Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner just doesn’t get it.
After six aldermen took the extraordinary measure Monday night to rebuke the mayor for bringing "disgrace to our governing body," he told a Pantagraph reporter “I have to move forward. We have streets and sewers, economic development, Eastland Mall. We’ve got real things to worry about, not the fact that I would have sent an email to somebody who has been suing us for five years and calling him crazy.”
That kind of response and specifically repeating that a constituent is “crazy” is exactly the type of behavior the aldermen's letter cited as inappropriate and in need of change.
The aldermen wrote, "This letter serves as a statement of our collective disappointment in some of your actions. As elected officials, we are called upon to represent the citizens with respect and civility. Whether you did so as an individual or as the mayor, your recent interactions do not demonstrate respect or integrity."
We don’t know what the mayor’s problem is, but he has to change his ways and fast. He is only six months into his second term (the first was marked by a public censure after Renner went on a late-night rant against a local blogger). To think that the council and the public could be confronted with this again over the next three years is unacceptable.
Renner is right about one thing: There are a lot of important matters facing the city of Bloomington and they need to be addressed in a reasonable, thoughtful, professional manner. More importantly, there has to be a solid working relationship between the mayor and the City Council — and between elected officials and the residents they serve.
For six aldermen to throw down the gauntlet and essentially insist that the mayor change his behavior demonstrates how serious they feel the situation is — and how Renner’s behavior could hurt the city’s ability to get these things done.
We cannot afford the mayor, the "face" of the city, to make people uncomfortable about being in the same room — whether it is city staff working on a particular issue like turning around the arena, or the public trying to do business with the city like other community leaders and prospective developers.
When he returned to City Hall Oct. 1 after a month-long leave of absence, which he said was for medical reasons, Renner said he had a "new, fresher perspective" on what can admittedly be a high-stress job.
So what? Who doesn't have stress in their job? We have no doubt that there are a lot of folks at Bloomington City Hall feeling stressed — in part because of what the six aldermen make clear is the mayor's sometimes erratic behavior.
"Your treatment of individuals with whom you disagree violates the shared values of the City Council," states the letter.
The mayor of Bloomington should be held to a higher standard when it comes to how he interacts with staff, the public and, yes, his critics.
Renner needs to grow a thicker skin and bite his tongue — and accept that there are going to be people — constituents, aldermen, staff members, the media — with whom he disagrees and finds fault.
If the mayor thinks he's the smartest guy in the room and knows more than everyone else, here's a news flash: He's not and he doesn't.