'The Other Bloomington Revisited'
Downtown Bloomington, with its upscale restaurants, bustling bars and East Coast-style boutiques and nail salons – all brimming with the rich and their progeny – has always advanced a false image of the Southern Indiana town so many describe with utopian superlatives. The elite do indeed do well here. The state's richest man lived and died here. Indiana University professors, on average, knock down $128,400 a year, according to the American Association of University Professors. A handful of wealthy speculators, developers and their professional support networks have enriched themselves turning the city into a playground for the rich.
But for the rest, the latest 2012 Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation presents a more accurate image of IU's allegedly idyllic hometown. Nearly three in 10 Monroe County children in 2011 were poor enough to receive free lunches in the county's two school systems, according to the annual report. Another 7 percent qualified for reduced-price lunches.
Monroe County social service agencies are seeking alternative ways to raise revenues as private and public support for their missions decreases and the need for assistance increases. As bleak economic times cripple the impoverished community, agencies are turning to collaboration and merger to increase efficiency.
Local agencies receive public funding from two City of Bloomington sources – Jack Hopkins Social Service Program grants and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).
“The Hopkins fund is named after a city council member named Jack Hopkins who had this vision that this fund, completely independent of any state or federal influences, would be started locally, from our local tax base,” City Council and Hopkins Committee Member Andy Ruff said in an interview in his office in Sycamore Hall on July 22.
By any measure, from the observational to the documented, corporate governance and the global economy have spawned an epidemic of poverty, from Bloomington to Bakersfield to Baltimore and beyond.
The streets and alleys of downtown Bloomington are homes and hangouts to growing numbers of the economically displaced. The latest U.S. Census Bureau data suggest the number of Hoosiers living below the poverty line grew by 65,000-plus between 2009 and 2010. A November 2011 analysis of that census data by the Brookings Institution said the first decade of the 21st century drove the number of impoverished Americans to a record high 46.2 million.