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Page last updated on September 6, 2021 at 4:14 pm

I thought one of the things the mayor does is give big speeches. They're a little different these days, but I've given four major speeches, and to kind of get into what's going on in the community and such, I thought I'd just reference those, not go through them, but those are the places where I really try to set a course, try to articulate in a bigger picture kind of what's going on in the community, and of course try to do that in settings like this, too.

But those four major speeches this year were the inaugural address which I gave on January 1st, and then I had the state of the city, the traditional annual report, and discussion of where the city is. That was in February. Then I gave a speech. I called it 10 Tough Weeks, which was in May, which was kind of dealing with the 10 weeks of the pandemic that we were in right then and trying to put that in perspective and talk about where we're going. And then just 10 or 11 days ago, I gave a speech I call Recover Forward, which was trying to put the first six months of this year into some context and kind of talk about a course going forward for the community. And so I thought I'll just kind of bounce through the most recent one and then make a few observations and then open it up for questions.

Recover Forward, which isn't the most beautiful phrase or anything, but it really tries to set the course thinking about how do we move forward. I identified four major challenges that are right in front of Bloomington right now. First, the health crisis, the pandemic, which has turned upside down so many of our lives and every city employee works differently today than they did in February. And of course, it's had a huge impact in our community from fatalities to disease to changing how we operate. That's one huge challenge, the health pandemic.

The second, related, is the economic recession. As we shut down the community under state orders, under local orders, we had thousands of people thrown out of work. We have had a huge disruption to our economy, and that's a major challenge for me in the mayor's seat to think about how do we deal with that? How do we try to recover, minimize pain and damage? So that second was the economic recession.

The third big challenge is racial justice, the issues of race in our community. Those, of course, have been with us for generations and continue to be with us. They really bloomed, erupted, arose in great energy with George Floyd's lynching in Minneapolis and others. And then actually kind of took a local turn, too, on the July weekend when we had an episode at Lake Monroe and others. And that issue of racial justice, the 20 million or so Americans that have marched, enormous numbers of people saying enough is enough, it is time to make progress on this in new ways, in deeper ways. So that's the third big challenge.

And a fourth is climate change. I've talked a lot about it in January and February. It has taken a back seat in a way, but it is not going anywhere. The challenge of climate justice and climate change is kind of churning away in the background as a big challenge to all of us in Bloomington and in the country.

So anyone of those four, any one of those four is an enormous challenge to a community, to a government, to a mayor. And then I just kind of would have to add in the extraordinary national divisiveness and disarray and lack of pulling together on these in so many ways. So it's a challenging time, and that's what Recover Forward tried to think about how we're going to move forward.

I sometimes describe the government's role in five words, say it can be described in five words. Pick important problems. Fix them. If the government does that, that's often a good description of what we should do. Now, I will note sometimes we pick problems and sometimes problems pick us. We've certainly seen times when problems have picked us, and at the highest level, I would also just say from my seat as mayor and looking at the community at the highest level, a lot of what we try to do is help our community be the place that we want to be, help our community reflect the values that infuse most of us. It's a democracy.

We, of course, don't all agree on that, but at a very high level, the government is trying to help our community be what we want to be and reflect those values, and we also more specifically try to help our government be the best partner we can be as we try to implement those values. I do think those four challenges do reflect the values of our community, generally, that they are things we want to address, respond to humanely. And I also think that we want our government to be a strong partner in this, that as we try to imbue our values and live our values, that we want our government to be a partner in that. So that's what Recover Forward is really talking about. How do we be a partner from the government in reflecting those values better in our community?

I'll just mention a couple of things and then we'll be ready to open up for questions. One, to be a strong government partner, to try to help accomplish these things, we need to be fiscally responsible. We need to manage our balance sheet or income statement, our financial situation well so we can be a stronger partner. We need to be active where we can be and where we need to be. There are places where the government needs to act and there are places where we can act, and particularly in my view these days, we should be active in that way.

Recover Forward really gave a fiscal outline of what is our fiscal situation, what can we do now as a government. We have very strong reserves and I tried to talk about the rainy day reserves. This is a rainy day, so we have these reserves built up for this purpose. I outlined basically using $8 million, half of which to protect our basic services and half of which to be a counter-cyclical government, a government that tries to help us recover more quickly, more humanely reduce the damage.

I outlined the three kinds of buckets of work that I've felt were important in that counter-cyclical. One was sustainability and equity, trying to invest now in ways we can become more equitable as a community by race, by the economy, more sustainable with climate justice was the biggest bucket. A second is housing, affordable housing, continuing to try to make sure people can live in the community that they want to live in and do that safely and decently. And third was on jobs, trying to just help the private economy, the jobs economy of nonprofits and businesses recover more quickly.