Ordinance: vetoed. Veto: overridden.

Did I mention that the ordinance I authored earned the mayor’s veto?

Just as I was anticipating the establishment of a new Bloomington Parking Commission in the last post, I was taken aback by Mayor Hamilton’s announcement that he refused to sign Ordinance 16-22.

The Mayor’s response on Nov. 11, in full:

To members of the Common Council:

I am returning Ordinance 16-22 without my signature.

The proposal’s author did extensive research on the important issue of parking in our community and particularly in our downtown core area. I appreciate and agree that this issue merits attention and additional study and review.

In earlier discussions with the proposal’s author, the administration indicated an interest in considering combining existing commissions, such as the [T]raffic and [Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety C]ommissions, with the proposed [P]arking [C]ommission, or in creating a time-defined task force. From my perspective, the topic of parking management is inherently linked to other mobility options and all related issues should be considered collectively in order to review and present the best options for our community.

As the Council is aware, there are approximately 37 current boards, commissions and committees. Each of these groups requires staff support. While adding one more commission may not itself seem a significant drain on staff resources, collectively the total number of hours committed to staffing these groups is very substantial. The administration would suggest that it may be time to assess together how and whether all the current boards, commissions and committees are fulfilling their intended purposes. I would encourage a joint effort in reviewing the value of these bodies prior to adding a 38th to the list.

I understand that a sufficient number of votes were cast for the ordinance as proposed to overturn the veto. I respectfully request that the Council consider either creating a Mobility Management Commission that would replace the Traffic and Bicycle/Pedestrian commissions and add parking as a topic of review, or join in an overall review of each of our existing boards, commissions and committees in an effort better to utilize both citizen and staff time in the most efficient and effective way for our community.

Respectfully, John Hamilton, Mayor

My full response was an eight-minute speech, during the meeting of Nov. 16, starting at about 48:45:

The only public statement given by the Administration is the message attached to the Mayor’s veto. I urge people to read it. In it, the Mayor implies that the city’s 37 boards and commissions are optional, that somehow Council created them all, and is perhaps overly enthusiastic in its desire to create more. The most recent commissions to be created by ordinance (the Commissions on Aging and Hispanic and Latino affairs) were created in the previous decade. We don’t create boards that often.

I would urge people to look at the city’s website, on the Boards and Commissions web page — that’s bloomington.in.gov/onboard/commissions. By the way, that page is managed by the Administration and not the Council. There are actually 49 different bodies listed there. It’s hard to determine where the Mayor got the number 37, or which of these are the ones he’s talking about. But this is the public record, so let’s go with 49, because it supports his argument.

We can eliminate a few of these line items from consideration.

  • The City Council itself is listed in “Boards and Commissions.”
  • That, the Sidewalk and the Jack Hopkins Social Service Fund committees, are staffed by Council, not the Administration. They’re populated mostly with councilmembers. They shouldn’t be on this page where citizens would look to volunteer for boards and commissions.
  • The Hearing Officer is an employee of the city, not a board.
  • Two of these line items don’t take appointments. The Monroe County Domestic Violence Task Force is actually just a coalition that anyone can join. The Council for Community Accessibility is staffed by the city, but its membership is also open.
  • Two of these line items are the Mayor’s own task forces, which were populated entirely by him.

That leaves 41 actual boards and commissions that take appointments. 

  • Of these, the Council has no appointing power to three: the Farmers’ Market Advisory Council, the Inclusive Recreation Advisory Council (which by the way was created in 2003 by the Parks Department, and not by the Council), and the Housing Authority Board.
  • Nineteen others of these are mandated, by state or federal law. Some are required of every city (such as the Board of Public Works). Others are required because the city has chosen to provide a certain service (such as the Utilities Service Board, or the federally mandated committees of the MPO). For eleven of these nineteen, the Council has zero appointments.

That leaves another nineteen boards and commissions that Council could ostensibly get rid of — half of the Mayor’s estimate, and less than half of what’s listed online. The Mayor thinks Traffic, Bike and Ped Safety, and Parking all fall under the vague term “mobility,” and wants to combine them. By this logic, there ought to be others we could combine without thinking too hard, just off the tops of our heads:

  • We have, for example, an Economic and Sustainable Development department, that has full-time employees specializing in Sustainability and the Arts. Why, then, have a separate Sustainability Commission, or an Arts Commission? Why can’t they be combined into the Economic Development Commission? I would ask the members of those three commissions how they might feel about that.
  • Couldn’t Animal Control be merged with Public Safety? I mean, animal control is literally a public safety issue.
  • Perhaps we could combine the Commission on the Status of Children and Youth with the one on Aging? They’re both about age.
  • We could combine the [Commission on the] Status of Black Males with the one on Hispanic and Latino Affairs. Why not just lump everybody under the Human Rights Commission? That way we can save the trouble of having a separate Commission on the Status of Women, too. I mean, right? These are all human beings.

I would be willing to serve on a task force to reconsider all these changes. We could call it the “Commission Commission.” I would be happy to serve as a “Commission Commissioner.”

All joking aside, I’m sincere in my agreement with the Mayor that boards and commissions ought to be reviewed — we should really call it a “Commission Task Force” that would sunset. We can find ways to clean up city code regarding them, to improve and clarify their definitions. For example, one thing I can say right now, after meeting with Councilmembers Granger and Ruff [before the meeting] and discussing nominations to the Telecommunications Council and the [Bloomington Digital Underground Advisory Committee]: these are both telecom-related. Even though it’s obvious that Telecom is one that we should consider sunsetting, but it’s also obvious that these are two commissions that ought to be combined. The Mayor will find that almost all of them have a well-defined mission that is important to this city and are worth keeping as they are. This exercise has not been wasted: I see tonight’s interaction as getting a jump on that work he calls for. Again, I support it.

It’s evident from the veto’s explanation that the Mayor didn’t engage with the extensive justification for a separate deliberative body devoted to parking. Parking, which is by definition the stoppage of vehicles, has substantial policy issues that are not at all related to “mobility,” such as economic development, what to do with the significant streams of revenue that it generates, and bureaucratic concerns. I simply do continue to disagree with his nominally substantive argument, and wish he had engaged with Council more thoroughly on it.

Now the Mayor’s Innovation Task Force Report had as its first recommendation a Director of Innovation. One of its other top-tier recommendations was for a Public Engagement Officer. I strongly endorse this position — the city’s website is greatly in need of attention from an employee devoted to content. The Council already allocated six figures to the Mayor’s new initiatives in the 2017 budget; this new officer, which I would support funding, will cost more if it is implemented in 2018. I don’t begrudge the Mayor funding for his initiatives.

Meanwhile, I began asking for the funds to staff this Commission back in May. After much discussion with the administration we determined that staff support for this Commission could be funded with existing employee hours. I went out of my way to ensure that this was true before advancing the proposal. Why did we approve his new full-time employees if this is suddenly, as he says in his message, “a drain on staff resources”?

The proposal has been on the radar for six full months. Yet the Mayor did not attend the presentation, nor did he send a representative that night or tonight. He issued only the third mayoral veto in 16 years, acknowledging that there was a supermajority to override, on this innocuous issue, and as a complete surprise to everyone. I had no inkling he was planning to veto until he informed me in person last Thursday.

The Mayor called today, reiterating his request to uphold the veto, or to modify the ordinance in the ways his administration would have wished. It’s unfortunately not possible: we are constrained. We cannot move to amend the ordinance; we cannot move to postpone; these are not in order. We can only override or not. I would like to think that the Mayor simply misunderstood the proper use of a veto. and that perhaps he will make sure he understand the process the next time he wants to veto something.

But I would urge the Mayor to see the Parking Commission — which he has the majority of appointments to, as with most boards and commissions — as an innovation that benefits his administration and the public as well as Council, and that would help, among other things, get more data onto B-Clear faster. Perhaps I should have titled it the “Parking Innovation Commission.” I would urge him not to begrudge this new Commission the very modest staff time it requires, hours that his administration has acknowledged are available for this specific task without budget increase.

Finally, if the Mayor is sincere about encouraging any “joint effort” with Council, I would encourage him to make a better effort next time to engage with the public process. That means debating the issue during the normal course of deliberations. That, and not a veto out of the blue, is the way to make legislation better. I would urge support for the override of the veto. Thank you.

Members were very thoughtful in pointing out in their final comments that commissions are generally a good thing, that we could use this one, that the Mayor did not engage publicly before vetoing. Councilmember Mayer mentioned in his final comment that he’d served under the previous three mayors and they’d only issued one veto each, and that Mayor Hamilton using the veto so early in his administration was premature. The only follow-up I had was to observe one of CM Mayer’s words, to underscore the separation of powers in Indiana cities: “We don’t serve ‘under’ the Mayor — we serve with the Mayor, and we would like the Mayor to serve with us.”

Did I mention that the ordinance I authored was enacted into law by a unanimous Council override?

Okay, now you can start applying to the open positions on the Parking Commission. It may not yet be on the city page as you read this, so if you want to get a jump, apply to the Board of Parks Commissioners and just explain in the comments what you really want to do.

[PS: Below is the complete list of Bloomington’s B&Cs, sorted to highlight their various statuses. “Committees” are not created by city ordinance, and are inappropriately characterized in the same context.]

# # #

CITY OF BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS 

as listed on bloomington.in.gov/onboard/commissions as of 2016.11.16W

*Council has no appointments to this board

  • PURSUANT TO STATUTE — PUBLIC SAFETY
    • *Board of Public Safety (IC 36-4-9-2)
    • *Board of Public Works (IC 36-4-9-2)
    • *Dispatch Policy Board
    • *Firefighters Pension Board
    • *Police Pension Board
  • PURSUANT TO STATUTE — OTHER
    • Economic Development Commission (IC 36-4-9-2)
    • Redevelopment Commission (IC 36-4-9-2)
    • Urban Enterprise Association (IC 5-28-15-13)
    • *BIDAC (Blmtn Industrial Dev’t Advisory Cmsn) (IC 36-7-13-5)
    • Utilities Service Board (IC 36-4-9-2)
    • Public Transportation Corporation (IC 36-9-4)
  • PURSUANT TO STATUTE — PLANNING
    • Plan Commission (IC 36-4-9-2)
    • *Plat Committee
    • Board of Zoning Appeals
    • Historic Preservation Commission
  • PURSUANT TO FEDERAL MANDATE
    • *MPO Citizens Advisory Committee
    • *MPO Policy Committee
    • *MPO Technical Advisory Committee
  • PARKS
    • *Board of Park Commissioners (IC 36-4-9-2)
    • *Farmers’ Market Advisory Council (advises, apptd by Parks Cmsn)
    • *Inclusive Recreation Advisory Council (apptd by Parks Cmsn)
      (created by Parks Dept. in 2003, from City Website)
    • Tree Commission (advises Parks Cmsn; apptd by many—2 Council)
  • MAYOR’S INITIATIVES
    • *Innovation Task Force — 12 members; not even one CM
    • *Wage Growth Task Force
  • BMC 2.12
    • Animal Control Commission
    • Bloomington Arts Commission
    • Environmental [Quality & Safety] Commission
    • Telecommunications Council
    • Traffic Commission
    • Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission
    • Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Commission
    • Commission on Sustainability
  • BMC 2.23
    • Commission on Aging
    • Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs
    • Commission on the Status of Black Males
    • Commission on the Status of Children & Youth
    • Commission on the Status of Women
  • OTHER
    • CDBG Funding Cit. Adv. Cmte. (2 CMs, 2 RDC, 18 apptd by Mayor)
    • *Housing Authority Board (all 7 members entirely apptd by Mayor)
    • Housing Quality Appeals Board (since at least 1983)
    • Human Rights Commission
    • Bloomington Digital Underground Advisory Committee
    • Metropolitan Transportation Plan Task Force
  • NOT ACTUALLY A BOARD OR COMMISSION
    • City Council
    • Jack Hopkins Social Services Funding Committee
    • Sidewalk Committee
    • *Hearing Officer (appointed by Plan Cmsn)
    • Monroe County Domestic Violence Task Force (is actually a “Coalition” as per city website; no code authority)
    • Council for Community Accessibility (formed 1990; open board)

 

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