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Bloomington mayor hears concerns about coronavirus putting poor residents at risk

Bloomington mayor hears concerns about coronavirus putting poor residents at risk

Bloomington City Council

The Bloomington City Council looks to City Manager Tim Gleason during a Dec. 16 meeting at City Hall.

BLOOMINGTON —Since he was first elected in 2013 as the mayor of Bloomington, Tari Renner has been holding open houses nearly every Friday afternoon before a regular Monday City Council meetings. 

With City Hall being closed to the public since Wednesday, the mayor held his first virtual open house via an hourlong telephone conference call at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

Most of the 10 or more people who participated in virtual open house urged the mayor and City Manager Tim Gleason to address the impact of the coronavirus on some of the most vulnerable residents in the community — the homeless, elderly, low-income residents and those who have lost their jobs at businesses that have closed because of efforts to contain the pandemic.

Some of the callers identified themselves as belonging to Black Lives Matter Bloomington-Normal, the Illinois People's Action and other organizations that sponsored The People's (Virtual) Emergency Planning Meeting on Wednesday night, which had over 100 people joining the conversation. 

They asked Renner and Gleason to participate in a similar virtual meeting at 7 p.m. March 25.



The groups have also asked for a joint meeting of the local governments to respond to specific demands they have put forth, including designating money for rent and mortgage assistance, utility payments and child care subsidies; advancing policies supporting paid sick leave; ordering a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures; preventing utility shutoffs; securing housing for all residents, but especially the homeless; and freeing jail inmates who pose no threat to the community.

Some of those issues are already being addressed, said Renner.

Gov. J.B Pritzger has issued an order to cease enforcement of evictions during the crisis, and the city is looking to adopt on Monday an emergency declaration ordinance that will suspend utility shutoffs.

"The idea of a joint meeting I thought was a very good idea. Apparently, I am in the minority," said Renner. "Regardless of whether we have a joint meeting of elected officials, the elected and unelected officials are constantly working together on this."

Just prior to his open house, the mayor and other Bloomington officials participated in a virtual conference call with the town of Normal, McLean County government and health providers "so we're constantly trying to coordinate our varying efforts."

"As most people have now heard, we are under an order to remain in place," Joel Studebaker said about the mandate issued by Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday.

"For people like me that's fine. I've got a house with plenty of room," said Studebaker. "However, there are a number of people who are not as fortunate and do not have a home and may not even have a shelter to go to."

Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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