WJBC Voices: Bloomington’s challenge

By Mike Matejka

As Bloomington considers hiring a new city manager, there are two challenges that are paramount – council unity and economic stabilization.

Before Bloomington can move forward, communication between the council members needs to open again, including rebuilding a trust relationship.  This normally doesn’t fall under the city manager’s purview, but it doesn’t seem anyone else is able to do it.  Too many council meetings have ended with reprimands and cross words.  A true diplomat, able to reopen connections without reopening wounds, is needed to rebuild trust within Bloomington’s leadership.

The second question, which is larger than Bloomington, but which Bloomington will play a critical role in, is sustaining the local economy.   McLean County was the state’s envy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, with an employment boom built around Mitsubishi Motors and State Farm Insurance.   Sustaining that kind of growth is difficult, yet we need to ensure that we don’t fall behind from previous gains.   State Farm is not abandoning the community, but the toll of gifted and talented people leaving is ever-present.  I’ve been very saddened to see some young people, who were emerging as the community’s next generation of leadership, now embarking for southern climes.

Critical to that economic sustenance is a long-term vision and leadership for downtown Bloomington, particularly now that State Farm has closed its downtown office building.  Downtown Bloomington is a diamond in the rough.  Other communities would love to have the period architecture and viable store fronts that downtown offers, along with the Museum of History, Colesium and Performing Arts Center anchors.   The potential for tourism and unique shopping and dining is there.   What’s lacking is a council that seems committed to pulling those pieces together into a coherent, marketable whole.

I hope there is time for public input and discussion with all the city manager candidates.  I would have two questions: How are you going to bring the council together?  What is your long-term vision for community sustenance and revival?    We’d learn a lot if a candidate can answer those questions with depth, excitement and past experience.    Hopefully that individual who can help lead the city forward can appear and gain the community’s and the council’s confidence and commitment.

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