I disagree with The Pantagraph's comparison of a proposed referendum about smoking in public places to the advisory referendum for the arena. While a referendum for smoking is not necessary because it concerns a public health issue, the advisory referendum for the arena was completely appropriate.
The arena does not provide a public service. It is an investment made by the city of Bloomington on behalf of its residents. The purpose of the advisory referendum was to see if Bloomington residents were comfortable with the risks involved with the arena project.
A fundamental step in financial planning is to match an investment with the level of risk that a customer is willing to tolerate. Failure to do so results in feelings of anxiety, resentment and distrust of the investment and the investment adviser.
Whether the arena succeeds or fails over the next 20 years is yet to be seen. However, the fact remains that the arena referendum clearly showed that Bloomington residents were not comfortable with the risks associated with the project. A reputable investment adviser would not have recommended the project based on that knowledge alone. Instead, the city proceeded with the project and, very predictably, it led to the resentment and distrust of those city officials.
While The Pantagraph states that the City Council “rightfully saw the community benefit and proceeded with construction” of the arena, it can also be argued that voters rightfully removed those same council members from office. If the City Council wants to be an investment adviser for the residents of Bloomington, it needs to learn how to do it correctly.