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Page last updated on August 2, 2017 at 12:25 pm


Almost one year ago I stood in front of the Monroe County Public Library to discuss and address some of the issues challenging our community’s safety, civility and justice.  Many interested residents, business and local government representatives attended, and brought with them questions and concerns as well as energy and goodwill.  Since that early August day, many of those present have become earnest partners in exploring and implementing strategies to improve safety, civility and justice in our community. It became clear quickly that this would be a challenge that would take the good hearts, minds and resources of many in our community, working together, to create successful outcomes.

In a moment we will be announcing some new initiatives, but I want to begin today with thanking all of you involved: the Community Justice and Mediation Center (CJAM), the Downtown Safety Civility and Justice Task Force, Beverly Calender-Anderson and our Community and Family Resources Department, the many local not-for-profits like Wheeler Mission, CASA, Shalom Center, Community Kitchen and Centerstone, faith organizations, businesses and hundreds of individuals who have already rolled up their sleeves and gotten to work. And I must specifically thank and acknowledge our local public safety officers, the dedicated men and women of our city police and fire departments, including Chiefs Diekhoff and Moore, the county and township employees, and health care workers who work extended hours in all conditions to address these very difficult and often heartbreaking problems, week in and week out, 24 hours a day.

A brief review:

Since last August, we announced a panhandling education campaign, installed several cameras, included parking enforcement officers to be more eyes on the street to offer services to those in need and address crime, and expanded and adjusted regular police and downtown resource officer patrols. We’ve conducted ongoing outreach to downtown businesses, faith communities and social service agencies serving low income people and those experiencing homelessness, addictions and/or mental illness to explore how we could all work together to make our downtown safe and welcoming for everyone. We have continued to enforce regulations about blocking sidewalks, park closure times and aggressive panhandling. We have also arrested people who peddle poisons or act violently toward their fellow residents.

We sponsored the Community Justice and Mediation Center to hold meetings with stakeholders on every side of these issues, and they provided what they learned from their fellow residents to the Safety, Civility and Justice Task Force. The task force then went to work incorporating what CJAM learned, researching best practices and developing recommendations for the city going forward.

Just over a month ago, on June 15th, we received the final recommendations from the Safety, Civility and Justice Task Force -- let me again thank the volunteer members of that effort -- and several of the recommendations we have already begun implementing:

  • Again, continuing increased patrols downtown

  • We initiated dialogue with Excise Police about more actively enforcing existing liquor laws

  • I met with Governor Holcomb (Monday, July 10) - to request more assistance from the state and share concerns about resources and strategies

  • I have meetings scheduled with Family and Social Services Administration and Corrections officials (Head of FSSA on Monday 7/31 and Corrections on 8/9) to coordinate efforts, share information, and be assured the state isn’t asking local resources to do more than is possible or fair

  • In partnership with Centerstone and the Bloomington Parks and Recreation department, we are implementing a Jobs program for people in recovery who need employment

5 workers employed through Centerstone working in 4 Bloomington Parks

  • With the help of local business sponsors we have increased programming at Peoples Park. From today until the last week in September, every day there is a scheduled activity or entertainment in Peoples Park for all to enjoy.

Sponsors include: DBI, Village Deli, Soma, Laughing Planet, Bloomington Bagel, CFC Properties, Hartzells, Nicks, Visit Bloomington, Finch’s, The Bluebird and Chamber of Commerce.

It’s been gratifying to see our community work together to meet some big challenges over the past year. We are together creating a stronger foundation for our work going forward.

And the situation is evolving quickly. The Bloomington Police Department and Fire Departments responded to a peak number of overdoses in June at 45.  So far in July that number has dropped to 16. Halfway through 2017 we have responded to a total of 176 overdoses. Contrast that with 154 for ALL of 2016.  And those are only the numbers that BPD and BFD have reported.  The Monroe County Sheriff's Department has also been responding to calls out in the county.

The time for action is now.

Based on what we have learned so far and again following up on the Task Force recommendations, I want to announce four additional community initiatives today:

Announce: Extended Shalom hours to include weekends

Announce funding plan $65,000

⅓ City,  ⅓ County, ⅓ area businesses

We know we have people in need of services every day of the week.  Extended hours at Shalom will provide uninterrupted services including:

Homelessness, hunger, addictions and mental illness do not take days off, so it’s important for help to be available 7 days a week.

We are going to try it, with funding for one year of these extended hours. We don’t know if this is the right answer. We know it was recommended by the Task Force.

We understand that the presence of any organization providing these kinds of services near a residential neighborhood brings its own challenges. So with the extended service hours we will be increasing police foot patrols in the area to monitor activity and protect the safety, civility and justice for those who reside in the area, and minimize any illegal activity.

Announce: Formation of a Metrics Development Team

In order to make informed decisions, our many community stakeholders need access to timely, accurate, useful information. To accomplish this, a new Metrics Development Team will be (as the name implies) developing metrics to measure current conditions, effectiveness of programming, activity trends, data on overdoses/drug arrests, homeless counts and other metrics they determine to be pertinent, as we collectively seek to improve safety, civility, and justice in our community. Good data leads to informed decisions.

I have requested City staff members: Community and Family Resources Department Director Beverly Calender-Anderson, Police Chief Mike Diekhoff, Safe and Civil City Director Rafi Hassan, Parks and Recreation Director Paula McDevitt and Innovation Director Tom Miller to develop these metrics. And we know how important the work of Monroe County Government is and the data to which they have access, so Monroe County Health Department Administrator Penny Caudill has also agreed to serve on this team. County Commissioner Amanda Barge, who joins us here today and will speak in a moment, has pledged the County’s cooperation and participation, so additional County representatives may be joining this team and will certainly be contributing helpful data. We appreciate and welcome their participation.  

Announce: Two new internet based resources are being developed:

1. Homeless services web page embedded in city website will provide one-click information for those in our community addressing or experiencing homelessness. Links will provide access to services available in the community to assist with housing and related resources. Once the page is up, a public information campaign will inform potential users of the page availability.

2.  Safety, Civility and Justice Website: The goal of this new stand-alone website is to connect and inform people, giving the public insight into initiatives designed to make our city more safe, more civil, and more just. The site will connect with our new homeless services web page and help organize our community efforts. This website will feature stories of the people working on this challenge - who they are, what they are doing, and opportunities to get involved with their work. Organizations like CASA will be featured with links to get involved. With a simple, easy to navigate platform, residents can stay informed about policies and efforts related to the issues of opioid and other addictions, homelessness, aggressive panhandling, and children affected by these societal problems. Website users can contact us with concerns, share experiences, suggestions and comments. Creating a city that is safe, civil and just is a community-wide challenge and we hope this website will help us organize and provide an easily accessible platform for periodic updates on this community’s efforts to tackle it.

Announce: Finally, I want to announce my intent to form a new Community Coordinating Council. I will be inviting a group of high level representatives from key stakeholders like Monroe County government, Indiana University, IU Health, Centerstone, the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, our business community and others to join together to look at these issues holistically and work closely together to implement best practices  - using the data gathered by the Metrics Team to inform us. By opening these doors, using data and joining with representatives from our key community resources, I believe we can most effectively and efficiently - without duplicating services - bring about the reality of a safer, more civil and more just Bloomington. Subject experts local and external experts will further inform the Council.

This is an evolving situation. The City of Bloomington government cannot and should not try to do this alone. We need, and have, strong partners throughout the community. We need support from the state and national resources as well. It will be these partnerships and relationships that will, I believe, prove to be our best, and frankly only, path to success. We will be flexible. We will try things. Some will work better than others. We will be both proactive and reactive as new challenges arise that we must meet as a community, working together to improve it for everyone who lives here.

Folks, our summer has included some challenges for our community, and certainly for many many individuals facing their own challenges every day. We’ve read some troubling headlines, but despite that, this remains a wonderful place to live, work and raise a family. Our shared love of the community we’ve inherited and worked so hard to build, will give us the strength and the compassion we need to meet this challenge. Cities around the nation are looking for solutions to address the opioid crisis, homelessness concerns and mental health care. We are all in this together. We have faced difficulties before. And I am confident that we will continue to meet these challenges with determination and with compassion, and continue to build a bright future for Bloomington and Bloomingtonians.

I want to thank and introduce County Commissioner Amanda Barge, who has already agreed to participate in the Community Coordinating Council representing Monroe County government.  Amanda has been working on a very important Opioid Summit planned for September 28, and has already demonstrated her commitment to a compassionate and effective community for all. I sincerely appreciate you being here today Amanda, and welcome your remarks.