BLOOMINGTON — Advocating for federal grant money to support essential Bloomington projects may rest solely on the city's congressional representatives city council members rejected a federal lobbying contract.
While city officials argued hiring Thorn Run Partners would improve the city's profile in Washington, D.C., critics disagreed with using taxpayer money for additional advocacy that others should already be doing.
In October, the city of Bloomington submitted a request for proposals to retain the services of a lobbyist consultant that could advocate for federal funding. Of the five firms that submitted proposals, the city chose to move forward with bipartisan, Washington, D.C.-based Thorn Run, which was ranked as a top lobbying firm by Politico and the Washington Post.
The agreement would have been for three years at an annual cost of $90,000.
Bloomington Deputy City Manager Billy Tyus said the agreement represented an intentional effort by the city to secure funding for priority projects like infrastructure. Getting on the radar of Congress as lawmakers decide how to allocate federal funding is critical and not something that can be done internally, he added.
"There are thousands of pieces of legislation that are filed regularly and those aren't things that we have the expertise to be able to track," Tyus told the council members during Monday night's meeting. "This company has proven that they have a track record of being able to secure funding for things like road infrastructure, which is a need here, for things like electric vehicle infrastructure, which is obviously a need here (and) safe water, which is obviously a need here."
Katherine Murphy, external affairs and communications manager for Bloomington, said the city has worked with a federal lobbying firm on some specific projects but they weren’t hired for a consistent run of lobbying for the city.
The city's previous lobbyist, Julie Curry, had worked statewide for the city, Murphy added.
Normal, meanwhile, has used Cardinal Infrastructure for more than 18 years to help raise federal funding for projects.
Alderman Grant Walch said Bloomington's elected officials in Springfield and Washington, D.C., should be fighting for the city, and council members should be able to call up their legislators to let them know which projects are priorities.
"I don't think we should be paying someone to do what we should be doing and our elected officials should be doing," Walch said.
U.S. Rep. Eric Sorensen of the 17th Congressional District, which covers most of Bloomington-Normal, could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.
Alderman Nick Becker said it was ludicrous for the city to spend more money to possibly get a better share of federal grant opportunities. He also asked Tyus if he could guarantee that the city could collect more than $90,000 in grants each year to recoup the consultant's expenses.
Tyus said he couldn't guarantee how much money the city could collect but the services and the advocacy being provided is well worth the cost.
"It isn't simply about securing funding," Tyus said. "It's also about advocacy (and) it's also about making sure that priorities, as laws are being made, are before both our legislators, our own delegation, but also folks who are perhaps aren't our direct representatives and senators who are part of the decision-making process."
Aldermen Walch, Becker, Sheila Montney, De Urban and Tom Crumpler voted no.
As part of its consent agenda, the council also approved a utility agreement between the city and TKnTK LLC for the extension of water and sewer mains as a part of a redevelopment plan at South Bunn Street and Tri-Lakes Road.
TKnTK LLC's plan is to add a solid waste transfer station to the property. But because the property currently sits outside city limits, it will need water and sewer service from the city. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency ultimately has to issue the permit to operate the transfer station.
BLOOMINGTON — A snow route parking ban has been issued in Bloomington ahead of the incoming winter storm.
Starting at 6 a.m. Wednesday, residents are not to park on snow routes in Bloomington until further notice. A free pathway will allow plow drivers to remove snow and ice more efficiently and safely, city officials said in a news release.
Residents can obtain updated information on snow and ice operations, a list and map of all designated snow routes and the complete snow removal program at bit.ly/bloomingtonsnow.
Those who live in areas that are not designated as snow routes are still encouraged to park off street, the news release said.
Bloomington’s forecast called for snow to begin Tuesday night and continue Wednesday, with 3 to 6 inches possible, according to the National Weather Service.
Contact Mateusz Janik at (309) 820-3234. Follow Mateusz on Twitter:@mjanik99
Medical workers in Illinois are warning adults to keep marijuana edibles away from kids, after an “alarming” jump in the number of accidental consumptions.
The number of exposures to edible cannabis among children 5 and younger from 2017-2021 reported in Illinois increased from 5 to 232 cases — a 4,500% increase. Most of the increase was during the pandemic years of 2020-2021. Illinois legalized recreational marijuana in 2020.
Nationally, researchers found the number of cases rose from 207 in 2017 to 3,054 in 2021, an increase of almost 14 times.
“We are experiencing an increased amount of poison center calls and hospital visits involving children who unintentionally consumed cannabis edibles,” said Illinois Poison Center Medical Director Michael Wahl, one of the authors of the study. “IPC advises parents to store THC edibles in a safe place that is out of the reach of children and avoid buying edibles that look like candy or a treat that a child would be eager to try. These unintentional ingestions are causing minor to severe reactions in children, including vomiting, seizures and coma.”
As the Tribune first reported last year, the number of calls for people of all ages to the Illinois Poison Center for cannabis rose from 487 in 2019, to 743 in 2020, the year recreational weed was legalized in the state, and increased to 855 in 2021. Most of the calls were for unintentional consumption of edibles by people who didn’t know what they were eating.
Most cases were not severe and were resolved over the phone, but some required hospitalization until the effects wore off.
The poison center offered the following tips to keep kids safe:
BLOOMINGTON — Visitors can explore storytelling and an artist’s relationship with wood carving at art exhibits at Illinois Wesleyan University.
The university is hosting a free, public reception for the exhibits in Wakeley and Merwin Galleries at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The installations are slated to appear until March 1.
Check out the latest exhibits and events Central Illinois museums, galleries and historic sites have to offer.
The Wakeley Gallery will feature wood carvings by Santiago Cal, a professor of art at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The exhibit is meant to explore Cal’s relationship with carving and the human figure, the university said.
The Merwin Gallery will exhibit work by Joshua Lowe, an assistant professor of art at IWU. The exhibit, titled “deLight: Digital Motion Storybooks,” features original stories told with light and sound, drawing on fables.
The galleries are located in Ames School of Art on IWU’s campus. Hours and additional details can be found at iwu.edu/art/galleries.
Heartland Community College's Joe McCauley Gallery will present the collection "There is a Woman on the Wall," created by Dallas-based artist …
Contact Connor Wood at (309)820-3240. Follow Connor on Twitter:@connorkwood