O’Donnell Bellisario, Blanco, Sanders advance in WL Council primary
Gerald Thomas loses primary bid for a fifth term. Plus, what’s ahead in municipal elections. And cities, county leave it to a dog to break ground on new animal shelter
Thanks to Food Finders Food Bank for its ongoing support of Based in Lafayette. Get your tickets now for the Blue Jean Ball, coming Saturday, May 6, to help raise critical operating funds to address hunger in and around Greater Lafayette. Click the links below for tickets, to bid on silent auction items and get more about Food Finders’ mission.
O’DONNELL BELLISARIO, BLANCO, SANDERS ADVANCE IN WL CITY COUNCIL PRIMARY
Iris O’Donnell Bellisario, a West Lafayette graduate who pressed the city on climate measures as a Purdue student, took the top spot in Tuesday’s primary among four Democrats seeking three at-large seats on the West Lafayette City Council.
Gerald Thomas, in his fourth term on the city council, finished behind O’Donnell Bellisario and fellow incumbents James Blanco and David Sanders, leaving him to wrap up his time on the city council at the end of 2023.
“I’ve had four terms on the council, and I’ve served my constituents well, I hope,” Thomas, a Purdue retiree who initially came to West Lafayette to play basketball for Purdue, said. “It’s been a pleasure to serve and an honor to serve. … I was pleased to see another woman elected to the council, as we hopefully get closer to a council that reflects all of West Lafayette.”
O’Donnell Bellisario said, as votes were being counted at the County Office Building Tuesday evening, that she’d been preparing herself all day to finish last. Instead, she wound up 88 votes ahead of the next candidate in a primary that drew 847 voters.
O’Donnell Bellisario, who directs a nonprofit as she works on her master’s in public health at Purdue, said being a woman in the race played to her advantage as she went door-to-door to talk to potential voters this spring. The West Lafayette City Council has one woman – Democrat Kathy Parker – among its nine members.
“But I really was prepping myself to lose,” O’Donnell Bellisario said. “Not because I thought I was going to lose. I just didn’t know who was going to show up. I didn’t know what to expect.”
Blanco, first elected in 2019, said he knocked on 710 doors as other volunteers covered even more in support of his re-election bid. He touted the fact that he was the lone renter on the ballot in a university town where renters are in the majority.
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“That’s what we’ll keep working on – trying to make sure there are places for people,” Blanco said. “As we’ve all seen, we have a lot of work to do there.”
Sanders, running for a third term, beat Thomas by 12 votes. (Thomas said Tuesday night he had no intention of challenging the results.)
“The wisdom and compassion of Gerald Thomas will be missed on the council, that’s for sure,” Sanders said. “I’ve worked hard as a city council, and I’m glad to be continuing.”
Erin Easter, a Democrat endorsed for mayor by outgoing Republican Mayor John Dennis, is so far unchallenged in the November municipal general election. She’ll top a ticket that features a number of contested seats and new Democratic candidates among the challengers.
“We would have been fortunate to have any combination of the four tonight moving forward,” Easter said.
No Republicans have filed for one of the three at-large West Lafayette City Council slots on the November ballot.
THE RESULTS: The top three advance to the November general election.
Iris O’Donnell Bellisario: 715
James Blanco: 627
David Sanders: 479
Gerald Thomas: 467
TURNOUT: 847 voters, of 22,489 registered in West Lafayette. That’s a 3.7% turnout in the citywide primary. (For comparison: Turnout was less than 3% of the registered voters in a similar, one-contest primary for Lafayette City Council in 2019.)
WHAT’S NEXT: The local parties in Lafayette and West Lafayette have until the first week in July to slate candidates to fill open slots on the ballot. Independent candidates could emerge by then, too. Here’s how the ballot shapes up, after Tuesday’s primary, in West Lafayette and Lafayette.
Mayor: Tony Roswarski*, D; Benji Milanowski, Libertarian
Clerk: Cindy Murray*, D.
Council District 1: Jerry Reynolds*, R.
Council District 2: Eileen Hession Weiss*, D; Mary Fisher, R.
Council District 3: Perry Brown*, D.
Council District 4: Lauren Ahlersmeyer*, D; Josiah Eller, Libertarian
Council District 5: Melissa Weast Williamson*, D.
Council District 6: Bob Downing*, D; Perry Barbee, R
Council at-large (3): Kevin Klinker*, D; Nancy Nargi*, D; Steve Snyder*, D.
Mayor: Erin Easter, D.
Clerk: Sana Booker*, D.
Council District 1: Aaron Abell, R.
Council District 2: Michelle Dennis, D.
Council District 3: None
Council District 4: Larry Leverenz*, D.
Council District 5: Kathy Parker*, D; James Waters, R.
Council District 6: Jeff Brown*, R; Stacey Baitinger Burr, D.
Council at-large (3): James Blanco*, D; Iris O’Donnell Bellisario, D; David Sanders*, D.
A GROUNDBREAKING GOES TO THE DOGS
With a Great Pyrenees named Nora Bones digging the first ceremonial clump of groundbreaking dirt, work officially started Tuesday on a new community animal shelter along Sagamore Parkway South in Lafayette.
“A little bacon goes a long way,” Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski said as Nora dug for the treat in a box of dirt, as a local officials and the board of the new Humane Society for Greater Lafayette did their bit armed with pooper scoopers.
The $7.5 million project will renovate and expand the former Cooperative Extension Service building at 3150 Sagamore Parkway S. and will replace animal shelter contracts Lafayette and West Lafayette have with the Almost Home Humane Society in Lafayette and Tippecanoe County had with Crystal Creek Kennels near Battle Ground.
The price will be divided between the three, with Lafayette putting up 50%, Tippecanoe County contributing 40% and West Lafayette chipping in 10%, in a formula based on projected usage for dogs, cats and other animals coming through the site.
Another $1.5 million is the goal in a community fundraiser for opening operational costs. Sharon Dull, who has been leading the project with the Humane Society of Greater Lafayette, said $365,000 has been quietly donated, so far, with a bigger push coming later.
The 17,000-square-foot shelter, adoption services and new space for animal control officers are scheduled to be ready in summer 2024, Roswarski said.
Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine also will partner with the clinic with its shelter medicine program that offers students practical experience with surgeries and other aspects of managing pets in a shelter setting.
Willie Reed, dean of the Purdue veterinary college, said mayors and county officials came to him more than a year ago with what they wanted to do by combining animal control and shelter space across Greater Lafayette.
“I thought to myself, we have to be part of this,” Reed said. “One of the things that impressed me, as I sat in that room that day, was to watch the elected leaders in our community come together.”
Amid a day where groundbreaking favors included dog biscuits, Dull called it a moment she’d been waiting for and working toward for years.
“If your animal is lost, you no longer have to contact two different shelters,” Dull said. “We have a highly visible, easily accessible location and will offer safe harbor for lost animals until they can be reunited with their family or their forever home can be found.”
As construction starts, County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh said the cities and the county would work toward a unified animal ordinance, so Lafayette, West Lafayette and Tippecanoe County don’t have different rules.
Almost Home Humane Society, which has a shelter on city-owned land tucked along South Second Street, has not announced what it plans to do, once the city contracts end in 2024. The owners of Crystal Creek Kennels, Nita Pollock and Bernie Wulle, are retiring.
OTHER READS …
A lot going on here in Tuesday’s opening arguments in the murder trial of Nick Haynie, accused in the 2020 stabbing death of Marc Sherwood in his Lafayette home. Here’s an account from Journal & Courier reporter Ron Wilkins (including some of the first video from a trial in a Tippecanoe County courtroom under new state rules): “Prosecutors dispute murder defendant's claim of self-defense and being sex slave.”
WLFI reporter Joe Paul followed up Tuesday with news that Clinton Central High School, about 20 miles southeast of Lafayette in Michigantown, had reopened after shutting down Monday due to the aftereffects of a senior prank. First reported as baby oil that had made hallways dangerously slick turned out to be a lot more destructive. Here’s the report: “Clinton Central reopens; new details released about senior prank.”
Indiana Capital Chronicle reporter Whitney Downard looked at how the General Assembly’s latest two-year budget skipped a bump for the state’s public employee retirees. Said Jessica Love, executive director of the Retired Indiana Public Employees Association: “In 2023, when inflation is the highest it’s been since the 13th check started in 1991, legislators approved a budget that leaves out public employees altogether? These retirees deserve better.” For the story: “No COLA or 13th check for Indiana retirees”
THIS AND THAT …
‘A TOAST TO MENTAL HEALTH’: The 16th annual “Toast to Mental Health” will be 6-8 p.m. Thursday, May 4, at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds, 1406 Teal Road in Lafayette. The event, presented by Daybreak Rotary, is a fundraiser benefiting Mental Health America-Wabash Valley Region, the National Alliance on Mental Illness-West Central Indiana and Willowstone Family Services. Tickets are $30, available, along with more information about the event, at https://one.bidpal.net/toast2023.
GRANT’S HOUSE CELEBRATION: The eighth annual Grant’s House Celebration will be 6-10:30 p.m. Friday, May 5, at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds, 1406 Teal Road in Lafayette. The event is to raise money for Grant’s House, home to Wabash Center’s Youth Services in Lafayette. The space is named for Grant House, a McCutcheon High School graduate and Wabash Center employee who died in 2015 at age 25. In particular, this year’s event is aimed at sponsorships for Summer Camp No. 54, an inclusive day camp at Grant’s House. The celebration includes a fish and chicken fry and concert by the Flying Toasters. For tickets, go to: wabashcenter.home.qtego.net.
BATTLE AT THE BARN ESPORTS TOURNEY: Lafayette Jefferson High School’s Esports program will host its second annual Battle at the Barn Esports Tournament 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, May 6-7, at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds, 1406 Teal Road in Lafayette. The tournament will include more than 200 players, including college teams, competing in OverWatch 2, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate and other games, along with community open gaming invites featuring Fortnite. Lafayette Jeff and McCutcheon High School’s robotics teams will have demonstrations each day. And the event will include hands-on activities with drones, AR/VR headsets and the Old School Gaming Lab. Admission is $5 a day, or $8 for a weekend pass for adults; free for students with a valid ID; and free for those 12 and younger. For more information, here’s your link.
INTERNET INVENTORS, COMING TO PURDUE: Purdue President Mung Chiang will host Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn, credited doing the groundbreaking work in the 1970s for the internet, on Sept. 7 as part of the Presidential Lecture Series, the university announced this week. The talk coincides with the 60th anniversary of Purdue’s computer science department and Chiang’s recent commitment to bring 50 additional computer science faculty members to campus in the coming years. From a university release: “In 1973, Cerf and Kahn crafted the common digital language that provides the pathways for interconnecting vast network devices. They developed the Transmission Control Protocol, which later split off the Internet Protocol, becoming TCP/IP, seen in the network settings of computers to this day. In geek speak, they formulated fundamental protocols for wireless and wired networking, specified TCP/IP to meet these requirements, prototyped TCP/IP and coordinated early TCP/IP implementations.” The time and location of the talk will be announced later, the university said. For more, here is – appropriately enough, a link.
MAYORS, ET AL ON TRIKES: I’m not sure if this is what happens when the Hollywood screenwriters go on strike, but here’s what happened when Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis and County Commissioners Tracy Brown and Tom Murtaugh went to the John R. Myers Pedestrian Bridge to tout Bike Month.
Thanks, again, for sponsorship help from Food Finders Food Bank, presenting the Blue Jean Ball on Saturday, May 6. Get tickets and bid on auction items here.
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