BLOOMINGTON — Vincent Rasa came to Mayor Tari Renner's town hall meeting Tuesday night because he wants the city to pursue developing a sports complex for all ages on the city's west side.
"I am a transplant. I've been here about seven years," said Rasa. "My concern is that I don't see Bloomington as the destination I think it was seven years ago."
Revitalizing the downtown and opening a new restaurant are not going to bring people in, said Rasa.
And if the city is not able to attract people, there will be "no recourse but to raise taxes because our expenses for the most part don't appear to be going down," he added.
Rasa said he has seen sports complexes in cities such as Denver become destinations that are attracting people.
Dale Naffziger, a 60-year resident of the city, said he is tired of the city spending money to develop golf courses, the Grossinger Motors Arena, the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts and the Miller Park Zoo.
"They keep telling us that's going to solve all of the problems, and then 10 years down the road, they say, 'well, it really didn't work out,' but we're still stuck with it," said Naffziger. "We keep hearing the next thing is going to fix it (financially). It's easy to spend other people's money. We just have to stop spending money for a while."
They were among 35 people who attended the town hall at the YWCA McLean County in east Bloomington. It was the first of three community meetings that Renner is hosting to seek public input on a variety of topics.
Jim Duncan said he wants the city to have more dialogue with residents before the City Council starts ranking priorities for the city's budget.
"I think we had a pretty robust conversation," said Renner after the meeting. "We may not have lots of new ideas, but we certainly heard lots of different opinions. As the budget process continues and unfolds I'm sure we will hear more from the public."
Some people who spoke "had their facts wrong," said Renner. "The reality is our top priority is public safety, no question. Next to that would be streets and infrastructure."
Renner said he wants to hear more specific comments about what budget cuts people want to see at his town hall meetings on Dec. 12 at the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts and on Dec. 20 at Miller Park Pavilion. Each meeting will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
"I think one of the things that I'm going to take away from this is that we need to continue to work very hard to communicate about what we're doing in the city and how we are setting our priorities and all of the pieces of information that go into that," said Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt, who attended Tuesday's town hall.
"That includes everything from where property tax dollars go, to some of the things that are quality of life issues that for some people are not important amenities and for others are incredibly important amenities," she added.
There was some contentious sparring between Renner and Bruce Meeks, a frequent critic of the mayor, after resident Sue Feldkamp asked Renner to apologize to Meeks.
An Aug. 13 email in which Renner called Meeks "crazy" and "pathetic" later resulted in a letter signed by six aldermen chastising Renner for what they said was inappropriate treatment of individuals with whom the mayor disagreed, and that such actions brought "disgrace" upon the council.
"I am not even sure exactly what all it was, but will you accept my apology?" said Renner as he extended his hand for a handshake with Meeks.
Meeks took exception to Renner not remembering what was said and refused the apology or to shake Renner's hand.
Renner declined to comment after the meeting, saying the exchange between them did not add to the public discourse.