Scott Tibbs

The traffic commission controversy and local cancel culture

By Scott Tibbs, April 26, 2023

Bloomington resident Greg Alexander was re-appointed to city government's traffic commission in January. After this happened, some city councilors started making noise about removing him from the commission because of his posts on Twitter in 2022. Here is the obvious problem: Councilor Rollo, who is leading the effort to remove Alexander, was aware of the posts when Alexander was re-appointed to the commission. Rollo did not object then. He only objected after the fact. Susan Sandberg, who wants to be the next Mayor, was also aware and did not object.

It would be perfectly reasonable to not appoint Alexander to the Traffic Commission in January because of his Tweets. These are political appointments to a policy-making position. Any councilor could vote against Alexander for any reason, even for something as silly as disliking the winter cap he was wearing at a previous meeting. But once the appointment has gone through and no one objected to it, that should be the end of the issue until the appointment is up again.

The complaint of "bias" is silly. How to manage traffic flow and how to allocate financial resources for infrastructure are policy decisions. Obviously everyone serving on city commissions is biased in favor of some policies and against others. This also applies to the city council itself. And, once again, Councilor Rollo knew of the Tweets and did not object to the "bias" against a particular neighborhood or in favor of particular public policy.

Rollo complains that Alexander's Tweets are chilling to public engagement. Alexander had 248 followers as of April 18. The fact that Rollo and the B-Square Beacon have highlighted the Tweets has distributed them much farther than they would have been otherwise. People could simply not read Alexander's Twitter account and they would not be "intimidated" by his Tweets. The neighbors who complained about Alexander's tweets are being overly fragile. Furthermore, removing someone from a commission chills public comment much more than someone mouthing off to a very limited audience on social media.

One does not have to approve of Alexander's posts on Twitter to oppose removing him to from the traffic commission. They were unnecessarily crude. But to pursue this five months after the Tweets were posted and two months after Alexander was re-appointed says much more about Rollo than it does about Alexander. Does Rollo have the maturity to continue to serve on the City Council, or is he too distracted by "mean Tweets" to take policy seriously?

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