The Bloomington City Council returned from a two-week recess Wednesday to discuss e-scooters, the City of Bloomington Capital Improvements Board and the removal of Greg Alexander from the Traffic Commission. The council also discussed recent events such as the shooting in Nashville and the passage of Senate Bill 480.
Reports from councilmembers and the mayor
At the start of the meeting during councilmember reports, Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith condemned the recent passage of Senate Bill 480, which bans gender-affirming care for transgender people, although the bill awaits a signature from the governor. She specifically cited the high rates of suicide among the transgender community.
“This is often a matter of life or death,” Piedmont-Smith said.
Councilmember Jim Sims and Susan Sandberg spoke about the mass shooting at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. Sandberg expressed disappointment at the U.S. Congress’s lack of action on the issue.
“We have a gun problem, and we have an inaction problem,” she said.
Councilmember Stephen Volan floated an idea to use part of the Community Redevelopment Enhancement District funds, which Volan said had reached $10 million, for a fare-free circulator bus route around downtown. A circulator bus is a bus that operates on a short, circular route, typically in dense, downtown areas.
During the city’s report, Mayor John Hamilton addressed the council to express support for having both the council and the mayor appoint people to the City of Bloomington Capital Improvements Board in the event of an unexpected vacancy. The bylaws of the board direct the remaining members of the board to determine who should fill the vacancy, which the council members expressed concern about at the last meeting.
The CBCI is a nonprofit established earlier this year to fund projects in arts, housing and technology.
Volan asked the mayor why the CBCI only allowed the council to appoint one member while the mayor gets to appoint four, pointing out that the five-member Redevelopment Commission allows two council appointments.
Hamilton answered that he wanted the CBCI to have a stronger executive function than the Redevelopment Commission.
Some council members also expressed interest in adding more members to the CBCI. Hamilton did not commit to supporting the idea but said the issue could be considered and adopted if the council, mayor and CBCI board all agreed.
City presents recommendations for e-scooter safety
Next, the council heard a report on city staff recommendations for e-scooters.
Hank Duncan, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the city, gave a presentation on how to increase safety and accessibility surrounding the use of scooters in Bloomington. The effort follows two deaths involving scooters that occurred last fall.
Improved safety recommendations in the presentation included semi-annual quizzes for riders, an 8 p.m. curfew for scooter-use from November to March and a focus on sit-down scooters and e-bikes because they are safer.
Sit-down scooters and e-bikes would be operational for 24 hours, Ducan said. An additional recommendation would require e-scooter manufacturers to make 25% of their fleet be sit-down vehicles.
Moving on to accessibility concerns, Duncan recommended placing on-street scooter corrals every one or two blocks and reducing the number of vehicles that an e-scooter company can have deployed in the city to 400. He also spoke about using geofencing technology to prevent riders from ending rides before they reached the designated parking location.
Finally, Duncan recommended fining companies for improper parking.
The council brought several questions to the presenters, with topics ranging from the curfew recommendations to whether scooters should be banned altogether.
Council continues effort to remove Greg Alexander from the Traffic Commission
After public comment, the council once again took up the matter of removing Greg Alexander from the Traffic Commission.
Councilmember Dave Rollo made a motion to remove Alexander from the Traffic Commission, citing his obscene comments on Twitter as evidence he cannot serve on the commission in an unbiased way.
Volan said city code is not clear on what is a sufficient reason to remove someone in these types of situations, which could lead to potential trouble.
“Rollo doesn’t realize that he’s been opening a can of worms,” Volan said.
He said singling out an individual was unprecedented and asked for the motion to be withdrawn.
Councilmember Kate Rosenbarger said it was unfortunate that the three councilmembers who knew about Alexander’s Tweets prior to the vote to appoint Alexander did not speak up at the time.
The council voted to postpone the matter to April 12.
The council will meet on Tuesday next week instead of its typical Wednesday session.