‘Welcoming city’ ordinance pulled from next week’s Bloomington council agenda

Bloomington Police Chief Brendan Heffner addresses the city council at a public hearing on December 18 at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. A final vote on a proposed welcoming city ordinance, scheduled next Monday night at BCPA, has been pulled from the council meeting’s agenda.  (Photo by Howard Packowitz/WJBC)

By Howard Packowitz

BLOOMINGTON – The Bloomington City Council will not vote next Monday on a ‘welcoming city’ ordinance intended to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

Five aldermen, which is a council majority, sent an e-mail to Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen requesting the resolution be taken off the agenda.

Mayor Tari Renner said he pulled the item, not to give into the aldermen’s demands, but to provide time for review of changes proposed by some of the groups supporting the ordinance.

“It seemed time for maybe a step back and a little bit of reflection on what this is all about, and a little bit of reflection on what this is all about, and we will move ahead from there,” the mayor said.

Aldermen Joni Painter, Mboka Mwilambwe, David Sage, Kimberly Bray, and Karen Schmidt asked for the postponement.

“It maybe that all five of this group decides they’re going to vote against the next proposal. That’s fine. Or they vote to table it, but they’ve got to do it in public,” said Renner.

They can’t do it in an e-mail that they send to Steve Rasmussen, the interim city manager. That’s not how policymaking in cities works,” the mayor added.

The five aldermen claimed a resolution isn’t needed because undocumented immigrants are protected by the Trust Act, recently signed by Governor Rauner.

They say Bloomington Police have not turned anyone over to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents, and the proposed ordinance casts unfair criticism on local police.

The aldermen also say costs are unacceptable to hold council meetings at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts to accommodate large crowds interested in the welcoming ordinance.

They estimated Monday’s meeting at BCPA would have cost $3,692. The council members claim two previous meetings at the venue cost $4,324.

The council’s regularly scheduled meeting will be held instead at City Hall.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at howard.packowitz@cumulus.com