Bloomington City Council-Upside Down Government

CityWatch is a group of citizens keeping an eye on local government.  This is the first in a series of articles about the City of Bloomington government.

From:  March 27, 2012

Upside down government.

I’ve addressed it before.
At last evenings Bloomington City Council meeting, more topsy-turvy politics appeared.
It doesn’t surprise me any longer. What does surprise me is that practically no one is the wiser and Bloomington City officials are able to pull it off, nickel-slick.

I state that, sounding like I insinuate that it’s by design. Well…?

At last evenings council proceedings, while the budget issue probably stole the show, that’s not what was so telling. The discussion surrounding whether or not to pursue another extension of the Constitution Trail or whether to devote time and expense to the Gateway plan – the project intended to beautify the north, south, east and west entrances into our city – was the prime mover in last evenings role-reversal.

Members of the Beautification Committee were present.  Seems that committee has some influential input on the upcoming beautification projects, to say the least. Of course, if you took the opportunity to discover the membership on that committee you might understand why. I had the opportunity to speak with one member last night. She shared with me some of their current discussions and plans, pending decisions that had already been made, money that had been spent already for supplies, components, etc. for the projects that are just now being brought to the attention of the Council members.

It’s not surprising the Council members, even after reviewing the educational information provided them in the agenda, were indecisive about their choice.

Mayor Stockton attempted to provide some guidance and help the Council reach a “consensus” by offering that his suggestion preferred the Gateway project. And, in the face of obvious opposition and deadlock, City Manager David Hales, provided the key: the best choice might be the Gateway beautification since Constitution Trail was the last recipient of funds, that the council should make a motion to delay the decision for a month,  and finally, ask the City Manager to provide more information that would allow the Council to make a more informed decision.

Everyone seemed happy with that direction and a motion was offered, seconded, and approved.

Not the general public and not even the Council realized the process was being manipulated to reach a decision that has already been predetermined.

The Council members’ first glance at this plan project was most likely seen with their review of the agenda. It’s a safe presumption that none of them had been involved in the planning, the details, the purchase of items to be used – like the committee member shared with me – or even consulted in the interim regarding such. It’s also a safe presumption that City Manager, David Hales, had been consulted by multiple of the many members of the committee he probably consults with often, that are also members of multiple other local committees. Those consultations more than likely reached the consensus conclusion which project should be pursued, and how it should be presented to the Council in order to achieve the desired, predetermined result.

When that appeared to run into opposition is when the savvy City Manager took the reigns and offered up the viable solution Council accepted.

In the next thirty days, another planned presentation will be adopted by City Staff and presented to the Council. Chances are, next time, it will be one they all can reach a consensus on and the outcome will be precisely as those who planned it to be. Nickel-slick.

Upside down government:

The City Manager, the Mayor, and City Staff making plans and policy without the input and participation of those elected officials whose fundamental responsibility is to do just that – to plan, to make public policy, and to guide your city towards a vision they determine will be in the best interest of you.

Instead, it’s backwards – upside down.

That was the real show-stopper at last night’s Council meeting.
Wish you were there.

Of the people, for the people.

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