Editor's note: As I feared, other demands – end-of-semester obligations and book deadline – left insufficient time to dig into the 2015 city elections in the way they deserved. I did what I could and hope it helped. I offer the following takeaways from the experience. - sh
Rollo for City Council
First and foremost I urge voters in District IV to re-elect Dave Rollo to the City Council. Simply put, he is one of those rare public servants who not only claims a progressive vision but actually knows what it means and pursues it once in office, regardless of the consequences.
Dave’s brand of progressivism is not the contemporary lefty rhetoric followed by conservative economic policy, as we have seen in Bloomington in recent years. When the downtown student-housing boom was barely underway, a top administration official told one of my students, “The market was obviously there.”
"Bloomington needs elected officials who will stand against the moneyed interests that exist both inside and outside of the city. Dave Rollo has done that, and there’s absolutely no reason to throw him out.”
That’s not progressive. That’s invisible-hand conservatism. Now we have a city that no one, not even the candidates, wanted. And it’s not even locals who are profiting. Not being as bad as most places isn’t what this community is about.
Bloomington needs elected officials who will stand against the moneyed interests that exist both inside and outside of the city. Dave has done that, and there’s absolutely no reason to throw him out – especially not because of his gender, his stand on Griffy Lake deer or because he was outspent.
I do not know his opponent, IU Foundation Vice President and General Counsel Philippa Guthrie, but I know and have talked to supporters. I could have but did not interview her. I know her intentions are sincere, and I am sure she would be an effective councilperson.
But I think the $11,000 she raised for a City Council race – with two weeks still left to fund raise – is bad precedent and is further evidence that Bloomington has become Anytown USA. If you want to succeed in local politics, raise a lot of money.
For me, the District IV is the most important race and is about supporting and rewarding committed progressive leadership. If Dave Rollos has stepped on some sensitive toes, so be it. That is what progressives do. And that is what we need.
For those who don’t think it takes courage to stand up for principle, or those who do, please see Uncivil Bloomington.com.
Mayor’s race: boldness vs. prudence?
The choice is far less clear in the mayor’s race, and the best I can do there is offer a somewhat-educated gut feeling and a few thoughts.
"It’s easy to say you won’t take campaign contributions when you have friends who can finance your campaign. And maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think it takes that kind of money to get elected in our city."
From everything I have known, seen and heard about Darryl Neher and John Hamilton – in person and from others – both have similar policy positions on the issues that matter most to me. (John Linnemeier will be on the ballot but has dropped out.)
I have little doubt that either can manage the city effectively. I watched Hamilton run one of the state’s largest agencies for two years – literally. My IDEM workspace featured an unobstructed view of the commissioner’s door. My relationship with Darryl has mostly been positive constituent-and-representative, not as up-close as with Hamilton. But I know and respect many people who know and respect him.
Just as I am concerned about money in the District IV council race and Democratic Women’s Caucus (whose Political Action Committee reported $10,000 in contributions), so am I concerned about it in the mayor’s race, as I always have been. (See: Kruzan must prove whose side he’s on – June 1, 2003)
The $86,000 Hamilton raised is disturbing, though a reliable source told me he raised about that much when he ran against soon-to-be-ex Mayor Mark Kruzan four years ago. No one I’ve spoken to believes Hamilton has aspirations for higher office.
It’s easy to say you won’t take campaign contributions when you have friends who can finance your campaign. And maybe I’m naive, but I don’t think it takes that kind of money to get elected in our city.
And it’s a bad sign if it is.
Still, my sense – and that is all it is – is that Hamilton will win a close one. I do not think the average voter likes what has happened to the city. And I think they want new faces taking us forward. It all depends, as always, on who shows up on May 5.
"The issues facing this community are serious and profound. I think most sense that and want a change. I think they will opt for the bold."
I agree with longtime friend and political operative Don Moore, who on Facebook summed up the choice as between bold and prudent, with the edge on boldness going to Hamilton. The issues facing this community are serious and profound. I think most sense that and want a change. I think they will opt for the bold.
On the other hand, the race has always had the feel of a local party insider-outsider affair, which Neher has emphasized throughout in his mailers, which is where candidates speak directly to the voters. His latest – and presumably the most calculated – feature seven current and former elected Democratic officials, including two former county party chairs. Kruzan contributed $250 of his own money and $3,000 from his campaign to the Neher campaign. Linnemeier endorsed Neher.
Hamilton’s endorsements have been more from state leaders and a couple formerly elected city officials, including a mayor. And I don’t think the $86K helped him with voters.
As always, whoever wins the Democratic Primary on Tuesday will be the next mayor.
If the vote is a referendum on how the voters feel about the city today, he should be John Hamilton.
If turnout is low and it’s an intra-party election, he should be Darryl Neher.
Sorry, but that’s the best I can do.
Steven Higgs is editor and publisher of The Bloomington Alternative.