Indiana Daily Student

Bloomington City Council struggles to compromise, dissolves seven standing committees

<p>Restaurant customers sit at tables Aug. 29, 2021, on Kirkwood Avenue. The Expanded Outdoor Dining Program will extend from March 16 through Nov. 1. </p>

Restaurant customers sit at tables Aug. 29, 2021, on Kirkwood Avenue. The Expanded Outdoor Dining Program will extend from March 16 through Nov. 1.

The Bloomington City Council debated the dissolution of eight standing committees and reimplemented outdoor dining on Kirkwood Avenue during its meeting Wednesday night. This continued deliberation over the dissolution of committees was originally debated during a heated Jan. 12 council meeting, but was postponed to Jan. 20 when the council could not reach a decision.

Councilmembers Susan Sandberg, Sue Sgambelluri and Jim Sims sponsored the legislation dissolving standing committees. Sandberg said the goal is to make committee purpose and implementation less confusing for residents.

“The notion that only standing committees, that's the only mechanism by which we could possibly be proactive, just isn't a statement that I agree with,” Sgambelluri said.

Council members were unable to come to an agreement in their meeting prior, with Councilmembers Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger, Isabel Piedmont-Smith and Steve Volan voicing their dissent.

In the meeting Wednesday, Volan criticized the sponsors for inaccurately interpreting the Bloomington Municipal Code regarding committees. He said proponents of this legislation want to return to how the council previously operated.

“The sponsors and the obvious majority here tonight don't get committees, they've never gotten the basic idea behind committees,” Volan said. “They only know what they were used to back in the good old days.”

In addition to the amendment Flaherty introduced in their last meeting—which would protect the Administration Committee, the Climate Action and Resilience Committee and the Land Use Committee from being disbanded—Rosenbarger, Sims and Councilmember Ron Smith introduced additional amendments to protect certain standing committees.

Rosenbarger’s amendment, which would’ve protected the Transportation and Sidewalk Committees, was ultimately voted down by the group of council members who supported the original resolution to disband them.

Rosenbarger said she didn’t understand why council members couldn’t simply create a standing committee for a specific purpose and leave it standing until council members needed to use it again. She said standing committees were like owning a car, saying even if she doesn't need to drive it now, it’s there when she does.

“Keeping some of these is a good compromise and I think compromising can be a pretty nice thing on a council of nine democrats,” Rosenbarger said.

Sims’ and Smith’s amendment offered what they considered a compromise, protecting the Climate Action and Resilience Committee. Dissenting council members didn’t think this amendment offered enough since it only protected a single standing committee.

“This one is a mockery of the word compromise,” Volan said. “I’ll support the amendment, but it doesn't do enough to make me support the resolution.”

Despite the perceived lack of compromise, this was the only amendment to succeed, passing unanimously. The council was split on passing the legislation as amended, and many dissenting council members said party factions refusing to consider an alternative was a big reason.

Volan said council members who supported this resolution weren’t doing their research regarding the purpose of standing committees and often saying council factions were a contributing factor.

“I mean this is a factional effort to prevent deserved critique.” Volan said.

Rollo interrupted Volan during his final comments and said some of his criticisms were personal attacks on certain council members' character. Rollo told Volan to address the legislation, not individual council members.

“The hypocrisy here among the sponsors is remarkable,” Volan said. “Yet here I am being told that I'm making personal attacks.”

Following final council questions and comments, council members approved the resolution as amended, keeping the Climate Action and Resilience Committee. The vote was split 5-4, between what some council members acknowledge as two council factions.

“It's hard for me to overstate how disappointed I am in five of my colleagues tonight,” Flaherty said.

Additionally, council members passed legislation creating a full-time Sustainability Program Coordinator position.

The new position will be established within the Department of Economic and Sustainable Development and will have an annual fiscal impact of $74,298, according to council documents.

The Expanded Outdoor Dining Program on Kirkwood Avenue will utilize the same areas as it did in 2021. It will run from Mar. 16 to Nov. 1 and businesses can begin completing applications to reserve areas.

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