Bloomington city council members elected Councilmember Susan Sandberg as council president in a 4-5 vote. Sandberg said her top priority facilitating council proceedings, not influence councilmembers’ decisions
Councilmembers Matt Flaherty, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Kate Rosenbarger and Steve Volan voted for Flaherty and the remaining council members voted for Sandberg.
Council members re-elected Councilmember Sue Sgambelluri as vice president and elected Councilmember Dave Rollo as council parliamentarian.
Incoming President Sandberg has served as an at-large member of the city council since 2007, after Chris Gaal vacated his seat to serve as Monroe County Prosecutor. An at-large council member represents the city population as a whole, rather than an individual district, according to the National League of Cities.
Sandberg held the title of council president in 2008, 2011 and 2017. Prior to being elected to city council, she was a member of the Bloomington Utilities Service Board, according to the city’s website.
The council president’s responsibilities include general direction of council chambers, keeping order among council members, ruling on all points of order and conducting and certifying legislative votes, according to the Bloomington Municipal Code.
After a nomination from Rollo, Sandberg ran against Councilmember Flaherty. Both nominees read statements and answered council member questions regarding their plans if elected council president. There were no public questions or comments.
Sandberg promised to not lead with a heavy hand. She said she has never perceived the role of president to carry more authority than a council member.
“I approach the role of council president as a respectful facilitator, whose job it is to help traffic control the work in coordination with the administration, but not to control the will of the council as a whole,'' Sandberg said.
Flaherty’s statement cited past procedural problems as a key issue he would address as president. He said serving as council parliamentarian in the past year gave him a deep understanding of council procedures, allowing him to anticipate problems and address issues.
“If elected president, I would prioritize working collaboratively to improve how the council conducts its business to better serve the public and all groups who we work with, including the clerk's office, city staff and our Monroe County colleagues.” Flaherty said.
After being outvoted by Sandberg for president, Rosenbarger nominated Flaherty for vice president. Sgambelluri beat Flaherty for the vice president position by one vote.
Piedmont-Smith was critical of Sandberg’s nomination, highlighting that despite all council members being democrats, the council was divided into two factions. One is more progressive and the other is more conservative Piedmont-Smith said. She said Sandberg’s group consistently and unfairly controlled much of the leadership and influence.
Piedmont-Smith suggested that council members divide leadership roles evenly amongst the two factions. She said that if one group elects one of their members as president, then the vice president should be a member from the opposite group.
After electing Sandberg as council president, council members motioned to nominate and vote on the vice president and parliamentary nominees.
“I believe I have a productive collaborative working relationship with council member Sandberg,'' Sgambelluri said. “I would be honored by the opportunity to serve again.”
Following the elections, council members approved $15 million in revenue bonds to finance the acquisition and renovation of the Country View Apartments. This complex is an affordable housing development on 2500 S. Rockport Road.
The money would help fund new kitchen renovations and amenities, as well as floor and subfloor repair, mold remediation and new lighting fixtures in each unit. The per unit cost would amount to approximately $35,000, according to council documents.
The council members voted unanimously to approve the bonds.
“We know we have housing issues not only in our community but in other communities across this country, so I think it's very very important that we maintain the affordable housing that we have,” Councilmember Jim Sims said.