By Scott Tibbs, March 18, 2009
It should have been a quick and easy decision. The Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization was to vote on whether federal money would be used to buy less than an acre of land in a "hardship acquisition" from "someone who lost their job at GE, had medical problems and has moved out of state." It was a simple planning move for the Interstate highway that will eventually come through Bloomington.
But it wasn't so simple after all, because anti-Interstate activists attended the meeting in force to demand that the MPO not purchase the land. After the meeting, Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads sent an email warning that voting to purchase the land "would have meant that Bloomington/Monroe County is on record as officially accepting I-69." This despite the fact that the Bloomington City Council has passed two separate resolutions against building Interstate 69 and despite the fact that the community is a hotbed of anti-Interstate activism.
While I support building Interstate 69 through Bloomington, I respect arguments against I-69. I find concerns about people who will lose their homes and/or farms as the Interstate comes though to be some of the strongest arguments. Interstate opponents also argue that the highway is not fiscally prudent and will cause an unacceptable amount of environmental problems. There are certainly very strong and deeply held opinions about whether or not the highway should be built and what route it should take (or should have taken).
What I have absolutely no respect for, however, is inane political stunts like we saw on Friday. If you believe that I-69 will be very destructive for this community, why should we not plan and prepare for it? If you believe the highway will be destructive, you should support efforts to minimize the damage it will cause. If the federal government is going to pay for land acquisition, there's no reason to waste state funds on it. The MPO put political interests over prudent planning for a project that will come through Bloomington whether local government likes it or not. This is just shameful.