We Endorse: Ron Smith (City Council District 3)

The city’s most competitive Council district is on the northeast side, where incumbent Ron Smith faces two Democratic challengers, as well as the only declared Republican. Smith has been one of this term’s pragmatic progressives, voting consistently to protect neighborhoods from runaway densification, to keep basic services funded and staffed, and to rein in the Hamilton administration’s extravagant amenity spending.

The Democratic primary challengers are Hopi Stosberg, a former teacher and volunteer for a variety of charity and civic organizations, and Conner Wright, an Indiana University sophomore, vice president of the IU College Democrats and a former precinct chair. Republican Brett Heinisch also is running.

Smith has run a low-key campaign; self-promotion clearly is not one of his strengths. But he’s been an essential vote on crucial issues related to neighborhood integrity, protection of homeownership opportunity, respect for community engagement and responsible public borrowing and spending. He’s grown as a community leader in his first term, always looking for ways to make the Council more collegial and collaborative. After three years of ideological friction, we welcome Smith’s conciliatory presence and quiet integrity.

For the District 3 City Council seat, we endorse Ron Smith for re-election.

Smith has fiscal management experience in State government offices, including the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA). He has a Masters in Social Work from IU and spent 35 years in social services working in developmental disabilities, child welfare, aging and Medicaid services. He worked for Area 10 Agency on Aging and is responsive to the needs of aging Bloomingtonians and retirees. He volunteers at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

District 3 City Council Member Ron Smith

He’s in his second year as Council representative on the Plan Commission. He was chair of the city’s Sidewalk Committee for two years, where he made it a goal to get sidewalks built in historically underserved areas.

His record includes critically important votes to:

  • Oppose the upzoning amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance, which ended single-family zoning in Bloomington.
  • Oppose the involuntary annexation of Bloomington’s suburbs — Given the chance, Smith says he’d vote to repeal the annexation.
  • Oppose the recent proposal to double or triple trash pickup fees.
  • Oppose the city’s purchase of the parts of the Showers Building it doesn’t already own as a headquarters for the Bloomington Police — a poorly-rationalized move strenuously opposed by the union representing rank and file police on safety and access grounds, and opposed by the adjoining neighborhood.
  • Support increasing the police salary and benefits to keep highly-trained officers here in Bloomington, to prevent their leaving for better pay in other communities.

Smith advocated spending $20 million of the $23 million in federal pandemic funding on workforce housing and “housing-first” initiatives for the homeless.

He’s been a member of the City Council’s Climate Action Committee for two years, working to implement Bloomington’s Climate Action Plan.

His has mostly been a quiet sort of advocacy on the Council, but he has taken a firm position on the Council’s imperative to revoke its appointment of Greg Alexander, a chaos agent on the Traffic Commission who has drawn fire over a series of angry, profane social media posts and handwritten letters aimed at Elm Heights residents. At a March 1 Council session, Smith put his foot down regarding the Council’s inability to find a way to define Alexander’s actions as misconduct rising to the level of a cause for dismissal. We approve of his decisiveness and impatience with the Council’s fecklessness on this issue.

Challenger Hopi Stosberg expresses concerns about public transportation, education, early child care and low-income family housing. She raises valid issues regarding the inadequacy of bus service between important city offices and amenities and the outlying neighborhoods of the city.

But her campaign seems to prioritize social justice ideals over the mundane, pragmatic issues that generally preoccupy Council members — a pattern among Bloomington progressive ideologues. She makes a lot of her family’s bicycle commuting habits, suggesting she would be likely to support the administration’s push to impose new bike infrastructure on the city’s streets, at a time when neighborhoods are opposing having those infrastructure changes thrust on them without City Council oversight.

She also appears to share with her husband, former city commissioner Mark Stosberg, an odd preoccupation with neighborhood associations, and their purported exclusion of apartment-dwellers (a claim that, at least in some cases, has been advanced and then shown to be false). Hopi Stosberg proposes “deliberate and focused expansion of the Neighborhood Association Program in Bloomington to systematically include people living in multi-family housing units” — a cause that just seems peculiar in a city where neighborhood associations generally have almost no clout and struggle just to overcome community apathy.

Conner Wright, an IU student from Noblesville, seems bright and idealistic. His campaign started with an emphasis on transportation issues, especially predatory towing and parking availability. On housing, he initially seemed swayed by the suggestion that increased housing density would serve to bring down rents, but his position has evolved in a more nuanced direction. He expresses an intention to stay in Bloomington through graduate school, which would enable him to fulfill a four-year commitment on the Council. We wish him luck, but at this moment in Bloomington’s history we prefer the life experience and proven, sound judgment Ron Smith brings to the Council.

Brett Heinisch will win the Republican nomination for this seat by default, so there will be a contested election for it in November. Heinisch has a mixed bag of Republican positions, including prioritizing tax reduction and reducing crime, and a focus on growth. His campaign has been nondescript, but he keeps showing up.

In constituent work for District 3, Ron Smith has delivered the goods. He has embraced his first-term learning curve with humility and enthusiasm. He has not been afraid to go against the current administration when he and the constituents he represents are opposed. We strongly support his re-election.

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