BG struggles to find right words for charter preamble

BG Council members John Zanfardino, Daniel Gordon and Bill Herald discuss charter preamble.

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

 

Bowling Green officials are debating how to best reflect the city’s values in the fewest words possible in the preamble of the city charter.

The charter has long been limited to addressing city governance. But during a recent review by a charter update committee, it was suggested that the preamble say more about exactly what Bowling Green stands for.

The committee recommended that council create a statement about non-discrimination to place in the preamble.

So council members Daniel Gordon, chair of the Community Improvement Committee, Bill Herald and John Zanfardino took a stab Monday evening at coming up with a little language that says a lot about the city.

“We want to set out foundational language for what the city is supposed to be about,” Gordon said.

“We want to define who we are as a people and what the community stands for,” he said.

Here is the current city charter preamble:

“We the people of Bowling Green, in the county of Wood, and in the State of Ohio, desirous of securing for our city and for ourselves and our children the advantages of self-government conferred by the home-rule provisions of the Ohio constitution, do hereby ordain and establish the following charter.

Here are five proposals for additional wording that were presented Monday evening.

Mayor Dick Edward’s:

…. “and in keeping with the City of Bowling Green’s determination to be a welcoming city, a city that adheres to practices of non-discrimination as established by law, a city committed to neighborhood livability and a city that embraces energy sustainability” …

Council member Daniel Gordon’s:

“and determined to be a welcoming, inclusive community with strong neighborhoods and equitable quality of life; to serve the common good; and thereby to ensure the safety and freedom of all the people of Bowling Green, who seek to live their lives in peace” …

Council member Bill Herald’s:

“We do this in the hope of molding a distinctive place where people can live with mutual respect, civility, and service to one another in a supportive community.”

Charter committee member Mark Hollenbaugh’s:

… “We do this as a collection of unique individuals with the desire that all our citizens be valued for who they are, and they be empowered by the rights and respect inherent in all people.”

Charter committee co-chair Shannon Orr’s:

“and in adherence to practices of anti-discrimination established by law.”

One of the big questions is – should the preamble just address anti-discrimination, or should it be expanded to include issues like neighborhoods and energy sustainability?

Herald reminded the committee that three of the seven council members were opposed to any tweaking of the preamble, so they might want to keep it brief.

“We’re threading a very small needle here,” Herald said.

Zanfardino agreed that it might be best to keep the addition simple.

But yet not too simple.

“If this is a vision statement, we have to talk about values,” Gordon said.

Zanfardino suggested that the committee “chew on” the proposals till the next meeting when they will be discussed on July 16.

Citizen Janet Parks asked that the committee not dilute the language from addressing non-discrimination.

“I would like to see that stronger language – not to dance around it at all,” Parks said.

Citizens Emily Garcia asked that the preamble mentions equality.

“I think equality is one of those words that can’t be lost in translation,” she said.

Both Garcia and Les Barber said the additional language should be inserted in the preamble, rather than tacked onto the end, like an afterthought.

Though Barber is an advocate for strong neighborhoods, he reluctantly agreed that the new language should probably be limited to a statement of non-discrimination.

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