Election season 2007 is officially underway, and all indications are that it will be perhaps the most uninspired in city history. It's pretty much a lock that, when Jan. 1 rolls around next year, Bloomington city government will be a mirror image of this year.
About the only remarkable outcome this quadrennial ritual is likely to produce will be another four years of a city that trumpets diversity as an exalted virtue dominated by an enclave of affluent, white, (presumably) heterosexual males.
That plus, using history as a guide, the ungodly amounts of money that Mayor Mark Kruzan will raise for a race that will once again be, as the lawyers say, no lo contendre.
Unremarkable unless city Republicans field a slate of electable female, African American, Latino or Log Cabin candidates. Then voters would at least have a choice, which sadly is remarkable in contemporary city politics.
But even with a candidate for mayor like City Councilman David Sabbagh, who could actually do the job, it's still pretty hard to take the Republicans' chances seriously.
Howard Young and Tim Ellis couldn't beat Frank McCloskey. Kirk White couldn't beat John Fernandez.
And the GOP lost the entire county government just three months ago. The national Democratic landslide played a significant role in that historic turn of events, but history's tide is against the Republican Party.
Like Americans nationwide, Bloomington citizens need bold, progressive solutions to the enormous challenges that face their community, their state and their planet, not platitudes from politicians whose public policy priorities put profits before people.
They aren't going to get that from Sabbagh or the Republicans. Nor are they, it appears, going to get it from Democrats.
Despite Mayor Mark Kruzan's well-documented, 20-year record of political expedience, no progressive candidate, it appears, will emerge from within the party to challenge his mantra of "economic development."
Instead of asking, "Economic development for whom?," they will let Sabbagh set the terms of the debate. And he has said John Fernandez was a better mayor than Kruzan.
They will ignore the fact that Fernandez's deputy mayor still occupies the city's number two position and played an early, pivotal role in forming the Team Finelight public-private partnership (3P) that put a 49-year-old, successful local institution out of business.
They will disregard the clear message that the Finelight 3P sent: money and political connections trump basic human decency and cultural preservation, as long as it's cast as economic development.
At this point it is abundantly clear that the real "Plan Kruzan" is a Fernandezesque blueprint for a city vision molded by the economic development lobby, which is composed of predominantly white men, with business leanings.
Of the 25 individuals involved deeply or peripherally in the Finelight 3P, for example, only six were women, and five of them played bit parts, mostly information retrieval.
Progressives will ignore the reality that Kruzan's political career is steeped in the unvarnished graft and corruption that permeates Indiana state government, that indeed is Indiana state government.
Newcomers to state politics last year told the Alternative, in casual conversation, that the first lesson they learned was they needed to give bigger campaign contributions.
Only once in 16 years as a state representative did Mark Kruzan face an electoral challenge of any kind, yet he routinely accepted campaign contributions from some of the of the most unholy corporate interests in the world, including Big Energy, Big Oil, King Coal and Big Pharma.
Not exactly the sort of credentials many populist progressives would lay claim to. Not exactly the Vita of a man with a plan to lead our community into a bold, new, progressive, sustainable future.
In November 2003, Kruzan established the Mark Kruzan for Mayor Political Committee with $34,514 from his fund raising as a state representative.
And then, even though he was running effectively unopposed for mayor and got over 60 percent of the vote, mayoral candidate Kruzan collected another $179,156 in campaign contributions.
He started with zero dollars in his committee account on Nov. 26, 2002, put $213,670 into it over the next 13 months, and had $38,655 left when he took office on Jan. 1, 2004.
He reported expenditures of more than $60,000 to a single marketing agency.
It was, as the professional politician class would say, money well spent. Again, Kruzan won with 60-plus percent of the vote.
But was it necessary? Maybe David Sabbagh will ask, or at least think about it.
Local media, of course, will treat the money thing all as a horse race. To the victor goes the spoils.
Among those receiving Kruzan campaign funds annually since he took office in 2004 is the Greater Bloomington Area Chamber of Commerce. On his campaign finance reports, Kruzan describes variously the Chamber's "occupation" as "business group," "membership group" and "business promotion."
He described the expenditures as "contribution" and "membership."
While nominal in amount between $126 and $136 a year the Chamber expenditures are the only reported payouts in three years that aren't directly related to Kruzan's campaign. No citizen or nonpolitical organization of any kind received campaign funds.
Yet, instead of challenging Kruzan from the left, like Mark Stoops did against Kruzan's Statehouse successor Matt Pierce in 2004, Bloomington progressives are going to sit this one out, leaving Kruzan to drift even further into the laps of the economic developers.
If there's a third-party champion out there, she or he is operating under the radar.
Neither does it appear that Bloomington citizens will get a dose of participatory democracy from the Democratic Women's Caucus (DWC).
The DWC formed in response to the 9-0, male-to-female, 2003 City Council, the first such gender-specific assemblage since 1972.
Yet, multiple sources within the organization confirm that the DWC will not support any female candidates against any incumbent male Democrat this year.
Aside from Councilwoman Susan Sandberg, who was selected by a Democratic Party Caucus to the at-large council seat vacated by now-Prosecutor Chris Gaal, at most there will be two Democratic women on the ticket this year seeking policy-making positions. And they are being left to run uphill battles in heavily Republican districts.
Unless city Republicans do something totally uncharactistic, or some underground leaders emerge, Election Year 2007 is going to produce more of the same.
And regardless of what the GOP does, Bloomington four years from now will have more cars, more congestion, more sprawl, more pollution, less green space, more crime, more corporations and only token diversity in its elected city leaders.
Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.