By Scott Tibbs, August 10, 2011
If the city of Bloomington is interested in expanding public participation in government, why do so many of their boards and commissions meet during the work day?
The city of Bloomington has a number of boards and commissions, and several of those meet after the traditional work day is complete to allow citizens the opportunity to attend their meetings. But that is unfortunately not the case for several key boards and commissions. The following is a partial list of meeting times for city government's boards and commissions, all taking place during the normal work day:
- Utilities Service Board - 5:00 pm
- MPO Technical Advisory Committee - 1:30 pm
- MPO Policy Committee - 1:30 pm
- Housing Trust Fund Board of Directors - 3:30 pm
- Commission on the Status of Black Males - 4:15 pm
- Board of Park Commissioners - 4 pm
- Board of Housing Quality Appeals - 4 pm
- Historic Preservation Commission - 4 pm
In addition to the list above, the city's Economic Development Commission has held meetings at various times throughout the day (which is problematic in and of itself) and many of those meetings are between 8 and 5.
Bloomington city government is, for the most part, superior to Monroe County government in terms of public access. For years, the county council (under the control of both Republicans and Democrats) held their meetings at 4:30 pm, before most people get off work. The council recently made their meetings more open by moving the start time to an hour later.
The county commissioners continue to hide their meetings at 9 am on Fridays when most people have to be at work. This has been the case when the commissioners were controlled by both Democrats and Republicans.
By contrast, the Bloomington city council has held their meetings at 7:30 pm for many years, as far back as I can remember.
But it should be clear that more can be done to make city government more accessible to the general public. This includes moving all meetings of the various boards and commissions to at least 5:30 pm, both to allow members of the public to attend and also to allow the general public to serve on those boards and commissions without worrying about rearranging their work schedule around the meetings - something that simply is not possible for the average employee.