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Ask The Mayor: Bloomington's Hamilton On Evening Ambassador, Farmers' Market

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hamilton says he expects a new memorandum of understanding between the city and county over the expansion of the convention center any day. And a new city staff position will pick up where others leave off at the end of the working day.

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: Let's get to the dispute reported in the Herald-Times regarding a dispute on the memorandum of understanding on how the county and city will move forward working together on the project. Did someone break the agreement?

Hamilton: No, but it does need to be edited. We've done one big step with it, which was picking the architect, and the next step is the construction, the siting, the hotel selection, which the MOU needs to be updated and we're waiting for the county to respond any day now.

The MOU has been done in stages, so the MOU is mostly completed the stage we are in now with the architect selection and the beginning of the design. The actual design of the building hasn't begun. 

Bunger and Robertson Building next to the Convention Center
Convention center will expand north on this lot recently purchased by the city. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: What's the latest on the project?

Hamilton: We did have a meeting of the steering committee recommending a size and location with the expansion north of the current convention center. They also recommended about a 30,000 square foot expansion, not bigger than that let's say. I'm a little disappointed, we're still waiting on county collaboration on this.

Hren: You wrote a post on the city's Facebook page on allegations of a white-supremacist vendor at the Farmers' Market. You denounce racism, but reference, "the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which prohibits governments from restricting individuals’ rights to believe and speak as they choose, including those who sell at or attend a city-run farmers market." Some day it's a lot of words and not enough action, how would you respond?

Hamilton: Well, I'm not afraid of being sued if we think we're being right. I think it is my obligation as a public official to try to follow the law if the law is a valid law and the Constitution is valid law, now I would not say that - we are looking at options, this is a complicated area of law. We care deeply our Farmers' Market is opening and welcoming to all, and it must appear that way to all.

We can't evaluate every vendor's thoughts, and say, are your thought's consistent with our community's thoughts. We can evaluate actions, so we're looking at that. 

Hren: The local paper called your latest hire a 'Night Mayor,' but I understand that's not the correct title, what is it and what will this position accomplish?

Hamilton: We're adding a fourth position, we added a social worker, two neighborhood resource specialists, and this fourth position is called an After Hours Ambassador. It came from the safe, civil and just committee that was looking on how we create a better community - a stronger community. Most of City Hall closes at 5, and yet a lot of Bloomington is very active. The job starts at 5 and runs into the evening.

Hren: You talk about these new positions, where is the city getting the money to hire the extra staff?

Hamilton: The city is growing by about 1,000 people every year, so that means the needs and demands of our community grow. We add police officers, we add fire officials, park and rec people, we're adding a new park, so we continue to grow. Sometimes we reduce the need for people, for example the sanitation are automated, that's going to change that need.

Hren: We had a Facebook post about what's going on with construction of the gas station on the corner of Rogers and Country Club Road?

Hamilton: I don't have any information on that, it's not inside city limits, it's in the county. I have seen there's new construction, but it's a county zoned project.

Trail heading to Switchyard Park
The B-Link Trail ends at Walnut Street across from Switchyard Park. (Joe Hren, WFIU/WTIU News)

Hren: Leanne emails in, she wants to know how will the B-Link Trail connect to Switchyard Park? Walnut is a busy street of four lanes of traffic.

Hamilton: The crossing of the street is very important, we're looking at how that is going to be designed, but very sensitive to the importance of being able to cross there, it may have a hawkeye flashing light there, that will be a main entrance on the east side.

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