February 2019 Newsletter


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,

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