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city politics bloomington

Mayor Thomson highlights 100 days in office, goals for Bloomington at State of the City

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Bloomington Mayor Kerry Thomson, who completed her 100th day in office, shared her administration’s accomplishments and goals for the future at her first State of the City address Tuesday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. 

In the 45 minutes leading up to Thomson’s address, more than 20 demonstrators lined the sidewalks in front of the theater holding Palestinian flags and signs reading “Don’t Veto Peace.” Jewish Voice for Peace Indiana, a state chapter of the world’s largest anti-Zionist Jewish group, organized the demonstration to urge Thomson to sign a city council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, which the mayor said she would veto. While her speech covered a wide range of issues — including housing affordability, public safety and the eclipse — Thomson did not mention the protesters or resolution during her address.  

Thomson discusses transparency, accessibility during address 

Thomson began her speech talking about how the city welcomed thousands of visitors for the total solar eclipse on Monday. She thanked various city, county and state departments for their work coordinating tourism events and public safety across Bloomington.  

“Despite the moon’s best efforts, Bloomington’s light shone through,” Thomson said.  

Related Bloomington police investigate pro-Palestinian graffiti on City Hall Pro-Palestinian graffiti was spray painted on Bloomington’s City Hall building between 10 p.m. March 26 and 6 a.m. March 27, Bloomington Police Department Captain Ryan Pedigo said. 

In her first 100 days, Thomson said, she met with all city departments to learn what her administration could do to support them. She said she has tried to include more people — including city workers, councilmembers and community members — in discussions about the present and future of the city by hosting town halls at various locations across the city. Thomson has also hosted public work meetings with city council and advisory commissions, such as a public meeting held to discuss the future of the Showers West project and public safety in Bloomington. 

“When we need to create solutions together, we ought to be doing it in public where we can and will create safe spaces to bring ideas,” Thomson said. “Those tables are not always comfortable, but in Bloomington we must have the kind of conversations where we hear the hard truths, and we work through them together.” 

Thomson said these town halls and work sessions allow leaders and community members more time to share their views and ideas than public comment during city council meetings. She alluded to portions of public comment at the council’s April 3 meeting, where several public commenters over Zoom used racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric. 

"Three minutes at the microphone doesn’t solve the problems and it often inflames them,” Thomson said.  

During her address, Thomson also listed other ways her administration is trying to make city government more transparent and accessible, such as posting regular updates on their social media, publishing an employee compensation study and assessing how they can improve the city’s website’s accessibility. She announced former Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan, who served between 2004-2015, will lead a new resident advisory panel focusing on increasing transparency in the city government.  

The mayor also discussed her plans to tackle affordable housing in Bloomington, where the average cost of a 1-bedroom unit is $1,000 per month. She said she tasked the Housing and Neighborhood Development Department with creating a comprehensive city housing plan based on findings from the 2020 and 2023 housing studies. 

“It’s 2024 and we’re just now implementing a 2020 study — that tells you a lot about how we got here in regard to housing and homelessness in Bloomington,” Thomson said. “Studies do no good on a shelf. Plans inform action.”  

Thomson said she would support projects like the Summit District, which could provide up to 4,250 residential units, and the Hopewell Neighborhood

She also said her administration is trying to find ways to address homelessness in Bloomington. The city has cleared two unhoused encampments in Bloomington thus far in Thomson’s tenure.  

The city cleared an unhoused encampment near the intersection of Fairview Street and Patterson Drive on Jan. 4, displacing up to a dozen people. A dozen individuals were also displaced when the city cleared an encampment behind Wheeler Mission on Jan. 25.  

Since clearing these encampments, Thomson worked with religious leaders from First Christian and First United Methodist Churches of Bloomington to host an emergency shelter for unhoused individuals in the case of dangerously cold weather. 

“There’s no dignity in living in a tent,” Thomson said. “And there’s very little dignity in a community that thinks it can do no better.”  

Thomson said her office will also focus on supporting Bloomington’s police and fire departments by helping hire and retain more first responders. In February, Bloomington Police Department Chief Michael Diekhoff said his department was short-staffed by around 20 officers. One way her department has accomplished this, Thomson said, is by implementing a “take home vehicle” program for police, which allows officers to take their squad cars home. She said this policy allows police to respond to calls, even if they are off duty. 

“A week ago, we had off duty officers able to respond quickly to a shooting while in route to work, because they already had their cars with them,” Thomson said.  

She concluded her speech by stating the Bloomington community should not let politics divide them.  

“The state of our city is strong, and about to get stronger,” Thomson said.  

Demonstrators urge Thomson to sign ceasefire resolution 

While Thomson’s speech addressed her administration’s accomplishments, protesters outside the Buskirk-Chumley focused on her lack of action in another area: not signing a resolution calling for a ceasefire and more aid in the Israel-Hamas war.  

The Bloomington City Council passed a resolution April 3 urging national leaders to work toward a ceasefire, the release of hostages and providing more aid in the Israel-Hamas war, which began after Hamas killed about 1,200 people in Israel during their Oct. 7 attack. Hamas also took around 250 hostages Oct. 7 and has since released around 110 hostages. In response to this attack, Israel launched a ground offensive and airstrike campaign in Gaza, killing more than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza and displacing 80% of Gaza’s population.  

RelatedCity council passes Gaza ceasefire resolution, condemns antisemitic speech from public commentEditor’s Note: This story includes mention of potentially triggering situations, such as antisemitism and hate speech.

While councilmembers unanimously passed the resolution, Thomson said she will not sign the legislation. At the council’s March 27 meeting, Thomson said she would not sign resolutions addressing issues outside of city business.  

“There are significant problems that we are trying to solve and there are also many opportunities at hand which demand my full attention and I believe could demand yours as well,” Thomson said at the March 27 meeting. “I will be spending my time on the issues where I can effect change directly.”  

While she made this statement during the council’s debate on a resolution opposing a state-sponsored water pipeline, Deputy Mayor Gretchen Knapp confirmed to the Indiana Daily Student in March that Thomson also plans to not sign the ceasefire resolution.  

Indiana Code requires Thomson to sign or veto resolutions that come to her desk. If she fails to sign the resolution, it is considered vetoed and would return to the council for another vote, where six of the nine councilmembers would need to vote to override her veto. 

Daniel Segal, state coordinator for Jewish Voice for Peace Indiana, said he was disappointed when he heard Thomson say she wouldn’t sign the resolution, and that he wanted to educate her about the deaths and humanitarian concerns.  

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

“I'm hoping that the mayor is thoughtful and that she said that early and we of course would welcome her rethinking that and having a different view on reflection and we expect that she will,” Segal said. “We all make mistakes off the cuff and we just hope that she rethinks that mistake.”  

IU freshman Tyler Henry said he decided to come out to the demonstration after seeing IU Police Department officers arrest a pro-Palestinian protester during a demonstration Monday at Dunn Meadow. He said he does not understand why Thomson would not want to sign “a call for peace.”  

“One of the things that IU says they stand for is unity,” Henry said. “Ignoring a call for peace, that doesn’t sound like unity to me. That just sounds like you’re just dividing your students even more.” 

Bloomington resident Lisa Miller Maidi participated in the demonstration outside Buskirk-Chumley and said she does not think Thomson, who she voted for in her campaign for mayor, should override the unanimous vote of the council. She said she was “appalled” when she heard Thomson would not sign the resolution but has not spoken with her about her concerns directly.  

“This is not just city business. This is important to us and the rest of the world,” Miller Maidi said. “It is city business — we’re involved in the world.”

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