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By Peter Dorfman Access to the halls of power in the US remain stubbornly restricted for people of color — the brief, exceptional interlude of Barack Obama’s Presidency notwithstanding. But there has long been an exception to this pattern, at the level of municipal government. Black, Latinx and Asian-American mayors have served, often with greatContinue reading “On Don Griffin’s Candidacy for Mayor of Bloomington”
The proposed greenway on Hawthorne and Weatherstone is basically about bicycle infrastructure — not pedestrian safety. It’s a component of a program to re-engineer neighborhoods to be more welcoming to bike traffic, and it seeks to impose that re-engineering, in top-down fashion, on residents of the affected streets whether they want it or not.
By Peter Dorfman The upzoning of Bloomington is going to be a high-profile issue in the citywide election campaigns for Mayor and Council in 2023. Opposition to the city’s revision of its Unified Development Ordinance to open single-family-zoned neighborhoods to duplex development was widespread and sparked a lot of anti-incumbent sentiment. But is there moreContinue reading “Does Opposition to Bloomington’s Upzoning Reflect Other Positions?”
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.
By Peter Dorfman The Bloomington Economic Development Corporation is launching an initiative to involve citizens in the formulation of ways to promote “economic vitality” in the region. “The Economic Vitality Project (EVP) convenes partners across sectors to prioritize and collaboratively address shared economic development challenges,” the BEDC website declares. They’ve created a survey to inviteContinue reading “The BEDC “Economic Vitality Project” Needs to Hear from You”
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.
One can accept the administration’s denial that this proposal aims to fund plex development, but remain wary about the mayor’s dancing around what the missing housing type language really means. To those of us who have heard Hamilton use this phrase again and again over the last three years, it has one clear connotation, and it’s not co-ops.
By Peter Dorfman In early April, as early voting was getting underway in the 2022 Monroe County primary election, the Monroe County Black Democratic Caucus and the 9th District Indiana Latino Democratic Caucus sponsored Democratic candidate forums at City Hall. I went, expecting a preview of the tactics we’re likely to see in 2023 employedContinue reading “Identity Politics and the 2022 County Election”
If you object to the annexation in the first place, you should object to the allocation of funds for litigation to enforce it.
It’s tempting to point out that proposing tax abatements worth more than $29 million for a large corporation and then immediately turning around and hitting the rest of us poor suckers up for another local income tax hike (all of this immediately on the heels of the Mayor’s unpopular and still-very-iffy annexation of the suburbs) is a very bad look.
As expected, Scanlan told the City Council that since duplex development was authorized (through an ordinance signed by Hamilton in August), no one has applied to build a duplex in a formerly single family neighborhood.
In eight out of nine of the originally proposed annexation areas, we are confident that the annexation will be voided or has already been cancelled due to overwhelming public opposition because we have worked to secure more than the 65% of the necessary signatures to void annexation. We are still kindling hopes that the largest annexation area, 1B, will also be voided. We were encouraged that in many of the areas, 80% or more of the property owners signed petitions.
It’s too late to avoid the eventual responsibility of maintaining the new parks, bike infrastructure and other amenities Bloomington has created over the last decade. But we can consider alternative strategies for managing the city’s assets and future liabilities. We can stop blindly accepting that urban growth is an inherent good.
By Thomas A. Schwandt, Ph.D. Two significant flaws characterize efforts of the Office of the Mayor of Bloomington to promote the annexation of the city’s suburbs: The absence of legitimate arguments for the annexation of specific subareas within a given proposed larger annexation area, and the use of hyperbolic characterizations of alleged benefits of theContinue reading “Bloomington’s Annexation: The Suburbs Don’t Need Rescuing”
By Peter Dorfman This blog came into existence as a protest against the Hamilton Administration, aided and abetted by a thin (and, I hope, temporary) majority on the City Council, buying into a fad theory about housing density and foisting it on a town that widely rejects it. It became “The Dissident Democrat” because itsContinue reading “It’s Not Partisan”
By Peter Dorfman I learned a new word the other day: “Workwashing.” According to Stowe Boyd, who I consider one of America’s most astute observers of trends in the workplace and the economy, workwashing is a verb meaning: “Providing a plausible and positive cover story by a business or industry to conceal the actual reasoningContinue reading “Homewashing”
By Peter Dorfman On Tuesday, August 3, County Residents Against Annexation sent the Mayor and the Common Council in Bloomington the following: Memorandum for the Record: County Residents Against Annexation is a group of County residents whoare circulating petitions among residents who have been targeted forannexation, especially in those areas without an active group alreadyContinue reading “County Residents Report on Their Petition Drive to Stop Annexation”
By Peter Dorfman Ever since the beginning of the upzoning controversy in Bloomington, ideologues in the community and on the City Council have touted published research that purports to show eliminating single family zoning brings down housing costs. So-called “Supply Advocates” argue that allowing developers to densify core neighborhoods will eventually create enough new apartmentsContinue reading “The Penny Drops: Evidence for Upzoning Benefits is Full of Holes”
By Vincent Herring I am interested in getting a better idea of what is necessary for a healthy and sustainable civic design for Bloomington. From my research, as much as 30-40% of the homes in the US will be coming on the market over the next 20 years. Roughly half a century’s worth of home building seasonsContinue reading “Is Bloomington Planning Ahead for the Coming Housing Glut?”
By Anne Stephenson Having lived in Bloomington since May 1982, I rented until just six months ago. The purchase of my home came about from hard work, many struggles, and the miracle-working of a real estate agent and a loan officer who took on my case as if it were their own. I rented inContinue reading “Yes, I’m a New Homeowner. No, I’m Not Ready to Sell Yet”
By Peter Dorfman A couple of weeks on from the disheartening finish of the City Council debate on upzoning, with annexation hanging in the cicada-thick atmosphere over the suburbs, Bloomingtonians are waiting for the next shoe to drop. Our local NPR affiliate, WFIU, organized a May 27 Noon Edition panel discussion, hoping for fresh perspectivesContinue reading “Matt Flaherty Says the Quiet Part Out Loud”
The city’s upzoning process has come to its predictable ugly end. It got intense toward the end. And personal. Planners, pro-density Council members and upzoning fans in the public (as always, a minority among the people who turned out for the meetings) flexed their muscles. They made it clear that conditional use, annual caps andContinue reading “Wasn’t Housing Affordability Supposed to Be the Whole Point? Oh Well. On to 2023.”
By Peter Dorfman There’s no point in trying to sugar-coat what’s been going on in the City Council. Opponents of the city’s upzoning plan turned out in large numbers to support Amendment 1, to remove the plexes from the amendment to the UDO. By Council Member Dave Rollo’s count, upzoning opponents who spoke during theContinue reading “Where Are We Now?”
By Peter Dorfman In an article in the April 25 Herald-Times, local realtors complained about the lack of houses available to sell in Bloomington. It would be unfortunate if this chorus of woe bolstered a more general perception that we have high housing costs in Bloomington because of a lack of supply. That would beContinue reading “High Rents in Bloomington: It’s Not About Supply. Seriously. It’s Not.”
By Peter Dorfman John Hamilton is featured today (April 21, 2021) in another WTIU “Ask the Mayor” interview. After the usual round of self-congratulation on the city’s adequate but undistinguished handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hamilton launches into a dialog about his administration’s upzoning push that is so full of dreary platitudes, misleading data, misstatementsContinue reading “Ask the Mayor? Why Bother?”
By Jean Simonian One of the enduring claims among upzoning proponents in Bloomington has been that adding more multiplex houses to neighborhoods will improve affordability by adding less expensive options to the housing supply. When we examine this claim pragmatically, it quickly falls apart. But it has never gone away. So here’s an experiment youContinue reading “Try This Yourself: Impact of Upzoning Debate on Local Home Valuations”
By Peter Dorfman In its April 1 hearing, the Plan Commission — having been assailed by a largely critical audience and obviously realizing they had changed absolutely no one’s mind on upzoning Bloomington’s core — voted 6-3 to send the UDO amendment eliminating single-family zoning to the City Council with a recommendation to approve. ToContinue reading “Plan Commissioners Punt Upzoning to the Council — Along With Its Risks”
By Peter Dorfman Bloomington’s administration has tried just about every conceivable rationalization for upzoning the city’s dense core. “Walkability to downtown” didn’t overcome constituents’ objections to the plan in 2019. Nor did Bloomingtonians buy into the pretext that an influx of market rate apartment development would generate new affordable housing. The city’s own planners regularly admitContinue reading “Does a Housing Shortage Justify Upzoning? Surprise: We Don’t Have One”
By Peter Dorfman I have been a consistent opponent of Bloomington’s plan to densify its core neighborhoods for more than two years. This stance has brought me into contact with a lot of people who agree, and a lot of detractors as well. I’ve been called a “clueless, selfish old white dude,” a racist, andContinue reading “No, We Don’t Have Homelessness Because There Aren’t Enough Homes”
By Patricia L. Foster This is a story about Bevendean, a small urban community on the edge of Brighton, England. Our story is summarized from a research paper by Joanna Sage and colleagues that appeared in 2012 in the journal Housing Studies1. The paper documents how this low-income community, situated close to two universities (Brighton andContinue reading “Bevendean: A Cautionary Tale”
By Peter Dorfman Bloomington’s Plan Commission held its first debate session on the city’s new zoning map and amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) on Monday, March 8. The Commission has mapped out a series of four meetings to address the map and amendments, including what promises to be a marathon session on MarchContinue reading “Plan Commission Backs Into Hearings on Upzoning”
By Victoria Witte I have lived in one of core Bloomington neighborhoods that is the focus of the city’s current upzoning proposal since 1981. This is a complicated proposal and one that needs an open forum — an in-person forum — to truly consider the ramifications of densification. The middle of a pandemic, with people’sContinue reading “Debating the Stability of Neighborhoods Should Be Done Face to Face”
Photo: Tony Castro By Russell Skiba, Ph.D. One of the arguments made by proponents of upzoning is that zoning policies that encourage higher density and remove barriers to development are progressive. Jackie Scanlan, Development Services Manager of Bloomington’s planning department, has called the federal Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) Act — which calls upon localContinue reading “Is Upzoning Progressive?”
By Jim Rosenbarger The Mayor and some City Council members continue their push to open doors to new multi-family apartment development in single family neighborhoods. Having been rebuffed in 2019 during the debate over the UDO revision, the Mayor passed the intervening months without discussing a middle ground approach. Instead he came back in 2020Continue reading “Don’t Be Dupe-plexed”
The City of Bloomington has released the revised version of its plan to upzone its residential neighborhoods. The revised zoning map, which sharply reduced the city’s radical overlay of Residential Urban (R4) zoning on much of the core neighborhoods, came out the second week in February. The Mayor’s planning staff posted the clarifying text amendmentsContinue reading “Devil in the Details: A First Look at the City’s Revised Upzoning Proposal”
On February 10, City Council members received the following notice from the Mayor’s office: CITY OF BLOOMINGTON OFFICE OF THE MAYOR MEMORANDUM TO: Members of the Bloomington Common Council FROM: Mayor John Hamilton RE: UDO Revisions and Timeline DATE: February 10, 2021 Since Planning & Transportation (P&T) staff initiated the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) zoningContinue reading “The Revised Upzoning Proposal is On Its Way”
By Peter Dorfman In the fall of 2019, when Bloomington’s Plan Commission and City Council debated an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to push multiplex housing into single-family zoned core neighborhoods, plex proponents based their case on three principal arguments: Housing affordability — The suggestion that new housing, at whatever rental price point,Continue reading “Why Climate Change Fizzled as a Rationale for Upzoning”
By Jean Simonian The latest round of debate on the rezoning of Bloomington’s core has focused a lot of attention on the proposal to allow development of large multiplex apartment structures in core neighborhoods now zoned for single-family houses. That’s understandable; quadplexes would be big and conspicuous, towering over most of their neighbors, and eachContinue reading “The Most Destructive Housing Form”
By Russell Skiba, PhD In its rollout of the UDO amendment proposal in October, Bloomington’s Planning & Transportation Department claimed that upzoning to allow plexes throughout the city, but especially in core neighborhoods, would help meet the Comprehensive Plan’s goals of “equitable access to housing” and growth in the city’s inventory of affordable housing. SuchContinue reading “Who Benefits from Upzoning? On Housing Affordability and Equity”
By Jim Rosenbarger Conventional land use zoning is a blunt-edged tool, especially for existing, unique neighborhoods. Synonyms for “zone” include area, sector, section, belt, region or territory. These terms describe something generic, something broad. Bloomington’s neighborhoods have names: Prospect Hill, Green Acres, Hyde Park, etc. Each has varied street types, lot sizes and shapes, andContinue reading “Zoning is a Sledgehammer; Bloomington Deserves a Form-Based Approach”
By Peter Dorfman More than 550 Bloomingtonians from all across the city — from Broadview to Blue Ridge — have signed onto a Resolution calling on the Plan Commission and City Council to reject the city’s new zoning map and the text amendments to the UDO that would upzone Bloomington’s single-family neighborhoods. For perspective, 550Continue reading “The Upzoning Debate and the ‘Appeal to Authority’”
At the end of 2020, the League of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County wrote to Mayor John Hamilton, the Common Council, and the Plan Commission urging a slower, more transparent, thoughtful, and considered process in evaluating the proposal of plexes in core neighborhoods. Ann Birch, president of the League, called on the administration to involveContinue reading “League of Women Voters Urges the City to Slow Its Roll on Upzoning”
By Jan Sorby The front page headline of the Herald-Telephone in December of 1959 read, “Wants a Six-Story Building: Tear Down the Courthouse Councilman Turner Declares.” The article reported a suggestion on the part of Councilman Robert Turner “that the county tear down ‘this monstrosity of a Courthouse’ and build a six-story modern office inContinue reading “Reliving ‘Urban Renewal: Again, Bloomington Risks Its Sense of Place”
By Peter Dorfman When are supporters and opponents of Bloomington’s proposal to upzone neighborhoods going to stop talking past one another? An important first step will be for those engaged in the conversation to start seeing each other as individuals instead of dismissing the people they disagree with as abstract, opaque memes. This will getContinue reading “Let’s Talk About ‘NIMBY’”
By Lori Hoevener I’ve spent many hours, during these months of the pandemic, walking in Bloomington’s lovely old core neighborhoods near where I reside. I’ve always felt immensely lucky that our small city still has that increasingly rare connection with the past that makes present-day Bloomington such an attractive place to live. The term “core neighborhood”Continue reading “Put the Brakes on the Latest Round of Misguided Modernizing”
By Michelle Henderson When the Shalom Center, one of Bloomington’s most important shelters for people experiencing homelessness, was first located at the First United Methodist Church in 2000, we had only one room to provide space for our guests to gather and gain access to services and resources during the day. One of my favoriteContinue reading “Don’t Put Workforce Housing Ahead of Rentals for Our Neediest”
By Ramsay Harik There are so many reasons to resist the city’s latest attempts at upzoning the core neighborhoods that it’s hard to know where to begin. Others here have written compellingly on everything from zoning history to basic real estate economics; for my part, I’d like to address what is for me a central considerationContinue reading “The Boxifying of the Built Environment”
By Peter Dorfman Astraw man argument is a common form of logical fallacy that crops up in political discourse with depressing regularity. The way it works is this: Person A takes a position or makes a claim. Person B creates a distorted version of the claim (the “straw man”), and then Person B attacks thisContinue reading “Five Straw Man Arguments from Pro-Density Partisans”
By Jean Simonian The so-called Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) movement casts increased housing density and the elimination of single family zoning in up-beat, buzzy terms like “saving the planet,” creating a world of “social equity,” and “affordable housing” for all. YIMBY, of course, is a wry twist on Not in My Backyard (NIMBY), aContinue reading “The Rise of the WIMBYs”
By Peter Dorfman Last fall, a lot of us received an educational postcard alerting us to proposed zoning changes in the core neighborhoods. Members of Bloomington’s City Council sharply criticized that postcard, and attacked the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) for distributing it. Council members especially hated two of the card’s contentions: First, that propertyContinue reading “About Those Postcards…”
By William Coulter In the current debate over upzoning of core neighborhoods, supporters have asserted without evidence that upzoning will increase racial equity and neighborhood diversity. A closer examination of the history of zoning in Bloomington does not support that assertion. Segregation in Bloomington has a long history, but zoning ordinances did not segregate Bloomington.Continue reading “Zoning Didn’t Segregate Bloomington. It Won’t Fix Us Now.”
By Jim Rosenbarger When the Bloomington City Council debated amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance in 2019, the proposed reintroduction of multi-plex housing into what have been single family zoned neighborhoods took center stage. One of the recurring points of contention was over whether concentrating development in the core neighborhoods is consistent with the City’sContinue reading “Why Again? Respect Bloomington’s Comprehensive Plan”
By Cappi Phillips One of the unintended but potentially harmful consequences of allowing plexes is that you too could have a fraternity on your block. According to the current code, fraternities and sororities are permitted only in areas zoned institutional. However, nothing prohibits a landlord or investor from signing individual leases with multiple members ofContinue reading “Could Your Next Neighbor Be a Frat House? (Spoiler: It Could)”
By Chris Sturbaum Bloomingtonians often tout the city’s exceptional commitment to progressive values and social justice – so much so that we often forget where we are and how recently those values evolved here. We’re in southern Indiana, and like most of the surrounding municipalities, even Bloomington has a long, shady history with respect toContinue reading “Bloomington’s Zoning History Offers a Lesson for Today”
By Peter Dorfman From the beginning of the 2019 push to urbanize Bloomington’s core neighborhoods via amendment of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), advocates for multi-plex rental housing have argued that the national Democratic Party backs them up in their push for densification. They haven’t abandoned that claim in 2020. The city’s planning staff haveContinue reading “Does Bloomington’s Upzoning Push Mirror Democratic Party Ideology?”
By Chris Sturbaum Real estate is like mathematics. It is like science. You make single family zoned property eligible for conversion into multi-unit housing — now it represents multiple rental streams from the same footprint, and its value increases. This action alone prices many homes out of the range of potential homeowners. Then increased rentalContinue reading “Call It ‘Rentrification’”
By Jean Simonian I like houses. I like everything about planning, building, styling and living in houses. Pre-COVID, when life seemed normal, I liked going to Open Houses – just to look. I used to spend hours as a child building entire neighborhoods out of Legos. I grew up in a house. My parents, likeContinue reading “Two Houses: A Thanksgiving Reflection”
By Jan Sorby The Hamilton Administration’s plan to reintroduce multiplex housing into Bloomington’s core neighborhoods is being accomplished through a complex remapping of the city’s core neighborhoods — radically redefining what types of housing can go where. All the core neighborhoods (areas that were Ground Zero during last year’s UDO revision controversy) are converted fromContinue reading “Radical Change – Not Affordable or Green”
By Peter Dorfman Bloomington’s Planning & Transportation staffers have been conducting public information sessions to explain and defend the newly proposed zone mapping and UDO amendments. Development Services Manager Jackie Scanlan has led these sessions. She generally has opened by acknowledging a specific criticism, in resident feedback, that the process she is taking us throughContinue reading “Whatever This Is, It Isn’t Democratic”
By Steve Popolizio I’m a retired executive for an international humanitarian organization headquartered in the Chicago area. My wife and I decided to move to Bloomington, where we met as IU grad students, for the culture, the educated community, wonderful natural resources and charming neighborhoods. We have lived here for eight years but have been troubledContinue reading “Overextended City: Bloomington in the Twilight Zone”