In 30 years reporting on the local political scene, I've never witnessed a more cowardly display than the Nov. 4 Bloomington-Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting.
The only truths that can be culled from the proceeding is that this group of "community leaders" is prepared to turn our future over to the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), demonstrably the most corrupt and incompetent of all the state agencies. And they just didn't have the guts to do it on Friday.
The meeting began with an empty chair behind Mayor Mark Kruzan's nameplate and an opening gambit by City Plan Commission President Jack Baker to postpone the most important vote in the city since the City Council's 1985 decision on the PCB incinerator - without having to hear public comment. County Commissioner Mark Stoops, City Councilman Andy Ruff and County Councilwoman Julie Thomas resisted the effort to silence the public, so Kruzan's minions had to shift strategy.
"The meeting began with an empty chair behind Mayor Mark Kruzan's nameplate and an opening gambit by City Plan Commission President Jack Baker to postpone the most important vote in the city since the City Council's 1985 decision on the PCB incinerator - without having to hear public comment."
(The mayor's personal secretary, who consulted with his communications director, told me they didn't know where he was when the meeting began. I never did find out where he was, but I do know what he was doing.)
When Kruzan finally made an appearance almost an hour after the meeting began, he looked like a man condemned to confess to a room full of people he's spent two decades persuading he was on their side that they no longer count. Which was his situation precisely. He just didn't have the guts to do it on Friday.
Indeed, aside from Stoops, Ruff and Thomas, the only public officials who displayed any integrity throughout the six-hour meeting were from the Bloomington Police Department. Despite repeated requests from MPO Chair Kent McDaniel to have a citizen removed for speaking out of turn, multiple officers handled the situation with grace. They ignored McDaniel and allowed the young man to peacefully voice his protests until he voluntarily left the meeting.
It should be noted that McDaniel represents the Public Transportation Corp., which oversees Bloomington Transit, which has been threatened by INDOT with the loss of millions of dollars over a "No" MPO vote.
About the only thing of substance Kruzan uttered the entire meeting was an apology he issued to the MPO's INDOT representative for a citizen calling him a liar, after the speaker recited a list of bald-faced lies INDOT has perpetrated upon the public. It wasn't clear, at least to me, if the mayor was also apologizing for Stoops, who called INDOT a "bully" and its tactics "extortion."
As Kruzan well knows, I have spent 20 years of my journalistic career documenting INDOT's pathological pattern of lies over I-69. Everything about it is a lie. And at yesterday's meeting, the agency's representative reiterated many of those lies.
If he had any integrity on this issue, the mayor would apologize to the public for apologizing to a liar.
As I have written many times and will not dwell on here, Mark Kruzan is personally responsible for Bloomington's inevitable devolution into a piss stop on the NAFTA Highway. Popular and deserving foil John Fernandez was nothing more than a tool of a corrupt State Democratic Party. Indiana House Majority Leader Kruzan was a power to be reckoned with and could have kept I-69 out of Bloomington. He just didn't have the guts to do it.
The truth is, no one in this city, myself included, has known longer than Kruzan that I-69 was a done deal years before I finally gave up hope and declared it so in a November 2010 article, now mistitled "The last word on I-69." He just hasn't had the guts to tell them.
While he's in the business of apologizing, the mayor should blubber before Andy Ruff and the entire Bloomington community for misleading them on I-69 for so long. They let him get away with it all these years. And that is their fault. But he owes them the courtesy of telling them the truth, for once. He is going to vote for I-69.
The mayor and MPO cowering before liars and bullies is not what democracy looks like. It's what cowardice and corruption look like.
Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.