Bloomington’s small business culture, possible legal action over the city’s interrupted annexation proposal, sanitation changes that include new trash and recycling carts and what’s next for the Bloomington hospital site redevelopment task force.
On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.
Hren: After the state stepped in and regulated inclusionary zoning and annexation, some say the state is helping residents who are being over-regulated by local government, do you think the state is overreaching into city government?
Hamilton: The state is to provide background regulation and protections for all of us and I certainly appreciate that. When they reach down into communities and stop them from having an approach to recycling plastic bags, stop a community from promoting our solar industry, stop a community from trying to resolve affordable housing issues – which are housing issues are different here than they are in Bedford, Columbus or Indianapolis. When they reach down on behalf of very strong special interests that show up and say we want to be protected, I think it’s a real problem.
Hren: I see where it cost the city $770,000 to go through the annexation process, do you plan on trying to get any of that money back from the state or looked into any lawsuits?
Hamilton: Our understanding from the lawyers, it’s exceeding difficult, nearly impossible to sue the state for that money back. We are looking at options because rightfully so, the Indiana constitution says you can’t have special legislation that reaches down and effects one community only unless you have really good reasons to pick that community only. We don’t think those reasons exist.
Hren: Something I’ve noticed that has made the social media rounds quite a bit is the “Pipe To Nowhere” that Cardinal Spirits is required to put in by city utilities. They say it’s not so much about the pipe but that the small business climate in Bloomington is not ideal. Have you read their story and responded?
Hamilton: The main thing our government needs to do protect our community, a high quality of life and to be fair to everybody here and to be as efficient and collaborative as we can be. We don’t lower standards for people. But we certainly work with people so they can meet the standards. Bloomington has an excellent pre-treatment program to protect our water system which protects our stream and lakes to make sure we don’t get stuff dumped out of restaurants and into the wastewater stream.
We’re treating Cardinal like everybody else, it is true some businesses say I don’t want to be regulated… I’m going to do the right thing, we have to be sure. I’m not going to apologize to the people of Bloomington for protecting the environment and being fair with everybody. I don’t want to say you don’t have to do it, but six others over here did. I want to work with Cardinal, they’re a great local company – we love them, but I’m confident it will get worked out.
Hren: I hear city sanitation changes are coming.
Hamilton: We have ordered trucks and different size carts. We’re asking the public to take a look, take your pick. We’ll have single stream recycling, we want to know what size you want. All recycling is free. Then you pick you solid waste size container based on how much you generate. There are pictures on the website and we have actual samples in City Hall, the Utility Department and some other places.
Hren: The IU Health Bloomington Hospital redevelopment site commission seems in a deadlock as per a report on the Herald-Times. Is this something the city needs to get involved with again?
Hamilton: We are in a little bit of a pause. Soon, IU Health will make the formal, legal commitment to build on the new site. When they do that, then we know the timing and the vacating of the current site and we will reactive a process to have a community question. What do we want to do there? Nothing will happen until 2021. We have time and I expect in the next few months we’ll be activating that again.