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City boards and commissions offer opportunity to make citizens' voices heard  



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The Bloomington City Hall building is seen Dec. 15 at 401 N. Morton St. Izzy Myszak

Have ideas for increasing sustainability or qualms with the city’s public transit system? There’s a board for that.

The City of Bloomington has more than 33 boards and commissions with more than 250 members that help advise the mayor, the city council and varying legislative bodies in the community. They range from topics such as a commission that covers environmental issues to a group that oversee the status of women, Hispanic and Latino affairs and children.

Of all the groups, 19 currently have vacancies. Mary Catherine Carmichael, director of public engagement, said residents can apply any time, but there are many spots that open up Dec. 31 and Jan. 31 because of the two year term limits. The applications for each board are on their page on the city websit

“It’s always important to have the voices of your residents included,” Carmichael said. “The mayor doesn’t run the city for himself, he runs it for the residents.”

Sofia McDowell, the chief deputy clerk, said the boards and commissions communicate with different departmental liaisons on issues they are working on. For example, Animal Control Commission frequently works with the local animal shelters. 

“It does give a voice to community members who don’t want to run for an elected position,” McDowell said. “The whole point is to analyze them from the community perspective and work with legislative.”

Eric Sandweiss, a professor at IU and a seven-year member of the Historic Preservation Commission, urged IU students to join these groups and advocate for their interests and needs. 

He chose to work on the board because he’s interested in urban history and he wanted to have a part in seeing Bloomington widely preserved. After serving on that board, he was appointed by the mayor to work on the Redevelopment Commission, which decides how best to improve the city’s public lands. 

“You learn a lot more about the city and how it runs,” Sandweiss said. “You have a surprisingly direct and important say in certain decisions, you as a citizen can actually make a difference.”

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