By Howard Packowitz
BLOOMINGTON – Bloomington won’t become a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants, according to Mayor Tari Renner.
Renner said the city council will discuss for the first time next Monday a resolution declaring Bloomington a welcoming city in which the local police would not enforce federal immigration laws.
John Walther was one of about 30 people attending the second of three town hall meetings. He’s worried a lack of cooperation between local police and the feds might make it harder to combat crimes like human trafficking.
PODCAST: Listen to Scott’s interview with Renner on WJBC.
“I’m just concerned about ordinances that say the police can’t talk with federal officials. I lived and visited places where the local administrations were prohibited from talking with federal officials or under great penalty, and I just don’t want to have that sort of thing happened,” Walther said.
Expecting an overflow crowd, the city has scheduled a special session next Monday night at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts to discuss a welcoming resolution. One option, according to the mayor. is to refer the matter to city’s Human Relations Commission for recommendations.
Also at Tuesday night’s town hall meeting, the council was criticized for not tackling the budget deficit sooner.
Renner said the city will have to look at reducing personnel costs, and he indicated a west side sports complex is far from becoming reality.
“Given our structural deficit, we have to figure out some way that that project would actually pay for itself,” the mayor said.
Renner wouldn’t publicly commit to keeping Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen in a permanent capacity.
The city council looks at ways to reduce a structural budget deficit that might reach $3 million. Renner said the city will at some point have to consider reducing personnel costs.
“We have generous benefits compared to many people in the private sector, especially with respect to health care,” said Renner.
“Those are the things that we have to take a much closer look. We have been, but what do we do, and when do we do it, and what impact does that have on our hiring/”
Mayoral critic Bruce Meeks wonders why only now is there a sense of urgency to cut spending.
“This urgent matter has been there for a long time, and the council has not addressed cuts to programs and savings,” said Meeks.
Renner said the Downtown Task Force will report to the city council next Monday night, but its most controversial proposal to build a new public library at the site of the current city-owned parking deck at Market and Monroe won’t be discussed. The mayor said the idea is “at least something to talk about” in the future.
Renner hosts one more town hall meeting at Miller Park Pavilion next Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
Howard Packowitz can be reached at email@example.com