he Bloomington City Council this week will continue discussing two important issues that affect everyone.
Urbanization and Spending During COVID times –
The City Council just had what they call a “retreat” during which the City Manager brought up 6 projects that had been put on the backburner. Funding the projects could possibly require a “local option sales tax” – on top of our increased property taxes.
These projects are:
1) Bloomington Ice Garden - $25 Million
2) The Community Center - $75 Million
3) River Bottoms Project
4) A new Public Health Building
5) Center for the Arts Expansion
6) Parks and Rec Improvements
They would also require state bonding of about $125 million to cover the Ice Garden and the new Community Center. Residents may have no say in state bonding bills, but they will have to “buy-in” to a local sales tax.
The City Manager commented that funding of these projects could jeopardize Affordable Housing projects because there is not enough money in the City’s Housing Trust Fund to pay for all their housing projects. Included in the discussion of affordable housing and low-income housing projects was the topic of extended use of hotels for homeless shelters.
A March 8 presentation by the Bloomington Housing and Rehabilitation Authority to the City Council touched on affordable, subsidized, and rent-free building in Bloomington. Without clarification and quantification on the number of actual Bloomington residents in need, the Met Council has recommended that Bloomington entertain building up to roughly 5000 affordable units by 2030. This urbanization will admittedly reduce open space, storage options, size of parking space and increase building sizes based on builder incentives within the Opportunity Housing Ordinance. Qualifying levels preferred by the City are from 30% to 50% of the Area Median Income (AMI). AMI is the midpoint of a region’s income distribution, where half of the families in a region earn more than the median and half earn less than the median.
2021 Elections and Voting –
Without providing Bloomington voters with any education or implementation details, and lacking the concurrence of its own Charter Commission, the Bloomington City Council put Ranked Choice Voting on the November 2020 ballot. The initiative barely passed. Now, the City will finally work on the logistics of the process and educating the public. The city staff has little time to work it out, as the Bloomington City Council intends to skip the primary election that normally occurs in August and opt instead to actually use RCV for the November 2021 municipal elections.
During the March 15 meeting, the City Council may provide their thoughts on how Ranked Choice Voting will be done. The Council will be holding a Public Hearing by Zoom on RCV implementation asking for input. The current proposal is to ask voters to rank up to three candidates for each office on their ballot.
There are three City Council members up for re-election this November: Nathan Coulter ( At-Large), Jack Baloga (Ward 3) and Patrick Martin (Ward 4). See the March 15 article here on the status of candidates in these races, and watch for further updates.
Recently, Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer held hearings on a proposed bill offered by State Senator Mark Koran to ban RCV statewide (see separate article here). It was interesting to note that a DFL state activist had a lot to say to support the ban on Ranked Choice Voting. Both Bloomington and Minnetonka residents spoke about the money spent by outside organizations to implement RCV in Charter Municipalities. They also testified that both their Charter Commissions were relegated to “advisory” status after both Charter Commissions opposed RCV. More will come as candidates emerge to navigate this new election process.