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  • David Wolfe Bender

I'm Running for the Bloomington City Council. Here's why.

I moved to Bloomington in August 2020 to start my undergraduate degree at Indiana University. And I fell in love with it immediately. I love our city. After my evening classes, I often walk toward Sample Gates, stare down Kirkwood Avenue, and gaze at the amazing sunset covering our city's sky. A few times each week, I run down Henderson on the south side. On the weekends, I study at Bryan Park. And every single school day, I cherish my walk to campus. Put simply: Bloomington is the best college town in the country. Full stop. No arguments.

When I moved here, I quickly became engaged in city government and politics. I would watch city council meetings almost every week, analyzing city issues on repeat until falling asleep on top of the hundreds of pages of council documents sitting on the desk of my apartment. But as I got more and more engaged, I became more and more distressed. Eventually, it became clear to me: Bloomington's city government does not look like Bloomington.

Bloomington is IU, and IU is Bloomington. There are more than 40,000 students who attend Indiana University; Bloomington's population is almost 85,000. That means that IU's student body represents almost half of our city's population. And yet, students have meager representation in government. They are underrepresented — if they are ever represented at all — on citizen boards and commissions, some of which level great influence in our city.

And to my understanding, never in our city's history has an IU undergraduate student sat on the Bloomington City Council. I'm looking to change that this year.

Today, I am announcing my intent to run for District VI of the Bloomington City Council. It is long past time that an undergraduate student gets a seat at the table.

Bloomington is in need of forward-thinking, transformative change. I'll be running as a Democrat, but city government often transcends political party; city government is about where we choose to center our priorities. For far too long, our city priorities have not been centered upon our greatest and most important asset: our people.

What I'm Running On

My campaign is looking to promote what I call People-Centered Priorities. That means the focus for all city policy needs to remain on how policies will affect people, not anything else.

We should focus on how we can make it safer for people to walk and bike. We should promote policies that make it more affordable for people to live in our city.

The city's misplaced priorities create inequity. When we fix a street before we fix a sidewalk, we are making an inherent (and possibly oblivious) decision to prioritize a vehicle over a walker's commute, even though a broken sidewalk is far more likely to cause danger to a person than is a pothole in a street. And that doesn't even touch the fact that many in our city — including most students — don't have cars or don't use cars.

The Future of Kirkwood

Bloomington should always be a walker's paradise. During the pandemic, our city temporarily closed Kirkwood Avenue to cars; it was the best decision the city ever made. We proved it worked: students crowd the area, and restaurants expanded their seating capacity into the beautiful outdoors.

It's time we make that permanent. Let's rebuild Kirkwood in the same way Boulder built Pearl Street. It should be a permanent pedestrian walkway — open to people and closed to cars. Pedestrian walkways have been tried all across the country, and they've worked in all types of cities. These types of walkways often see trees running down the middle of the old street and water fixtures. They are the quintessential community space with public art, outdoor seating, outdoor stages, restaurant space, and more.

Why do pedestrian walkways work? They are perfect for everyone: students and families alike. They provide monumental economic and community development. We can transform our Kirkwood neighborhood — it just takes bold leadership. It's smart fiscal policy, and it would promote a community space.

How You Can Help

We'll be announcing volunteer positions over the next few weeks. Our goal is to get more students engaged in local government and the election process, so you can expect to see a staff full of students.

We're also raising money to ensure this campaign can make it through to our May primary and the November general elections. Visit to learn more about our vision and make a contribution today.

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