It’s On.

Bloomington City Council President Susan Sandberg has filed the papers to form an exploratory committee to run in 2023’s Democratic primary for Mayor. “Exploratory committee” may sound tentative, but that’s just semantics. Sandberg is in, and the campaign to replace incumbent John Hamilton is on.

Sandberg, a 16-year Council veteran, is a serious primary challenger for Hamilton. One of the three At-Large Council members, she drew more votes than any other Council candidate in the 2019 election. She’s an upbeat pragmatist with legislative chops and a strong following.

She’s in her fourth stint as Council President, having been elected to the post by her peers over first-termer Matt Flaherty. She played a central role in opposing the amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance that upzoned Bloomington and ended single-family zoning, both on the last two Councils and as the Council’s appointee to the Plan Commission.

As the Council barreled ahead with passage of the 2021 UDO amendments, Sandberg joined with colleagues Dave Rollo and Ron Smith to put some guardrails in place to limit the risks of the upzoning — including a sensible measure to link duplex development with a practical affordability incentive, which the Council unfortunately rejected.

She’s a strong voice for full funding of essential city services (and especially for the city to honor its commitment to pay the Bloomington police a competitive wage), for supporting housing and social services, for responsive and transparent city government, for defense of Bloomington’s once-distinctive but increasingly ugly and sterile built environment, and for defense of home ownership opportunity, especially in the city’s core.

We’ll be hearing a lot about Sandberg’s bona fides as the election season gets underway. What matters today is that John Hamilton has a serious, committed primary challenger with a team and an infrastructure forming to conduct a credible campaign. Perhaps now that the ball is officially rolling, candidates with similar objectives will feel comfortable jumping into the races for City Council seats — especially those held by the ideologues who imposed the upzoning on the city.

In addition to her professional and city government credentials, Sandberg is a member of the Uketones, one of Bloomington’s most popular local bands. Bloomington has become an angry and divided city and lost a lot of its uniqueness in the seven years of the Hamilton administration. A Mayor Sandberg could be a catalyst for a movement to bring the fun back to this once-whimsical island of sanity in the dreary, increasingly haywire Red sea of Southern Indiana.

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