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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student

city bloomington

Residents call for ceasefire in Gaza, city council also approves convention center agreement

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Dozens of Bloomington residents urged the city council to introduce and pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war during public comment at Wednesday’s regular council meeting.  

Later in the meeting, the city council also voted 7-1 to pass an interlocal agreement with Monroe County to move forward with the Monroe County Convention Center expansion project. The group also voted unanimously to support a resolution urging U.S. Congressmembers to pass Senate Bill 2990, which would designate over 15,300 acres in the Hoosier National Forest as a wilderness area. 

Public commenters urge council to support ceasefire resolution 

Over 50 people filled the seats in the city council chambers Wednesday, an uncommonly high attendance compared to the other council meetings this year.  Amongst the crowd, some residents held signs reading “Ceasefire now,” while others held Palestinian flags. 

The Palestinian Health Ministry reported Thursday more than 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, which began after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack killed over 1,200 people in Israel. Hamas took around 250 people hostage and since released around 110 hostages. In response to the attack, Israel launched an airstrike campaign and ground offensive into Gaza, which displaced 80% of Gaza’s population.  

While a resolution calling for a temporary or permanent ceasefire did not appear on the agenda, Jewish Voice for Peace Indiana, a chapter of the world’s largest anti-Zionist Jewish organization, sent a letter to the council Feb. 25 calling for this legislation.  

Around 70 U.S. cities, including San Fransisco, Seattle and Chicago, have passed resolutions calling for a ceasefire, according to Reuters. 

Around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Bloomington Community Advisory on Public Safety Commission approved a letter to send to the council, urging them to call for a permanent ceasefire, U.S. funding for humanitarian aid and the release of all Israeli and Palestinian hostages and political prisoners.  

Former Bloomington City Councilmember Charlotte Zietlow, who served on the council from 1971-75, was the first public commenter to speak during Wednesday’s meeting and urged the council to support a ceasefire. She recalled how when she sat on the council in 1972, she and the other councilmembers supported a resolution asking the U.S. to withdraw American troops from Vietnam.  

During public comment, some community members said they know people who have lost family and friends in the war.  

Bloomington resident Dawood Maidi said during public comment he believes some councilmembers support a ceasefire, but they don’t see the relevance of a resolution locally. He believes people are afraid they would be called antisemitic if they call for a ceasefire. He also said Islamophobia is not taken seriously in Bloomington.  

Between Oct. 7 and Nov. 4, the Council on American-Islamic Relations national headquarters and their local chapters received 1,238 reports of bias and requests for help. In 2022, the average 29-day period saw only around 400 complaints. 

He recalled how right after 9/11, his math teacher told him he should “go back to my country because I’m not wanted here in class” and that he was sent to the principal's office, despite Maidi living in Bloomington his entire life. 

"The principal begged me to not tell anyone or not tell my parents because she’ll lose her job,” Maidi said. “I’ve been called a terrorist multiple times growing up in this town.”  

Maidi also mentioned how the Islamic Center of Bloomington has been vandalized several times before the war. Maidi said he wants his daughter to grow up without experiencing the racism he experienced in Bloomington.  

“This is supposed to be the safe haven in Indiana and right now you are failing this community,” Maidi said. “Not doing an action, is an action." 

Daniel Segal, the coordinating committee member for JVP-Indiana, is a Jewish American and said he grew up with neighbors and friends who lived through the Holocaust, which has informed his support for a ceasefire. 

“My parents, may their memories be blessed, raised me to know that when genocide is involved, you don’t continue with business as usual,” Segal said. “Will you do business as usual or will — because it’s genocide — you do everything?”  

The International Court of Justice issued a preliminary ruling Jan. 26 stating there was “plausible” evidence Israel was violating some portions of the 1948 Genocide Convention and ordered Israel to increase humanitarian aid in Gaza and prevent acts of genocide. The court did not order a ceasefire in the war. Israeli officials rejected these allegations and argued South Africa, which brought the case to the court, was “weaponizing” the international convention against genocide.  

It is unclear if or when the council may consider a resolution supporting a ceasefire. A council member or city administrator must decide to bring a resolution to the council for consideration. As of Wednesday night, no council members brought up the resolution for consideration.  

Monroe County Convention Center Interlocal agreement 

The Bloomington City Council voted 7-1 to approve an interlocal agreement with the county to move forward with the Monroe County Convention Center expansion. Wednesday’s approval marks progress for the project, which has stalemated several times since 2017.   

This agreement outlines a plan to expand the Monroe County Convention Center, located at the intersection of College Avenue and Third Street. Proponents for the project say growing the convention center will allow Bloomington to host larger conventions, which would bring tourism money and create jobs.  

The document includes how the governing bodies will interact with the Capital Improvement Board — which oversees the expansion project — and the Convention Visitors Commission — which oversees how the county spends its innkeeper’s tax revenues. It also describes how the county and city will approve the CIB’s budget, according to a city council memorandum 

City council’s approval comes more than three months after former Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton signed a draft of the interlocal agreement in November 2023.  

While the Bloomington City Council unanimously approved this draft in November 2023, the county significantly altered the agreement, so it had to go back to city council and the mayor for approval.  

Before the interlocal agreement was revised, members of the Monroe County Council said they were concerned about some of the original agreement’s terms, such as how the governing bodies would appoint members to the Convention Visitors Commission — a five-member commission with three county council appointees and two county commissioner appointees. Specifically, several county council members opposed a requirement that one of the three county council appointees would be selected from a list of four candidates nominated by the city council. 

Councilmember Kate Rosenbarger was the only member to oppose the interlocal agreement during Wednesday’s meeting. She said many residents do not view funding the expansion project as a good use of their tax dollars, citing a 2023 community survey where 18% of Bloomington residents thought the city should prioritize the Convention Center expansion. In this survey, residents could select multiple projects or issues they thought the city should prioritize in the next five years. 68% of residents said investing in city-wide-high speed fiber should be a priority, 65% said developing the Hopewell neighborhood and 62% said developing the Trades District. 

The newly-approved interlocal agreement — which the county council and commissioners accepted Feb. 13 and Feb. 21 — removed this requirement. The agreement will now be sent to mayor Kerry Thomson for approval.  

Resolution to urge the passage of United States Senate Bill 2990  

The council voted unanimously to support a resolution urging U.S. Congressmembers to pass Senate Bill 2990, which would designate more than 15,300 acres in the Hoosier National Forest as a wilderness area. The bill — which was introduced by U.S. Senator Mike Braun, (R-Ind.) — would also designate more than 29,300 acres of land from the Hoosier National forest as a national recreational area. According to a draft of the resolution included in the council’s memorandum, by designating land as a wilderness or recreational area, legislatures can protect the public national forest lands from activities that could impact the water quality of the nearby Lake Monroe, the main water supply for Bloomington residents and a frequented recreational area.  

If passed, the act would redesignate land included in the U.S. Forest Service’s Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project. By redesignating this land as “wilderness,” lawmakers could restrict the use of machinery and other forest management activities, such as prescribed burns. According to the council’s memorandum, prohibiting certain forest management activities could impact the long-term biodiversity of the forests.  

Before the council’s vote on the resolution, four members of IU’s Outdoor Adventures program raised concerns about how the act could impact educational opportunities since their group would need additional permits and have more restrictions to hold programs in the forest. The representatives, who said they support protecting the wilderness, said they would want confirmation from legislators that they could receive special use permits to continue using these wilderness areas for their programs.  

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