Community

More staff needed to handle spike in child abuse

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There is no “normal” when it comes to child abuse and neglect cases. On Monday night, five children were taken into custody when their parent was arrested on the highway in Wood County. Last week, Children’s Services was called in when a parent died of an opiate overdose. So Wood County Job and Family Services Director Dave Wigent got on the county commissioners’ agenda to request an additional Children’s Services staff member. But by time the meeting rolled around on Tuesday, Wigent’s request had grown to two additional employees. “The situation has gotten worse,” he told the county commissioners. “We’re setting all-time records” for the number of child abuse and neglect cases being investigated. Child abuse investigations increased in Wood County by nearly 25 percent in 2016 – a jump never seen before by the staff at Children’s Services. The number of cases went from 718 in 2015 up to 894 in 2016 – meaning 176 more child abuse investigations. Cases of abuse were reported in every community in the county. And so far, 2017 looks no better. “This year we are trending above that,” Wigent said, noting that March set an all-time high of 90 new cases. And most are not simple. “These cases are very time consuming.” The lack of local residential facilities for children with special needs is also creating more work for staff, who have to make monthly visits with the children. Most children with special needs in custody are not living in Wood County. “We have children across the state,” Children’s Services Administrator Sandi Carsey said. “There’s…


‘All Politics is Local’ and some is pretty nasty right now

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   If you want to make your words count with politicians, forget the form letter. Face-to-face conversations are best. Personally written letters and phone calls also carry some weight. But email form letters are next to worthless – especially if you forget to put your name in the “insert your name here” slot – which oddly enough, many people do. “Personal contact is best, if you can,” State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, said Saturday during the second in the three part series on “Civics 101: Get Informed. Get Engaged. Get Results.” Gardner was joined in the “All Politics is Local” program by former State Rep. Tim Brown, Bowling Green City Council members Bob McOmber and Sandy Rowland, and Wood County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge David Woessner. The “Civics 101” project is the brainchild of local citizens who were moved by the last election to become more engaged in the workings of government. “I know people are cynical about politics,” Gardner told the crowd. But individuals can make a difference in government. And despite what many people think, it’s not about the money for many politicians, he said. “That’s not true for most,” Gardner said. It’s the chance meeting with a physician at a Kiwanis pancake breakfast about the need for children to carry their asthma inhalers at school, or an emotional plea from a mom about the need for children to have comprehensive eye exams. “Sometimes it’s just one person” who starts the ball rolling on new legislation, Gardner said. When he was just new as a county commissioner, Brown remembered…


St. John Passion in its element as Good Friday offering

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Liturgy and drama are one in Bach’s St. John Passion. The theatrical elements – a narrator, dialogue, and the evocative underscoring for small orchestra—are undeniable. Yet the message and the story almost demand the setting of a church. Yes, it is presented in a concert hall, but that’s akin to a staged reading of a play as opposed to a fully staged production. The St. John Passion was fully in its element on Palm Sunday afternoon in Hope Lutheran Church in Toledo. The Passion, one of two that have come down to us from Bach, the other being the monumental St. Matthew, was presented by musicians from Bowling Green State University. The performance brought together the Early Music Ensemble, directed by Arne Spohr, the University Choral Society directed by Mark Munson, who also conducted the work, organist Michael Gartz, and voice faculty taking on the principal roles and solos. Munson said he’s been waiting for Easter to fall late enough in the semester to be able to prepare the Passion for presentation during Holy Week. So on Good Friday, April 14, the St. John Passion will be presented at 7 p.m. in First United Methodist Church in Bowling Green as the community commemoration of the day. The Passion was first performed in 1724, revised over time, though the final version reverted to much the same as it was originally performed. As presented in Bach’s time, a sermon would be preached between parts one and two. Those in attendance Sunday were advised not to applaud between the two movements. Spohr read several verses of the…


Five road fatalities reported in county this year; Safe Communities warns against distracted driving

From WOOD COUNTY SAFE COMMUNITIES Wood County Safe Communities announced today that there have been five fatal crashes in Wood County for calendar year 2017, compared to four for the same time frame in 2016. At some point, you have probably seen someone driving distracted; it’s pretty easy to spot. You may even be guilty of distracted driving yourself. With so many people constantly tuned in to their smartphones, texting from behind the wheel is all too common, but it is one of the most common causes of fatalities on the roads. That’s why Safe Communities of Wood County is teaming up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to reach all drivers with an important warning: U Drive. UText. U Pay. According to NHTSA, in 2015 3,477 people were killed, and an estimated 391,000 were injured, in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. That was a 9-percent increase in fatalities as compared to the previous year. Everyone knows that texting while driving is distracting and dangerous, but people often ignore the risks and do it anyway. Driving while distracted is more than just personally risky. When you text and drive, you become a danger to everyone on the road around you. Remind your family and friends to never text and drive: * No one likes criticism from a friend, but being caught by law enforcement and paying a fine is even worse. * Do not follow the pack, be a leader. When you get behind the wheel, be an example to your family and friends by putting away your phone. * Speak up: If your friends text while driving, tell them…


Velasquez finds his fight for immigrant laborers to be more urgent than ever

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Toledo area has anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 undocumented immigrants. But every week, more are rounded up and shipped out from the Toledo airport, according to farm labor leader Baldemar Velasquez. “Every Tuesday morning, there are more men and women in shackles being boarded onto planes,” Velasquez said Sunday afternoon. Many are being sent back to Mexico through expedited deportations, without being allowed to see an attorney and without being given their due process, he said. “I don’t know how they are getting away with that,” Velasquez said about ICE and border patrol. “One-hundred years from now, people will look back at us like they do the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,” when the law required escaped slaves to be returned to their owners, he said. “The fact that we are accommodating such a practice is un-American.” Velasquez grew up as a migrant farm laborer, born in Texas and traveling from field to field in the Midwest. Based on those experiences he went on to create the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, in response to the poor treatment of farm workers. That organization, celebrating its 50th anniversary, still works to achieve justice for migrant workers. Velasquez, who spoke Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church north of Bowling Green, grew up dirt poor, with a work ethic stronger than most of his white classmates, and with stamina that just didn’t quit. “You always have to finish the job,” he said. “You start that row, you’ve got to finish it. You start that field, you’ve got to finish it. When you’re a farm worker, it…


Wood County Courthouse has countless stories to tell

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   What do Jimmy Hoffa, Ronald Reagan and the KKK have in common? They all visited the Wood County Courthouse – for far different reasons, of course. The grand Wood County Courthouse, which is recognized by many as an architectural wonder with ornate stonework, has seen more than 120 years of trials, political rallies and people coming in to do everyday business – pay taxes, get marriage licenses, attend public meetings. Though he’s unlikely to give himself the title of courthouse historian, Wood County Auditor Mike Sibbersen is the official most people turn to when they want details about the grand structure. He can rattle off details long forgotten by others, but being an auditor and a stickler for details, he frequently checks his facts as he talks about the courthouse. The courthouse has been the site of some dubious distinctions. Many know the story of Carl Bach who killed his wife, Mary, in 1881 with a corn knife. He was reportedly angry about his unsuccessful farming efforts and being forced to sleep in the barn. Bach was the last man to be executed by hanging in Wood County, next to the previous courthouse on the same site. Tickets were sold to the public event, and a special execution edition of the newspaper was published. Remnants of the murder – Mary’s withered fingers, the corn knife used to chop them off, and the rope used to hang her husband – were on the display for years at the county historical museum. A lesser known fact is that the sheriff who presided over the…


BG ranks high among towns to stay after graduation

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There’s no reason for brain drain here, according to a survey looking at college towns in the U.S. Bowling Green has been ranked as one of the 20 best college towns to live in after graduation, according to a study done by rentcollegepad.com. To determine the best towns, the survey looked at the following data: The unemployment rate for those between ages 25-29, measuring how likely new college grads were to get a job by looking at unemployment rates among the newest set of college grads. The benefit of having a bachelor’s degree compared to those without in the town, looking at the median income for those with a bachelor’s degree and subtracting the median income of those without to figure how valuable a bachelor’s degree is in each town. Percentage of 25-34-year-olds also with a bachelor degree. Towns that are full of young, recent college grads are considered great towns for college grads to be in. To qualify as a “college town” in the study, the town’s population must be less than five times the enrollment of the given colleges. “We really measured up very well,” Mayor Dick Edwards said at last week’s City Council meeting. Bowling Green came in second place, with the following statistics: Unemployment rate for ages 25-29: 1.5 percent. Median salary with a bachelor’s degree: $36,869. Percentage of 25-34 year-olds with a bachelor’s degree: 4.94 percent. The report describes Bowling Green like this: “Bowling Green has a population of 30,028 and is located in the middle of beautiful Wood County. Home to a few popular festivals, like the Black…


Sherman Alexie shows pure power of storytelling

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Readers familiar with Sherman Alexie probably weren’t expecting him to sit back in a leather chair and stoically read from his novels. But they may not have been expecting him to slaughter so many sacred cows. “You have billboards of me,” Alexie said to the sold out crowd at the Bowling Green Performing Arts Center, Thursday evening. “I saw it and I wanted to put a Bible verse up.” Not a real verse, but something like “Jason 99:12” just to mess with people. He warned that he wasn’t a typical Native American. If the audience was waiting for him to thank them for welcoming him here, they could just keep waiting. “You f—— stole everything in Ohio,” he said. He poked fun at pompous professors, conservative Christians, white Americans who are anti-immigrant, and ultra protective parents who won’t get their children immunized. “This is from a person whose entire race was almost wiped out by smallpox,” he said. “F— you.” He also warned the audience wanting autographs after the program to avoid one particular topic of conversation. “Later a lot of you are going to come up and tell me you’re part Indian,” he said. “There’s no such thing as being a part-time Indian.” But the author also poked fun at himself. This was Alexie’s second visit to Bowling Green, the first being 17 years ago when he spoke at BGSU.  On Thursday when the woman who hosted his previous visit raised her hand in the crowd, the author asked, “Did we make out? I used to be a pretty literary wonder…


People of different faiths bust barriers to peace

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   People of many faiths busted some myths that stand in the way of peace, during the third annual Interfaith Breakfast in Bowling Green Wednesday morning. More than 250 people gathered for food, fellowship and to break down walls that have been built between faiths over centuries. “If ever there were a time for a candle in the darkness, this would be it,” said Rev. Lynn Kerr, of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. “The more we learn from one another,” she said, “peace is possible.” Speakers from Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Native American, Buddhism and Christianity tried to bust myths surrounding their faiths. Rehana Ahmed, a member of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, was born and raised in Pakistan where she attended a Catholic school. That glimpse of another faith gave her an understanding of others. “That has made me a better human being. At the core, we are all the same. What hurts me, hurts other people.” In her job at Sky Bank, Ahmed told of a customer asking her to do something she was not legally able to do. She remained quiet as he spewed several four-letter words at her. But when he told her to go back where she came from, Ahmed asked him if he was a Native American. “You and I can go back on the same boat,” she said to him. “These are trying times for all of us,” Ahmed said. “Let’s ask questions before we make a judgment.” Srinivas Melkote, who is a Hindu originally from India, addressed the immigrant stereotype first. “I’m not a drug dealer,”…


210 pinwheels-for each child abuse & neglect case in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Each of the 210 spinning pinwheels decorating Wooster Green represents one case of child abuse or neglect investigated in Bowling Green last year. “The number jars our senses,” Mayor Dick Edwards said Tuesday morning as the pinwheels whirled in the wind at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets. “I know all of us feel sad to see that number up there,” he said, referring to the sign noting the 210 cases last year. The pinwheels stand as a visual reminder, the mayor said. “Children are Bowling Green’s most valuable and precious resource. This must be remedied.” The pinwheels at Wooster Green represent only those cases in Bowling Green. For the first time, Wood County Children’s Services will be posting pinwheels throughout the county, to let people know that child abuse and neglect happen everywhere. “This year we decided to take pinwheels on the road,” said Maricarol Torsok-Hrabovsky, of Wood County Job and Family Services. They have already been posted in Lake Township, Northwood, Rossford and the Eastwood area. In all, there will be 894 pinwheels planted in the ground. “Child abuse, unfortunately, in Wood County is on the rise,” said Dave Wigent, director of Job and Family Services. Child abuse investigations increased in Wood County by nearly 25 percent in 2016 – a jump never seen before by the staff at Children’s Services. The number of cases went from 718 in 2015 up to 894 in 2016 – meaning 176 more child abuse investigations. Cases of abuse were reported in every community in the county. The increase is being…


At-large council candidates make pitch before primary

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Eight candidates for two at-large seats on Bowling Green City Council tried to convince voters Tuesday evening that they were the best pick for the job. People of Engagement Bowling Green held a candidate forum at the library for candidates from the Democratic, Green and Independent parties. The primary election on May 2 will narrow down the at-large race to a maximum of two candidates from each party. Since only one Republican filed, voters will be given the choice of ballots for the Democratic Party, the Green Party, or for issues only. Filing for the two available at-large city council seats are the following candidates: Democrats: Holly Cipriani, Mark Hollenbaugh, Robert Piasecki and Sandy Rowland. Green Party: Helen Kay Dukes, Beverly Ann Elwazani, Carolyn S. Kawecka and Rosamond L. McCallister. Independent: Nathan Eberly. Republican: Gregory W. Robinette. The candidates at the forum were asked four questions, the first being why they want the four-year commitment of serving on council. Rowland, a Realtor who is beginning her sixth year on council, said the job requires a lot of juggling. Earlier this week, council dealt with labor negotiations, a resolution for immigrants, and city finances. “I have become deeply involved in many aspects of City Council,” she said. “I want to continue with the knowledge I have.” Cipriani, an academic advisor at Bowling Green State University, came here to get her college degrees, then “I fell in love with Bowling Green.” Her jobs have always been in the realm of public service, some requiring her to seek out citizen concerns. Dukes, a retired minister,…


BG City Council condemns unjustified deportations

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Words matter – especially when they make up the title of an official resolution. Bowling Green City Council revisited its “welcoming and safe community” resolution Monday evening – this time with new wording and unanimous support. Though the body of the resolution had only one minor revision, the major change was the title rewritten to explain exactly what was intended. The resolution proclaims “Bowling Green as a welcoming and safe community for immigrants and condemning any discrimination, harassment or unjustified deportation of immigrant residents of Bowling Green.” “I’m very happy with the language that we have here,” said council member Daniel Gordon. Though the issue of illegal immigrant deportations is national, the city wants to take a stand, he said. “Council does not support seeing their families ripped apart.” Monday was a lesson that not only words matter, but so does communication. When the resolution first came to council last month, some members knew nothing about its intent and couldn’t discern its purpose from the title. “I found it very confusing,” council member Bob McOmber said. The vague title read as if it was intended to be an “all encompassing welcoming resolution.” So last month, when citizens in the council chambers asked that the LGBT community and people with disabilities be added to the resolution, McOmber agreed. When it came time for a vote on the original resolution, McOmber suggested that the wording be more inclusive. So the issue was tabled for further discussion. “I now know the real purpose is to do something for immigrants and refugees,” he said Monday evening….


BG faces tough options to increase city revenue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Stagnant revenue and increasing expenses have Bowling Green City Council looking at ways to bring more money into the city’s general fund. Some of the options include canning city provided garbage collection, trimming the city arborist, reducing police and fire staffing, or increasing taxes. The city’s gains in income tax revenue have been eaten away by state and federal funding cuts in the past decade. The budget for 2017 lists revenue of $14,996,197 and appropriations of $15,623,253 – which means it is cutting into the balance by $627,056, and is not sustainable. So on Monday, the council’s finance committee listened to options – some more painful than others – from Brian Bushong, city finance director. “Some are more appealing than others,” Bushong said. Though the task is unpleasant, action must be taken, stressed council member Bob McOmber, chair of the finance committee. “This might even be the most important decision we make this year,” he said. “We must address it before it becomes a crisis,” McOmber said. As he presented the status of the city’s finances, Bushong had a request of council. “Don’t kill the messenger. I’m the messenger,” he said. The city’s overall revenue continues to be flat, as costs continue to escalate. While income tax revenue is up, the city continues to take hits from interest revenue, intergovernmental fund cuts such as estate tax losses, and the end to its cable franchise income. Local government funds shrank from 18 percent of the general fund a decade ago, to 7 percent now. “We’re just trying to replace the money the state…


Muslim students build bridges with BG community

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Some bridges were strengthened Sunday between local Muslims, Christians and Jews. The ravine between Muslims and other faiths in America has grown during the past year – emphasizing the differences rather than the similarities between people of varying faiths. So on Sunday, Muslim students from Bowling Green State University, asked the community to join them for a “Meet the Muslims” gathering at the Wood County District Public Library. “This is how it starts,” a Muslim student said, pointing out that both Islam and Christianity  promote love for others. “We are all brothers and sisters in humanity. It’s on us to get to know one another.” Adnan Shareef, president of the Muslim student group, said that stereotypes are allowed to fester and grow if nothing is done to stop them. “All of us are affected by stereotyping,” Shareef said. “Unless we communicate and interact with people. Through interaction, stereotypes can change.” In the current political climate in the U.S., the community gathering was a serious undertaking for students of the Muslim faith. “It takes a lot of courage,” said Marcia Salazar Valentine, executive director of the BGSU International Programs and Partnership. But the students were not alone, reminded Bowling Green City Councilman Daniel Gordon. “Events like this today are needed now more than ever,” Gordon said, speaking of the “venom of Islamaphobia” being spread since the presidential campaign and election. He spoke of the growing number of hate crimes targeting Muslims, and the travel ban executive order signed by President Donald Trump. “This is not our America,” Gordon said. This has become a…


Wood County health ranks 8th of Ohio’s 88 counties

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The good news is Wood County’s health ranking is 8 among Ohio’s 88 counties. But the bad news is Ohio’s ranking is 46 out of the 50 states. That means Ohioans as a whole are living less healthy lives and spending more on health care than people in most other states. The Health Value Dashboard examines each state’s health outcomes, spending, change over time, and inequities. Ohio’s challenges include high numbers of adults smoking, drug overdose deaths, infant mortality, food insecurity and average monthly marketplace premiums. Ohio’s strengths include fewer adults without health care because of cost, fewer heart failure readmissions, less youth tobacco and marijuana use, and lower unemployment rate. The health rankings, by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, look at individual counties. The following factors were noted for Wood County: Ranks 5th in Ohio for length of life. Ranks 11th in Ohio for quality of life. Ranks 8th for health behaviors such as smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, access to exercise opportunities, excessive drinking, alcohol-impaired driving deaths, sexually transmitted infections and teen births. Ranks 62nd for physical environment, with the primary factor being drinking water violations. Ranks 21st for clinical care. While the number of uninsured citizens in Wood County is lower than Ohio’s average, the number of preventable hospital stays is greater. Wood County has fewer primary care physicians and mental health providers per person than most Ohio counties. Most notable is the number of dentists, with the state averaging one for every 1,690 citizens, but Wood County having one for every 2,880 residents. Ranks 9th for social and economic…