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!

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.