Last fall, a new student housing complex on the east side of Bloomington called Century Village was proposed. Many community members were not happy with the proposed complex.
About 30 of them gathered one Saturday in city hall to talk to council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith. They feared the complex would increase traffic and accidents.
Piedmont-Smith represents District 5, yet only a few people from her district were at the meeting.
The reason people came from all over the city, her campaign chair and manager Penny Githens said, was because they know Piedmont-Smith listens.
She is also the only council member who advertises monthly constituent meetings.
Piedmont-Smith, 49, is running for re-election in District 5.
She has been an advocate for the environment.
If re-elected, Piedmont-Smith said she will focus on affordable housing and a compromise on protecting core neighborhoods and creating a denser downtown. She also said she wants to look at more ways of helping people with addictions and mental health issues in the community get back on their feet.
Piedmont-Smith, a Bloomington native, first sought to get involved in local government in 2007 because she saw strip malls and parking lots beginning to appear in Bloomington in the ‘90s and early 2000s. They took away green space and made Bloomington look like anywhere in the United States, she said.
Over the course of her terms on council from 2008 to 2012 and from 2016 to now, climate change has become more serious to Piedmont-Smith.
The recent decision to rebuild the Fourth Street parking garage, which Piedmont-Smith voted against, showed the community’s division on the importance of limiting car use to reduce the city’s carbon footprint.
“It’s a scary thought that our daily lives have to change significantly to save our planet,” Piedmont-Smith said. “A lot of people don’t want to grapple with that.”
She said the money that will now be used to rebuild the garage would have been better used to improve public transit.
Githens said Piedmont-Smith does her homework, and from knocking on doors, she said Piedmont-Smith learned there were very mixed opinions on the rebuild of the garage.
“She’s incredibly hard-working,” Githens said. “She’s very ethical in everything she does.”
Piedmont-Smith is also concerned about affordable housing. As a resident of one of the core neighborhoods, she said she understands her neighbor’s concerns about duplexes and triplexes being added to existing neighborhoods because of concerns about renter’s ability to upkeep their properties.
“We’ve seen an increase in owner-occupied houses,” Piedmont-Smith said. “The neighbors’ opinion, and I think it’s based in some truth, is that owner-occupied is better.”
She said she also sympathizes with those who say they cannot afford to live near downtown and wants to try to find a compromise.
“At the same time I see we need to provide more opportunities for young professionals to live in the core neighborhoods,” she said.
Piedmont-Smith is on the steering committee for the IU Health Bloomington Hospital site redevelopment and said she thinks the hospital site will be a key place to add affordable, dense housing.
During her time on council, Piedmont-Smith was a co-sponsor of the Green Building Program, which requires new city buildings to meet the Silver level of LEED certification which is based on the energy efficiency and carbon footprint of a building. It also required existing city buildings to be retrofitted to be more energy efficient.
Early voting started Tuesday at Monroe County Election Central off West Seventh Street.