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Good evening Council Members, residents, and City staff members, thank you for the opportunity tonight again to address some important and exciting prospects with you. 

Last week I shared the City’s enthusiasm for a plan to make a gift to the future, honoring Bloomington’s two hundred year anniversary, by asking for your approval to issue a Bicentennial Bond. This Bond will fund a number of major projects to deepen our commitment to an integrated, sustainable multi-modal transportation system, to extend our trail connectivity, to substantially increase our tree inventory, to animate downtown alleyways, and to provide fitting entryways to our beautiful city.  

Let me recap those projects, starting with 7 miles of greenways and trails:
 

  1. An East-West B-Line through the heart of town, with a Greenway on Seventh Street running from the B-Line east to the ByPass on the eastside, coordinating with IU for the campus section

  2. In Lower Cascades, converting one lane of the roadway to a bike-pedestrian trail, connecting Clubhouse Drive south to College Avenue and Miller-Showers Park

  3. A new soft-surface hiking trail around Griffy Lake, linking to the Cascades trails to the west and we anticipate to the new hospital site to the south

  4. And a new trail, running west from Switchyard Park linking to RCA Park, Weimer Road, and Wapehani Mountain Bike Park
     

And three more community enhancements:
 

  1. Activating three blocks of alleys by the downtown square with repaving, lighting and beautification

  2. Planting and replacing 1,400 street trees, about 10% of our inventory, to sustain our healthy and beautiful tree canopy

  3. And finally, investing in four to six gateways, including art, landscaping and trees, to create more significant entry points to our 200-year-old community, such as at the Arlington Pedestrian Overpass, the Millers-Showers Park gateway, and other thoroughfare entrances.
     

These all are investments in the mobility and workability, as well as the sustainability and beauty -- and, ultimately, the competitiveness and economic and social health -- of our city for years to come. All of these quality-of-life investments will be open to all our residents and visitors free of charge -- these are public infrastructure and amenities for all.

Bloomington is a fantastic city in part because we have a history of public investment in these kinds of elements. We have been a Tree City USA since 1984... Our downtown has been increasingly robust since the 80s as a result of investment and adaptive reuse ... Our award-winning Parks Department knows trails are consistently cited as the number one priority for enhancement, and the trails we’re talking about tonight are the ‘missing links’ identified as the highest priority unfunded parts in the trail system.

As we’ve inherited a great city at this 200 year anniversary, we now should carry forward that commitment to the Bloomingtonians of the future, continuing to invest in our quality of life. We should conserve our natural environment, support healthy living and mobility, reduce reliance on automobiles, strengthen our social fabric, and provide all our residents, from all walks of life, the opportunity for retreat, recreation, and restoration.  That is what we do when we invest in our public spaces -- our parks, and trails, tree-lined streets, city entryways, and downtown alleyways.

We of course have many challenges in Bloomington -- jobs, wages, housing, substance use; I am keenly aware that many Bloomingtonians struggle to find a good job, or an affordable home, or to get social or health services they need. Every day. Since I’ve had the opportunity to work on these issues as Mayor, we have been concentrating efforts and deploying expanded resources to improve life for all of the members of our community.  The findings of the Wage Growth Task Force, the Affordable Housing Working Group, and the Safe and Civil City Task Force have resulted in recommendations directly addressing these needs.

Over the last three years, we’ve added more than 400 affordable bedrooms, 15% of all the housing stock created. We’ve received $1.5 million in contributions to the Housing Development Fund, designated for affordable housing. We’ve earmarked up to $2 million in additional local capital funds to be further leveraged 2 to 1 for additional support of affordable housing. We’re pursuing federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) funding, dramatically to accelerate the renovation of 300 units of public housing, planning to do in five years what would have taken 25 years, to help our neighbors in public housing have better quality homes.  We’ve invested in Shalom Community Center to expand to weekends. We’ve invested in pre-K support for low-income families. We’ve invested significantly in more community policing and law enforcement diversion, with more patrols, new Neighborhood Resource Officers, and a Social Worker. A great new jobs programs was launched w/ Parks and Centerstone. Our Comprehensive Plan (and our UDO) will significantly steer new development to include more affordable housing. Just today we opened The Mill to help support new jobs and innovation for the next generation of employers in the Trades District.

All these measures and more help address the very real needs we have in this community for housing and jobs and services.  Our commitment together to raising the quality of life for all Bloomingtonians is strong and steady. This Bicentennial Bond, is not an alternative to that commitment. Not an either/or. This Bicentennial Bond is another part of that commitment. The Bond will increase mobility options for all, lower automobile dependence, and increase carbon sequestration. It will enhance quality of life for all, as a more livable, sustainable community.

And it will pay forward to future generations, in honor of our Bicentennial. It’s the right thing to do. It’s planting trees (some metaphorical some literal), under whose shade some of us will not sit. Like the State of Indiana did at our Centennial in 1916, when the legislature created the State Park system to conserve natural areas around the state, which we all enjoy a century later, at McCormick’s Creek or Spring Mill or Brown County parks.

Our Indiana parks system was a magnificent Centennial gift to the future. Marking important occasions with investments that improve and enhance public space for all residents, is a good thing to do.

For Bloomington’s Bicentennial, I ask you to make our own gift to the future. I urge your support for this bond issue, which will significantly shape public space and the use of it, by future residents, for those just passing through, for people of all walks of life, from all corners of the globe, for generations to come. Thank you for your consideration and your continued stewardship of this precious Bloomington we call home.

 

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