Accusations fly at council meeting over charter amendment

Brad Holmes speaks at City Council about proposed charter amendment on the ballot.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

Supporters of the Bowling Green Charter Amendment on the Nov. 7 ballot accused their opponents Monday evening of engaging in “smear politics to sway the vote.”

But one of several Bowling Green City Council members opposed to the charter amendment called the proposal “an attempt to legalize anarchy.”

The charter amendment proponents spoke first at Monday’s City Council meeting. Lisa Kochheiser said the amendment purpose is “expanding rights of people to protect their families and community” against environmental harm.

She spoke of the Nexus pipeline route that is proposed near the city’s water treatment plant, and said that a second pipeline by the same company is in the works. Wood County is “caught in the crosshairs” of many pipelines since it is located on the natural gas route from southeast Ohio to Canada.

Kochheiser accused city leaders of knowing two years in advance about the Nexus project, but not telling the public. She asked when the city was going to inform the public about the second proposed pipeline.

Though city council denied an easement for the pipeline, that was the only action taken to stop the project, she said. City council “refused” to take formal action against the pipeline, did not pass an ordinance against the project, and would not file complaints about the proposal.

“The city refuses to support the rights of the people,” she said.

Kochheiser was also critical of multiple council members who have stated that the issue does not belong in the city charter – that it would “sully the pristine charter.”

“Seriously people. Who are you protecting?” she asked.

Kochheiser accused the opponents of “spreading hysterical rumors” and of engaging in “smear politics to sway the vote.”

Next to speak was Brad Holmes, who said the charter amendment proponents were forced to petition for the change because city council would not act. He said the document allows citizens to “peacefully demonstrate” against pipelines and other environmental threats without the risk of being arrested.

Then Sally Medbourn Mott spoke of her concern about the city not having an ordinance to keep oil and gas operations out of the city. Without such language in the City Charter, the city is “powerless” to keep such operations out, she said.

At the end of the meeting, council member Bob McOmber added to his criticisms against the charter amendment that he voiced last month. At that time, he spoke primarily about how the amendment had no place in the city’s charter which focuses solely on the mechanics of local government.

“Even if this was good legislation, it does not belong in the City Charter,” McOmber said. “But it is not good legislation. It is terrible legislation.”

This time, he took on the charter amendment’s wording. “My biggest objection to the proposal is that this is special interest legislation brought forward by a very small group of people who hold extreme views,” he said.

“In all the talk and speeches that have come out in council meetings in recent months regarding the proposed amendment, I do not believe anyone has ever quoted a single word or phrase from the proposal itself.”

McOmber suggested that citizens take time to read the charter amendment before the election. He cautioned that people not be fooled by the representation that the proposal is intended to ensure clean water for Bowling Green.

“The proposed amendment is 627 words long. The word ‘water’ appears in the document once,” he said.

The proposal states that the citizens “seek to alter our form of government,” he said. It continues to state, “any person may enforce this amendment through direct nonviolent action,” and that Bowling Green police “shall have no lawful authority to surveil, detain, arrest or otherwise impede persons enforcing these rights.”

The police are not the only body held powerless in the amendment, McOmber said. The wording also states that if “a court fails to uphold this amendment, any person may enforce this amendment through nonviolent direct action.”

“So courts can be ignored and the police are powerless,” McOmber said.

And criticism of the proposal would not be allowed, he added. The charter amendment states, “The right shall also preclude any substantive review of an initiative’s contents before it is enacted into law.”

“That means that the comments I am making right now could have me fined or thrown in jail,” McOmber said.

“This looks to me like an attempted power grab,” he said. “It is virtually an attempt to legalize anarchy.”

In other business, council heard the first reading of ordinance for the installation of a wildlife habitat area surrounding the solar field off Carter and Newton roads, northeast of Bowling Green. Public Utilities Director Brian O’Connell explained that the native plants costing about $50,000 will be paid for and planted using a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

The natural habitat restoration is intended to attract pollinators which are becoming fewer in the region, and it would eliminate mowing costs to the city. O’Connell said the city will partner with the Wood County Park District to maintain the natural areas.

Also at the meeting, council heard the first reading of an ordinance to increase the hotel tax in the city. The Convention and Visitors Bureau has asked that the city hotel-motel tax be increased from 3 to 4 percent, with the bureau continuing to get 60 percent of the 3 percent tax, plus the entire additional 1 percent. The increase would be a dedicated to the bureau for a cohesive branding campaign, increased marketing, and for outreach to retain, research and implement new signature events for the city.

In other business at Monday’s meeting:

  • Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter announced that Bowling Green trick or treat is set of Tuesday, Oct. 31, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Residents who wish to participate are asked to turn on their front lights.
  • Holly Cipriana, of Not In Our Town, invited the public to join in the annual Peace March on Nov. 3, starting at noon, in the Community Commons located downtown in the first block of East Wooster Street. The march will end on the BGSU campus. The purpose of the Peace March is to promote community and inclusiveness.
  • Planning Director Heather Sayler reported on the low feedback on the Community Action Plan. Council member Daniel Gordon suggested that a BGSU program could possibly assist in surveying the community. However, Sayler advised the plan was already past deadline, and the budget might not allow for further expenses.
  • Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley said Phase 2 of the Wintergarden nature center renovations is underway and should be completed by the end of the year. The renovations are being paid for through a park foundation campaign.
  • Public Works Director Brian Craft said the street and curb work continues on Church and Evers streets. The sewer work on Wolfly Avenue has been delayed until Oct. 23.
  • Council approved a contract with the BG Police Patrolman’s Association, which is the last of five union contracts for 2017 that needed to be approved. The contract was similar to the others already approved, with raises of 1.5 percent the first year, 2 percent the second, and 2.5 percent the third year.
  • Council heard the public hearing for the zoning change for Habitat for Humanity property at the southwest corner of Manville and Clough streets, is set for Nov. 20 at 6:45 p.m.
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