During the month of March I have logged a lot of miles and hours walking around District 3 knocking on doors to talk to voters about the upcoming election and my candidacy. I have also received questions emailed me by community members. Below you can find some of the commonly broached subjects.
Regarding annexation and the 2019 annexation proposal
Generally speaking I believe annexation is advised in some cases and not in others. From a perspective of financial solvency, it has to be a mutually beneficial agreement. There have to be enough people in the proposed annex to make it worthwhile for city services to be expanded into that area. The people in that area need to get benefits from the city so their additional taxes are worth it. Anyone already receiving city services needs to be paying taxes on those services.
With regard to the 2019 planned annexes I see value in most, but I have questions about some of the areas and why they were proposed. I don't think communication was handled well and discussing all those zones at one time has distorted the conversation. Part of me wants to scrap it and start over, but with so many dollars already sunk into the project, and some obvious areas that should be annexed (because they are already receiving city services or are surrounded by city), I think the best course of action is to restart the communication piece of the project and remind everyone of the basic facts of each area so they get newly evaluated by the community.
I would love to see a pedestrianized Kirkwood succeed, but I've been in two towns where they failed: Richmond, Indiana and Frankfort, Kentucky. In both of those cases, converting a downtown street to a pedestrian mall led to business stagnation and closures. Both reversed course after many years, and the areas improved in vitality when the streets were restored. In other cities, like Boulder, Colorado, pedestrian malls have succeeded. I support the City's current efforts with parklets and outdoor dinning during warm months. I know they have been getting valuable feedback from Kirkwood businesses and other organizations. A "shared street" design has been proposed here, and I support that direction balanced with some caution to ensure the Kirkwood strip remains a vibrant piece of the Bloomington community.
Lower Cascades Road Closure
Two years ago I would have advocated to close this road, but at this point I think that time has past. As a cyclist, riding along Old 37 was a challenge. Cars drove fast around the curves, it's narrow, the slight climb made hauling my kids up that hill an unpleasant adventure. At this point, however, the traffic calming speed bumps have acted as designed to slow traffic and minimize drivers trying to cut through that area to avoid busier traffic at the Walnut/Bypass intersection. Based on those road changes I don't see a good reason to completely close it again to traffic at this time. The long range plan may call for a multi-use path here, but I question whether that is still the best plan.
Generally speaking I am in favor of most traffic calming measures, especially on roads with regular pedestrian use and fast traffic patterns. Cars go the speed the road is designed for, not the speed the road is signed for, which means if we want slow, safe traffic in neighborhoods or other high pedestrian zones, then it is necessary to design the road in such a way as to slow traffic down.
The current Unified Development Ordinance is an almost 450 page document and I am going to be honest and say I have not reviewed the entire document in detail. The primary document was only enacted in early 2020, and has been amended as recently as January 2023. I consider it a living document that needs to be under regular review as best practices and city circumstances shift. I have no current plans to make specific changes to the UDO, especially as I am still working through the document. Additionally, there are many new developments going up all over the city, including in and near District 3. At this point I am waiting and watching to see how those new developments impact the Bloomington housing market since they will start housing residents within the next 6 months and well before any current candidates for election take office. A few specific thoughts:
Occupancy Limits-this is a simple way to try to limit behaviors that are unacceptable, but might be doing more to limit room mate choice and affordability than actually ensure that unwanted behaviors are eliminated.
Height Restrictions-should stay. A very tall building next to a much shorter building can look and feel wrong.
Parking space minimums and maximums-should continue to be adjusted depending on best practices, changing cultural expectations, and climate needs.
Lot Size changes-I am generally more supportive of density than sprawl. Increased density addresses the climate crisis and promotes more affordable housing and transportation options. I would be open to changes in this area.
Apartments and Congestion
Speaking of recent multi-unit development projects, many residents have expressed concerns over the potential for increased traffic congestion on the Eastside due to the new multi-story housing units. I am optimistic that this will not be as big an issue as feared. I am hopeful that the increased density will positively impact public transit options from the East 3rd Street area to other parts of Bloomington and many of those residents will choose to ride the bus. I do anticipate the month of August (student move-in) will be more congested than it usually is, but hopefully after an initial period of adjustment, traffic will slow down to reasonable levels. Last, if traffic congestion does become an ongoing problem, then there needs to be a re-evaluation of the engineering of that area to manage the traffic load.
Staying in my Lane
I have been asked various questions related to specific infrastructure updates-new bike lanes, changing street designs, bus routing, etc. I am not an engineer. I am not a city planner. While I certainly have a goal of making the city as safe as possible, want to support multi-modal transportation, and understand climate related transportation changes are necessary, that does not mean that my role on city council would be to do the design work of the professionals. With regard to issues like this I think the city council role is to ask questions, point out weak spots in the transportation grid, make sure resident concerns are addressed, consider equity in resource allocation, and use long term planning documents and goals to prioritize infrastructure changes.