Jean Capler said she is focused on “building a Bloomington for all.”
If elected, the at-large candidate for Bloomington City Council said she would focus on the overlap between issues that Bloomington’s most vulnerable residents face, as well as the importance of better public transit and housing affordability.
The issue she said she is especially passionate about how brain injury can lead to poverty.
During her time as a clinical social worker, Capler said she has seen how people who struggle often deal with multiple issues such as substance abuse, mental illness and homelessness.
Brain injury can cause or add to those existing problems.
“As communities try to grapple with these issues, we have to understand that these issues intertwine,” Capler said. “There’s a lot of overlap.”
Capler works for the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana and travels around the state educating health professionals, counselors, police officers and domestic violence organizations about the effects of brain injuries that often cause an avalanche of other problems that leads to poverty.
She said she hopes to make the public more aware of this if she is elected to council.
Capler also said her experience working with LGBTQ people as a social worker will give her perspective other council members may not have. She identifies as a lesbian and co-founded a group called FairTalk to advocate for marriage equality.
“I’m not running on being a lesbian,” she said. “But diversity does matter.”
Kathy Byers, longtime friend of Capler's and recently retired director of IU’s undergraduate social work program, said Capler’s experience as a social worker will benefit her on the council.
“I think she will bring a knowledge base that’s really important,” Byers said. “She brings that perspective of understanding people who face significant challenges.”
Capler said she sees increasing the capacity of public transit and bike and pedestrian infrastructure as a social equalizer for those who don’t have cars.
“Alternative transportation is the insurance policy that everyone can access in this community,” Capler said.
She said she would allocate more resources to Bloomington Transit so buses can be more reliable and people can cut-down on car usage.
“We’re all car-dependent,” Capler said. “I am, too. The bus comes to my neighborhood only once an hour.”
Affordable housing is also important to Capler.
She said she would support adding duplexes and triplexes to neighborhoods if they were actually priced lower. She also would support accessory dwelling units, small houses on a larger house’s property or an area above a garage, if they were rented out by homeowners.
“I understand that neighborhoods don’t want to change the character of their neighborhood by adding density,” Capler said. “But I think there’s a viable way to do it.”
Capler won the Bloomington’s Woman of the Year award in 2016 and just recently won the 2019 National Social Worker of the Year Award for her Indiana region.
Leslie Skooglund, Capler’s friend and local elementary school social worker, said she volunteered with Capler at Hoosier Action last fall during the primary elections. Hoosier Action is a group focused on building political power among the poor and working class Hoosiers in southern Indiana.
Skooglund said Jean encouraged her to be a team captain with her, and they campaigned for candidates including Liz Watson and Joe Donnelly.
“She volunteered and worked harder than any human being I’ve ever seen,” Skooglund said. “This woman did everything.”
If Capler was elected to council, Skooglund said, she would try to bring everyone to the table and add her own special perspective as a woman and a lesbian.
“I think we need more women on the council,” Skooglund said. “I think we need more minority women on council.”