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Bloomington Candidates Discuss Top Issues Facing City

Five candidates for the at-large race gathered in city hall recently for a debate. Election Day is November 8th

The most hotly contested race on Bloomington ballots this year pits five candidates against one another for three at-large spots on the Bloomington City Council. With election day less than two weeks away, the race has focused on economic development issues facing

The race features three incumbent Democrats – Susan Sandberg, Tim Mayer and Andy Ruff – trying to keep their seats against a challenge from Republicans Jennifer Mickel and Ed Schwartzman.

Susan Sandberg (D)

According to current council President Susan Sandberg, one of the most significant issues facing the city is how to entice local businesses to create jobs. She says the council needs to help create more low-to-moderate income housing in the downtown area as a means of helping local businesses thrive.

“We must continue to talk to our leaders and our business communities,” she says “with regard to what we can do to help them remain strong through loan programs, grant programs, incentive measures. We have the tools in the city’s toolbox to assist people.”

Sandberg says she has spent a good deal of her time on council working with the city’s social service programs for those in poverty, an issue she says is very important to her.

Jennifer Mickel (R)

Republican challenger Jennifer Mickel, who owns a landscaping business, says the city’s poor are often left out of the equation for economic growth.

“We need to have work for our poor,” she says. “Half of our city is ignored in a certain way.”

Mickel says chain businesses – opposed in some areas of downtown under a plan proposed by Mayor Mark Kruzan — can assist in job creation and help residents become more self-sustaining.

“We need to be thinking about places like Wal-Mart and places like Sam’s Club and stuff like that,” she says. “We need to have some work for people who want to work for someone else.”

Another of Mickel’s worries is that there’s not enough dialogue between city government and residents wanting better service. She favors creating a web-based system to track complaints against city officials.

Tim Mayer (D)

Democratic incumbent Tim Mayer says the council needs to diversify the demographics of those living downtown, in order to help downtown businesses in the coming years.

“Currently,” he says “its young people living downtown associated with Indiana University. I think the goal all along has been to make it a far more mixed culture downtown; senior citizens, retirees, business professionals, people with families living in the downtown area.”

Mayer says the council should look forward to working on the new city park which will be built in the old McDoul switch-yard. The park will eventually be the largest in Bloomington, and can stretch almost a mile long.

Ed Schwartzman (R)

With its only Republican, Brad Wisler, stepping down after this term, there is a possibility the council could be made up of officials from a single party — a possibility local business owner Ed Schwartzman says made him run for an at-large seat.

“When you say, ‘What’s the biggest issue?’ to me,” he says, “the issue simply is we don’t have representative government.”

Schwartzman, a self proclaimed free-market candidate, says city government needs to be friendlier to new businesses.

“About a year ago, the mayor did try to create a moratorium banning chains from downtown,” he says. “Chains are not evil, franchises are not evil. They employ people. These people, who are they? They live here in the community. They might be students, they might be me, they might be you. These people get their money, they work in a McDonald’s, a Burger King, Starbucks, Jimmy John’s, and what do they do with that money? They spend it locally. If it’s a franchise, it’s owned by a local person.”

Schwartzman, who says he was reluctant to run for council, but states that it was input from other local business owners that inspired his candidacy.

Andy Ruff (D)

Current councilman Andy Ruff however, says the council is in touch with the community’s needs, but agrees with Schwartzman that the city must foster a climate economic growth in the coming years.

“Because the council is very active,” he says, “very responsive, very dedicated, committed and informed, and very in touch I think with the community, I think that’s important. I think a lot of things happen because of that, that makes this community a better place.”

Ruff credits the council’s active role in the community for why Bloomington is doing better economically than other similarly sized towns in the Midwest.

Voters may cast ballots for as many as three of the five at-large candidates. Since there are not three Republican candidates, at least one of the incumbent Democrats is guaranteed to be re-elected.

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