Student Reports - Civic Life
Sitting on a stool behind a 20-inch Macintosh monitor, Steve Volan towers above most customers who approach the checkout counter with movie in hand. A navy-blue hat rests lightly on top of his ruffled brown hair. Clenched in his right hand is a Subway foot-long sub.
The Cinemat's laid-back atmosphere creates a comfortable smile on the lips of customers and employees alike. Soft sounds of movie dialogue resonate from the TV hanging in the corner, and a serene silence floats through the air, except when disrupted by Volan's bellowing laugh.
"What really got me involved in politics?" Cinemat owner and City Councilman "Tall Steve" Volan asks with a sly smirk and squinting eyes. "It was the cuckoos. You've heard 'em, 'Cuckoo! Cuckoo!'"
Jill Stowers runs on a tight schedule. While her office is located on Bloomington's East Miller Drive, she finds that her job takes her all over central Indiana.
As program manager for Bloomington Hospital Positive Link, the regional AIDS medical service, Stowers says she travels around Monroe and surrounding counties for Positive Link outreach events every week.
Despite a hectic agenda, Stowers is happy to give time to discuss the change she jumpstarted in Positive Link -- its transformation from a care site for AIDS patients to a comprehensive service focusing on HIV prevention.
Elizabeth Hannibal's at-attention posture softens slightly as she puts into words why she chose her line of work. She sits in the dimly lit consultation room, which has seen countless women and children jarred by domestic violence. Their pain and possibilities splayed across the worn armchairs and children's toys have only Hannibal's calming voice to guide them.
Hannibal, the 24-year-old crisis intervention services coordinator at the Middle Way House, cannot imagine another occupation. Her multi-tasking role for the nonprofit domestic violence shelter is always evolving. From taking calls from rape victims to organizing volunteer orientation programs, more can always be done toward creating social change.
Hannibal doesn't see the job as overwhelming. For her it's the little things that matter most.
"The progress we see in the children we serve," she says, "the mom who gets a job, who moves into her first apartment for the first time in her entire life, those are the everyday things that make my work worthwhile."
Rick Barbrick has Bloomington "in his blood." After attending IU in the early '70s, he returned to his college town in February 1997 to open Dharma Emporium, a "psychedelic museum, gift shop and fashion boutique."
Now, 10 years later, he has decided to close his store. The Kirkwood Avenue building where Dharma Emporium is located changed hands about a year ago, and since then Barbrick's rent has been hiked from $1,200 to $1,600 a month.
"I'm closing in October of next year when my lease expires," Barbrick said. "I'm just convinced my rent would go up again by a considerable amount if I renegotiated with the new landlord."
Monroe County Jail Commander Bill Wilson has faced the same challenge every day for the past nine years -- jail overcrowding.
According to Wilson, this issue is not unique to Monroe County or to Indiana. "Probably a majority of jails across the country" are facing this challenging situation, he said.
Wilson's challenge affects his job, his staff, his inmates, his department's budget and all of the citizens of Monroe County.
"It is an entire system problem that is going on," he said.
Sallyann Murphey did not plan on being a teacher. With a degree in politics and modern history, she started her career as a journalist and producer for the BBC. In 1991, she and her family moved to a farm in Brown County. Murphey enrolled her daughter in Harmony School, and her career changed direction.
She questioned her daughter's social studies curriculum and brought her concerns to the school. But instead of being brushed off, she was invited to teach her own class. Seven years later, she finds herself both teaching at Harmony School and working as an advocate on behalf of the school and its mission.
Murphey is passionate about Harmony School's practices. She believes in the school's mission and works to create other schools around the country that accept and support its ideas.
When asked how many boards and commissions she serves on, Charlotte Zietlow says she doesn't know. "And I don't really want to know," she adds with a laugh.
Short, gray hair frames her lively eyes, which peer kindly from behind small glasses. She offers coffee, leaves and quickly returns with a steaming plastic foam cup and two kinds of Coffee-mate creamer.
Zietlow is the economic development coordinator for Middle Way House, a Bloomington nonprofit that provides housing and support for domestic violence victims. Her newest task is to raise funds for Middle Way's New Wings Community Partnership.
Buff Brown's alarm clock buzzed at 4:30 a.m. the entire week of Sept. 26 to Oct. 2, 2006. He woke up and got dressed each day before he started the task that required him to wake so early, surveying downtown Bloomington's three parking garages.
Brown, the founder and president of Bloomington Transportation Options for People (BTOP), chose the 5 a.m. shift to survey how many cars were parked in the parking garages.
"At 5 a.m. it was pretty dead, and it was dark and cold," said Brown of his survey experience. "There was a cleaning guy the first day at one of the garages who saw me and asked me what I was doing, and after that he didn't bother me for the rest of the week."
What Brown was doing was gathering data that went into BTOP's groundbreaking 2006 Downtown Parking Garage Survey. This survey's results generated a community discussion about downtown parking. But the discussion has not transformed into tangible actions, according to Brown and BTOP.
The summer heat isn't the only thing that has Americans looking for relief. Across the country, people are mobilizing against Big Media and all that it represents: an anemic public culture punctuated by crass commercialism and shoddy journalism.
In recent weeks, thousands of so-called "ordinary people" have organized to slow, if not stop, an industry-led, lobbyist-financed juggernaut that threatens to decimate public access television and turn the Internet into an "information toll road."
Grassroots campaigns, like Save The Internet, put both the Congress and the Federal Communication Commission on notice: people from across the political spectrum want the public interest upheld in matters of communication policy.