election

BG voters to decide on changes to City Charter

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Reading election issues on ballots is enough to make some voters doze off while standing at the voting machine. This year, Bowling Green voters will decide four City Charter items – and city officials are trying to explain them without having to set a snooze alarm. Three items will modify the existing City Charter, while one will actually remove an item from the charter altogether. Following is a brief explanation of each. Filling vacancies on council The first ballot issue would result in repealing the existing charter language about filling council vacancies. This item actually has very little explanation on the ballot. The charter currently stipulates that when a council seat is vacated, the person appointed to the seat will serve the remainder of the term. “There is a potential for someone to be appointed to City Council and serve up to four years in that seat,” said Joe Fawcett, assistant municipal administrator. If the current language is repealed, the city will be in alignment with the Ohio Revised Code. The state code requires that the person appointed will only remain in the seat until the next election. Adding Department of Planning The second charter item on the ballot would result in the addition of the Department of Planning to the City Charter. “Planning is an important component of the city,” Fawcett said. The major functions of the planning office will continue to be described in the city’s codified ordinances. Increase candidate pool for fire and police; decrease bonus credit for veterans The third charter issue involves the city’s Civil Service Commission. The change would increase the eligibility list for hiring of entry level firefighter and police officer positions from three to five names. The list is certified by the Civil Service Commission and is based on the people with the highest standings. “The goal is to expand the candidate pool for those positions,” Fawcett said. Both the police and fire chiefs support the change. The amendment also grants a 10 percent bonus credit for honorably discharged veterans who achieve a passing score on entry level position tests. That is lower than the current 20 percent credit. The change has been approved by veterans involved in the charter updating process. “I think it’s an appropriate level,” said Fawcett, himself a veteran. Require charter reviews at least once a decade The final charter change would require the city to set up a Charter Review Committee to consider updates at least once every 10 years.

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Addiction and mental health safety nets depend on levy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After Carol Beckley’s life turned dark, she tried to end her life five or six times. After Kyle Snyder started stealing from his dad’s medicine cabinet, he ended up overdosing on opiates multiple times. Their lives have few similarities – except Beckley and Snyder were both saved by the safety net stretched out by the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board. So on Monday, the two told their stories at the kickoff for the WCADAMHS levy which will appear on the November ballot. “Nothing speaks as clearly as to hear somebody’s personal story of their recovery,” said Tom Clemons, executive director of WCADAMHS. Beckley, who grew up in Wood County, started having problems 26 years ago. “My life as I knew it fell apart,” she said. She grew detached from things that were important to her, and started cutting herself. Beckley said she attempted suicide five or six times. Over the next five years, she was hospitalized about 20 times. “It was a revolving door for me,” she said. At that point, Beckley moved back to Wood County, where she found the safety net of services for people with mental health and addiction problems. Through Behavioral Connections, she was assigned a psychiatrist, therapist and case manager. She started hanging out at the Connections Center, where people cared how she was doing. “It was a place I could go on a daily basis,” Beckley said. “It got me out of my house. I started to crawl back to some sense of normalcy.” Without the levy funding for local mental health services, Beckley would not have been standing at a podium Monday telling her story. “Without the funding, without the help, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said. “Life as I know it is not the life I planned – but it is very rich.” Snyder was helped by a different safety net – one for addicts. As a child, Snyder watched as his father struggled as he waited for a kidney transplant. He remembered the burden and pain he felt as a child. “I remember at 10 years old I didn’t want to be alive,” he said. As a teenager, Snyder searched for ways to escape his world. “Anything to alter my reality,” he said. When alcohol was no longer enough, Snyder began taking his dad’s prescribed morphine from the medicine cabinet. When he was 27, his dad died. Soon after, Snyder had his first overdose. His family was warned that he might not survive. But he lived – only to repeat the process again. “I got high about a week later,” he said. Snyder remembers not really wanting to continue taking drugs. “But I couldn’t see a better alternative.” Snyder lost everything important to him, and went to rehab. He took the right steps – he went to treatment, attended meetings, got a sponsor. But he wasn’t ready to stop. “I still wanted to be able to party and have fun,” he said. Snyder’s “aha moment” came soon after, when he overdosed again as he was getting ready to take off in his car. He woke up in an ambulance, relieved to find out he had passed out before he started driving. That was almost four years ago….


State Issue 1 drug law proposal faces strong opposition

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Drug offenders in Ohio currently encounter the carrot and the stick. If they participate in treatment and comply with the courts’ orders, they can often avoid jail time. State Issue 1 would only offer the carrot – and take away the stick. That just won’t work, according to local judges, the county prosecutor, sheriffs and state legislators. On Thursday, some of that local opposition to Issue 1 gathered in the Wood County Courthouse atrium. On the surface, Issue 1 may look harmless. It downgrades the vast majority of drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. And it promises to move money saved by not incarcerating drug offenders into drug treatment programs. Proponents of the issue, which will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot, are massively outspending opposition, according to State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. As of a month ago, Issue 1 had raised $4.1 million, with much of that being money from outside Ohio, he said. Meanwhile, there was no organized opposition to the issue. Issue 1 – which would change the state constitution – was not getting much attention until recently, Gardner said. So Gardner and State Rep. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, asked local law enforcement and court officials to join them Thursday to express their concerns. “Our courts are on the front lines for this,” Gavarone said. As officials took their turn at the podium, they were unanimous in their opposition to Issue 1. Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson talked about the newly created ARC program, which is currently working with 70 opiate addicts in the county. The program is having such success because it is able to offer addicts intervention in lieu of jail time. If jail time was not an option, it is unlikely that many of those addicts would go through the difficult treatment process. “Almost all of those efforts will be negated by State Issue 1,” Dobson said. Issue 1 would remove drug offenses from the criminal justice process, to be treated solely by the behavioral health process. It’s a mistake to not include both processes for drug addicts, he said. Dobson has heard from many addicts who seek treatment only because a judge has told them it’s either treatment or jail. Gardner said he has heard the same stories from addicts who don’t seek treatment until they hit rock bottom – which is the threat of jail time. “Jail saved my life,” Gardner said one man in his district recently told him. Whether intentional or not, Issue 1 would also create an open door for drug dealers in Ohio, Dobson said. “It encourages drug traffickers to focus on our citizens,” he said. Though the opposition was slow to realize the impact of Issue 1, it is now speaking loudly with a united voice. Wood County Common Pleas Judge Alan Mayberry said he has never seen a statewide issue that has united the Ohio Chief Justice, sheriff’s association, county prosecutors and common pleas judges in outspoken opposition. “This needs to be defeated,” Mayberry said. Under Issue 1, someone could be picked up with 19 grams or less of fentanyl – enough to kill 10,000 people – and could only be charged with a misdemeanor and be put on probation, the judge said. “That’s unconscionable,” Mayberry…


GOP state auditor candidate Keith Faber wants government to work better for Bob & Betty Buckeye

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A few phrases roll quickly off the tongue of State Rep. Keith Faber, a candidate for state auditor. The Celina resident sees one of the state auditor’s duties as catching those “lying, stealing, and cheating.” And when talking about how government should run the operative phrases are “better faster cheaper” and “efficient, effective, and transparent.” “The auditor’s office is not a partisan office,” he said. “You wear the uniform of the umpire. My background shows I don’t show favor. … You elect an auditor to represent Bob and Betty Buckeye and to make sure government works for them, not itself.” That background includes 17 years in the State Legislature, first in the House, then Senate where he served as president from 2013 to 2016, and now is back in the House representing the 84th district. Faber is running against Democrat Zack Space. He includes ECOT, the private charter school now being sued by the state, in the category of those who have misused state money. He defends how his Republican predecessor Dave Yost, now a candidate for attorney general and the Republican controlled legislature, handled the controversy. Some have charged they let the problem fester too long. Faber said he has also supported effort to draw both state legislative and later congressional districts in a non-partisan way. The auditor will sit on the commissions that draw those districts. He backs the goal of keeping political subdivisions together with “a heavy emphasis keeping things compact.” He said “that should allow people to be represented by people who share their values.” Having a hand in shaping these new districts, though, is not why he’s seeking the state auditor’s office, he said. The auditor’s office, he said, is about on one hand providing “service and support to Ohio’s local governments.” One issue he’s focused on is the cost of audits. Sometimes for small commissions or townships, what’s charged by the state for audits is a disproportionately large share of their budgets, sometimes as much as half. “I’d like to empower the office to make them less expensive and ask the legislature to help subsidize them.” Then there’s the compliance side. If someone is caught “lying, stealing, and cheating, there’s a place for them – in jail.” However, Faber added, he would take a more lenient tact if someone makes a mistake through lack of knowledge or experience and didn’t intend to break law. “If someone needs trained, we have to make sure we have the resources in place to train them so we don’t have those kinds of problems.” Faber also wants to increase the number of performance audits the office conducts on state agencies. Yost has done two a year. In that time, Faber said, there’s been savings of $26 for $1 spent on the process, about $250 million. But given there’s about two dozen state agencies and many other boards and commissions, that rate is not enough to keep up. “I’ll ask the legislature to ramp up the number of state agencies that get audited,” he said. He’d like every agency audited every four to six years. The savings, he believes, will more than cover the costs. He believes these audits could provide the incentive for government entities to use the same tools, such as…


County voters to face two levies on fall ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County voters will have two county-wide issues to decide in the November election. Neither are asking the voters for more millage – which was very important to the county commissioners as they deliberated the tax levy requests earlier this year. One levy is a reduced renewal levy, dropped from the current 2.95-mills to 2.45 mills for Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The duration of that levy is five years. The other is a replacement 1-mill levy for 10 years for Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services. During a presentation by Wood Lane officials earlier this year, Superintendent Brent Baer talked about the “dynamic growth in services” that the board is seeing. And Martha Woelke, of the board, said great deliberation went into the levy request. “We did everything we can to maximize state and federal money,” she told the commissioners. The board has been able to reduce its levy collections some years, but feels that 2.45 mills is the lowest it can go for the renewal. When people with developmental disabilities waive their right to institutional care, they are picked up by community based services – like Wood Lane. That agency then identifies their needs and develops plans to meet them, Baer said. The waivers allow for federal funding, but the community agency must still pick up 40 percent of the costs, said finance officer Steve Foster. “Our commitments are for the life of an individual,” Baer said. Demands are growing as the population here is increasing. “Wood County is one of the few counties in Ohio that’s growing,” Baer said. About five years ago, there were 226 consumers on waivers. Now there are 425. Baer expects that number to double again in the next five years. The board may need to be back in five years, asking for a greater levy, but this should do for now, Baer said. The Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board started out asking for an increase in levy dollars, from the current 1-mill to 1.3 mills. But the Wood County Commissioners – who have to certify the need for levies before they are placed on the ballot – asked the ADAMHS board to consider other options for the November ballot issue. The current 1-mill levy generates about $2.9 million. The levy replacement plus addition of 0.3 mills would bring in an additional $1.3 million. The replacement levy at the same millage would cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 about $35 a year. The originally proposed 1.3-mill replacement levy would have cost the owner of a home valued at $100,000 approximately $45.50 a year. Tom Clemons, executive director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health Services, said the additional funding was needed to keep up with growing needs for services. Some of the biggest issues include dealing with the opiate epidemic, providing more mental health housing, and improving crisis intervention services. At the same time as seeing rising costs for services, ADAMHS is also seeing a drop in help from the state and federal government. A decade ago, state and federal money made up 60 percent of the ADAMHS budget. Now the local levy dollars have to bear the burden of…


BG School Board takes back seat to citizen task forces

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Board of Education handed the car keys over to the community Monday evening. After two failed attempts to pass a $72 million school bond issue for buildings, the board has now put the community in the driver’s seat. Approximately 150 citizens met in the school’s performing arts center to listen to where the district goes from here. Board President Jill Carr invited citizens to sign up for one or both of two task forces being formed – one to study school facilities and the other to study finances. The task forces will set their own meeting schedules, decide what information they need, and report back to the board. “This will be a community-driven process,” Carr said. “The board will step back.” Though the administration and board will make requested information available to the task forces, they will take a back seat in the process, Superintendent Francis Scruci said. The goal is to come up with a “solution that the community can support,” Scruci said. “Regardless of which side you stood on in November and May.” The district is at a “critical juncture,” the superintendent said, urging the community to work together, and refrain from name calling and personal attacks. “We need to rise above for the good of all,” Scruci said. The process of putting the community in charge of building projects and funding is quite unusual, according to David Conley, an expert in school finance hired by the district earlier this year. But it has been done by about 10 of Ohio’s 600 school districts, Conley said. In those 10 cases, most of the districts ended up winning at the ballot, he added. The task forces will identify the needs of the district, then decide how to pay for those improvements. Conley will act as facilitator for the finance task force. The facilitator for the facilities group has not yet been selected. “You’re being given the power to make the decisions for the district,” he said to the audience. Conley cautioned that anyone joining a task force should make a commitment of at least six months, with one or two meetings each month. He also warned that those unwilling to work on the project have no right to complain later. “Don’t criticize the result of the work of the committees after the fact,” he said. “Don’t sit at home and expect someone else to do the job for you.” Conley talked about the duties of each task force, which will start their work in August. The facilities group will study the condition of the district’s buildings now and consider future curriculum requirements. Ultimately, the group will decide if the district should renovate old buildings, or build new schools, or a combination of the two. The facilities task force will take guided tours of the five Bowling Green school buildings, hear from state experts about facilities assessments done on the buildings, and visit other Ohio districts that have renovated old buildings and constructed new schools. “Then you can formulate your ideas of what you want for your kids,” Conley said. The task force will work with the district’s architect on proposals and come up with cost estimates. That information will then go to the financial task force, which will figure…


Democrat Zack Space says as auditor he’d look to limit the role of money in politics

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Donald Trump got one thing right, Democrat Zack Space believes. Space, who is running for state auditor, said the president’s assertion during the campaign that the political system “was rigged” resonated with many voters. Space doesn’t agree with Trump on much but he agrees with him on that. Space is running against Republican Keith Faber. “The system has been rigged by money and political greed,” Space said during a recent campaign stop in Bowling Green. “The money manifests itself by political contributions, all of which are legal, and improper influence on policy. And political greed manifests itself through gerrymandering. Politicians drawing their own lines.” That allows politicians to select their voters, instead of voters selecting their candidates. As auditor he’ll have a say in addressing that. The auditor will have a place on the panel that will redraw state legislative districts, and possibly on the one that redraws congressional districts. Space, though, has mixed feelings about Issue 1, the constitutional amendment calling for the redrawing of congressional districts, which passed in May. While it is a step in the right direction, he said, it still will allow for gerrymandering by the Republican state legislature. All they have to do is lure a third of Democrats with “extremely safe” seats, and the status quo is maintained. “So the potential for gerrymandering still exists.” This kind of political chicanery “causes people to lose in politics and the institution of government and in democracy itself,” Space said. “When they lose faith in democracy they naturally turn to authoritarianism.” The influence of money in politics is seen in the two controversies roiling state government – for-profit charter schools and pay-day lending. The current a state auditor Republican Dave Yost, who is running for attorney general, could have brought the ECOT scandal to a head by declaring the books unauditable. Then it would be up to a judge to decide whether that was a proper use of public funds. Instead the Democrat said, the charter school company continued to received state money, costing local school district millions of dollars. Earlier this month Space, who served two terms in Congress before losing a bid for re-election, announced schools on his first day as auditor he would create a commission to investigate malfeasance in for-profit charter. The legislature, Space added, only addressed the pay day lending industry after the controversy boiled over, costing Republican House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger his job. Another example of campaign contributions run amok Space said. The battle to succeed Rosenberger, he said, was more about who would control the Republican House campaign funds then who would be the best speaker. The influence of money is seen in the budget process as well, he said. “In budget after budget this assembly has reduced local government funding,” he said. That means communities including Bowling Green and his hometown of Dover are struggling to pay for basic needs, such as fixing roads, and providing police and fire protection. These cuts were necessitated by cuts to income taxes that disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Ohioans, those most likely to make campaign donations. “This is a pay off to wealthy donors,” Space said. “A lot of Ohioans feel left behind in my part of the state, Appalachian Ohio. They are at a competitive…