Community

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…


Bowling Green seeing new industrial jobs created

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is seeing new jobs from companies that package salads, make parts for appliances, create cleaning products, and design holograms. On Monday evening, the city’s board of public utilities agreed to transfer 7.8 acres in the John Quinn Innovative Tech Park, to the Bowling Green Community Development Foundation, which in turn will sell the property to Apio Inc. Apio Inc., connected with GreenLine located on Ohio 25 just south of Bowling Green, is a major producer and supplier of packaged vegetables and salads sold at retail grocery stores. The new site in Bowling Green will employ an estimated 30 people, according to Sue Clark, executive director of the BGCDF. The new warehouse for the company’s chopped salads will be built in the tech park, which is located on the east edge of Bowling Green, just north of Napoleon Road, east of Dunbridge Road. “They just have received a new contract with WalMart,” Clark said of the fresh veggie company’s need to expand. The contract will also require the existing site on Route 25 to add another 20,000 square feet for production, she said. Also during the board of public utilities meeting Monday evening, Mayor Dick Edwards reported that ongoing visits with local companies are proving fruitful. Edwards, Clark and Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter recently visited the new Betco plant on Van Camp Road for the first time. “We heard a lot of good things,” the mayor said. “They spoke glowingly” about working with city utilities, public work and fire division. “It was an eye-opening experience,” Edwards said. “It was very reaffirming…


BG Schools athletic director resigns after 9 months

The athletic director hired by Bowling Green City Schools last June has resigned after getting an opportunity he couldn’t refuse. As the district begins its search for a new athletic director to replace Jonas Smith, former athletic director Mike Vannett has agreed to fill the position on an interim basis. “He was offered a position that he couldn’t pass up,” Superintendent Francis Scruci said Friday afternoon about Smith. Smith did not reveal what the position was, but said there would be a press conference Saturday announcing his new job. Scruci said he is pleased with the job Smith did in his brief stay at Bowling Green. Smith, whose annual salary was $90,000, believed in putting academics ahead of athletics and believed in being accessible to parents. Prior to coming to Bowling Green, Smith served as athletic director for Dayton Public Schools, where he oversaw seven high schools and a $3.6 million renovation of the district’s Welcome Stadium. Scruci said he was attracted to Smith’s 20 years of experience overseeing a large program, his reputation in the state, his winning record at Dayton, and his success securing corporate sponsorships for the renovated stadium. When hired last summer to replace retiring Scott Seeliger, Smith said he was attracted to the “very welcoming” community, the good schools, and the potential to build relationships in Bowling Green.



BG to use drone for bird’s-eye view on city projects

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The city of Bowling Green will soon be using a drone to help size up infrastructure projects. But city officials want to assure residents that the eye in the sky will only be focused on streets – not private property. The drone, which was seized during a criminal investigation, will be used by the city’s Geographic Information System (GIS) staff to prepare for infrastructure projects such as water line replacements and road repaving projects. The drone, which has made some test flights, is a Dji Phantom 4 Pro, which is approximately 6 inches tall with a wing span of 12 inches. According to Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett, a typical flight for city projects will last up to 30 minutes with the drone mapping images captured at an altitude of 20–100 feet depending on conditions. The drone will fly the designated route at a speed of approximately 15-20 mph. Fawcett stressed that the drone will only operate over the public right-of-way, with images taken straight down. Private property will not be mapped or flown over. “This will absolutely not be flown over private property,” Fawcett said. The street images from the right-of-way will then have existing aerial photos stitched in. The benefit of having the drone images is that they will be “way more detailed and current,” than aerial shots that may be a couple years old, Fawcett explained. Before a flight occurs, residents along the street will be notified and the street will be temporarily closed to traffic. In most cases, the drones will go unnoticed. “They may hear it, but…


Brush up on civics: Series explores how to influence public affairs

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A period of political turmoil may be the time for citizens to brush up on their civics. A collection of civic and campus groups are offering residents that opportunity with a three-part series “Civics 101: Get Informed. Get Engaged. Get Results.” The sessions will be held Saturday mornings, April 1, 8, and 15 from 9:30 a.m.to 12:30 p.m. at the Maumee Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 20189 N. Dixie Highway (Route 25) Bowling Green. “I’ve been talking to a lot of people about politics,” said Meghan Wilson, one of the organizers. Many expressed frustration that they don’t know more about how government works, from local council to the halls of Congress. As someone with a lifelong passion for politics, it was an issue she wanted to address. So she posted on social media asking if anyone else wanted to work on the project. That was in February. Since then Civics 101 has come together, as the organizers decided what topics to address and who to get to address them. Michelle Chronister was one of those who responded. She was already thinking about something along the same lines. She liked that it was initiated by individual citizens, “just a bunch of people who came together and said, ‘let’s do it.’” They did solicit sponsorship from a number of organizations – the League of Women Voters of Bowling Green; the BGSU Center for Community and Civic Engagement; the Women’s Club of Bowling Green; the American Association of University Women of BG; and the Common Good. Those groups, Chronister said, lend the series credibility. The series is a…


‘Wooster Green’ is gathering place – not another park

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The green space planners want to make something very clear – Wooster Green is not another city park. The fought-for green space at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets in Bowling Green is a gathering place. It’s a place for the community come together to celebrate, to mourn, to learn, to appreciate music, to protest a wrong, to rally around a right. Wooster Green will be a town square, said Nadine Edwards, an honorary co-chair of the site steering committee. “I think the community needs to embrace the fact that this is not a park,” Edwards said Thursday during a meeting of the Wooster Green Steering Committee. “There are 11 other parks in town.” Though the former site of the junior high is just a 1.7-acre patch of grass, it is already performing its purpose. “It’s gathered people there in times of trouble,” Edwards said. “It’s a gathering place,” echoed Bob Callecod, co-chair of the site’s publicity/marketing committee. On Thursday, the steering committee met to progress plans for the site that was formally declared as an open public space by City Council on Oct. 3, 2016. The committee looked at some basic design concepts, talked about publicity and discussed fundraising efforts. The two basic design elements are a pavilion somewhere on the site and an entrance at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets. The exact designs are still being worked on, but will consider the historic character of the area, and will work to preserve as much green as possible. Plans will be presented for public…


County touts high economic development, low unemployment

Wood County continues to see high economic development successes and a low unemployment rate, according to the report presented Wednesday during the annual meeting of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. The report, from WCEDC President Doug Miller, talked about the great success achieved with limited resources. “Over the past several years, we have attracted a number of businesses to Wood County,” Miller wrote in his report. Those newer businesses include Home Depot fulfillment center in Troy Township, the CSX intermodal facility in Henry Township, the Harmon Business Park in Rossford, and the FedEx Ground Hub in Perrysburg Township. “Scores of existing businesses choose to remain in Wood County and have or are expanding,” Miller continued. Those businesses include Phoenix Technologies, Northwood Industries, First Solar, Principle Business Enterprises, Schuetz Container, IMCO Carbide Tool, and Pilkington North America. “As a result, unemployment hovers around an amazing 4 percent,” Miller stated in his report. Much of the credit should go to the spirit of cooperation among elected officials, those appointed by elected officials, and community volunteers, he said. “Feedback we receive from developers and others from outside the area remains positive and often hear that the process is Wood County runs so much better than in other places,” Miller stated. In an effort to work with local communities to meet their needs, Wood County Economic Development Commission Executive Director Wade Gottschalk and other executive committee members often hold informal monthly breakfast or lunch meetings with entities. “The meetings serve as a way for attendees to update others on matters being faced, projects and other general information,” Miller said in his report. “The…


‘The Common Good’ lives up to its name in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A lot of good comes out of the little house at 113 Crim St. in Bowling Green. The house is the headquarters of “The Common Good,” an organization honored at the Bowling Green City Council meeting Monday evening with an Honor Roll Award from the Human Relations Commission. The award is intended to recognize individuals or groups that promote respect for diversity in the community, according to Rev. Mary Jane Saunders, co-chairperson of the commission. The Common Good, she said, has helped make Bowling Green a more welcoming and inclusive community. “We have this gem in our town,” said Margaret Montague, of the human relations commission. “They do things that are really amazing.” The Common Good’s local efforts include organizing neighborhood cleanups and coordinating community gardens. Those efforts attracted Bowling Green State University student Morgan Hollandsworth to get involved. Coming from Cincinnati, Hollandsworth said she initially struggled to find her place in Bowling Green. “I wanted to make a difference in this new community I was a part of,” said Hollandsworth, who is a member of the BGSU President’s Leadership Academy and of the city’s human relations commission. So she started volunteering with The Common Good. She helped with neighborhood cleanups and with community gardens. She found a purpose in the community – and got the perk of taking home some really good kale, she told council Monday evening. The Common Good works to empower, educate, improve and unite the community, Hollandsworth said. The organization also offers free dinners at its Crim Street location every Thursday, plus holds workshops, art exhibits, meditation…