CMs Volan, Flaherty and Rosenbarger: Do Your Job or Leave

By Peter Dorfman

At its September 14 Committee of the Whole meeting, once again, the Bloomington City Council just barely had a quorum to conduct business. Why? Because of a petty, personal vendetta on the part of three (sometimes four) Council Members who don’t feel Committee of the Whole meetings are productive and have been boycotting them. It’s time the people who elected those members spoke up to say enough is enough.

District 6 CM Steve Volan, District 1 CM Kate Rosenbarger, and At Large CM Matt Flaherty: Stop.

We get it that you thought Volan’s pet project of conducting public discussion of issues brought before the Council in smaller Standing Committees was a better idea. We understand that you (and District 5 CM Isabel Piedmont-Smith) disagreed with this year’s Council decision to do away with the standing committees and go back to Committee of the Whole deliberations. The Council took a vote on this. You lost.

You may not agree with your colleagues’ decision on this, but guess what: Committee of the Whole meetings are part of the job that your constituents elected you to do, and that the city’s taxpayers pay you to do. (Not much, but it’s still our money.)

These sessions air relevant background on issues that matter to the public whose money you’re spending and whose interests are affected by your decisions when they ultimately come up for votes. Many of these issues are complex, and the Committee of the Whole hearings provide an opportunity for the rest of us to follow and understand what you’re deliberating on. Media follow these sessions and report on them.

This foolishness has actually prevented a Committee of the Whole meeting from moving forward on an issue for which a reasonable-sized audience was sitting in the Council chamber anticipating discussion, because a quorum couldn’t be achieved.

If you can’t be bothered to show up for these meetings — if you petulantly refuse to do so — well, try and see it from our point of view. If this were a private company and you took it on yourselves to boycott scheduled meetings, there would be consequences. I’m only speaking for myself, but if that were the situation and I were your direct boss, I’d fire the three of you without a moment’s hesitation.

But it’s not a private company. You’re elected officials. I’m not aware of a mechanism for recall of a sitting CM in Indiana. The opportunity we have to remove you comes next spring, in the Democratic Primary. Actually, that’s ironic. Because your pigheaded, minoritarian obstructive tactics are far more characteristic of a Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy than of any Democratic institution that comes to mind. If that’s the way things are done in Bloomington, we’re a pretty poor excuse for a Democratic Party town.

Do us a favor, CMs Volan, Flaherty and Rosenbarger: Drop the Committee of the Whole boycott, or resign from the Council, effective immediately.

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