The Bloomington City Council met on March 1 to discuss the removal of a Traffic Commission member, approve the distribution of federal funds and voted to renew the Kirkwood closure and outdoor dining program.
The council votes to renew the Expanded Outdoor Dining Program on Kirkwood
Originally postponed from the last council meeting, the council voted unanimously to renew the Expanded Outdoor Dining Program. The program originally closed a section of Kirkwood Avenue from cars during the warmer months to allow outdoor dining in the street in an effort to help restaurants who struggled financially during the pandemic.
The renewed program will now run from April 3 to Oct. 1. A specific concern from the previous meeting was that the closure on Kirkwood created accessibility concerns for Trinity Episcopal Church located on the street. At this meeting, proponents of the ordinance announced that they had secured an Americans with Disabilities Act parking space on Grant Street by Soma, which is guaranteed to be implemented by April 1. Trinity Episcopal Church sent a letter saying they support the program following news of the planned ADA space.
Several individuals expressed support for the program during the public comment period. However, Mike Carmin, a lawyer in Bloomington, said the program was unfair since it only applied to Kirkwood businesses.
“If you just want Bloomington to be a bunch of restaurants, taverns and students, then just say that,” he said.
Council develops a process for removing a member from a city commission
On Feb. 1, a councilmember made a motion to remove Greg Alexander from the Traffic Commission for obscene comments on Twitter. The council referred the issue to a special committee on council processes, which met throughout February and developed a report defining cause for removal.
The committee recommended that the previous motion to remove Alexander be withdrawn, saying it did not adequately lay out reasons for removal. They said the new motion should be narrow, specific and clear. Additionally, Alexander must be given written notice and five days to respond to the allegations in writing.
Other aspects of the report stated councilmembers must provide evidence that the member they wish to remove demonstrated conduct that reduced their ability to serve on the commission. Legal concerns included a claim to free speech, so the committee advised that the cause for removal only include unprotected speech such as obscenity, fighting words or true threats.
Councilmember Dave Rollo withdrew his previous motion and revised it according to the committee’s recommendation. He listed two specific tweets by Alexander and stated his language compromised his ability to engage with the public and serve on the Traffic Commission.
After a period of questioning by other councilmembers, Rollo withdrew his motion again to allow for time to create a more specific motion at a future council meeting.
The council approves Community Development Block Grant funds
The council voted unanimously to approve the distribution of Community Development Block Grant funds for 2023. These funds come from a national program run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The program provides annual grants to states, cities and counties for the purposes of expanding development, housing and economic opportunities for people with low to moderate incomes.
In the past, funds have gone to organizations that provide services for those struggling with food or housing security, such as Hoosier Hills Food Bank.
The director of Bloomington’s department of Housing and Neighborhood Development said the city received less money this year than last year, which is the second year in a row that funds have decreased.