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Saturday, June 15
The Indiana Daily Student

city bloomington

Opioid settlement abatement shares, outcome budgeting and more discussed during city council meeting Wednesday

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The Bloomington City Council is looking for ways to change the way they engage with residents, whether through the public’s budget priorities or the community’s time for comment during meetings. The body unanimously passed legislation Wednesday which will change the way communication with city of Bloomington residents is conducted moving forward.  

Before any discussion of legislation, the meeting began with a brief presentation by Councilmember Matt Flaherty about a letter written to the Monroe County Capital Improvement Board which provided the council’s input on the Monroe Convention Center Expansion Project.  

The expansion of the existing convention center is aimed to allow the city to host more events and conventions for out-of-town organizations, ultimately creating more tourism money and jobs in the community. It took more than seven years of discussions to get the project launched.  

Flaherty said the letter was meant to increase clarity and alignment between the council and CIB, and help the CIB’s work in advancing the expansion project’s design and budgeting. The letter was drafted with input from residents and the council, collected during two work sessions, and insight from county officials and Mayor Kerry Thomson. The letter is composed of two broad categories, “Finances and Approvals” and “Design and Use,” with their respective subcategories. Distribution of the letter was approved in a nine-to-zero vote.  

City controller Jessica McClellan presented the Opioid Settlement Distribution Report. From 2022 through 2024, the city received $179,159.51 in the unrestricted share and $724,880.60 in the abatement (restricted) share. Between 2012 and 2016, the opioid prescription rate was greater than 100 prescriptions per 100 residents in 58 Indiana counties, according to the Indiana Attorney General’s website. The attorney general’s office is now aiming to hold manufacturers and distributors accountable by securing abatement money to give to Indiana communities. The settlement money is coming from companies like CVS and Walgreens, among others.  

Over the ensuing years until 2038, the city will have received more than $2.6 million in the abatement share and more than $975,000 in the unrestricted share. The money will be brought to the council to budget every year. 

Settlements in the unrestricted share may be spent in the same manner as money in the general fund, where the abatement share is controlled by the settlement agreement and must be spent on approved remediation uses. The Indiana Attorney General website has a full list of approved remediation uses, including school and youth education programs, funding anti-drug coalitions and supporting screening for fentanyl in routine toxicology testing.  

In 2024, $100,000 of the restricted share was used to fund a building and vehicle for the Indiana Recovery Alliance and $50,000 for a Stride Mobile Crisis Unit.  

The first piece of legislation discussed, Resolution 2024-11, was adopted unanimously. Resolution 2024-11 will amend the city’s comprehensive plan to include one new goal and three new policies related to accessible transportation and mobility principles.  

Resolution 2024-12, sponsored by councilmember Isak Asare, would encourage the mayor and controller to adapt the city’s budget into a more outcomes-based approach.  

“This approach should include strategic practices focused on community engagement, clear prioritization of goals, and evidence-based allocation of resources based on those goals,” the synopsis states. “Instead of starting from last year’s spending and adjusting allocations, the new model should start with what results the city government would like to prioritize.” 

Outcome budgeting is an approach embraced by cities like Baltimore, Dallas and Roanoke.  

“While there are meaningful differences of opinion in our community about which policies result in the kind of society that we want, it is evident that many of the policies emerging from the democratic process can fall short of their intended goals,” Asare said during his presentation. “Since all policy in our city flows from its budget, aligning the budget with intended outcomes should help us begin to bridge this gap between policy making and implementation.” 

Councilmember Hopi Stosberg mentioned the potential of adding an amendment, which would require the budgeting process refer to the comprehensive plans. Ultimately, the council decided against an amendment, as they all agreed the document should always be referred to during legislative processes regardless.  

The resolution, without an amendment, was adopted unanimously.   

“I think it can really improve the way that we use public funds to the benefit of our community,” Piedmont-Smith said. “To reflect what is most important to the people who are paying our salaries. I think it's a good thing.”  

The council also discussed Ordinance 2024-13, sponsored by Piedmont-Smith, which would reduce the standard speaking time at city council meetings for reports from the public and additional reports from the public from five minutes to three minutes and remove the provision which allows the presiding officer to reduce the allotment based on the number of people wishing to speak. The ordinance also came with one amendment which would change the normal order of business to put first readings before second readings. 

“It’s all about making sure we have the fullest discussion possible,” Jeff Richardson said during public comment. “It would be unfortunate if these new guidelines were perceived as putting handcuffs on the council leadership.”  

Piedmont-Smith's Ordinance 2024-13 sparked conversation in the chamber about other methods to converse with the public and weigh community opinion, one being resident participation in constituent meetings, which Stosberg mentioned every councilmember has hosted in the past.  

“It is pretty evident that there are more possibilities for things that we can do that improve public comments in any number of ways,” Stosberg said. “This is not the only thing that might come with regard to considering how we do business and how we engage with the public.”  

With the amended ordinance adopted in a nine-to-zero roll-call vote, time for public comment was reduced by two minutes. 

To reflect the adoption of Ordinance 2024-13, the council changed the Rules for Making Public Comment on Agenda and Non-agenda Items.  

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