Bloomington voters took to the polls today to vote on a school funding referendum as well as races for mayor, city clerk and city council. Though the referendum and the District 3 city council race were the only contested items on the ballot, 10,441 voters cast their ballots in this election.
Monroe County Community School Corporation referendum
Bloomington residents narrowly voted to approve the Monroe County Community School Corporation’s referendum for expanding early childhood education and eliminating costs for families Tuesday. The approval will increase the referendum rate by 8.5 cents to 27 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
There were 5,229 votes to approve and 5,121 votes to reject the referendum.
The tax increase will cover the cost of early childhood education for families on free and reduced lunch, according an Indiana Public Media article. The increase also provides affordable access for other families by covering the costs of tests, fees for instructional materials and student technology. This impacts children from ages three-years-old through high school seniors. It will also cover career and technical education tuition and fees.
The last referendum, passed in November 2022, was 18.5 cents and went towards boosting teacher and staff wages. However, the revenue from last year's referendum was lower than expected due to the state legislature passing House Bill 1499 in May 2023, which restricts tax collections for school referenda for the first two years of the referendum.
“MCCSC has solidified our important role in the educational community with a clear alignment to our collective vision: working together to do the right thing for our students,” MCCSC Superintendent Jeff Hauswald wrote on the MCCSC website. “A referendum that pays for some or all of early childhood education and for the many costs incurred by families in the education of their students is a big step toward that vision.”
According to the MCCSC website, the referendum will support the school corporation’s goal of removing barriers in education so all students and families may participate in a high-quality educational experience.
Kerry Thomson elected mayor
Democrat Kerry Thomson, executive director of IU’s Center for Rural Engagement and former CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, will assume the role of mayor of Bloomington in January after winning the general election Tuesday night with 5,317 votes. Thomson received 1,261 undervotes, which counts the number of voters who abstained from voting for a certain candidate. Reasons for undervotes range from unclear markings to purposeful decisions not to vote, sometimes as a protest vote.
Thomson ran unopposed after securing a primary win against fellow Democratic candidates Susan Sandberg, an outgoing city councilmember, and Donald Griffin, the former deputy mayor.
During the municipal primaries last spring, Thomson stressed a need to end a perceived divisiveness and dysfunction in Bloomington politics, calling the annexation process, which is still in the process of litigation, “botched” and emphasizing transparency and collaboration with citizens when making major decisions.
Her priorities on her website include economic vitality by increasing the city’s tourism value and partnerships with IU, as well as county and state governments. Thomson also emphasized attainable housing throughout her campaign. She plans to audit the city’s current housing ecosystem and implement the city’s 2020 housing study.
Other major elements of her campaign include sustainability, improving roads, public transportation and expanding bike lanes, although in a way that supports what Thomson calls “smart growth,” and a focus on “quality of place” in each city project and plan.
During the campaign cycle, Thomson received endorsements from three former Bloomington mayors—Tomi Allison, Mark Kruzan and John Fernandez. Other notable local endorsements include former city councilmember and trailblazer Charlotte Zietlow, former IU Provost Lauren Robel and Herbert Caldwell, an investment operations manager at the IU Foundation.
Thomson outraised all other candidates during the primary and received a total of $233,186 in contributions from the beginning of the year to Oct. 13, the date of her latest report of receipts and expenditures, with $45,750 on hand.
Thomson has received multiple contributions from individuals involved with major real estate companies, including $16,800 from Eliot Lewis, owner of E.R. Lewis Real Estate Professionals, $2,000 from Kevin Osburn of REA — an Indianapolis-based company involved with Bloomington projects like the Trades District, Switchyard Park and, most recently, the Bloomington “monolith” — and $1,500 from Eric Stolberg, president of WS Property Group.
Other major contributions include $4,000 from Indianapolis-based DPBG Political Action Committee, $9,500 from Ice Miller PAC, $4,500 from Bloomington civil engineering company Beam, Longest and Neff, $2,500 from law firm Krieg Devault and $2,000 from Indianapolis-based Wessler Engineering.
While Thomson was the only candidate to appear on the ballot for mayor, independent candidate Joe Davis had tried to run against her but was not allowed on the ballot after some of his signatures were disqualified. His subsequent lawsuit to challenge this decision was rejected by a Monroe County judge in October. He was ultimately 14 signatures short.
Everything you need to know about the newly elected city council
Bloomington City Council will be drastically different come January, with only four returning members. Among the five newcomers are several historic candidates, including Sydney Zulich, who is now the youngest person ever elected to city council in Bloomington, and Shruti Rana, who will be the first woman of color to serve on city council.
Here is all you need to know about the incoming city council.
Voters choose Hopi Stosberg in sole contested race
District 3 voters selected Democrat Hopi Stosberg as their representative on the Bloomington City Council on Tuesday in the council’s only contested race this November. She beat Republican Brett Heinisch with 82.5% of the vote.
Stosberg’s priorities include affordable housing, safety education, childcare and accessibility to city services according to her campaign website. She beat out incumbent city councilmember Ron Smith in the primary election this past May.
Historic city council will be dominated by newcomers
The remaining districts were uncontested, but after several upsets in the municipal primary early this year, this edition of the city council will see three new faces, as well as the return of a former city councilmember who was ousted in 2019.
Democrat Shruti Rana, who is new to the council, received 1,603 votes in her race for District 5. She is a lawyer and a professor of law at IU. Her priorities include expansion of access to childcare and healthcare and promoting inclusion. According to her campaign website, she will be the first woman of color on the city council.
Another newcomer, Democrat Sydney Zulich, received 94 votes in her uncontested race for District 6, a majority student district. She graduated from IU in May 2023. At 21-years-old, she is the youngest person to be elected to city council in Bloomington. According to her campaign website, her policies include personal safety, community engagement and government availability.
Zulich began her campaign after former District 6 candidate David Wolfe Bender withdrew from the race. This past May, the Monroe County Election board investigated Bender’s residency after the publication of an Indiana Daily Student story which found Bender did not live at the address he wrote on his candidate filing form.
There are also two newly elected city council at-large representatives, both being Democrats.
Isak Asare, co-director of the IU Cybersecurity and Global Policy Program and member of the City of Bloomington Board of Public Safety, received 3,716 votes According to his campaign website, he lives with leukemia and knows first-hand the importance of policy at the local level. His key policy issues include creating affordable housing, promoting Bloomington’s economic health and putting the city’s climate action plan into action.
Andy Ruff received 3,713 votes. He previously served five terms on the city council, spanning over a decade. He is a former academic advisor at IU and has taught science at the high school and college level. Ruff also worked for the Monroe County Government. In November 2020, Ruff ran for election to the U.S. House of Representatives for Indiana’s 9th Congressional District but lost to current Representative Trey Hollingsworth. According to his campaign website, he would like to listen to local police, firefighters, unionized workers, as well as Bloomington residents, neighborhoods and businesses. He said he would focus on qualitative growth in the city of Bloomington’s Comprehensive Plan.
Who will be returning to the city council?
The members returning to the council will be Isabel Piedmont-Smith, who received 689 votes in her run for District 1, Kate Rosenbarger, who received 724 votes in her run for District 2, Dave Rollo, who received 1,174 votes in his run for District 4 and at-large representative Matt Flaherty, who received 3,460 votes.
Councilmembers Stephen Volan, Sue Sgambelluri, Ron Smith, Susan Sandberg and Jim Sims will not be returning to the council. Volan, Sgambelluri and Smith each lost their races in the primary last May, while Sandberg chose not to run for re-election so she could run for the Democratic nomination for mayor, which she lost to newly elected Mayor Kerry Thomson. Sims chose not to run for re-election.