Democratic mayoral candidates Amanda Barge and John Hamilton faced a full auditorium Monday night at the Monroe County Public Library to answer questions on a variety of topics.
The forum revealed differences in the candidates’ views on progressivism, which was brought up multiple times. While Hamilton supports progressivism, which he linked to equality and inclusivity, saying he wants to further it in Indiana, Barge said she doesn’t like using the word progressive and wants to focus on working with people of all political backgrounds.
A line of about 15 people stood to ask questions, and Jada Bee of Democracy for Monroe County moderated.
“For me, it’s less about labels, and it’s more about being open and looking out for marginalized populations,” Barge said.
Hamilton pointed to clean water, fair wages, public parks and trails as examples of progressivism in the community.
The candidates' disagreement over progressivism played into their ongoing tug of war over the importance of good relations between Bloomington and the county and state.
Barge has promised on many occasions to improve relations between the city and county. Hamilton has had disagreements with the county over the course of his term such as over the convention center expansion. He has also condemned the state government’s actions. He analogized Bloomington as a blueberry in a bowl of tomato soup Monday night.
“We are a part of this progressive struggle to get America back to where we want it to be,” he said.
Barge seemed to be uncomfortable with the divisiveness of progressivism.
“I don’t think everything in our state is bad or wrong,” Barge sad. “We can’t disregard what Republicans have to say.”
The candidates’ discussion about Bloomington’s relationship with the state came to a head when a person brought up annexation.
Hamilton proposed an annexation of 10,000 acres outside Bloomington’s city limits in February 2017, which would add an additional 15,000 people who would pay city taxes and receive city services.
Two and a half months into a five month process of determining the dimensions of annexation, the state legislature passed legislation that stopped all annexation plans in the state. Bloomington was the only city affected.
The city sued the governor for passing legislation that officials claim is against state law because it targets Bloomington directly. The mayor has repeatedly spoken out against the state in speeches and interviews for overreaching its power. The lawsuit is ongoing.
Barge said she thinks the lawsuit is a waste of time and would end it immediately if elected.
“I think it’s really important to stand up to protect our rights from an abusive legislature,” he said.