife Dawn, a constitutional scholar. Attacks on liberty – of women, LGBTQ+, immigrants, people of color – are horrific and political fodder for the power brokers assembling alliances. We will be fighting for our liberties for decades.

Let me just highlight one thing: Follow the Money. Fueling the Republican rush to confirm Kavanaugh were moneyed interests seeking to solidify and accelerate the Supreme Court’s already-unprecedented rulings in favor of corporations against individuals, for the powerful against those struggling in our nation of growing inequality.

Underneath it all, enormous corporate power and money is rewriting the United States’ story, for its self-preservation and for greed. Trying to diminish the very democracy that nurtures our struggles for justice and liberty.

Consider last year’s unfunded corporate tax cut. The vast majority of benefits flowed to the richest of our country. And the big tax cuts have directly generated big cash for the Republican Party:

  • Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson’s company, Las Vegas Sands, reported a $700 million windfall from the tax law earlier this year, as he gave $30 million personally to the SuperPAC attacking Democrats to hold onto the House

  • Timothy Mellon, chairman and majority owner of privately held Pan Am Systems, another big tax cut beneficiary, contributed $24 million (See NYT details on the tax/contribution merry-go-round here)

It hits right at home too. Our own outstanding candidate for the 9th District, Liz Watson, faces off against Joseph Albert Hollingsworth, III – who after spending $4.5 million of his and his dad’s money to buy the seat in 2016, last year voted himself a $4.5 million personal annual tax cut (!!) as a reward. (The biggest personal benefit in the House – how’s that for a distinction in your first term?) Watch out for dark and late money pouring into our race and many around the country, to hold onto power.

This raw power seeks to make it harder to vote, harder to protest, harder to organize, harder to regulate guns or pollution or corporate abuse, harder to have fair districts and elections. Harder, in other words, to have the country that a growing majority of us want.

Follow the Money. And be very, very wary of its power. We have our work cut out for us, in Bloomington, and the United States. We shall all need each other.

So VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!  And remind everyone to do the same.

Democratically Yours,
John

Ps: EARLY VOTING STARTS WED. OCTOBER 10TH!  We simply must have a strong turnout and showing from 9am October 10th through 6pm on Election Day on November 6th. The stakes are so high. Get your spirits up and get activated!!

September 2018 Newsletter

Friends,
 
This month let’s talk births and budgets.
 
We’ve seen a couple of high-profile memorial services in the past week, celebrating long lives in the public eye. Births are typically less noted – full of potential rather than accomplishments. The future rather than the past.
 
Our Bloomington community averages three or four births a day. New residents who count on all of us to help them thrive in our city and world, into the 22nd century!
 
Budgets are about the future too, laying out our collective priorities. We’ve outlined for the city council about $160 million in proposed 2019 investments and spending (details available here).

The following are some of the new ways we’re proposing to invest in our children – our future:

  • Youth Participatory Budgeting – this program, borrowed from Boston, brings high school age kids into city government, dedicating some money for them to decide how to invest and creating early experiences in our democracy.

  • Pre-K Support – for the second year in a row, we’re proposing $100,000 in city funds to support healthier and better starts for some of our youngest residents (while the state dithers).

  • Sustainability Planning – we have a 2018 Sustainability Plan for our community, and next year we’ll develop our first ever community-wide climate change assessment, to do our part to respond to this generational challenge (while Washington dithers).

  • Social Worker at Police Department –often we ask police officers to respond to family breakdowns or social stressors; for the first time ever, we’re proposing a full-time social worker join our police to serve our community, to help more kids get better starts.

  • Rehab of Public Housing – hundreds of kids in our community live in public housing, many in 50-year-old buildings in great need of repair. Our Housing Authority is planning a new program to rehab all 312 units within the next six years instead of the 26-year pace we were on when I took office.

  • Switchyard Park – creating great parks is a fundamental way we invest in our kids and our future. This new biggest-ever investment in a public park will mean future generations will enjoy a greener, healthier, better Bloomington.

  • Finally, a monumental challenge facing our children and families today is the rising pressure of substance use disorder. All levels of government and civil society must collaborate, as we increase Jack Hopkins funding for nonprofits, encourage more volunteers at CASA, and more.

Budgets address many things. These are just a few new goals for 2019 that particularly invest in our kids, remembering that every day another few young residents join our community, looking to us to make the right choices for their future. Let’s keep making Bloomington shine brighter for all. 

Democratically Yours,
John

Ps: THE PICNIC IS HERE!! Remember to join Dawn and me and hundreds of Democrats this Sunday, Sept 9th from 4 to 7pm, for the fourth annual Hamilton Family Picnic at Bryan Park. Sen. Joe Donnelly, our next Congresswoman Liz Watson, and many more local and state candidates on hand. Enjoy music and food for political momentum building for the upcoming critical mid-term elections.

August 2018 Newsletter

Friends,

A moment for science. And reason. So much of our modern world is built on our capacity for and commitment to reason. 

So how should we react when FACTS are attacked, when UNIVERSITIES are disparaged, when the PRESS is called the enemy, and when SCIENCE itself seems under siege? (Or, as Politico put it recently, when “Climate change skeptics run the Trump administration”?)

At the national level, a joint attack on reason/facts and on the press is ominous. TheNew York Times summarized this recently:

  • Trump is the first president since 1941 not to name a science adviser, a position created during World War II to guide the Oval Office on technical matters ranging from nuclear warfare to global pandemics.

  • No chief scientist serves at the State Department or at the Department of Agriculture

  • Both the Interior Department and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have disbanded climate science advisory committees.

  • The Food and Drug Administration disbanded its Food Advisory Committee, which provided guidance on food safety.

  • EPA is a world in itself, with radical limits on what types of scientific research can be used and what scientists can serve on committees.

  • And President Trump himself outrageously declared the press “the enemy of the people” (a phrase famously used by Stalin and Mao), and fuels mob responses at his rallies and through his tweets.

I would encourage two things:

First, support scientists, researchers, and journalists whenever you can. Being pilloried can wear people down, and letting those under siege know that we stand with them is important. Join local groups and write letters and speak up, in their support. Our country and community and planet depend on them (and us).

Second, locally, let’s keep our commitment to reason, using data and transparency to help address our challenges. Governments belong to the people, and so should embody our commitment to facts and science in what we do locally, welcoming research, study, dialogue, and experimentation. It’s not always easy or clear, but it’s important we embrace these values regularly in our work.

We know we need empathy along with reason, to make things work. And we need to remember that sometimes opponents seek to foment divisions and aggravate differences, discouraging us from emphasizing our common purpose to work together on the big challenges we face.

Keep working together, bringing ideas and suggestions and reactions and reforms, based in reason and steeped in empathy.

Democratically Yours,
John

PS: Remember to hold Sunday afternoon, 4pm-7pm, September 9th for the fourth annual Hamilton Family Picnic at Bryan Park, with local, state and federal candidates, music and food for political momentum building for the critical mid-term elections coming up. And remember to help get everyone registered to vote for this November!!

PPS: I can’t help quoting a powerful paragraph from an extraordinary article about climate change in The New York Times on Aug 5th; read it and ponder:

"The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. The Paris climate agreement — the nonbinding, unenforceable and already unheeded treaty signed on Earth Day in 2016 — hoped to restrict warming to two degrees. The odds of succeeding, according to a recent study based on current emissions trends, are one in 20. If by some miracle we are able to limit warming to two degrees, we will only have to negotiate the extinction of the world’s tropical reefs, sea-level rise of several meters and the abandonment of the Persian Gulf. The climate scientist James Hansen has called two-degree warming “a prescription for long-term disaster.” Long-term disaster is now the best-case scenario. Three-degree warming is a prescription for short-term disaster: forests in the Arctic and the loss of most coastal cities. Robert Watson, a former director of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has argued that three-degree warming is the realistic minimum. Four degrees: Europe in permanent drought; vast areas of China, India and Bangladesh claimed by desert; Polynesia swallowed by the sea; the Colorado River thinned to a trickle; the American Southwest largely uninhabitable. The prospect of a five-degree warming has prompted some of the world’s leading climate scientists to warn of the end of human civilization.

Is it a comfort or a curse, the knowledge that we could have avoided all this?"

July 2018 Newsletter

Friends,

We just had a pretty special 24 hours in Bloomington, with our annual boisterous July 4th parade and what we hope will become new traditions of downtown fireworks and accompanying street parties. The downtown twice filled with 1,000s of residents and visitors celebrating community and history.

We honored 200 years of Bloomington’s and 242 years of America’s stories. But even during those happy events, I worried about our next decades – how will those stories be written?

And how so much of that comes down to the U.S. Supreme Court.

When Justice Kennedy announced his imminent retirement, it put in motion the threat of a radical five-vote Court that would dramatically change America, by:

  • striking down the Affordable Care Act and other efforts by Congress to fix health care, economic inequality, and other vital national challenges

  • affirming overwhelming and secret corporate money in politics

  • locking in outrageous gerrymandering to lock out democratic vote results

  • denying the most fundamental rights to women, LGBTQ+, immigrants, and others

  • perpetuating racial inequality and discrimination

  • destroying working people’s rights to organize and favoring the wealthy and powerful corporate interests

  • limiting our abilities to respond to climate change and protect our planet

  • blocking access to justice to those who have suffered wrongs by powerful interests

  • insulating authoritarian, unlawful, and anti-democratic presidential actions from meaningful checks

President Trump with Senate Republicans can change the course of our future in these and other radically harmful ways. That’s the same Trump who lost the popular vote by millions, who is under investigation for colluding with a foreign enemy to win the election (as Senate Republicans affirmed this week that Russia secretly worked to help put him in office), and who regularly demeans our Republic with his bigotry and lack of character.

We should take inspiration from history: Justice Kennedy served on the Court only because progressives stopped Reagan’s ultra-conservative Robert Bork from taking that seat in 1987. Instead, swing-vote Kennedy was the deciding vote to reaffirm Roe v. Wade and to guarantee marriage equality.

Thirty-one years later, we have to do it again. It’s harder because we don’t control the Senate, but the stakes are as high or higher.

I believe the national Republican Party – which sees a more progressive, diverse country coming, demanding more justice and opportunity for all – is seeking to disempower the American people in our efforts to move our country forward. And the Supreme Court is ground zero for that struggle.

With everything on the line, we all need to act. Now. Our own Senator Donnelly, facing a tough reelection, is one of a key handful of votes that can direct the course of our country’s next decades. He needs to hear from us all. Regularly. Strongly. He needs our support, and we need his on this critical issue. Our next generations depend on it, so that future celebrations of the 4th of July still honor a land of liberty and justice for all.

Democratically Yours,
John

P.S. Remember to hold Sunday afternoon, September 9th for the fourth annual Hamilton Family Picnic at Bryan Park, with local, state and federal candidates, music and food for political momentum building for the critical mid-term elections coming up. And remember to help get everyone registered to vote for this November!!