Mayor John Hamilton spoke to the Bloomington community about the city's achievements, challenges and future plans at his fourth State of the City address Thursday night at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.
Hamilton followed performances by an intergenerational music group and poetry reading by Emily Bobo, English professor at Ivy Tech Community College, with praise for the city’s creative community. He went on to celebrate the city’s accomplishments during his term, address ongoing issues and announce new plans for the future, such as a new way to process waste and power city vehicles.
“Our next 100 years start here,” Hamilton said. “That’s a big scale of time. But everything big starts somewhere.”
The mayor focused on the city’s growing economy and emphasized big and small companies providing new jobs. He talked about startups like Datasprout, MetroStar and The Bee Corp that are now housed at the Mill, a building that will be at the center of the new Trades District behind City Hall.
Though the economy may be thriving, affordable housing is still a serious problem, Hamilton said.
“We know Bloomington has the most expensive median rental and ownership home prices in Indiana,” he said. “How can we continue to retain and attract young families, artists and artisans, entrepreneurs, teachers, so many future residents?”
The mayor said 600 bedrooms of affordable housing have been added to the city during his three years in office. Hamilton said he plans to build significantly more at the IU Health Bloomington Hospital site, which was recently bought by the city, as well as on land known as Sudbury Farm on the southwest side of town.
Hamilton touched on projects that are in the process of being planned and executed, mainly focusing on the expansion of the Monroe Convention Center and redevelopment of the current hospital site.
He condemned the state government for not passing a “real” hate crime bill and for plans to arm teachers and ban abortion after 12 weeks. Hamilton also accused state officials of ignoring climate change.
“I have to say, this state legislature seems to be looking backward,” Hamilton said.
Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges facing Bloomington, Hamilton said.
He announced a new task force to explore the possibility of turning Bloomington’s wastewater plant into a place where compostable waste will be turned into compressed natural gas, which can be used to power the city’s vehicles such as snow plows and buses.
“This is a complex and expensive challenge, but one we ought to tackle together,” Hamilton said. “I’ll ask for a report within a year to recommend a path forward.”
The mayor ended the address with a story about the Bloomington fire fighters’ recent trip to Freetown, Sierra Leone, to train community members in fire fighting techniques. This year, several firefighters from Sierra Leone will train with the Bloomington Fire Department in Bloomington and become the first professional, internationally certified firefighters in their country.
“One day, perhaps a Freetown family will be saved from a fire because of this,” Hamilton said. “Perhaps they will visit Bloomington. We don’t know. But we do know what happens here matters. Every day.”