These are the themes that Sue Sgambelluri, a member of the Bloomington Redevelopment Commission, took from Mayor John Hamilton’s first State of the City Address Tuesday night.
Standing on the stage of the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, the mayor of 47 days said he was optimistic because Bloomington was named a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community, a Tree City USA and was one of only 47 cities in the country to be given a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.
But the mayor also acknowledged there are aspects of the city that can be improved upon.
He noted there are too many people in the community that are unsure of where their next meal will come from and the city’s violent crime rate had risen significantly over the last decade, in spite of the national downward trend.
Hamilton said that Bloomington’s gross domestic product is shrinking and has been for four years. He talked about failing infrastructure, noting deteriorating water quality, broken parking meters and sanitation services operating on a system “that was modern in the 1960s.”
He said 20 percent of the city’s plows weren’t working during the first snowfall of the year.
It is in these problems that he sees opportunity, Hamiliton said.
Hamilton’s four main focuses for the evening were the same ones that characterized his campaign: jobs, housing, public education and innovative government.
He said nurturing and attracting small businesses is crucial for Bloomington’s future.
One way of doing this is focusing the city’s efforts on enhancing connectivity, he said. Hamiliton announced Bloomington will be looking into providing universal Wi-Fi within the city, beginning with a digital symposium with IU on March 1.
In regard to housing, Hamilton advocated for pursuing inclusionary zoning and long-term affordability.
“We need to protect mixed-income neighborhoods,” he said.
The audience agreed, cheering.
Hamilton mourned that the state government is pulling more than a million dollars away from public schools to private schools through unlimited vouchers. He vowed to meet with teachers and parents and to work for a referendum in the fall.
Looking to the future, the mayor said he is eager for the chance to try new things with the support of citizen involvement and engagement.
“Our government does not need unloving critics and we don’t need uncritical lovers,” he said. “We need loving critics who will roll up their sleeves and be the doers for our great city.”
This type of creative, forward-thinking governing will involve, in part, what Hamilton called the city’s “string of pearls.”
The string is the B-Line trail and the pearls are the Technology Park, the current location of the IU Health Bloomington Hospital, Switchyard Park and the Monroe County Convention Center.
Interim Deputy Mayor Mick Renneisen said this was the part of the speech he found “most impactful.”
“Those are the catalysts that make everything happen,” he said of the prominent organizations that make up Bloomington’s downtown.
Renneisen said the hospital is moving to a new location, so there’s an opportunity to do something new and exciting with the space. He also said talks surrounding the expansion of the convention center have been circulating for a while.
After showing charts, graphs and photos of children, the Sample Gates and the strings of holiday lights twinkling above the downtown square, Hamilton returned to optimism and opportunity.
He praised the city for supporting LGBT rights, for standing with Planned Parenthood and for having teachers that “perform miracles.” He pledged to put solar panels on city hall, to support an education referendum and to welcome new businesses.
There are plenty of problems, some that he probably doesn’t even know about yet, he said.
But when looking at a list by reporter James Fallows called “Eleven Signs a City Will Succeed,” he said he thinks Bloomington is doing pretty well.
He flashed one through 10 on the Powerpoint overhead. Among the qualifiers were: near a research university, a community college they care about and they have big plans.
It was number 11, though, that he saved for last:
“They have craft breweries.”
“We’re on the move with a year of action ahead,” he said. “So I’ll see you in the lobby now or in a craft brewery soon.”