By Scott Tibbs, December 31, 2009
What a decade it's been in Monroe County politics. Welcome to my "decade in review" for the last ten years.
2000 - Then, as now, there were pitched battles over land use and private property rights. One of the most significant was the effort by county Surveyor Kevin Enright to restrict the size of political yard signs, an effort that was abandoned by Enright's fellow "green Democrat" Brian O'Neill and was defeated 0-3 by the County Commissioners despite a 2-1 Democratic majority. Enright would go on to be fired by the voters, who selected Republican Vic Farkas as his replacement. Republicans won 2 of the 3 at-large spots in the Monroe County Council race and a couple hundred more votes would have ensured a GOP sweep.
At Indiana University, a free speech battle over the placement of the Genocide Awareness Project saw the university find itself in court. 2000 also saw the emergence of the terrorist Earth Liberation Front, which started out the decade by burning down a home in southern Monroe County. Later, left-wing terrorists attempted to burn down the Monroe County Republican Party headquarters to protest I-69, smashed the windows and cut the phone lines at Starbucks, and spiked trees and sabotaged construction equipment.
2001 - A Monroe County Council meeting degenerated into a fiasco as Lucille Bertuccio charged the County Council bench screaming at council members after tax-free binds were approved for an apartment complex on the west side. David Horowitz purchased an advertisement in the Indiana Daily Student, prompting another debate over free speech where some Leftists actually suggested that potentially "offensive" advertisements be approved by the campus diversity police before it could be published.
The Bloomington City Council funded Planned Parenthood for the third year in a row with a surprising "no" vote from "green Democrat' Jeff Willsey. The Genocide Awareness project, after a year and a half of wrangling with the university, was set up behind the sample gates where Center for Bioethical Reform staff and Indiana University Students for Life volunteers manned the highly controversial display.
2002 - Indiana University was the battleground for another debate on free speech when Leftists attempted to get the university to remove the historical mural in Woodburn Hall, because the mural (painted by an opponent of the Ku Klux Klan) depicted KKK members burning a cross. Monroe County Council member Scott Wells was arrested and charged with "driving while intoxicated and resisting law enforcement," setting up a huge political controversy that continued through 2003 and beyond.
Democratic City Councilor Jeff Willsey was an ironic leader in opposing Planned Parenthood's request for a subsidy for the fourth consecutive year, offering to donate his own money if Planned Parenthood withdrew their request. The 2002 election saw Republicans win three of four County Council district seats and unseat an incumbent Democratic County Commissioner, causing the GOP to go from a 4-3 and 2-1 minority on the two bodies to a 5-2 and 2-1 majority, respectively. Indiana University was in the news at the end of the year as well, when a pornographic movie studio filmed students engaging in sex acts with a number of "actresses" in the Teter Quad dormitory.
2003 - The Bloomington City Council passed a citywide ban on smoking in public places, including bars and restaurants. They also dived into national policy twice, once with a resolution opposing the war in Iraq and again with a resolution opposing the so-called "Patriot Act." Over a year after his arrest in downtown Bloomington, Monroe County Councilor Scott Wells was convicted of "driving while intoxicated and disorderly conduct." Indiana University saw two more battles over free speech when Leftists demanded that professor Eric Rasmusen be fired or silenced because his blog contained statements critical of homosexuality, and Leftists filed a formal complaint against an "affirmative action bake sale" organized by the conservative Grand Old Cause.
2004 - Republicans suffered a major setback in the 2004 election, as liberals angry about the war in Iraq (and Bush Administration) policies in general voted en masse against Republicans, throwing out Republican Surveyor Vic Farkas, sweeping all three County council seats and narrowly missing a sweep of both County Commissioner seats when former tree-sitter Mike Englert came within an eyelash of unseating incumbent Republican Joyce Poling. Nationalizing local elections has become a problem the MCGOP has yet to solve. Bloomington-based Citizens for truth proved to be a thorn in Baron Hill's side as the 527 ran billboards criticizing Hill's voting record.
2005 - The Bloomington City Council passed a "living wage ordinance" that saw one of the lowest moments in local political history when social service agencies were accused of "greed" for expressing concerns about the ordinance. The MCCSC School Board stirred up a great deal of controversy with their plans to conduct a sex survey and the highly dishonest "negative check-off" scheme to sneak it by parents. The Monroe County Commissioners tried (and failed) to get permission for a food and beverage tax in Monroe County.
In the summer, a bitter partisan battle raged over the effort to redraw the heavily gerrymandered County Council districts approved by Democrats four years earlier. Those maps were approved. The County Commissioners also approved an expansion of the county's smoking ban, with "Republican" Joyce poling voting with Democrat Iris Kiesling to expand the law. Republican Herb Kilmer voted against expanding the ban.
2006 - The Bloomington City Council started off the year by nitpicking and micromanaging the design of a CVS store on Bloomington's north side. Ann Coulter's speech in the IU Auditorium demonstrated how uncivil the Left can be when Leftists started chanting "we want rape" in the middle of the speech. The Bloomington City Council passed an ordinance adding "gender identity" to the list of protected classes in the city's human rights ordinance, over the objection of Christians who attended and spoke at the meetings.
November saw another disastrous election for Republicans when Democrats took a 3-0 majority on the County Commissioners and won 3 of 4 district seats to hold a 6-1 majority on the County Council. Even popular incumbent Pat Haley was forced from office by the Democratic tide. I was on the ballot for the first time in 2006, losing badly in my race for Bloomington Township Board. The Herald-Times was actively campaigning for Democrats, allowing Mike Leonard to fabricate a congressional vote that never took place and allowing multiple unfounded claims in violation of the paper's stated policy. The year closed with a controversial recount/contest of the 2006 election.
2007 - The 2006 recount/contest continued into 2007, causing bickering within the Republican Party and infuriating Democrats. A former Democratic Party chairman sent an email to Democrats whining about a post in my blog concerning the recount. The Herald-Times had a worse month than usual, publishing a borderline libelous story falsely accusing the IU student trustee of conflict of interest. The next month, the H-T published a front page story about a potential KKK rally (which never took place) and then had the audacity to editorialize that it would be nice "if the only evidence of this appearance were to be a small item near the bottom of Page 2."
Locally, a political battle over the city's decision not to build a parking garage for Finelight started a debate over government's role in the economy. Over the summer, it was discovered that the city fraudulently took land in the 1970's from two property owners on the east side to build a "secret sidewalk" between the two houses. When the fraud was discovered, Mayor Kruzan declared that the city had a right to the land anyway, because they already had it. In August, a meeting to help the city and local business plan for I-69 (a planning meeting, not a policy meeting) degenerated into a farce when hippies began screaming to shut down the meeting and one of them kicked a chair. The police had to be called to restore order. Bloomington made WorldNetDaily.com in the fall when the Dalai Lama visited and the city erected a display honoring his religion.
2008 - The Democratic primary election was very interesting, with Sophia Travis giving up what probably would have been an easy re-election to the County Council in order to challenge Iris Kiesling. Travis lost badly, which was not surprising. "Green Democrats" did win the other commissioner race when Mark Stoops defeated popular former Sheriff Steve Sharp to win the Democratic nomination for County Commissioner. The biggest news of the primary was when failed ex-Auditor Sandy Newman was forced from office in disgrace after losing the Democratic Party primary in a landslide. The Bloomington City Council funded Planned Parenthood for the 10th consecutive year over the objections of pro-life taxpayers, but a sex abuse scandal at Bloomington's Planned Parenthood later that year showed the folly of that decision.
In November, Republicans were annihilated again in local elections when the Barack Obama tide overwhelmed local candidates. Obama won Monroe County in a huge landslide, a margin too big for local Republicans to overcome. Even Republican Auditor candidate Vivien Bridges was defeated, a race that many thought Republicans would win easily after the incompetence of the incumbent Democrat had been big news for the last two years. The Monroe County Commissioners closed out the year by banning text messaging while driving. Planned Parenthood, after being rocked by a sex abuse scandal, did not get money from county government. That would change in 2009.
2009 - The Monroe County Commissioners got statewide coverage with a proposal to ban smoking in private vehicles if a child younger than 13 is present, despite strong protests. A tea party in Bloomington drew about 500 people to protest Barack Obama's reckless spending, bringing more excitement to the local conservative movement than has been seen in years. Over the summer, the "secret sidewalk" case was settled when Judge Steve Galvin ignored the clear words of the Constitution and allowed the fraudulent taking of private property by the city fo Bloomington to stand. Hopefully, Galvin will pay the price for that in November. For the first time since 1998, the Bloomington City Council did not give a handout to Planned Parenthood.
The city of Bloomington considered a number of amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance, including one that stirred up opposition later when homeowners realized it could prevent them from cutting down trees on their own property. Baron Hill showed up in Bloomington and refused to allow an IU student to film the meeting for a school project, declaring that "this is my town hall meeting" and "you're not going to tell me how to run my Congressional office." Traffic safety became a major issue on the IU campus when a pedestrian/automobile collision resulted in a fatality, a tragedy that was followed by several more accidents. Less than a year removed from the sex abuse scandal where a Planned Parenthood employee attempted to cover up the sexual abuse of a 13 year old girl by a 31 year old man, the Monroe County Council voted to fund Planned Parenthood for the first time.