Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner is again facing questions about his online behavior, after a new round of late-night comments posted on GLT’s Facebook page.
Renner spoke on GLT’s Sound Ideas on Tuesday morning about his recent online comment and email in response to conservative critics about his trip to Japan. He conceded his aggressive tone online was not helping him politically, even as he defended his right to stick up for his loved ones.
A story recapping that Sound Ideas interview was shared on GLT’s Facebook page. Renner replied to several comments on that post. His comments are typo-laden and at times difficult to follow. In one comment, he says a critic needs to “be more articulate.” He made several references to “nuts” and shared an image of a squirrel.
Reached on Wednesday by text message, Renner appeared surprised that his comments were publicly visible.
“I was responding on my cell phone and am terrible with typos if I’m not on a computer,” Renner said. “I would get an absolute F if somebody graded me on text spelling on a cell phone.”
Tuesday night’s comments come on the heels of Renner’s online comment on BLNNews.com, a conservative blog, and an inflammatory email to frequent critic Bruce Meeks. Both episodes—in which Renner defended his trip to Japan—have become public in the last few weeks.
Those were not Renner’s first problems with his online behavior. The Bloomington City Council admonished him in 2015 for comments made on the same conservative blog run by Benjamin. In that episode, Renner argued he was defending his son.
Ward 8 Diana Hauman said Wednesday that she was “deeply concerned” about Renner’s latest comments.
“We are public figures. We need to be able to listen to our constituents in a polite and respectful manner,” said Hauman, who ran unsuccessfully against Renner in the 2017 election.
Ward 5 Aldermen Joni Painter said the comments appeared “very erratic and unusual.”
“I have no idea what’s going on in the mayor’s mind,” Painter said. “But what I do know is that a majority of the council has come together as a true team, and we’re confident we can weather whatever storm we face. The city and our constituents won’t be neglected. We’re up to the task.”
Ward 4 Alderman Amelia Buragas said “in general, what I see is a mayor who is concerned about accuracy of information.”
“The mayor and I have a very different way of communicating,” Buragas said. “I don’t expect him to always match how I might have done something. I think there are some questions about whether engaging in an online manner is really the most effective way. All of those things are fine to talk about. But really I think the bigger picture here is his concern for accuracy of information and a desire to move forward and focus on the really big issues facing the city.”
Ward 7 Alderman Scott Black is not concerned about Renner’s comments. Black said the mayor appeared to be asking constituents to come meet with him in person.
“I appreciate that approach, although I don’t recommend ever getting into an online argument with people on a news story,” said Black.
Ward 3 Alderman Mboka Mwilambwe said he was reluctant to weigh in until he spoke to Renner, to confirm it was actually Renner who wrote the comments.
“If true, it’s not helpful,” Mwilambwe said. “It doesn’t do anything to elevate the conversation. I generally like to stay away from negative discussions.”
Ward 9 Alderman Kim Bray declined to comment.
“I am staying focused on the work at hand,” Bray said in an email.
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