City Hall Attacking Freedom Of Press In Bloomington, IL(Update)
An extremely troubling assault on the Freedom of the Press is taking place in Bloomington, IL with Mayor Tari Renner at the center of an attempt to silence a local talk radio station and its morning show for having the tenacity to question a plan to have the city of Bloomington use some $8 million in taxpayer money to help finance the purchase of a block of buildings downtown that a developer wants to turn into a hotel while the city has and is raising taxes on everything it can to cover a $3 million budget deficit while also giving the city manager a pay raise.
Last Friday Josh “Fistbump” Schmidgall, a reporter with Cities 92.9 FM’s morning show hosted by Ian Bayne, was served with a restraining order, filed by Bloomington’s Communications Director Nora Dukowitz, after Schmidgall earlier in the week had sought to get answers from Dukowitz at her apartment about the hotel project and the recent pay raise given to the City Manager. When Dukowitz didn’t answer the door Schmidgall left his business card on the door and left.
At Tuesday night’s city council meeting during public comments Mayor Renner let slip that may have had some roll in the restraining order, which seeks to bar Schmidgall from City Hall and to forfeit his Illinois Firearms Owner Identification Card(needed in IL to even touch a firearm legally) and his shotgun. Renner said, “Nobody whose hired by our city has a right to be stalked by someone pretending to be a journalist…I wouldn’t be a decent mayor if I let this kind of stuff happen and I won’t.”
Earlier in the city council meeting Renner lied about the incident and the restraining order saying it was a felony case, that there was an imminent threat of danger posed by Mr. Schmidgall, and that Mr. Schmidgall broke into the apartment building.
As local blogger Diane Benjamin pointed out the Normal police report for the incident disproves every point Renner slanderously made.
Renner and Dukowitz have been pressed by Cities 92.9’s morning host Ian Bayne and his crew including Schmidgall for weeks regarding the pay raise and hotel project all while Mayor Renner and the city council(minus the boards lone conservative Kevin Lower) have been increasing utility fees, the cities amusement tax, the gasoline tax, and more.
Bayne and Schmidgall both say that no answers have been forth coming from City Hall or from the Communications Director Nora Dukowitz for weeks on end; with things getting to the point that City Hall staffers won’t even talk to or schedule appointments with anyone representing 92.9.
Attempting to silence the press in order to conceal from the public details of the cities hotel deal, the city managers pay raise, and why everyone’s taxes keep going up is no way for a Mayor to act, let alone a Communications Director, and whats worse Mayor Renner is a political science Professor at nearby Illinois Wesleyan.
This isn’t Renner’s first run it with the press either. Earlier this year Renner got into a bunch of hot water and had to apologize after making vile comments on Diane Benjamin’s blog.