Category Archives: 2015 Mayoral Election

Hot Air

Mayoral Acts

I’m fairly swamped this AM so today’s post won’t be the full-out epic you’ve come to know and love here on the Pencil.

Rather, I’d like to pose a couple of quick question/suggestions to the four candidates for mayor of Bloomington, so here goes:

  • Would you commit to putting in place a mechanism wherein every single municipal expenditure — that is, every check written, every credit card charge, and even every outlay from the various petty cash boxes in every city office — would be published online?

See, the Herald Times doesn’t watch our elected officials and their minions. There’s no city or county Inspector General doing it. So we have to do it. You and I. We’ve got to watch our Bloomington payrollers ourselves. Since every single expenditure as noted above must be recorded anyway, it seems to me to be a simple process to simply paste each cell entry into another spreadsheet that is updated in real time on a website accessible to all.

I’m not asking for much. Something on the order of:

$300, Check No. 18735, December 16, 2015, Office supplies from Staples, Authorized by so-and-so

Yeah, sure, there’d be hundreds, even thousands, of such entries. But I guarantee you there’d be apple polishers and gadflies all around the city who’d pore over each day’s new postings with their fine-toothed combs. Every once in a while, one of them just might catch a line item like:

$1200, Visa charge, September 1, 2016, Tuition, Harmony School

That sharp-eyed soul could pose the question, “What does this have to do with city business?” on the website’s comments section. Then our intrepid H-T or Indiana Public Media reporters could follow up.

Yep, we’ve got to do it ourselves as long as no one in any official capacity will.

  • Will you ask each and every one of your at-pleasure department heads to submit a letter of resignation, undated, on Day One of your term as mayor?

Why? Simple. It’ll serve as a reminder that the new mayor is taking control of city hall. Department heads and such won’t be able to sit back, fat and happy, thinking their gigs are birthrights.

It’d be the new mayor saying, in effect, “Produce or you’re out.”

Okay? What say you, Darryl Neher, John Hamilton, John Linnemeier, and John Turnbull?

 

Hot Air

Uncaged Matches

So, if the Bloomington mayoral race hasn’t driven you batty enough yet and you want even more, more, more, the candidates will square off in a total of seven debates and forums between now and the primary, May 5th.

Here they are:

My advice to you? Ignore phone calls from candidates’ campaigns. Ignore push poll calls. Do yourself a favor and give up a couple of hours of your TV watching time to attend one of these exercises in democracy. Early voting begins Monday, April 6th. That’s only a tad more than three weeks away so start making up your mind.

If this sounds preachy, it’s only because it is.

Taking The High Road

Friday was a banner day in this year’s Bloomington mayoral campaign. I finally met a person who’s supporting maverick candidate John Linnemeier. The two of us stood in the rain outside City Hall yesterday afternoon as he explained why Linnemeier was the only rational choice in the primary. The two front-runners, Darryl Neher and John Hamilton, he said, are nothing more than tools of the powers that be. Linnemeier, he continued, is a Vietnam vet so he knows a thing or two about this mad, mad, mad, mad world.

I’m willing to bet some Pencillistas know precisely who this fellow is.

For his part, Linnemeier announced Thursday his secret weapon that he’s certain will gain him victory in the May 5th primary.

That is: Pot.

Linnemeier

Linnemeier Drums Up Votes

Yup. Linnemeier rolled out his Decriminalize Marijuana strategy by registering student voters at IU’s Sample Gates. He told me Wednesday that it’s a sure-fire winning gambit. He figures if he can register 5000 students, they’ll all vote and elect him the Democratic candidate for mayor in the November election against Republican John Turnbull.

And wouldn’t that be a rollicking contest!

I’m guessing the voting citizenry of B-ton would need lots of pot to appreciate the debates and forums featuring those two.

Hot Air

The Writer Speaks

Or not. Andrew Guenther of the IDS got back to me early yesterday afternoon regarding my questions about his Monday article critical of Darryl Neher’s bona fides as a Democrat. Here’s his email response, verbatim:

Hello Michael,

Thank you for your email, but everything I have to say about the subject is in my column. I appreciate your interest!

Thank you,

Andrew Guenther

Fair enough.

More Guenther

Well, how about that? Turns out many of us have been talking about the wrong internet forum on which Darryl Neher supposedly told the world he was a voting Republican at least through the 2000 presidential election. That was one of the assertions of the Guenther piece Monday in the IDS.

The IDS staffer contacted me twice yesterday after emailing me to say he would say no more (see above). His second missive read:

Michael

Also, no, I am not affiliated with either campaign.

Thank you,

Andrew

Not long after that, apparently having read my Wednesday Pencil piece, he wrote this:

Michael:

Also, you used the incorrect forum. The link to the correct one is below.

http://mobtalk.net/bored/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1210&p=16640&hilit=+bush#p16640

Thank you for your time.

The link takes you directly to a “garvey” comment about how the poster voted for George W. Bush in 2000 because the Republican candidate had promised Compassionate Conservatism. This “garvey” went on to imply s/he was sorely disappointed in Bush for pulling the wool over her/his eyes. Go ahead and read it for yourself.

BTW: We still have no verification that it was Darryl Neher posting under the screen name “garvey.”

Conversions

No matter when and how Darryl Neher made his admitted transformation from Republican to Democrat, the question we’re grappling with, mainly, is how can an adult do such a flip-flop? Doesn’t that show…, um, what? Undependability? Sneakiness? Unbridled ambition — after all, how can a Republican get elected in Bloomington? A mercurial temperament? I suppose those who insist on bringing the subject up might want to imagine Neher’s guilty of all four vices.

Street talk here goes that Darryl Neher saw the light — the light pointing the way toward election in a one-party town — when he had himself certified by the Monroe County Democratic Party in 2007. None of us can know what was in Neher’s heart when he flipped. We can only judge him by his actions and they tell us that in four years on the city council, he’s been quite a dependable Dem. And check his platform: It reads awfully Democratic to me.

So can a person make such a switch as an adult and still be trusted?

Lemme tell you a story. I grew up in a working class neighborhood on the Northwest Side of Chicago. The most successful people living on the blocks surrounding my childhood home were low-level politicians or Outfit guys. No doctors or lawyers, no scientists, no authors, no one, that is, who had excelled. Excelling, as a matter of fact, would have been seen as presumptuous or even insulting to the rest of the neighbors.

The folks in my neighborhood had modest aims and achievements. Mr. LeFemina ran a dry cleaners. Mr. Micci was a cop. Mrs. Panarese, Mrs. Nichols, and Mrs. Lenczyk were housewives. Mr. Mundo and Mr. Matassa, both of whom lived in the most showy homes around, did nebulous work for the Mob but they were by no means counted among its top level guys. The Keating sisters who lived next door to my home had been schoolteachers.

They had one thing in common: They were all white. I don’t know precisely what Mr. LaFemina’s or Mr. Mundo’s or Miss Keating’s views were on civil rights and open housing — the buzz issues of the 1960s and ’70s. I only know that the preferred appellation for a dark skinned human in my old neighborhood was nigger. More open-minded souls might use the term coon. A relative liberal would call blacks darkies and titter nervously.

When Chicago’s blacks were marching on City Hall to demand more teachers, more classrooms, schoolbooks for all black children, and even breakfast for those kids who came from poverty-stricken homes, the whites of the city decided to boycott school one spring day. They wanted to show the world how disgusted they were by these “goddamned black bastards.” That was another preferred term for those who’d identified as Afro-Americans.

Those who sent their kids to school on boycott day and refused to sign a petition calling for blacks to be kept in their place had their homes egged and stoned.

I grew up in this environment. And even though my mother forbade the use of the term nigger in our home, I figured she was just weird. I’d told some pals about how it was wrong to say nigger and they laughed and pointed. The week after Martin Luther King Jr. was killed my sixth-grade classmate Paul Trulsch said, “That nigger got what he deserved.” I told him he was an asshole and so a fistfight ensued. For my part, I was hung with the tag, nigger-lover.

There was no worse thing to be known as.

I subsequently found it easier at times to say nigger around my neighborhood pals. I learned to shut my mouth when issues of race or civil rights came up. What was most important to me was never again to be referred to as the worst thing you could call a person.

As I grew older, this same pressure came to bear again and again but with relative maturity, more and more I came to reveal my true feelings. I started pulling away from the most hateful of my neighborhood pals. I started  going out of my neighborhood in search of new friends and new experiences. I met black people. Some became friends. There was a greater, more rewarding world out there than that of my all-white, scared, and hate-filled neighborhood.

Still, there was pressure. I worked at one place when I was about 24 years old. It was mostly white. Those whites, again, were working-class folk who thought little of doctors and lawyers and authors and even less — far less — of black people. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to advance in the company. And I sure as hell didn’t want to be called a nigger-lover again.

One day a co-worker who was black made some stupid mistake that meant some of the guys and I would have to work overtime. We sat around grousing about how unfair life was. “What a tutsoon (a Sicilian pejorative for a black person),” one guy said of the person who’d made the mistake. “Whaddya expect from a nigger,” another guy said.

I felt compelled to join in. “Yeah,” I said, “now that’s what you can call a stupid nigger.” Heads nodded all around.

What I didn’t know was another co-worker, a black guy with whom I’d been quite friendly, had just walked into the outer office and heard my line. I happened to walk into that outer office and saw him there, glaring at me. “What’s with the racial shit?” he demanded. I had no answer.

I could see the deep pain in his face. I’d wronged him. I’d hurt him. His eyes, in fact, were filled with tears. He never spoke with me again.

And so my own conversion was complete. Tolerance, acceptance, embracing of The Other race became my “core” philosophies. Racism, I learned that day, was more than a political or theoretical concept. It wounded human beings.

The image of Chris Jenkins’ face, full of rage, his eyes filled with tears, will never leave me.

Since then, I’d like to think I’m as un-racist a guy as can be. Many people think I bend over backward for Michael Brown and Martin Luther King Jr. and Eric Garner and the displaced people of New Orleans and Abner Louima and even Barack Obama. If I’m guilty of that, okay. It’s a hell of a lot better than seeing the distraught face of Chris Jenkins.

So, what does this story have to do with Darryl Neher?

This: Neher himself says he was strongly influenced to be a Republican by his childhood upbringing. As he got older and saw more of the world, he gradually came around to thinking that maybe the Republicans weren’t for him. He had his own epiphany, he says, when he saw how hurt his gay and lesbian friends were by Republican policies and attitudes.

He now says he is Democratic and progressive to his “core.”

A lot of my liberal and Left friends grew up in nurturing, caring, loving, embracing, kumbaya homes and neighborhoods. They never had to grapple with conflicting messages and pressures and even their own contradictory inner feelings. If you’ve never said the word nigger, if you’ve never marked the box next to a Republican’s name on a ballot, you can be proud of yourself. Keep in mind, though, the decision to do or not do those things isn’t natural or easy for many of us — maybe even most of us. Allow some consideration for the guy whose father was a Ronald Reagan idolator. Think about the insecure kid who grew up surrounded by racists.

I’ll never live down using the term nigger. I never want to. I want to remember how stupid I could be forever. It makes me who I am.

Being a Republican, of course, is not precisely analogous with being a racist or even the casual usage of racial slurs — although, the way things are going, that won’t be true terribly much longer. But perhaps Darryl Neher, if he did indeed vote for George W. Bush, keeps that election day fresh in his mind as well. It just might make him a better Democrat.

Hot Air

He Said, He Said

Was it a “gotcha” moment perpetrated by a Hamilton camp operative? Or did that Indiana University student who questioned Darryl Neher’s progressive credentials in Monday’s IDS do us all a service by exposing the mayoral candidate’s sneakiness?

The question has been raised: Is Darryl Neher a Democrat or a Republican?

I’d thought that was settled long ago. Apparently not.

IDS staffer Andrew Guenther zinged Neher Monday with a piece headlined “One Bloomington; Two Darryls” that calls into question the former Republican’s commitment to the Democratic Party. Guenther wrote that, contrary to repeated public statements by Neher, the current city council member continued to vote in Republican primaries through 2007 and bragged of voting for George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election on a now-defunct Internet political forum.

“Darryl Neher,” Guenther wrote, “needs to answer some tough questions before he is ready to run for Mayor of Bloomington.”

The forum, assmotax.org, does not exist at this time and one former participant on it tells me it has been deactivated for some 10 years. The URL does not direct to an active page and a WHOIS search reveals no information about any current owner of the subdomain name.

Neher, acc’d’g to Guenther, has declared that he has “consistently supported and voted for Democrats” since entering graduate school in 1989. Neher’s vote for Bush in 2000 and his participation in six Republican primaries since that time belie his assertion.

“As we can see from his record,” Guenther concludes, “Neher is not [standing by his convictions]. We deserve progress. We deserve honest leaders. We deserve answers.”

As reported here yesterday, Neher addresses his party switch at many or all of his house party campaign events. “There it is: the elephant in the room,” Neher said to a group in the Renwick neighborhood Monday evening when someone asked him about his switch.

Neher 20150309

Darryl Neher [right] Listens To A Supporter

Neher rarely fails to mention that he is progressive to the “core” and that his voting record during his four-year term as city council Dist. V rep demonstrates an unmistakable commitment to Democratic and progressive principles.

I contacted Neher yesterday for reaction to the IDS piece. He sent me a draft copy of his open letter to the Monroe County Democratic Party. Here it is:

To all Monroe County Democrats,

As I run for the Democratic nomination to become Bloomington’s next mayor, some people have asked for an explanation of why I switched party affiliation. I am happy to provide openness and clarity to this question. 

Am I a Democrat? Yes, I am a Democrat to the core. I actively chose to become a Democrat in 2008 because it is the party that represents my values.

Was I formerly a Republican? Yes. I was raised in small-town northern Indiana in a blue-collar Republican household, so this was my family culture. I grew up with a brand of Republicanism that emphasized fiscal responsibility, support for small community businesses, public investment in infrastructure, and a belief in volunteerism and serving the common good.

My personal history helps illustrate the transformation of my politics solidly into the Democratic camp. After life-changing service trips to Sierra Leone, West Africa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras during college, I entered graduate school at IU to study issues of race, gender, and social justice. I researched and wrote about the importance of re-writing our histories to reflect true multicultural impacts on our national identity.  And since entering graduate school in 1989, I have consistently supported and voted for Democrats for local, state, and national offices.

My political transformation accelerated between 1996 and 2006 while I hosted public affairs radio programming. I found myself increasingly critical of Republican politics. The erosion of civil liberties, implementing economic policies that punished working families, attempts to dismantle public education, and   a pervasive “anti-science” mentality made me question “Why am I here?” 

But perhaps a more important factor in finding my political home within the Democratic Party is my deep loyalty to my LGBTQ friends and colleagues. I struggled with how I could in good conscience align myself with a political party that consistently tells people I love that they should be denied so many rights because of who they are; denying my friends the right to marry the person they love, telling them they should silence themselves if they want to serve their country, and often denying them the beauty of adopting a child and providing that child a loving home was simply unacceptable.

I entered politics for the first time in 2011 and consider myself a public servant not as a politician. Our former Party Chair Rick Dietz certified me as a Democrat before I ran for City Council. Three former Democratic Party chairs joined my committee in 2011, and I feel the continued support of strong Democrats in our city on my mayoral campaign committee, including current Mayor Mark Kruzan, State Representative Matt Pierce, County Councilmember Shelli Yoder, and former Democratic Party Chairs Dan Combs and Pat Williams.

My track record on City Council also represents my strong Democratic principles. I am proud to have earned the support of all eight of my Democratic City Council colleagues who selected me to serve as the Council President for two straight years. I co-sponsored our Marriage Equality Resolution and was one of the first public officials to marry same-sex couples in our city. I supported resolutions against Citizens United and for Medicaid Expansion for the Affordable Care Act. I advocated increased funding for Planned Parenthood through my role on the Jack Hopkins Fund committee. I enthusiastically advocated for historic preservation, stood up for tenants’ rights, and voted for public funding of the arts and social services.   

I am a Democrat, I won an election as a Democrat, and I’ve governed as a Democrat. 

If you have further questions, please send them my way at Darryl.Neher@gmail.com. I hope I can earn your trust and support in the Democratic Primary for Mayor. 

Best, Darryl

After receiving this, I sent Neher a list of questions concerning the IDS piece and his party switch. Here they are:

  • What is the “Monroe County/Bloomington forum” the author refers to in paragraph 4?
  • Did you use the screen name “garvey” on that forum? What is the meaning or genesis of the term “garvey”?
  • Did you write that you supported George W. Bush in the 2000 election on that forum?
  • Did you thank voters for supporting you in your campaigns for city council on that forum?
  • Is (or was) that forum called assmotax.org?
  • If the forum was assmotax.org, was it customary for posters to state ideas and claim affiliations that they didn’t necessarily believe in so they could generate discussions on it?
  • Did you state ideas and claim affiliations that you didn’t necessarily believe in on that forum?
  • Did you vote for George W. Bush in the 2000 and/or 2004 presidential elections?
  • Did you vote in Republican primaries in 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007?
  • In an earlier email to me today, _______ referred to the author of the op/ed piece as a Hamilton staffer. How does [s/he] know this?

For his part, Guenther is listed as a member of the IDS staff on the newspaper’s website. His articles seem to be more opinion-y, even verging on bloggish. I dug up a Facebook page for someone named Andrew Guenther who studies political science and psychology at IU and who lists his work as “Case Manager at Indiana University Department of Student Rights, Housing Assignment Support Staff at IU RPS and Director of Social Advocacy at IU Residence Hall Association.” This Guenther also mentions that he was a member of Indiana High School Democrats.

I submitted a list of questions to Guenther of the IDS. Here they are:

  • How did you get the idea to check the archive of the defunct website assmotax.org?
  • How do you know Darryl Neher used the screen name “garvey”?
  • Certain members of the Neher camp believe you are working for the Hamilton campaign. Are you? Have you ever? What is your relationship with John Hamilton, Dawn Johnsen, and/or the Hamilton for Mayor operation?
  • Do you have a personal stake in the upcoming mayoral election? That is, do you have a preference for who wins?
  • What is your role at IDS? Are you a reporter or an op/ed writer? Are you both? When you wrote the Neher piece in question, did you do it as a straight reporter or as an opinion columnist?

Hoping to cover all my bases, I submitted a few questions to John Hamilton. Here they are:

  • Does Andrew Guenther work or volunteer for your campaign?
  • Has he ever worked or volunteered for you in any political campaign?
  • Is challenging Darryl Neher’s credentials as a Democrat a strategy or tactic of your campaign?

Hamilton’s answers, in order:

  • “No, he does not.”
  • “Never has, so far as I’m aware.”
  • “No, neither I nor our campaign has a strategy or tactic of challenging Darryl’s credentials as a current Democrat — he was approved to run as one by the party in 2011 and won election and is serving as a Democrat on city council. I and my campaign do view different backgrounds in experience and policies of all the candidates, accurately described, as relevant.”
I’m hoping the other two get back to me with answers today.

Openness

In other mayoral campaign news, I saw longshot candidate John Linnemeier engaged in a tête à tête in a public place with a very prominent member of Mayor Mark Kruzan’s cabinet this morning. I grilled the department head, asking why s/he was meeting with the candidate. This department head said s/he was meeting Linnemeier as a courtesy s/he’d proffer to any citizen. “I’ll meet anyone anywhere,” this person said. The purpose of their meeting? “To exchange ideas.” When asked if the department head was a supporter of Linnemeier, s/he said, “No.”
If all this is true, I think it’s pretty cool. The department head’s boss, Mayor Mark Kruzan, has thrown his lot in with Darryl Neher. In an earlier day and another, less enlightened place, such a meeting would be career suicide for the department head.
Linnemeier

John Linnemeier

Anyway, Linnemeier stopped by my table to chat after his meeting. He said, “Everybody thinks I’m gonna lose. I’m gonna win! Give me a level playing field [he’s refusing corporate donations] and I’ll kick their asses!” Meaning, of course, his two Dem primary opponents and not the citizenry of Bloomington.
BTW, Linnemeier also says he’s got a secret weapon issue that he’s sure will gain him scads o’votes. He made me swear to secrecy “for two weeks.” Alright, my lips are sealed ’till then.

Hot Air

Neher’s Turn

Little more than a week ago The Pencil took in a John Hamilton for Mayor house party. On that Sunday afternoon Bloomington seemingly was in the grip of winter, with a foot of snow on the ground. Yesterday, though, I drove to a Darryl Neher house party in the fancy Renwick residential n’hood with my window down and my arm resting on the door.

Man, things change quickly around here.

Here’s another example: back in the fall, Bloomingtonians who thought at all about the 2015 mayoral contest   prob. would have wondered which Republican sacrificial lamb would be wacky enough to go up against three-term boss Mark Kruzan.

But Kruzan sent shock waves through the local political biome in November with the announcement he wouldn’t seek another term. Now, with spring beckoning and the primaries less than two months away, two well-known Democrats — Hamilton and Neher — are battling for the nomination with impish John Linnemeier firing pea-shooters on the periphery.

Like I said — things change quickly.

Then again, there is indeed a Republican wacky enough to run for mayor in this one-party town, he being John Turnbull of Parks & Rec. And, just like Hamilton last week, Neher argued before a living room full of folks that he deserves the title of The Most Progressive Man in Bloomington.

Y’know, plus ça change….

Neher’s soiree was hosted by Bloomington High School North guidance counselor Greg Chafin, his husband,  manager of Indiana University Art Museum’s Angles Café, Murat Candiler, and BHSN librarian Kathy Loser. The crowd at Chez Chafin/Candiler was decidely younger than that at former mayor Tomi Allison’s digs a week ago, reflecting perhaps the age diff. between Hamilton and Neher. For pity’s sake, there were twenty-somethings and even the odd high schooler or two here to listen to Neher.

“I heard you were going to provide refreshments,” a newly-arrived woman jokes with the hosts. Candiler replies: “We’ve got beer, Coke, and wine — red and white.” They’ll help the faithful wash down hummus and tabouli and lentil salad, prosciutto, asparagus spears, crackers and baguettes. Attendees mingle in the kitchen (comparing the bouquets of the various wines), the dining room, the foyer, and the living room. A couple of adventurous young guests peek into the master bedroom. Every room of the place is hung with objets like vases, delicately balanced lamps, mobiles and the like. Clearly no tots or cats live here.

Kathy Loser

Kathy Loser Tends Bar

Murat points toward the loft balcony hanging over the vaulted living room. “There’s our treasure,” he tells me. It’s a print of the famous Shepard Fairey “Hope” poster of Barack Obama. “It’s signed,” he continues, beaming. “I got it when Obama came to town.”

Loser and Neher’s wife, Jeanette, alternate answering the doorbell. Jeanette, like her mate, teaches business communications at IU’s Kelley School. I sit next to a woman recently retired from a local quasi-governmental entity where she served as a union steward. She’s by no means the only superannuated soul here but the young ones have certainly dropped the average age.

Jeannette Neher

Neher’s Wife, Jeanette Heidewald [In Blue]

I wonder: Who’s more likely to vote? The young — those in their 20s and 30s — or the old? The answer to that question just might be the key to May’s primary.

Loser intro’s Neher. He’s used to speaking before groups. He practices every day in front of an IU classroom. He is comfortable, making eye contact left, right and center, using gestures as punctuation, striding confidently stage left and right before the fireplace.

Intro

Kathy Loser Introduces Darryl Neher

“I never thought I’d be in public life,” he says.

He tells how he co-founded WFHB’s Interchange program in 1996, where he began to meet public figures. That’s how he became interested in civic affairs. As time went by this or that pol would tell him he’d make a fine candidate for something, anything. He’d laugh at the suggestions. Then, when he left radio in 2009 (he also hosted a public affairs program on WGCL), two big-time local elected officials told him he now had no excuse not to run. So he did, running for the retiring Isabel Piedmont-Smith’s District V city council seat — and winning — in 2011.

Over lunch with Mark Kruzan a couple of years ago, Neher recalls, the mayor said, “At some time in the future, you would be the one to take my place.”

So now, here he is. Tonight’s job interview runs a short five minutes. “I want this to be about you,” he says. “I want to hear your questions.”

His first interlocutor turns out to be a former intern for the first Hamilton campaign for mayor. The kid doesn’t let on whether he’s here to support Neher or gather intelligence for Hamilton. “What are your plans for affordable housing,” the kid asks.

Neher says the Indiana statehouse has been playing havoc with local plans to develop housing for the poor. Indiana cities and counties cannot, acc’d’g to Neher, create development zones that “mimic” the federal Section 8 program (meaning any municipality looking for state vouchers for low-income housing had better quit looking.)

Rather, Neher suggests, Bloomington might use inducements like increased density or parking variances to get developers to include low-income units in their plans. “We still have possibilities,” he says.

A woman asks why she should vote for him over Hamilton. (BTW: I get the sense that at least several of the Q’s tonight are intentional softballs.) Neher takes his swing: He’s been working in the city council for four years now, he says. “That is invaluable experience.”

One of the most important decisions he’ll make should he win, Neher says, is naming a deputy mayor, “who does much of the day to day work of the office.”

Another woman asks what his take is on the big new downtown developments of the past decade. Advocates of big development like to use to word growth, Neher says. “I don’t like the word growth. We need economic value…. We need to protect those areas that define who we are…. It turns my stomach the way the hotel passed the way it did.” That hotel, the new Hyatt Place on Kirkwood, is 70 feet tall. Bloomington zoning ordinances cap downtown building heights at 40 feet. The Hyatt got its variance without much public or city council input, Neher says. He asked the city attorney to find out if all such variances can be kicked from the Planning Dept. to the whole city council for final say-so.

“If I’m elected,” he says, “I want my legacy to be that we protected our character.”

A woman asks what his relationship would be with IU president Michael McRobbie. “”I would not want this town to be a slave to the university,” he says. [MG Note: Jeanette Heidewald has asked me to emend this quote. She says the woman asking the question used the “slave” reference. My notes and my memory tell me otherwise. I do acknowledge that my rushed note-taking could well have been mixed up and my memory faulty. I’m a human and so is Jeanette. If anyone else in attendance has a recollection of this reference, I’d appreciate if she or he could contact me at glabagogo@gmail.com.] The city, he continues, needs a better, stronger relationship with IU. He wants to revive a working group relationship wherein city and university reps  meet four times a year to discuss developments “so that when something like the FIJI move comes up no one is surprised.”

Neher returns to affordable housing, saying it would help the city retain IU grads who love the town. “We have an emerging tech community growing up here. Those 20- and 30-somethings are doing terrific things…. Let’s keep them here.”

A woman asks about the homeless. “The city doesn’t have a magic bullet,” Neher says. “The mayor needs to be a catalyst in the conversation and the solution…. What’s great? Both John [Hamilton] and I have been talking about it. Whoever wins, hold us accountable.”

Translation: Nobody on this good Earth knows how to solve the problem of homelessness w/o alienating half the voting populace.

Host Greg Chafin says he’s been worked with “marginalized” people all his adult life and he’s noticed that Bloomington seems to be pulling away, bit by bit, from that progressive ideal. “What can you do about it?” Chafin asks.

Hosts

Greg Chafin [L] & Murat Candiler

“Be there to cheer them on,” Neher says. He recounts when City Clerk Regina Moore placed in front of him to sign as last year’s council president a document endorsing same-sex marriage. “That was the greatest moment of my public life,” Neher says. “And if I lose [in the May primary], they can’t take that away from me.”

Neher adds that when protesters shut down 3rd St./College Mall Road intersection last fall in response to events in Ferguson, Missouri, and Bloomington police marched alongside them to protect them, “I was proud of that.”

A man asks what he thinks of the possible move of Bloomington Hospital out of town. “We don’t know exactly what IU Health’s going to do,” Neher says. Then he asks, “What are we going to do to hold the hospital accountable for that site?” He refers to one city that was stuck holding the bag for demolition and site clean-up after its hospital moved to a new location. “We cannot allow that to happen,” he says.

Neher then suggests the site might serve as an affordable housing development. “Not first-floor commercial and apartments on the second and third floors but real mixed housing,” he says.

Loser asks what he thinks of charter schools and school vouchers. Neher admits that, as mayor, there’s little he can do to affect the machinations of the Monroe County Community School Corporation nor can he single-handedly nullify state education regulations. “There is the bully pulpit,” he says. As mayor, he might rally other Indiana mayors to go up to Indianapolis to lobby legislators.

At last, a woman asks him about his noted switch from the Republican to the Democratic party. “There it is,” Neher says, laughing, “the elephant in the room!” [Last week, Hamilton’s wife, Dawn Johnsen advised me to ask Neher about his party switch. “There’s the story,” she said. I told her I wouldn’t ask the Q myself but would be listening for someone else to. “If they don’t, that’s a story, too,” I said.]

Neher says he grew up in a small Indiana town that was “99 percent Republican.” His eyes were opened when he traveled to places like Sierra Leone and Honduras. “My social policies have been strong and progressive for a long, long time,” he says.

Recent Republican moves further and further to the Right alarmed him, he says. He adds, “I never voted a straight ticket in my life.” Finally, he announced on his WGCL program in 2008 that he would support Barack Obama for president. “That was a very liberating moment,” he says.

Neher’s kick in the elephant’s behind? His four-year record of voting in the city council has been “very Democratic.”

Treasure

Chafin & Candiler’s Treasure [Upper Left]

After a few more questions, Neher takes a sip from his green water bottle and says he needs help. He asks for money, for all the guests to wear Neher buttons and put up yard signs, and to talk him up to their neighbors. “Roughly 7000 people voted in the Democratic primary in 2011,” he says. “We need people to turn out.”

And that’s that. Neher mingles a bit before leaving with his wife. I take the opportunity to query him on a part of his personal story he loves to talk about. He’s a fervid Chicago Cubs fan. “Let’s say you have magic powers,” I say. “You can choose one of two things: Win this election or watch the Cubs win the World Series. What would you do?”

Neher jumps back theatrically and roars with laughter. “That’s impossible!” he says.

The question remains whether a Cubs World Series victory or the choice itself is what’s impossible.

Hot Air

Hores Sense

Happy National Grammar Day, everyone! Watch your colons.

In trying to learn about NGD, I came upon a neat little organization and its blog, both of which, sadly, no longer exist. Why? Well, prob. because nobody much cares about good grammar ennymore. Nevertheless, skim through the posts of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, especially a handwritten essay by a grammar-schooler about his dad’s love of “hores.” A taste:

Hores make you feel good. My dad wants a hores but my mom says no.

Horse

“Sex Worker” Is More Appropriate

Natch, good spelling is as important as good grammar.

BTW: Start making your plans now for National Punctuation Day, September 24th every year.

Plaster Saint?

So, the character who, in the interests of truth, justice and the American way, got the Jackie Robinson West Little League team stripped of its 2014 national title got himself in a bit a jam himself early yesterday morning.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Christopher Janes of suburban Evergreen Park, menaced a woman and her husband in the wee hours a block from his house Tuesday. He allegedly chased the woman, who ran into her house after she pulled into her driveway and saw him causing a ruckus. Janes then pounded on her front door and yelled at the couple to come out — using foul language. The couple called the police as Janes ran away. He was apprehended not far away with his arm bleeding.

Janes has been charged with assault, disorderly conduct, resisting a peace officer, public intoxication, and using threatening and vulgar language. At the time of his arrest, acc’d’g to the Trib, he refused to cooperate with police and would not say how he injured his arm.

Janes

Janes’ Mug Shot

Meanwhile, nine of the 13 members of the Jackie Robinson West team, traveled to the tony northwest suburb of Northbrook where they met and greeted some 300 kids and adults who came to see them at the local YMCA. The Saturday evening event was sponsored by the Northbrook Community Relations Commission. The players talked about their trip to the White House to meet President Obama, visiting Disney World, their work ethic, and what classes they liked in school.

As for Janes, he will be arraigned April 13 in Cook County Circuit Court.

Mayoral Miscellany

Doug Storm hosted all four candidates for Bloomington mayor last night on WFHB’s Interchange program.

Don’t worry: No blood was spilled.

Interchange

Click Image For Podcast

Perspective

The Onion, as always, nailing it:

Onion

Click Image For Full Story

Bim Bam Boom

So, yeah, this holy land possesses thousands of thermonuclear weapons capable of turning our fair world into a smokeball. Russia packs a few thousand pika-don fireworks as well. The United Kingdom, France, and China long have been gleeful members of the nuke club. Add to them India, Pakistan, and Israel, all of whom have tinkered their way into armageddon territory.

Funny thing is, most of the above-mentioned gasp and wring their hands whenever another nation-state hints that it’d like to develop the capability to blow the world to bits. Some otherwise smart citizens even say Well, fair is fair: We have the Bomb, why can’t they?

As ludicrous as this sounds, the leaders of those countries who possess nuclear arsenals seem to have been made less rash by their Bombs. Well, at least ever so minutely less rash. Think of Vietnam and how the US didn’t turn it into a full-blown conflagration for fear the Chinese or the then-Soviets might decide to get trigger happy in response. The USSR itself similarly tampered its urges to kill in any number of conflicts in the last half century lest we blow them to smithereens.

So rather than counting the grateful dead by the millions, we’ve kept the number of war casualties to…, um, oh. Millions.

Bomb Test

Huzzah — We’re In The Club!

Still, those leaders of the nuke club fear the prospect of a wild-man gov’t joining its ranks. To wit, North Korea. It’s still trying to perfect its own penis-envy doomsday weapon and no doubt will put an effective warhead on a dependable missile sooner rather than later. And whereas the pioneer members of Nukes, Inc. seemed content merely to develop and test their big bangers — that being enough to scare the bejesus out of their potential rivals — N. Korea seems to dig verbally assaulting its perceived enemies with threats of leveled cities.

Take yesterday, for inst. Ri Su Yong, the North Korean foreign minister, issued one of his country’s regular and predictable threats against to US. If this nation and its allies, South Korea and Japan, keep on flexing their muscles in the neighborhood of North Korea, Ri said, his land’ll blast a US city into its constituent atoms. He elaborated:

Now the DPRK has the power of deterring the U.S. and conducting a pre-emptive strike as well, if necessary.

The muscle-flexing Ri refers to is the annual joint military exercise conducted by the US and S. Korea happening right now. Every year, the US and SoKo play-act at soldiering intentionally in eye- and earshot of those excitable North Koreans. And every year North Korea pledges to take out Los Angeles or Seattle if they don’t stop it.

I mean, possessing the capability to incinerate hundreds of millions of human beings with the push of a button is one thing, but bragging about it? Well, now, that’s going too far.

H-Bomb Ditty

The Renegades covered this old Bill Haley and His Comets single back in 1966. How bizarre a species are we that we can sing in celebration of global nuclear holocaust because that’d mean there’d be one lucky male survivor along with 13 women?

I beginning to think Darwin was wrong. There is no such thing as evolution — only devolution.

In any case, this is a very cool version of a very deranged song.

Hot Air

Meet John Hamilton

With a mere two months to go before Bloomington’s mayoral primary election (and the glories of spring, sigh!) John Hamilton met with a houseful of supporters once again yesterday afternoon.

He’s been chatting up cozy groups of friends and allies like this for weeks now, sometimes doing it, say, a couple of times on a Saturday and maybe four times on a Sunday as well as the odd weeknight. It’s hard work, shaking hands, remembering folks’ names, telling a living room full of people what a swell guy you are, pointing out the contributions basket, and fielding questions like How are you, sir, going to save our thriving, throbbing megalopolis from this or that looming peril?

And even though spring and the election are so tantalizingly near, Bloomington woke up to a fresh blanket of six inches of snow on top of the four-to-six already laid down earlier in the week. Ah, I figured, they’re gonna cancel this thing. But a quick check of my email, Facebook, and phone messages revealed no such reprieve from the arctic slog to Tomilea and Jim Allison’s house.

Tomi Allison, of course, was our town’s three-term mayor back in the 1980s and ’90s. She’s thrown her support behind Hamilton, so much so that she’s happy to have a gang of slush-shoed neighbors and pals trudge around her living room and dining room.

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Host Tomi Allison

Than again, who knew how many would show up on this hellish March 1st? When I knocked on the Allison front storm door (after already falling into a deep snow bank trying to negotiate my way from street to sidewalk), Jim Allison greeted me thusly: “Well, you’re one of the brave three.” Sure enough, only a couple of other guys sat, lonely-looking, in the ring of a couple dozen chairs. Within five minutes, though, the place filled up.

Either Hamilton engenders this kind of loyalty or Bloomingtonians are simply sick of winter and will use any excuse to get out of the house. Hard to tell. Maybe both.

A pair of young Indiana University students, campaign vols, skittered about, handing out name tags and passing around sign-up sheets as more and more of the faithful stomped their boots on the welcome mat. Tomi brought in fresh pots of coffee and serving plates piled with cookies. Then the man himself showed up. Hamilton joined the boot-stomping chorus as his wife, Dawn Johnsen, did the neighborly thing and removed her shoes. No matter the foot or more of white stuff on the ground, Hamilton was going to run hard for mayor this day and his fans were going to cheer him on.

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Hamilton And Johnsen Arrive

Time for chitchat

I told Johnsen she and the old man were real troupers. She replied that an earlier event at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs already had been cancelled but she and John were raring to go to it if it hadn’t. They walked here, though, but will have to drive to a third scheduled event immediately after. “I told my son the driveway’d better be shoveled when we get back from here,” she said.

Hamilton talked to a group of three about his book club’s current selection, Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man. One of the the three, a woman, tells him about the book she’s reading, Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial. The woman says it’s about the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in a New Orleans hospital. She described the chaos, the suffering, how piles of dead bodies were found in certain rooms. Every level of government, she said, was caught unprepared for the hit. Hamilton shook his head sadly. ‘You can make great plans for any possible disaster that could happen every hundred years,” he said, “but then you’d have no time to do anything for today and tomorrow.”

I flashed to a landmark political event in my beloved hometown Chicago, the blizzard of ’79, when nearly 20 inches of snow paralyzed the city. The mayor at the time, a seat-warmer named Michael Bilandic, took the heat for the city’s inability to cope and was ousted for it by upstart Jane Byrne in the mayoral primary a month and a half later. Hamilton, I mused, had better pray no such natural surprise derails his mayoral career should he win in May.

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Mary Kay Rothert And Tomi Allison Chat

Time for the star of the show. Jim Allison stood up and said his introduction would be blessedly short. “Having been married to a mayor of Bloomington for 13 years, I think I know what a mayor looks like,” he said. “Here’s our next mayor, John Hamilton.”

Hamilton spent the next 15 minutes or so laying out his curriculum vitae. He called himself a “proven progressive.”

“I love government,” he said, meaning, not necessarily that he was Ronald Reagan’s worst nightmare (although he probably would be), but that he really digs the work. Then he delivered a subtle dig at his main opponent, City Council member and outgoing Mayor Mark Kruzan’s hand-picked successor, Darryl Neher, a former Republican. “I am — all my life — a Democratic progressive.”

Now Neher may be thinking of coming up with his own riposte — Hamilton has moved from Bloomington to Washington, DC and back again since the mid-’90s. Johnsen worked for what is now NARAL Pro-Choice America and then became President Bill Clinton’s head of the White House Office of Legal Counsel. While in Washington, Hamilton started a community land trust as well as a lending bank for small businesses and low-income neighborhoods in the capital. Neher may ask if Hamilton wants to stay in Bloomington this time. Hamilton’s ready for that one: “I don’t want to live anywhere else,” he said.

After sufficiently selling himself to a crowd already sold, Hamilton then took on the city. “In the last ten years we’ve made some bad choices that have made downtown less beautiful,” he said. He mentioned the spate of hotels and high-end condominium developments that are springing up around the formerly quaint Courthouse Square. It’s all growth, sure, but the city must give some consideration to its residents who can’t afford huge mortgages and rents. Hamilton promised to make sure “that people of all kinds and all incomes can live in Bloomington.”

He went on: “We have a very high poverty rate. We’re in the top fifth of Indiana in terms of food stamps.” He pledged to provide tender loving care for existing businesses here and market the city nationwide to attract other businesses — and the jobs they’ll bring — to Bloomington.

Those poor folks here, he said, will be the last to be served when the big private broadband companies start building a citywide network. Rather, Hamilton suggested, the city should build its own network and perhaps it can use its TIF moneys to pay for it.

Speaking of those TIF funds, Hamilton said he wants to use some of that dough to give loans to local small businesses to expand.

Jumping back to big construction developments in town, Hamilton called for “inclusive housing,” meaning all developments must include affordable units and those lower-cost homes must be meant for the long term not only for the ten-or-so-year life of the planning agreement.

Hamilton said his aim, if elected, will be to eliminate all kids’ homelessness and half of overall homelessness in five years.

All this will be done in an open, transparent environment, Hamilton said. He asked: “Does anybody know how long it takes to fill a pothole in Bloomington? Not a trick question. Nobody knows. [It’s important that] the public sees and knows what their government is doing.”

Of course, parking meters came up. Hamilton used it to reinforce his assertion that the current administration and council have been less than forthcoming on crucial issues. “Do you know what’s happening with the parking meter money? I don’t.”

What do you think of the meters? a woman asked.

“There’s a tradition in Native America saying that crows are very wise animals,” he said. The new downtown parking meters have been bombarded by crow droppings this winter. “Are these [meters] serving a purpose? And what is it?” he said. No one, Hamilton added, knows exactly why the downtown meters were installed.

To fix that, Hamilton said he and his cabinet would have weekly sessions to meet the public, answer their questions and hear their complaints. “It won’t be fun,” he said, “but it has to be done.”

He concluded by reminding the crowd that fewer than 10 percent of eligible voters show up on primary election day. “You’ve got to talk people into voting,” he said.

During the question and answer session that followed, Hamilton made the following points:

  • The city should catch up to the county in terms of sustainability measures and initiatives.
  • If utilities companies are afraid about more and more people generating their own electricity through solar panels, “Tough.”
  • His cabinet will not be filled with yes-women and men.
  • The decision by IU Health/Bloomington Hospital to move from just south of downtown to the North Park campus outside the city is by no means a done deal, no matter what IU Health says — “It may even be worth it to us to spend money to keep the hospital downtown. I’m not giving up yet.”

It was nearing four o’clock. Hamilton had pressed the flesh and talked for two hours. It was time for him and his crew to head to that next house party. “We’re in a battle,” he said. “We need to show our progressive policies work.”

And so the Hamilton gang ran off. They’ll be running until May 5th.

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Johnsen, Campaigning

[I’m scheduled to attend a Darryl Neher house party a week from today. Stayed tuned for my report in this space.]

Hot Air

Storm Of Battle

Doug Storm, the dynamic, dynamite host of WFHB’s Interchange is gathering the 2015 Bloomington mayoral combatants in his studio for a battle royal Tuesday evening.

The four candidates for mayor — John Hamilton, Darryl Neher, John Turnbull, and John Linnemeier — have agreed to face the nation…, er, well, the city live on-air with Storm officiating.

Candidates

[L-R] Linnemeier, Neher, Turnbull, Hamilton

Storm wants the B-ton citizenry to submit some Q’s before the show so if you want to know how Neher or Linnemeier might react if the ISIS hordes threaten our thriving, throbbing megalopolis send an email to Doug at interchange@wfhb.org.

The party primaries will be Tuesday, May 5th with Hamilton, Neher, and Linnemeier facing off for the Dems and Turnbull running unopposed in the Republican race. This promises to be a fun election, what with it being the first real contested campaign in better than a decade. Neher has outgoing Mayor Mark Kruzan’s backing while Hamilton claims former mayors Tomilea Allison and John Fernandez as allies. Hamilton also is amassing an all-star cast of Indiana University Maurer School of Law profs on his endorsement roster as well as former legislators Lee Hamilton and Baron Hill and even singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer. Neher counters with current statehouse figures Shelli Yoder and Matt Pierce.

[Correction: Isabel Piedmont-Smith correctly points out that Shelli Yoder is not a “statehouse figure.” Yoder is a member of the Monroe County Council. Mea culpa. And thanks, Isabel.]

Both Turnbull’s and Linnemeier’s candidacies appear quixotic at this time.

Storm’s got plenty of questions to throw at the quartet but he’s still aching for listener input. Go to the show’s Facebook page for more info. And tune in, for pity’s sake, Tuesday at 6pm on WFHB, 91.3 FM. It promises to be an hour of real democracy — fitting since we like to call ourselves one.

Big Questions

And, hey, don’t forget I’m doing a Q&A thing with the four candidates myself. Yup. Even now the boys are contemplating deep questions like What was the first album you ever bought with your own money? and Do you do your own taxes?

Now that’s democracy, kids.

My profiles of the candidates will appear in next month’s Ryder magazine. If that doesn’t get you voting, hell, I have no idea what will.

Who Loves The Sun?

I do. Even today, when it’s a goddamned bone-chilling 11º at 10 in the morning.

This recent spate of frigidity has turned me off even from checking the NOAA site for the 10-day forecast. I figure Why depress myself?

That’s why, when I overhead someone say it was going to be 50 degrees come Tuesday, I started feeling that old hint of optimism. Winter, folks, just may end one day. You heard it here first.

 

Hot Air

Winter’s Winning

Okay, things are getting weird now. WFIU’s Annie Corrigan told me this morning that the temp was -11º. So when I went outside to let Steve and Sally the Dogs out, I figured I’d freeze my delicate Fred Flintstone toes off.

Didn’t happen.

In fact, the air outdoors didn’t feel all that cold. It felt more like 11 degrees above zero.

Aha, I thought, Annie’s reading the temp wrong. Or something. Admittedly, 11 degrees above is not the condition under which you’d start thinking bikinis and fishing poles. But it is a 22-degree shift which, at any temp, is significant. I dashed back in to check the NOAA’s National Weather Service website. Lo and behold, the feds said we were sitting at -12º, a precious degree colder than Annie said.

What’s happening? Am I — shudder — starting to knuckle under to winter?

Antarctica

Ahead?

It’s depressing I tell you. Well, even more depressing than I’ve been thanks to this winter that began, um — when was it, back in September?

The Loved One snapped at me the other day in response to yet another of my ranting diatribes regarding this second yucky winter in a row. “Just get used to it!” she said.

Can it be? Am I getting used to it? Pardon me while I cry.

Humans Write

You and I both know this thriving, throbbing megalopolis is chock-full of writing talent. Do you need proof? Then hie down to Boxcar Books, Sunday for the Writers Guild at Bloomington‘s monthly First Sunday reading.

This month’s featured scribes include Amy Cornell, Antonia Matthew, and Gabriel Peoples.

  • Amy Cornell is one of the many good local souls involved in helping Monroe County Corrections Center inmates read and write. She leads writing circles there. Her work includes poetry, creative non-fiction, novels, blog posts, book reviews, and short stories.
  • Antonia Matthew has led the writing group Five Women Poets for years. She’s written, among other things, about her mother’s experiences with Alzheimer’s and her own time as a child in World War II England.
  • Born in Detroit, Gabriel Peoples lives in both Bloomington and College Park, Maryland, where she’s working toward her PhD in American Studies at the University of Maryland. She’s focused her studies on Black Performance Studies & Visual Culture.

Sounds like a compelling, varied line-up, no? Go there and support these writers.

Writer

Other than giving her a fat paycheck, the greatest thing you can do for a writer is listen to her read her stuff. Boxcar is at 408 E. 6th St. The readings begin at 3pm and run through 5pm.

The Mind Of A Leader

So, Rahm Emanuel goes before the voters of my beloved hometown Chicago today seeking a second stint as the object of hundreds of thousands of people’s rage, disappointment, and contempt.

Why anyone would want to be a president, a state governor, or the mayor of a city is beyond me. Some suggest such ambitious folks are, well, sort of off in the head. Several psychological observers have even advanced the notion that presidents and prime ministers are more sociopathic than not.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? What kind of person says, “Yeah, I want to be the most powerful human being on the planet, possessing the full capability to incinerate hundreds of millions — nay, billions — of my fellow human beings with the press of a button.”

Honestly, when The Loved One says it’s my turn to let the dogs out, I feel crushed and oppressed by the responsibility. “Do I hafta?” I whine.

Mayors must juggle the wants and demands of a seemingly endless parade of satisfaction seekers. And to do this, those mayors must slice up an ever-shrinking pile of dough. No matter what Rahm Emanuel or Bill De Blasio chooses to do, he’s going to make a lot of people mad. Not just mad as in angry; mad as in, well, mad.

Rage

A quartet of men want to be Bloomington’s next mayor. Two of them have an honest chance. By a couple of years after the election, the victor will be both the most hated and loved man in this city of some 75,000. For my money, Darryl Neher and John Hamilton are capable, nice, good guys. But, let’s be frank, they’ve both got to be crazy to want the job.

Let’s hope the next mayor’s skull doesn’t explode when, at some point in 2016, his wife says it’s his turn to let the dogs out.

Summer Soft

No, no! I won’t let winter win!

Hot Air

Spring!

How weird is today, Thursday, February 19, 2015, in our corner of South Central Indiana?

At the time I’m writing this, the temperature is -5ºF with a 7 mph wind, giving us a wind-chill of -19º. Here’s a chart showing how quickly you might suffer frostbite on any exposed area of your sacred temple should you decide to walk to the Book Corner to pick up the latest copy of Girls & Corpses magazine:

windchill

You will, acc’d’g to this chart, enter medical emergency territory after walking a mere 30 minutes or so. Good luck.

Wait — that’s not the weird part. This is: the Bruster’s ice cream joint near my palace at the intersection of State Roads 46 and 446 is set to reopen for the season in no more than eight days, on Feb. 27. In fact, as I waited at the red light there this AM, my toes beginning to lose all feeling and my breath steaming up the rear view mirror, a woman was unloading her SUV and bringing in bags of stuff to the place; undoubtedly she was coming in to start opening tasks, writing up employee schedules and ordering — brr!— tubs of mint chocolate chip, etc.

And there’s more: Today, my beloved Chicago Cubs open up the doors of the team’s spring training headquarters in warm, sunny Mesa, Arizona, for today’s mandatory reporting date for pitchers and catchers. That means the 2015 Opening Day game between the Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field is only 46 days away. If the weather gods cooperate, conditions at the Friendly Confines that evening should be in the 60s with some high, fluffy clouds breaking up a Carolina blue dusk sky.

‘Course, early evening April 5th in Chi. prob. will be sleety and windy with temps in mid- to low-30s.

But even that would seem downright tropical compared to today.

Kyle Watch

BTW: Here’s where things stand with Indiana University alum Kyle Schwarber, who was selected by the Cubs with the number 4 pick in last June’s amateur draft: the burly slugger will be in Mesa beginning next week as a non-roster invitee. That means the club is giving him a taste of the Major League experience because they have such high hopes for him. He’ll benefit from parent club instruction and get to know some of the teammates with whom, it is hoped, he will be playing come September of the 2016 season.

Schwarber

Schwarber Meets The Press At Wrigley Last Summer

He’s due to open the regular season with the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the Carolina League. If he hits as as did last year, when he absolutely mauled pitchers in three different minor leagues, he can expect to be promoted mid-season to the Double-A Tennessee Smokies.

Schwarber continues to wield his catchers mitt despite scouting reports that grade him sub-standard at best at that position. The Cubs organization tried him in left field a bit last summer but his performance there made the bosses’ hair stand on end.

He knows how to swing a bat, though, and Baseball America, the bible of such things, has ranked him the fourth best prospect in the Cubs’ system. BA will release its Top 100 Prospects in the game tonight at 9pm. I’ll get you Schwarber’s rank on that list as soon as I can.

Mayor Neher?

Have you checked out Darryl Neher’s platform for his run for mayor in the May Democratic primary yet?

Here are the highlights for me:

  • Neher promises to “Protect our community from excessive development.” He mentions the flood of out-of-state developers that, as I see it, threaten to turn downtown B-ton into a soulless, high-density hotel and sports bar orgy.
  • “One Bloomington [his campaign catchphrase] means proactive engagement between city and citizens.” Neher pledges to initiate regular mayoral roundtables with the public grilling “various stakeholders.” I hope that means developers, municipal dept. heads, the mayor himself, and other characters whose feet need to be held to the fire.
  • “IU Health/Bloomington Hospital must be accountable to Bloomington.” Amen. But good luck with that, Darryl. IUHBH already has unilaterally decided to abandon the city center for greener pastures (literally) at Curry Pike and SR 46. As soon as the new monument to itself is built it will be the region’s hospital, not Bloomington’s.

Everything else is pretty boilerplate political stuff. Neher stands four-square for schools, the police, the fire department, good jobs, and good weather.

The primary difference, philosophically, between him and opponent John Hamilton is about six inches of height, Neher’s favor. The other two guys running for mayor? They’ll be trivia answers precisely 24 hours after election day.

Neher/Hamilton

Neher [L] & Hamilton

And, hey, a great letter to the editor in today’s Herald Times called for Neher, a former Republican, to denounce his more antediluvian former GOP brethren and sisteren. [No link because it’s not online yet.]

That Big Round Thing In The Sky

Oh hey, the sunlight today is 80 percent stronger than it was on the Winter Solstice, December 21st. And we’ll enjoy a good 96 more minutes of sunlight today, too.

Take heart, kiddies.

Sun

Your Friend And Mine

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