Hot Air: Working On Commissions

I was all for Steve Volan’s parking commission legislation until I found out how many commissions Bloomington already has.

As the Herald Times editorialized yesterday AM: “This commission would be No. 38 in the world of boards, commissioners and committees being operated in the very inclusive mechanism that’s called city government.”

Jeez, and I though I was breezy.

Anyway, simple math tells us that’s one commission for every 2162 citizens of this thriving megalopolis. Which, by golly, might be an idea. Think of it — the city council could create a commission for each bloc of the citizenry totaling that many warm bodies. Whenever one or several members of that bloc has a beef with the mayor or the parking ticket scribbler or the garbage collector, they’d simply go to their commission for redress. Maybe they’d get satisfaction and maybe they wouldn’t. Pretty much the way it works now.

Anyway, Mayor John Hamilton nixed Volan’s parking commission that’d been passed 7-0-1 by the council a couple of weeks back. Wednesday night the council overturned Hamilton’s veto 9-0. Clearly the message was: “Don’t fk with us, mister.” The councilpeople wouldn’t put it in quite that coarse a manner, although a smack-down is a smack-down no matter how genteel the smacker’s rhetoric.

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Face Off

Now, Hamilton will be docile for the time being.

And Volan gets to puff out his chest. Of course, he won’t do so blatantly. His parking commission is a needed civic advancement, he’ll say, and he’s right. As long as it’s folded into some other, related commission, I’ll say.

Still, Volan gets to say, should he so choose, The mayor handed me political capital on a platter.

His colleagues on the council no doubt will share in the buffet.

Keep in mind Hamilton wasn’t averse to a the idea of a commission that’d handle the thicket of parking issues in this growing city. Just that, well…, maybe we don’t need a brand spanking new body that’ll stand alone.

“While adding one more commission may not itself seem a significant drain on staff resources,” Hamilton argued, “collectively, the total number of hours committed to staffing these groups is very substantial. I would encourage a joint effort in reviewing the values of these bodies prior to adding a 38th to the list.”

Volan digs commissions, though. In his councilmanic.us blog post trumpeting the passage of the parking body earlier this month, he pointed out its hoped-for ability to avail itself of innovative thought, new research, complex data analysis, and other quant-y and academe-ish practices:

My take is, these days we have science now…. For too long, though, we’ve been making parking decisions ad hoc.

The spanking-new commission would ponder the following parking precepts:

  • Meters as behavior-modification devices rather than revenue generators
  • Creating available spaces more evenly distributed throughout the downtown area
  • Using meter revenue to implement the city’s master growth plan

Further, he exhorted the common wo/man to apply for a position on the new body and then he went a step further: “While you’re at it, you might as well apply for other boards if they look interesting to you. You’ll see from the listing page that we have vacancies.”

His heart is in the right place. In this sense, he hearkens back to those prehistoric days when Frank McCloskey and Charlotte Zietlow led a bunch of ragtag, scrappy outsiders to an astounding upset election victory in 1971, turning Bloomington’s city hall from Republican to Democratic overnight. (Although it’s well to note the city remained a one-party town despite the revolution.) The insurgent Dems had promised to give a voice to all citizens in a council and a mayor’s office that’d previously been run as tightly as Rome’s College of Cardinals after the death of a pope.

In any case, the parking commission’s definitely a thing now and they-ain’t nothin’ the mayor can do about it. Fine. The ground rules and parameters have been set in the tug of war between Hamilton and the council nine.

Nevertheless, the council ought to take Hamilton’s advice and look to consolidate the unwieldy commission set-up here. Either that or give me my own commission.

Bishop Banter

The Bishop Bar boss, Steve Westrich, joined me yesterday on Big Talk. Catch the WFHB Daily Local News feature here, and the full-length, unedited original interview here.

Big Talk is off next week as the WFHB news operation falls back on its usual Thanksgiving week fare of canned, syndicated programming and repeats of local shows that’ve made a splash over the previous year. My guest the week after should be award-winning poet Catherine Bowman, lately of Indiana University but originally from Texas. I’m telling you, IU poets are all the rage these days, as Catherine is still trying to squeeze in a couple of hours to join me at the studio. This after I had been planning to have another award-winning poet, Ross Gay, on the December 2nd show, but Gay’s hopping around the country on a jet plane these days, as his ongoing rare bestselling-poetry-author tour continues.

Big Talk Logo Usable Screen Shot

Ross Gay’s latest compendium of meter, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, is the biggest selling title for 2016 at the Book Corner — what, you expected it to be President-elect L’il Duce‘s dyspeptic, bitter, naturally self-serving Crippled America? (BTW, no link for that title — our new demagogue-in-chief can peddle his chintzy wares on his own time). Gay’ll be a Big Talker sooner rather than later.

Catherine Bowman is no slouch in the bookselling biz herself. She’s penned four collections of poetry and her work has appeared in no fewer than six editions of the Best American Poetry series. Stay tuned here for further developments in the great Dec. 2nd Big Talk guest sweepstakes.

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