These responses were submitted by Donna Boelen, a candidate for Bloomington City Council in Ward 2. The questionnaire was prepared by GLT in partnership with the League of Women Voters of McLean County. See more candidate responses.
What in your personal and professional background has prepared you for this position? Include any experience serving in local government.
I’m a retired medical professional. I was a department supervisor responsible for personnel management and budgeting. Being able to collaborate is an absolute necessity in a hospital setting.
Being an active community volunteer for 26 years has provided me with “institutional knowledge” of the community.
With the assistance of the Public Works Department, I was able to resolve a public health and safety issue in my neighborhood.
I’ve regularly attended council meetings for the past 5 years and have spoken at public comment more than 20 times, primarily regarding fiscal responsibly and the negative effects of raising taxes and fees on business growth and the working poor. Additionally, I served on a Budget committee to help address the structural deficit.
What would be your approach to building effective working relationships with other aldermen, the mayor, and city staff?
In a hospital setting, collaboration is a matter of life and death. I will engage in respectful dialogue with an emphasis on active listening and use my experience of collaboration.
The city staff is very qualified and professional, always willing to be of service. I’ve enjoyed my interaction with them.
What new programs or initiatives do you think the city should pursue?
The premise of this question implies a need for new programs. Our community has so much to offer … a vibrant college town offering cultural activities and opportunities for lifelong learning … excellent medical facilities … multiple parks … centrally located in the state where major highways converge. Improved leveraging/marketing of our current assets lessens the need to pursue new programs and can generate new revenue.
Additionally, by conserving and preserving our current resources, we show pride of ownership.
When is it appropriate for local government to use incentives to achieve an economic development priority? How would you make those decisions?
The use of Economic Base Analysis would provide valuable information when determining whether or not to use incentives. The new base business should be one that can both bring in new job positions and support non-base businesses. These are the types of investors that might be considered for incentives.
What specifically would you support to make Downtown Bloomington a more attractive destination for residents, tourists, and business owners?
- Allocate funds for basic infrastructure in the core and surrounding neighborhoods
- Leverage the current public amenities through better marketing/management
- Protect existing historic buildings
- Zoning/code enforcement
What should be the city’s role in expanding affordable housing opportunities?
The best thing the government can do to expand affordable housing is to ensure the city is business friendly by reducing the cost of doing business in order to grow and generate jobs and prosperity.
There are local programs in place for training and mentoring through the private sector and opportunities for learning at Heartland Community College (HCC) and through social services. The affordability of housing is directly related to the availability of quality jobs and marketable job skills to secure adequate income for living expenses.
Repairing and maintaining infrastructure promotes economic development, thereby attracting new business.
City staff say O’Neil Pool needs to be replaced and the public library needs to expand. Should the city pursue those projects? If so, how should they be funded?
Pursuing these projects would require additional revenue sources: increased taxes.
The library is its own taxing body tied to the property tax levy. It is my understanding that the library board has some money saved, will pursue a fundraising effort in addition to property tax increases.
O’Neil Pool does need to be replaced; however what is being suggested is a multimillion dollar aquatic center. Either one of these projects would require an additional revenue source for the issuing of a bond.
A recent Governing magazine investigation found a big disparity in median incomes between white and black households in Bloomington. What can the city do to address this and other inequalities that exist within the community?
The best thing the government can do to address the disparity in income is to ensure the city is business friendly by reducing the cost of doing business in order to grow and generate jobs and prosperity.
The disparity in median income is related to a combination of limited local jobs outside the retail/service industry and marketable job skills for securing a job with adequate income to reduce the inequity.
There are local programs in place for training and mentoring through the private sector and opportunities for learning at HCC and through social services.
What additional steps should the city take, if any, to better protect and serve local immigrants, especially those who are undocumented?
The premise of this question, as written, implies that the entire local immigrant population is being victimized and in need of additional action for better protection. I have read or heard no media reports to that effect.
Having said that, the citizens of Bloomington are known for their compassion. State law, The Trust Act, is aimed at protecting immigrants throughout the state. Laws related to immigration are the responsibility of the federal legislature. True reform needs to be addressed at the federal level.