election

Pipeline charter amendment faces another challenge

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The effort to get a pipeline charter amendment on the ballot for Bowling Green voters is facing another challenge. Last week, the Wood County Board of Elections voted to allow the November ballot to include the charter amendment, which was petitioned for by people opposed to pipelines that could negatively affect the city. However, this week the charter amendment faces a new challenge. A Bowling Green resident, David W. Espen, has filed a protest with the board of elections about the charter amendment. Espen’s objections cite two possible problems with the charter amendment petition, according to Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton. First, Espen claims the petition did not have a sufficient number of valid signatures. His complaint questions five specific signatures. Normally, that might not matter if a handful of signatures were found to be invalid. However, the pipeline petition had only one more signature than required to appear on the ballot. A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715. Second, Espen is challenging whether or not the charter amendment exceeds the city’s role allowed in the Ohio Constitution. The protest claims the issue goes beyond the limits permitted to municipalities, Burton said. A hearing is scheduled for Thursday morning at 8:30, in the fifth floor hearing room of the Wood County Office Building. Espen is being represented by the Columbus law firm McTigue & Colombo. The group supporting the petition will be represented by Toledo area attorney Terry Lodge….


Pipeline petition cleared to appear on BG ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Wood County Board of Elections voted this morning to let Bowling Green voters decide the fate of a pipeline charter amendment. It may then be up to the courts to decide of the amendment is constitutional. The board voted with three in favor – John Cuckler, Dick Newlove and Mike Zickar. Mike Marsh recused himself since he is the city attorney for Bowling Green. “This board has traditionally, philosophically had a tendency to put things on the ballot and not keep them off,” Newlove said prior to the vote. After the vote, Newlove said a new state law (House Bill 463) does add some complexities to the process since it asks local entities to decide if ballot issues are constitutional. In this case, it charges the board to determine if the charter amendment is asking the city to give citizens rights that the city has no authority to give. “The new law does kind of put us in a difficult position,” Newlove said. “Our attitude was to let the voters decide.” Zickar agreed. “They did all of the work collecting signatures and meeting deadlines,” he said. “We wanted to let the people to decide.” Ultimately, however, it may be up the courts to decide if the charter amendment is constitutional. Prior to the decision this morning, citizen activist Lisa Kochheiser asked the board to let Bowling Green citizens vote on the issue. “I speak for the people of Bowling Green who want to protect their community from corporations, like Nexus pipeline,” Kochheiser said. Kochheiser told the board of elections that they…


Petition against gerrymandering is taken to the streets

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The League of Women Voters wants to make it as easy as possible for voters to take a stand against gerrymandering. So on Saturday, the organization set up drive-thru petition signing locations across the region – with one in the parking lot of the Wood County District Public Library in Bowling Green. The project called “Fair Districts = Fair Elections,” is a non-partisan effort by the Ohio League of Women Voters to place a redistricting amendment on the 2018 ballot across the state. If the petition effort is successful, Ohio voters will have an opportunity to end gerrymandering – the practice of congressional districts being drawn to favor one political party over another. Joan Callecod, of Bowling Green, said citizens don’t need to be persuaded to sign the petition. “They hear the word ‘gerrymandering,’ and they say, ‘Show me the petition,’” Callecod said Saturday as she sat outside the library with other local League of Women Voters members. To get the issue on the November 2018 ballot, 306,000 valid signatures must be collected statewide. But Callecod explained the criteria is more specific than that. At least 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties must collect signatures from a minimum of 5 percent of their voters in the last gubernatorial election. In Wood County, that’s about 1,700 signatures. During the first month of volunteers collecting signatures, more than 100,000 were gathered, Callecod said. The ultimate goal is to get congressional districts lines drawn so that the elections aren’t decided even before the votes are cast. “An expanded board would have minority participation and required approval…


BG Council approves pipeline charter amendment for ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The petition to get a pipeline issue on Bowling Green’s November ballot cleared another hurdle Monday evening, when City Council voted unanimously to submit the petition to the Wood County Board of Elections to put the issue on the November ballot. But council member Bob McOmber cautioned that unanimous support of putting the issue on the ballot did not mean City Council endorsed the measure. Council’s action was simply a formality to get the matter on the ballot, he said. This was the second hurdle passed by the pipeline petition. The first was cleared Friday – just barely. A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715. But two other hurdles remain. One involves timing. There is some question if the pipeline petition was filed too late. There are different deadlines depending on the type of petition, so that issue will likely be decided by the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office. The other involves content. It’s possible the petition won’t make the November ballot because it asks for powers that the city may not have the authority to give. Under Ohio House Bill 463, passed last year, the petition may not be within the purview of the city and may create constitutional conflicts. City Attorney Mike Marsh said it will be up to the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office – not the city – to rule whether or not the petition was filed on time, and if the language of the charter amendment meets standards. Three…


Pipeline petition passes signature test …. but more obstacles remain

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The petition to get a pipeline issue on Bowling Green’s November ballot cleared its first hurdle Friday – just barely. A total of 1,230 signatures were collected on the petition. By law, to make it on the ballot, the petition needed 714 valid signatures. It had 715. But two other hurdles remain. The second hurdle involves timing. There is some question if the pipeline petition was filed too late. There are different deadlines depending on the type of petition, so that issue will likely be decided by the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office. The third hurdle involves content. It’s possible the petition won’t make the November ballot because it asks for powers that the city may not have the authority to give. Under Ohio House Bill 463, passed last year, the petition may not be within the purview of the city and may create constitutional conflicts. It will be up to the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office to also determine whether or not the charter amendment meets H.B. 463 requirements. “We’re going to take all this to them as we go through the process,” explained Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections. Since the house bill is so new, it may take time to get an answer. But Burton said he is anxious to get a decision on the matter. “I just want to set my ballots,” he said. Burton said the 515 invalid signatures on the petitions were a combination of duplicate signatures, illegible signatures, incomplete addresses, printed signatures, and signatures from people outside the city. He said board of…


BG faces full slate of council candidates, school issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green voters will have a lot to choose from on their general election ballots in November. Wednesday was the filing deadline for candidates and issues appearing on the ballot. The City Council at-large race has six candidates running to fill two open seats. There will be more variety than usual, with candidates representing Democrats, Republicans, the Green Party and an Independent. Voters will be asked to elect two of the following at-large candidates: Holly Cipriani, Democrat, 336 W. Evers Ave. Nathan Eberly, Independent, 907 Sand Ridge Road. BeverlyAnn Elwazani, Green Party, 1210 Bourgogne Ave. Carolyn S. Kawecka, Green Party, 517 S. Main St. Gregory W. Robinette, Republican, 1501 Cardinal Road. Sandy Rowland, Democrat, 200 Larchwood Drive. Voter will also get to choose between candidates in three of the four ward races. The First Ward candidates are: Daniel J. Gordon, Democrat, 215 E. Poe Road, Apt. 64. Hunter D. Sluss, Republican, 433 Thurstin Ave., Apt. 11. Second Ward candidates are: Kent Ramsey, Republican, 710 Seventh St., Apt. 3. John Zanfardino, Democrat, 244 S. Summit St. Fourth Ward candidates are: William J. Herald, Republican, 1030 Conneaut Ave. Scott W. Seeliger, Democrat, 208 Syracuse Drive. Running uncontested for the Third Ward council seat is Democrat Mike Aspacher. Bowling Green voters will also be casting ballots for board of education members. There will be no contest in the race, since just two candidates filed for the two open seats. William G. Clifford, 606 St. Anne Court. Norman J. Geer, 917 Clark St. The Bowling Green City School District will also have a tax issue on…


Pipeline petition may – or may not – be booted from ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There may be more than enough valid petition signatures to get a pipeline issue on Bowling Green’s ballot this November. But it’s uncertain if voters will have a chance to weigh in, since the petition may have been filed late. The petition asks that a charter amendment be adopted in the city to prioritize people over pipelines. All within a matter of hours today, officials believed the petition was possibly out, then possibly in – with no clear resolution. The only certainty is that Ohio’s rules on petitioning to put an issue on the ballot are far too complicated. Petition organizers Lisa Kochheiser and Brad Holmes, president of the Environmental Action Group at Bowling Green State University, reported that more than 1,200 signatures were collected, with at least 714 valid signatures required to get the charter amendment on the ballot. Wednesday at 4 p.m. was the filing deadline for issues and candidates appearing on the general election in November. But the pipeline issue did not appear on the board of elections list. Bowling Green Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett said this morning that the petition was not filed on Wednesday, because the Ohio Revised Code requires that a charter amendment petition be held at the city for 10 days prior to it being submitted to the board of elections. The petition was turned in to the city on July 31 at 2 p.m. Since the city is required to hold onto it for public viewing for 10 days, that meant the petition could not be turned over to the Wood County Board…


Crime victims’ rights law in Ohio raises objections

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   In November, Ohioans will vote on Marsy’s Law – a ballot measure intended to strengthen victims’ rights in the state. On the surface, the law seems to offer reasonable protections to crime victims. But on Tuesday, when the Wood County Commissioners were asked to join other officials across the state supporting Marsy’s Law, they heard strong reservations about the law from Wood County Prosecuting Attorney Paul Dobson. Marsy’s Law is named after a California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in the 1980s. A week after her murder, Marsy’s family was confronted in public by her ex-boyfriend, who had been released on bail without the family being notified. Marsy’s brother has made it a mission to get the victims’ rights law passed in states. So far, California, Illinois, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana have adopted the law, according to Emily Hunter, who is the Northwest Ohio field director for the effort to pass Marsy’s Law in Ohio. The law, Hunter told the Wood County Commissioners, guarantees that victims of crimes are treated as well as the defendants. “This is making them equal to the rights of the accused,” she said. “Right now, we are seeing many victims re-victimized in the system.” Hunter said she herself is a survivor of sexual assault. “I’ve made it my mission to fight.” Marsy’s Law has been endorsed by several elected officials in the state, including the state attorney general, state auditor, several county prosecutors, the Buckeye State Sheriffs Association, mayors and county commissioners. On Tuesday, Hunter asked the Wood County commissioners to…


Levy renewal to protect against child, elder abuse

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As the numbers of child and elder abuse grow in Wood County, so does the need for county residents to support the levy renewal that provides funding to protect those vulnerable populations. On Tuesday, the Wood County Commissioners signed a resolution putting the 1.3-mill child and adult protective services levy renewal on the November ballot. The millage, to be collected for 10 years, will raise an estimated $3.7 million annually. The levy renewal effort comes at a time when the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services is seeing record numbers of child abuse investigations. It’s expected the county will investigate at least as many cases as last year – when the numbers jumped 25 percent to 894. “We anticipate having about as many as 2016, which set the all time record. Maybe a little higher,” said Dave Wigent, director of the county Job and Family Services. In addition to the increasing number, the county is also seeing an increase in the severity of the abuse cases – requiring that more children be placed in foster care. The overall increased cost of Children’s Services last year was about $500,000, Wigent said. So losing the levy funds that the county has relied on since 1987 would cripple the ability to provide child and adult protective services, he added. “It would be catastrophic for our child welfare and adult protective services,” Wigent said. The levy revenue makes up 90 percent of the adult protective services budget, he said. And loss of the levy would mean reductions in Children’s Services staff. “That would be…


Local election official favors limited voter info sharing

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Ohio is one of the 44 states refusing to give President Donald Trump’s elections commission all the voter information requested. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, has said he will provide the newly created Elections Integrity Commission with information that is already made public to campaigns and political parties. But Husted is drawing the line at Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. The information on Wood County voters is already at the fingertips of the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office, according to Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections. “Our voter information already is linked with the state data bases,” Burton said on Friday. Though not privy to all the details, Burton said Ohio is handing over only public information. “It sounds like everything he is supplying is public record that could be accessed by anyone else,” Burton said of Husted. The Elections Integrity Commission requested all 50 states to submit full voter information, including registrants’ full names, addresses, dates of birth, political parties, the last four digits of their social security numbers, a list of the elections they voted in since 2006, information on any felony convictions, information on whether they were registered to vote in other states, their military status, and whether they lived overseas. Trump set up the commission to investigate undocumented widespread voter fraud in national elections. He has claimed 3 million votes were illegally cast in the presidential election last year, robbing him of the popular vote. Husted said earlier this year that voter fraud is not widespread in Ohio and…


Push for amendment urges change in the way Congressional districts are drawn

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In Ohio winning a seat in the U.S. Congress is pretty much a guarantee of lifetime employment thanks to way Congressional districts are drawn. In the last election, the closest race had the victorious candidate winning by a margin of 36 percentage points. Those wide margins were true whether the candidate was Democratic incumbent Marcy Kaptur in the 9th District sweeping to victory with 69 percent of the vote over Republican Donald Philip Larson, or Republican incumbent Bob Latta trouncing Democratic challenger James Neu Jr. with 70 percent of the vote. The problem now, said Katelyn Elliott, a volunteer with an effort to change the way the state’s districts are drawn, is that an incumbent in a safe district has no incentive to listen to or take into consideration the views of voters from the other party. Those districts are the result of gerrymandering mapping district boundaries that assure large majorities for one party. For the most part that favors the Republicans who hold 12 of the state’s 16 seats in Congress, despite the state being considered a swing state. That’s probably why the state Democratic Party is supporting with the petition drive by the non-partisan Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot to change the way Congressional Districts are determined. But changing the way districts are drawn has also gained bipartisan support including from Republican Gov. John Kasich. The amendment has qualified for the ballot, Elliott said. She spoke Thursday at an event to recruit and train people who will circulate petitions. They’ll need to secure 305,000…


Push to change the way congressional districts are drawn gets underway

From INDIVISIBLE DISTRICT 5 Indivisible District 5 will hold an information session and training for those seeking signatures on petitions in support of an effort to change the way Congressional District are drawn Thursday, June 8, 7-8 p.m., Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green The Fair Congressional Districts for Ohio campaign is obtaining signatures to get redistricting reform on the Ohio ballot in 2017. When in power, politicians from both major political parties have drawn the district lines to favor their own political party—commonly referred to as “gerrymandering”—and created noncompetitive “safe seats” for members of Congress. This lack of competition leads to more extreme views in Congress and means that members of Congress increasingly do not reflect the views of most Americans. Redistricting reform will curtail gerrymandering by requiring a bipartisan commission to draw district lines according to specific rules. In order to get this initiative on the ballot, the campaign needs to collect more than 300,000 signatures. We are looking for volunteers to pledge to collect signatures at area events and around town. This information session will include an introduction to gerrymandering and why reform is needed, a short training session for those interested in volunteering, and a question and answer session. To sign up to volunteer to collect petition signatures, go to www.ohfairdistricts.com/volunteer/. Volunteers will also be at Grounds for Thought all day on June 8 (9 a.m. – 8 p.m.) to gather signatures.


BG board votes to consolidate elementaries

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green Board of Education took a leap Friday afternoon to invest $72 million in a consolidated elementary and new sections for the high school. The board is now hoping the voters follow their lead. After months of discussions and public meetings, the board voted 4 to 1 to go ahead with plans for one consolidated elementary, demolition of Conneaut and Kenwood schools, and major additions to the high school. The vote against the project came from board president Ellen Scholl, who supported an alternate plan for new Conneaut and Kenwood elementaries rather than the consolidation. Though the millage to cover the $72 million project has yet to be determined by the county auditor, it is estimated it could be close to 6 mills on the November ballot. If the issue is approved by voters, the new consolidated elementary planned north of the current middle and high schools, could be completed by the summer of 2020. The high school could be completed by summer of 2021, according to architect Kent Buehrer. Construction is also planned for the middle school, where a wing will be added to adequately handle the sixth grade class. That project, which will likely begin in September, will be financed through $4.6 million in permanent improvement funds that the district already has, so it will not be part of the bond issue in November. The three options being considered for the bond issue were: Renovations of Conneaut and Kenwood elementaries (Crim was renovated recently) and major high school additions: $54 million. Build new Conneaut and Kenwood elementaries, plus the…


Levy renewal sought for child and adult protective services

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   For 30 years, the Wood County Department of Job and Family Services has relied on voters to provide funds to protect local children and seniors. This year will be no different. There have been times when expenses and needs are lower, that the voters have been given a break and the levy has gone uncollected for a year. But that is unlikely to occur again anytime soon considering the most recent increase in abuse and neglect reports. “They are on a record pace for child abuse and neglect complaints,” said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. It doesn’t help that Ohio is “dead last” among the states for funding of child protective services, according to Dave Wigent, director of Wood County Department of Job and Family Services. Even if Ohio were to double its spending for child services, the state will still be last, he said. “We’re forced to support with levy funding from the local level,” Wigent said. “We’re in an embarrassing situation for child welfare support,” he said. Also not helping is the uncertainty of the federal budget. If the cuts were to proceed as proposed by President Donald Trump, child abuse and neglect funding would be slashed further. “It would have a devastating effect on us here,” Wigent said. Wigent presented his request to put the renewal 1.3-mill levy on the November ballot this year to the Wood County Commissioners. The commissioners gave the levy request their verbal blessing, and will have staff prepare a resolution to get it on the ballot, Kalmar said. The millage, to be collected for…


New voting machines come with hefty price tags

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When Wood County got its first touchscreen voting machines, many people feared they were too old-fashioned to keep up with the new voting technology. But now, after 11 years of elections, it’s the voting machines themselves that are considered obsolete. Across Ohio, county boards of elections are facing the challenge of replacing their aging voting machines with newer, expensive technology. The price tag to replace Wood County’s touchscreen voting stations is between $3.8 and $4.2 million. Counties and election boards have been working with the state legislature and secretary of state to get help footing the bill. “This is a great need across the state,” said Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. “The implications statewide and nationally are incredible.” Wood County Board of Elections Director Terry Burton presented the news to the county commissioners on Tuesday. “He told us the end is in sight and we need to prepare,” Kalmar said. The first touchscreen voting machines were purchased as part of the Help America Vote Act after the infamous “hanging chad” drama in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. The electronic touchscreen systems were purchased to prevent the uncertainty of punchcard voting. The initial touchscreen units cost $1.2 million – with federal funds paying for at least 80 percent of the price, Kalmar said. Kalmar is banking on the legislature helping this time around. The topic has been before the state for a while. “That has been the discussion for the last two years,” Burton said. Heavy duty lobbying is underway to get some money out of the state’s next budget cycle, he…