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Kruzan’s Kirkwood Plan Won’t Earn Many Exceptions

An ordinance suggested by Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan which would limit chain businesses in a retail corridor of the city is drawing what the mayor says are positive early reviews.  But the mayor is guarded about making exceptions to his proposal. The idea is to limit the number of chain or formula businesses which operate storefronts along Kirkwood Avenue and the courthouse square.  Kruzan said that even extends to franchises owned and operated locally but bearing distinctive traits of other chain outlets…

“Imagine in place of — name your favorite locally owned and operated restaurant — a local franchise that is truly controlled locally,” Kruzan said. “Having that franchise on that street would detract from its overall strength as a destination attraction.”

Speaking on WFIU’s “Ask the Mayor,” Kruzan said he heard from one local business owner who, while they wouldn’t be affected by the proposal, thinks exceptions should be made.  The mayor said it’s one of the few conversations he’s had with plan detractors, but he admits it’s likely not the last.

“As soon as we start to get an actual proposal in front of people, we’ll hear a lot more,” the mayor said. “Right now, it’s been more for than against.  But again, I tend to believe when you’re talking with people…people are more likely to say to you one-on-one that they’re supportive of what you’ve just announced.  So I don’t believe my own reviews.”

The mayor said he’d be open to amending the plan to include other areas of downtown, including 4th Street’s distinctive “Restaurant Row,” but says he thinks the area outlined in his current plan is more in danger of development by outside corporations.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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  • Margaret Greischar

    I think the mayor’s proposal is a very bad idea. I’m all for patronizing locally owned businesses but the decision as to which businesses can inhabit the downtown area should be made by citizens, determined by what businesses they want to patronize, not government.

    I don’t really understand this prejudice against chains since they all started out as some little local business which was lucky enough to become popular and grow big. Some chains are actually quite benevolent and deserve our business while others have grown so far from their smalltown roots I would never shop there but in the end WE, the citizens of Bloomington, should be the ones who decide what businesses will set up shop and thrive and which will not. Government should not be butting in and making this call for us.

    I can understand wanting to have some guidelines for storefront appearance perhaps but beyond that this is way too much interference. We need a vital downtown with hopefully a lot of local businesses but this is not the way to go about it.

  • Kelly McBride

    As a citizen and a person who participated in electing our local government who voice and act on our community’s ideas, I fully support this plan. The west side and mall area are great locations for those chain businesses that can take advantage of large advertising budgets or reputations from out of town customer experiences.

    Local establishments thrive on word of mouth and potential customers seeing the business in action. The downtown’s pedestrian friendly area would best support that.

    I really enjoy traveling and as I am sure many of you have noticed our west end and mall area could be Anywhere USA and says very little about our community. Our downtown area is a gem – truly becoming more and more rare around this country.

    One of the main things I like about Bloomington is that a person can have an idea with motivation and can make it a reality. A engaged community is required to do that. I don’t see flyers about great concerts at the mall. The great lecture at IU is not posted at Wal*Mart. And the cool new organization will not be able to reach out to drivers in their car on West 3rd. We learn about these things often from our unique downtown.

    Support local entertainment, businesses and organizations. Anyone can shop at Wal*Mart and watch TV. Do more, watch less.

  • Shumina

    I like the Mayor’s proposal and disagree with Margaret. Margaret, if you’re all for patronizing locally owned businesses, then you’re familiar with how difficult it is to actually find one. Much a reflection of the local tastes and sensibilities, they’re a nice break from the sanitary, uniform look that chains provide (which can also be a comfort to some). While you worry about government butting in where capitalism should be blazing its own path, I worry that government won’t step in where and when help is needed to protect the individual’s rights to pursue liberty and happiness. I can understand the concern for treating chains and larger businesses unfairly, but when I look at not only how much of the market share chains have but in terms of pure acreage, my concern swings the other way. For who in this country can compete against the massive capital that the larger chains have? In this money dominated society, no one but the local government can step in and lay out the boundaries that lead to overall fairness. Having an area traditionally associated with unique businesses protected not only assures the citizens that their dreams of running their own business can become reality, but preserves the local spirit and soul.

  • Matt Baucco

    I agree that chains and franchises are not evil, but I do not really want them on Kirkwood and the square, which should retain its unique flavor. I really do not think it will hurt the franchisees that much, and it will prevent Kirkwood from becoming a generic McMain Street. I used to live in Broadripple and it suffered that fate, it used to be neat little shops and restaurants, now it is all sports bars and chain restaurants.

  • First Amendment Advocate

    Stan, the mayor is being coy and ever so disingenuous! As explained in the post below, Kruzan has worked diligently since his election to make sure that “detractors” of any kind–but especially those in the business community–remain muzzled and few and far between. _____________________________________________________________________
    Mayor Kruzan, an arrogant pork and patronage politico whose “political career is steeped in the unvarnished graft and corruption that permeates Indiana state government,” is a “convenient” and hypocritical civil libertarian.
    http://www.bloomingtonalternative.com/articles/2007/02/11/8154

    His recent anti-censorship remarks regarding the Indiana Atheist Bus Campaign belie a shrewd career politician, who for his own political safety & longevity—i.e., promoting his public image in a so-called progressive college town where it’s easy and smart, if not de rigueur, to denounce THIS type of impersonal censorship—distances himself from one of the best things about Bloomington, i.e. Bloomington Transit (BT), while flagrantly violating the civil rights of individuals and organizations in Bloomington who have had the temerity to criticize him publicly.

    Indeed, Kruzan, who since taking office in 2004 has quieted many potential dissenters through time-honored and strategic disbursements of municipal monies and resources to scores of nonprofits on whose grateful boards these otherwise opinionated folks sit, has the distinction of having aggressively silenced his most vocal critics—in plain sight in a community where there are probably more constitutional law scholars per capita than in any other city in the country— in a bold move on February 14, 2005, better known as the Valentine’s Day “First Amendment Massacre.”

    In an bizarre twist of irony, the local, “progressive” alternative paper, which gleefully described the mayor’s arguably unlawful conduct on this day of infamy as a “regrooving lesson in civic tact,” has chronicled for posterity Kruzan’s full-throttled retaliation against the president of a nonprofit business advocacy organization…and against the organization itself, the board of which the mayor used, through intimidation, as his proxy.

    [For the unbelievers who don’t think that fact trumps fiction every time, just take a gander at the Bloomington Alternative piece…with its Alice in Wonderland title and expressions of undiluted pleasure in the blatant deprivation of an individual’s—and an organization’s—free speech rights through the mayor’s machinations: “Out to the Woodshed” – http://www.bloomingtonalternative.com/node/7712 ]

    The nonprofit president’s BIG MISTAKE? He simply had the guts to speak truth to power and criticize the mayor in an article which served as the local newspaper’s faint-hearted attempt to provide a critique of Kruzan’s disastrously incompetent first year in office.
    (“Kruzan’s first year gets mixed evaluation” http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/stories/2005/02/14/news.0214-HT-A1_PJR44173.sto)

    After sending the nonprofit’s board a threatening email, “objecting to” its president’s legitimate and protected speech and ominously reciting the several ways that that the organization might jeopardize government-bestowed resources and collaboration, Kruzan mobilized his 24/7 SWAT team of operatives in an effort to get his critic fired and/or punished.

    Long story, short: the critic, nearing retirement and pressured by his threatened but spineless board to write a letter of apology and retraction/explanation that was published over a week later in the same paper, was “merely” humiliated and clearly “dissuaded”—along with the advocacy organization and the rest of the business community—from exercising his/their 1st Amendment rights at any time in the future.

    And the local newspaper’s response (which struts the inviolability of its First Amendment rights at its convenience); did it run with this story for the first big headline of the year: “Mayor Kruzan violates free speech rights of community leader!”? Maybe a cautionary editorial on the sacred right of citizens—and the paper’s recruited sources— to criticize their elected officials without fear of retaliation? No, nada, not a peep. Just the “graciousness”—which it extends to nearly all of its readers—of publishing the apology letter of the victim.
    http://www.heraldtimesonline.com/stories/2005/02/23/digitalcity.letters.sto

    The INABC is on the right side, and BT will be too after its new attorneys can work out an agreement with ACLU of Indiana. The BT board is most likely simply in lawsuit shock–and the mayor’s trumped up theatrics haven’t helped.

    The INABC would be naive to think that in the Bloomington community, the BT’s response was primarily “anti-atheist.” On the contrary, BT is most likely “anti-hate” and fearful that “giving in” will end its much-needed advertising revenue-stream. Why? Because a concession on its ham-handed policy would arguably open up advertising to all protected speech, including “hate speech.”

    Bloomington has the dubious distinction of having been targeted by both the Phelps family from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka and a local knock-off of vitriolic anti-gay hatemongers who, in addition to other haters, might likely be next in line to use BT busses as a canvas for their toxic messages.

    And no question about it: BT would disallow advertising altogether—and the Bloomington community would likely demand it do so—before BT would permit the advertising of poisonous hate speech on city busses.

    Justice will prevail in the INABC case–but the outcome will have everything to do with BT’s being educated by its counsel and ACLU-Indiana and nothing to do with a buffoon of a mayor who has nothing to offer a great transit company but a history of hypocrisy.

    P.S.

    For anyone reading this comment and wondering just how Kruzan’s conduct differs from former Gov. Blogojevich’s similarly tawdry behavior (where Blago is recorded threatening the Chicago Tribune that it’ll have to fire editorial staff critical of the governor if the paper ever wants to obtain badly needed government financing on a Wrigley Field deal), the answer might be: Kruzan actually SUCCEEDED in getting his critic silenced, punished…and nearly fired by the critic’s employer, a beneficiary of taxpayer dollars.

    The consequences of this eerily similar behavior by two imperious public officials cannot be more starkly different: Blagojevich is charged with a Title 18, Sec 666, bribery and corruption felony by DA Patrick Fitzgerald; Mark Kruzan gets a “thumbs-up” in an article in Bloomington’s progressive, alternative newspaper and, to all appearances, nearly total obeisance from his silenced “subjects” for the last four years.

    But all is not sunny for Bloomington’s Teflon mayor: although the time period for filing a 1st Amendment claim has expired, the statute of limitations for a Sec 666 violation is 5 years. There’s plenty of time for an independent investigation…and it’s long overdue.

  • Jonathan Cargill

    I think the Mayor is taking the right step. He’s trying to preserve our downtown and I’m all for that. The homogenization of small town America is real and it’s encroaching on Bloomington. These chain stores have their place in this town, there’s no need for them to be downtown. I think it makes long term financial sense to preserve our downtown. For a town like Bloomington, that has no large industry or major employer aside from IU, tourism is an option to generate income for the city, county and those who live and work here. People want to come to a town that is different than the town they came from. If Bloomington is filled with chain stores how would we be different from every other city? Citizens of Bloomington are very fortunate to have a pretty good quality of life. I big part of that, which is usually take for granted is Quality of Place. We need to protect for the long term well being of the town we call home.

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