the best laid plans

So the last minute letter writing/knitting event didn’t go so well.  It was basically just me and Shannon hanging out, knitting, and telling stories, which was fine.  Doing the research for the event, I learned a lot more about the Finelight’s development plans, the connectedness of the individuals driving the development, and the rapid pace of the plans.  If you’re interested in sorting through a big stack of articles about the brief history of these really serious chnages, I’d be happy to share.  I’ve also uploaded the handout that I made with the addresses of some of the stakeholders in the development project.  Link

In the end, I got a tiny bit of mitten knitting done, and wrote this letter to the HT.:

Mayor Mark Kruzan may remain optimistic about the future of Finelight’s development plans on Kirkwood, but the actions of the business community and city government in the last year leave me with nothing but a sense of dread.  Whether the final reality for Bloomington will be Finelight’s “plan A” or “plan B”, the city has already been adversely affected by these plans.  We can see this both in the loss of Ladyman’s, a longstanding and singular community nexus that brought Bloomingtonians together across divisions of class, race, lifestyle, and generation, and the pending temporary displacement of some of the Shalom Center’s essential community services.

Many of the proposed timelines for development at the corner of Kirkwood and Washington move at an alarming pace.  Whether it is the patrons of Ladyman’s, those who receive services from the Shalom Center, or, quite possibly, users of public transportation in Bloomington, many in our community have been or will be affected by these decisions.  It is disrespectful and irresponsible to proceed at a pace at which it seems impossible to acknowledge and accommodate the realities of all whose lives will be changed by development in Bloomington.  We have already felt the weight of what can be lost or changed by decisions.  What will the community, as a whole, gain or have constructed by Finelight’s plans?  Have the proposal’s supporters in the city government, business community, and local media been able to answer this fundamental question?

Even though both Ladyman’s and the Shalom Center have received support or offers of support from the city in an attempt to soften the impact of development decisions, within the current structure of political and economic power in Bloomington, those institutions are at the mercy of the decisions of others, and as an extension of that, so are the people served by those institutions.  As people living in Bloomington, we must ask ourselves, do we want to live in a community where priceless assets such as Ladyman’s or the Shalom Center must constantly maneuver to accommodate forces shaping our community, or where they are the institutions that drive changes in our community?  At the very least, can their voices and needs, can all of our voices and needs, play an equal part in shaping the future of Bloomington?

The Herald Times’ December 19 opinion piece about Finelight’s plans spoke of the contributions of Bloomington’s “mostly younger, mostly creative-class” population to local business and to the community as a whole.  To hinge the benefits of such a group of people solely on Finelight’s ability or inability to construct a new headquarters in downtown Bloomington seems exaggerated.  Certainly, this allegedly beneficial population shares a great deal in common with the university community, a population that, for better and for worse, will not be leaving Bloomington any time soon.  In the end, though, even as a member of the much heralded and accommodated “mostly younger, mostly creative-class” segment of Bloomington’s population, I don’t want to see this community transformed to so exclusively facilitate my livelihood or lifestyle or that of people like me.  Even in the cafe’s absence, we would do well not to forget the reality that Ladyman’s so clearly exposed – that as Bloomingtonians, our lives are much closer than our apparent divisions, and that if we are to prosper, we should prosper together.