We Endorse: Andy Ruff (City Council At Large)

With seven competitors vying for three seats, assessing the field of At Large candidates for the City Council is complicated. But one decision is easy: Bloomington voters, having watched the city’s legislative process bog down in ideological squabbles and procedural chaos over the last three years, have no higher priority than getting Andy Ruff back on the Council.

Ruff is a five-term Council member who lost his seat in 2019, a year when anti-incumbent sentiment ran high. He distinguished himself for his calm demeanor and his ability to work collaboratively with successive administrations, county government and state agencies. Those are crucial assets in a Council member in contentious times — like those we have faced under the present administration.

For one of the three City Council At Large seats, we endorse Andy Ruff.

But a talent for listening and mediation wasn’t Andy’s only asset. He’s been an impactful legislator in his own right. Andy was involved in the drafting of the city’s Comprehensive Plan, representing the Council and as a member of the Comp Plan’s Vision Statement Steering Committee. That Vision Statement stresses quality of life over growth — a message that resonates in Ruff’s 2023 campaign.

At Large Council Candidate Andy Ruff

He was the driving force behind the city’s 2005 Living Wage Ordinance, which established a $10 an hour living wage and scheduled automatic adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index. The Council easily extended the ordinance in 2019, but when it was first introduced it was vigorously opposed by local employers and the business community, including the Herald-Times. (Local Republicans sent out a mailing featuring a cartoon corpse, labeled “Bloomington Economy,” with a toetag that read “Living Wage.”)

Ruff was the Democrats’ 2020 nominee for the 9th District Congressional race. He continues to advocate for fair wage, an issue that perfectly fits the political climate in 2023 in Bloomington, where Council members, policy-makers and citizens have begun clamoring for an affordable living strategy focused not just on lowering housing costs but on lifting Bloomington’s chronically low income levels.

Ruff has promoted the idea of qualitative growth — a better city, not just a bigger city — a theme that has been adopted by several citywide campaigns this year. A champion for working people and for organized labor, Ruff stresses the value of policy input from local resources, including citizens. He was an outspoken opponent of the Hamilton Administration’s push to void single-family zoning and promote denser housing in residential neighborhoods; he was instrumental in defeating the upzoning amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance in 2019.

The departures of Ruff and his colleague Chris Sturbaum from the Council that year enabled their successors, Matt Flaherty and Kate Rosenbarger, to push upzoning through in 2021. That’s an error voters now have the opportunity to reverse, in 2023.

We whole-heartedly endorse Andy Ruff to regain his old At Large Council seat and help change the direction of the Council toward a more collegial, less ideologically polarized and more functional legislative body.

There are two other At Large seats to fill. The good news is that the city, as it turns out, has a surprisingly deep bench of talent. We’re particularly intrigued by the candidacies of:

  • Lois Sabo-Skelton, a former MCCSC Board member who was one of the city’s most vocal and articulate opponents of the mayor’s 2020-21 upzoning push;
  • Isak Nti Asare, a young IU cybersecurity professor who made a compelling run for the 2022 9th District Democratic Congressional nomination and has now turned his impressive intellect toward citywide politics; and
  • Jonas Schrodt, a stand-up comic and Comedy Attic manager, who is making his first foray into politics and has turned some heads in an affirmative way.

We look forward to hearing what these Council race newcomers have to say as the primary progresses, as well as the positions taken by their other At Large opponents — incumbent Matt Flaherty, current 6th District Council Member Steve Volan, and realtor/election novice Ryne Shadday.

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