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'Fiscal Conservative' Boelen Hopes To Succeed Sage On Bloomington Council

Donna Boelen
Ryan Denham
Donna Boelen has lived in Bloomington for 26 years. She plans to run for Bloomington City Council in Ward 2 on the city's southwest side.

The Bloomington City Council will be losing one of its most fiscally conservative aldermen next spring when David Sage steps down after three terms.

Donna Boelen hopes to follow in Sage’s footsteps as a conservative voice on the council. Boelen, a longtime Bloomington resident, plans to run in Ward 2 on Bloomington’s southwest side in the April 2019 election.

"In general, I work with what I have. Regarding the budget, I’ll always look for efficiencies and strategic savings,” Boelen said on GLT’s Sound Ideas. “Without good, sound financial planning, you cannot revitalize anything. So that’s going to be my focus.”

Boelen, a mainstay of public comment at Bloomington City Council meetings, said she’d like to see aldermen dive deeper into the city’s finances more regularly, with a monthly discussion. When asked to identify inefficiencies in city operations, Boelen said city employee benefit costs were too high.

“I don’t want to cut employees. We need employees to provide the services. But what I’d like is, if every employee was willing to pay a little bit more for their health insurance, everybody would benefit. It’d be like a win-win,” Boelen said.

Boelen said she wants to spend more money on infrastructure like streets, but only using money saved from cutbacks elsewhere in the budget. She said she’d focus on “stewardship of taxpayer dollars … and the detrimental effect to the economy of raising taxes, especially regressive taxes.”

“I’d need to focus on stabilizing rather than growing,” Boelen said.

On some of the larger issues facing Bloomington:

  • Library expansion: Boelen doesn’t want the city to take on any more debt for the project. She'd prefer the city pay for it using saved-up library property tax dollars and through a capital campaign. “I believe the library is an amenity worth supporting,” she said.
  • Downtown: Boelen said she prefers a more incremental approach to improvements, such as the recent move toward new signage, instead of a major project. “There are other parts of the city that need attention,” she said.
  • Economic development: Boelen said she wants to see more goal-driven accountability between the city and groups like the Economic Development Council and BNAdvantage. “I don’t see results. That’s all I can say,” she said.

Sage announced Aug. 14 he would not be seeking a fourth term on the council. Georgene Chissell, a Democratic precinct committeeman and member of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, has also announced plans to run in Ward 2. (City council races are nonpartisan contests.)

“I think (Sage) has been a faithful servant of the city. I don’t agree with all of the council members’ decisions all the time. But I do think he’s done a wonderful job,” Boelen said.

Sage’s exit means there will be at least two new faces on the Bloomington City Council in 2019. Alderman Diana Hauman, who represents southeast Bloomington’s Ward 8, is not seeking re-election. She cited frustration about the impact she made on the council and Mayor Tari Renner’s leadership. Josh Barnett and Jeff Crabill have announced plans to run there.

Also up for re-election in 2019 are Aldermen Amelia Buragas (Ward 4) and Karen Schmidt (Ward 6). Schmidt plans to run for re-election. She'll face community organizer Jenn Carrillo, who plans to run in Ward 6. Buragas has not announced her plans.

Full segment from GLT.

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Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.