election

Bob Callecod: Parks levy protects precious natural resources, provides quality parks & recreation opportunities, and assists local entities

To the Editor: In 1986 I was appointed as a Wood County Park District Commissioner. At that time, the WCPD consisted of Otsego and Wm. Henry Harrison Parks and a very loose agreement with the County to “maintain” the Old Infirmary building and grounds.  Then Director/Secretary Lyle Fletcher and two part-time laborers were expected to maintain those facilities on a budget of about $60,000 provided by the County Commissioners. The entirety of the Park District’s equipment consisted of a beat-up pickup truck and a temperamental riding mower. On my first visit with Lyle to Otsego Park and the building which for many years hosted hundreds of family events, I gagged with the stench emanating from the inoperable restrooms; and nearly fell over when the railing on the stairs leading to the river collapsed when I leaned on it for support.  In the interest of public safety we closed the park shortly thereafter. Wood County ranked 87 out of 88 counties in the amount of land dedicated for parks and recreation. My fellow commissioners, Martha Kudner and George Thompson, and I realized that the only way to restore, protect and build on the natural and historic resources available to Wood County residents was to secure a dedicated source of funding.  That led to the passage in 1988 of a .5 mill, 10-year levy which established the WCPD as a viable entity. Since that time, two more 10-year levies have been approved by the voters and the District now provides and protects 22 parks and facilities encompassing over 1200 acres of precious natural resources. One of the continuing components of that original 1988 levy was the Local Park Improvement Grant Program. The Board felt that a program of assistance to local communities for improvement of their own park areas and facilities would maximize the benefit of the Park District levy for each county resident.  Since its inception over $2,100,000 has been awarded to 34 cities, villages and townships in Wood County. On May 8, the Park District is asking voters to allow it to continue protecting our…


Scruci aims to bust myths surrounding BG school levy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When voters go to the polls next month to vote on the Bowling Green City Schools bond issue, the district wants them to be armed with facts, not motivated by falsehoods. Superintendent Francis Scruci met with local media Tuesday to clear up some misconceptions prompted by levy opposition at recent school board meetings. Scruci said he didn’t address the comments at the time because he considers those gatherings an opportunity to hear from the public – not a time for back and forth debate. However, when some of those falsehoods were getting traction as fact, Scruci wanted to clear up confusion on the following issues. Income tax would be a more fair way to fund school buildings. That may be the case, but it is not an option under Ohio school funding law. “The county auditor has confirmed you can’t use income tax to build a project,” Scruci said. During the last school board meeting, it was suggested that the district had twisted those funding rules for the middle school expansion, so it could do the same for the centralized elementary school and high school expansion. But Scruci explained that the middle school expansion was paid for with permanent improvement levy funds already approved by voters. Permanent improvement funds are allowed to be used for anything with a life expectancy of five or more years. “I want to make sure people understand,” Scruci said. “It was implied we did something inappropriately.” Bowling Green City Schools did not turn down any state money for buildings. “It’s just false that we were offered state money and turned it down,” Scruci said. He considers this myth as one of the big reasons many voters cast ballots against the levy in the fall. Due to the increased property valuation of the Bowling Green City School District – with much of it being rich farmland – the district is currently ranked 520 of Ohio’s 609 school districts, making it appear the state funds are not needed. “Because it went up, it makes…


Ohio voters have chance to draw line on gerrymandering

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Joan Callecod doesn’t want the next map of Ohio congressional districts to be drawn up like the current lines – in a hotel room, away from the public view. Ohio’s current congressional district lines were devised in a hotel room, called “the bunker,” Callecod said Tuesday evening during a presentation on Issue 1 appearing on the May 8 ballot. Callecod, a member of the League of Women Voters in Bowling Green, explained the need for Issue 1 to pass in order to get rid of gerrymandering in Ohio’s congressional districts. Gerrymandering is the manipulation of congressional district lines to benefit one political party or the other. In the current case, since the Republicans were in control when the lines were drawn after the last U.S. Census, the GOP benefits. “In partisan gerrymandering, the legislators choose their voters. The voters don’t choose their legislators,” Callecod said. Issue 1 would require the process of drawing lines to be transparent, and require bipartisan support of the changes. The process would also limit the cases where cities, villages or townships are divided into separate congressional districts. Ohio state districts already went through redistricting reform in 2015. The issue on the May ballot covers the U.S. congressional districts for Ohio. Regardless of which party benefits from gerrymandering, the system is wrong, Callecod said. Under the present congressional lines, only 3 percent of the 435 congressional districts have truly contested elections, she said. “To me, that’s disgraceful,” Callecod said. Ohio’s current process allows the majority party to dissect counties and cities to create districts that favor the party in power. Under the existing map, drawn by Republicans in 2011, the GOP holds 12 of Ohio’s 16 seats while only winning 56 percent of the votes. Callecod is hopeful that ballot issue will be approved by Ohio voters. “We are not aware of any opposition,” she said. Here’s how the new plan would work: The General Assembly has an opportunity to draw a map, passage of which requires a three-fifths majority of each chamber,…


Katelyn Elliott “Issue 1 … will create a transparent, bipartisan process for drawing Ohio’s Congressional districts.”

 Issue 1, a constitutional amendment on the May ballot, will create a transparent, bipartisan process for drawing Ohio’s Congressional districts. Currently, the majority party in the Ohio legislature can draw Ohio’s federal congressional districts to favor their own candidates. This is known as gerrymandering. The League of Women Voters of Ohio and the Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition support Issue 1, which would require a three-fifths majority in each chamber, including votes from at least half of the minority party. If the General Assembly could not agree on a plan, the Ohio Redistricting Commission would be empowered to approve a map.  Issue 1 would create new criteria to keep communities together, including a restriction on the number of times a county could be split. It would also require public hearings and allow members of the public to submit maps for consideration. The voter registration deadline is April 9 and early voting begins April 10. Please join me in voting yes for a more fair, transparent, bipartisan process. Katelyn Elliott Bowling Green


League of Women Voters hosting informational meeting on Issue 1

The League of Women Voters of BG (LWVBG) invites you to their program about ISSUE 1 which is on the May 8 Primary Election ballot.  The program will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 27th at First Presbyterian Church, 126 S Church St., Bowling Green, OH.   ISSUE 1 provides for an amendment to the Ohio Constitution which would reform the redistricting process, which is how the US Congressional electoral district map is redrawn following each decennial census.  This redistricting process, which historically has become increasingly partisan, has allowed the majority political party to draw map boundaries to favor itself, rather than an accurate reflection of the party affiliation of voters.  This map drawing, resulting in the legislators choosing voters rather than voters choosing their legislators, is called ‘gerrymandering’. ISSUE 1 implements a more non-partisan method to draw the map and is the product of a compromise between the Ohio General Assembly and the citizens action organization, Fair Districts = Fair Elections, of which League of Women Voters of Ohio is a member. Please join us to learn about the provisions of ISSUE 1 and why it is such an important principle for democracy to succeed.     Joan Callecod, Co-Chair LWVBG Voters’ Rights Committee


BG school board hears praise & protest of bond issue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   With the primary election less than three months away, the Bowling Green Board of Education heard Tuesday from citizens fighting for and against the 5.7 mill bond issue. “It’s great to see some new faces here tonight,” School Board President Jill Carr said at the beginning of the meeting. Then she cautioned that “respectful and civil communications” was expected from all. Board member Ginny Stewart reported that details will be forthcoming on community information meetings about the bond issue to raise $71,990,000 for construction of school facilities. The funding would pay for the construction of one consolidated elementary school, plus renovations and an addition to the existing high school building. The first citizen to speak Tuesday was Tracy Hovest, who expressed her sadness that the school board and Superintendent Francis Scruci were being attacked for trying to do what is best for the district’s students. “I’m here to say ‘thank you,’” Hovest said to the board and Scruci. She went on to scold those opposing the levy who were using misinformation to scare voters. She criticized the opposition for saying the levy is too much. “It’s not too much,” she said. Hovest said she was speaking to those voters sitting on the fence, reassuring them that the school board was taking the right action. “All they are asking for is a functional home that meets the needs of all students,” she said. The bond issue is not too much when looking at the return for the community. “Please don’t say it’s too much,” Hovest said. But Steve Bateson said painting those opposed to the levy as being against schools is not fair. The levy, he said, is “excessive.” When the levy failed in November by 550 votes, Bateson said he hoped the school board would reconsider. “We need to take a step back and see why this levy failed.” Bateson asked the board to see the results of a survey asking community members to weigh in on school building options. He also warned that the levy could…


Issues and candidates face local voters in May election

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County voters will face some decisions come May 8. Today was the filing deadline at the Wood County Board of Elections for any issues or candidates to appear on the primary election ballot. Voters in Bowling Green will help decide the fate of a school bond issue, county park district levy, and a liquor option for a restaurant. One countywide issue will appear on the ballot: Wood County Park District is seeking a 1-mill renewal levy, lasting 10 years. The levy revenue will be used for operating, improving, conserving and protecting the district’s existing parks. The millage is the same as when last passed 10 years ago for the county parks. For the last decade, the levy has generated about $2.8 million a year. That amount is expected to grow to $3 million a year because of new construction in the county. Two school districts in the county will be going before voters: Bowling Green City School District is seeking approval for a bond issue, of 5.7 mills for 37 years, to raise $71,990,000 for construction of school facilities. The funding would pay for the construction of one consolidated elementary school, plus renovations and an addition to the existing high school building. Eastwood Local School District has filed for a replacement tax levy, of 2 mills for five years, for general permanent improvements. One city issue was filed in Wood County: Perrysburg is asking for renewal of a tax levy for 0.8 mills, for five years, for public transportation services. Two other issues were filed with the board of elections: Sunset Bistro, a restaurant at 1220 W. Wooster St., Suite A, Bowling Green, is seeking a local liquor option that would allow Sunday sales. South East Ambulance District has filed for an additional tax levy of 6.5 mills, for five years, for providing funds for ambulance service and emergency medical services. Wednesday was also the deadline for a few candidates appearing on the May ballot, including state representative, county commissioner, county auditor and a common pleas…


Redistricting makes May ballot – thanks to compromise

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It looked as if Ohio’s redistricting reform might be doomed to failure – with opposing sides of the issue not budging. But on Monday, a compromise was reached that satisfied both political parties plus the League of Women Voters and other citizen groups which had been pushing hard for reform. Ohio Senate Majority Leader Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, called the unanimous Senate passage of Ohio Congressional Redistricting Reform “pretty remarkable.” The compromise, he said, should help restore public confidence that state legislators can tackle controversial issues in a bipartisan way. “This historic, bipartisan vote is yet another example how state legislators in Columbus find ways to work together,” Gardner said. This afternoon, the Ohio House voted to support the bill. The compromise was reached just in time, since the deadline to get an issue on the primary election ballot is this Wednesday at 4 p.m. The proposed plan keeps the legislature in charge of drawing congressional district maps, but adds additional steps requiring minority party support to put a map in place for 10 years. Ohio’s current process allows the majority party to dissect counties and cities to create districts that favor the party in power. Under the current map, drawn by Republicans in 2011, the GOP holds 12 of Ohio’s 16 seats while only winning 56 percent of the votes. The plan establishes, for the first time, criteria for limiting the number of times counties, cities, villages and townships can be divided into multiple districts. Monday night the Senate voted 31-0 for a Senate resolution that would place the proposed constitutional amendment on the May primary ballot.  Gardner referred to the effort as a “major breakthrough.” Joan Callecod, a member of the Bowling Green League of Women Voters, was excited to hear about the compromise in the Senate. “It looks promising,” she said. “It’s a positive thing, anytime there is compromise.” The Bowling Green League of Women Voters has been advocating redistricting reform. Local members have been collecting petition signatures for a project called “Fair Districts…


Daniel Gordon announces run for state representative

Submitted by DANIEL GORDON Bowling Green City Councilman Daniel Gordon has announced he is filing petitions this week to run for State Representative in Ohio House District 3, comprising Wood County. “Serving on City Council for the better part of a decade has given me a front row seat to see that decisions made by the state legislature have made our lives worse here in Wood County, and I refuse to sit by and watch that continue,” Gordon said. “We deserve better, and I’m going to offer all of us a real choice and a new path.” Gordon singled out the state legislature’s decision to cut millions of dollars from the Local Government Fund — which is vital to ensuring Ohio cities, towns, and villages have the money needed to maintain services — to close a state budget shortfall. Cuts to the fund have forced local communities in turn to cut needed services and raise fees or taxes to protect schools, fire, police, and social and mental health services. Despite state politicians’ promises that these cuts would make the state healthier, Ohio has consistently lagged behind other states in job creation and economic security, and risks another recession. And Gordon says he knows why. “The legislature has been fiscally irresponsible,” Gordon asserted. They can’t fix the roof by knocking out the foundation. They couldn’t pay off the money they lost spending on pet projects and rewarding their corporate friends, so they took our taxpayers’ money instead. And they have nothing to show for it. We got ripped off, and the worst part is they keep doing it. Not on my watch.” “I’m going to get our money back,” Gordon promised. Gordon sees the state government’s funding cuts as a pattern of assault on local communities. “These folks go to Columbus and preach about “small government,” but then go and pass bills to give themselves more power and restrict ours at the local level,” he said, referring to so-called “preemption bills” which demand new restrictions on what mayors and city councils can do in Ohio. “I…


Consumer watchdog Cordray makes pitch for governor

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Richard Cordray has spent the last seven years as America’s consumer watchdog. The past year, he performed that job under the constant threat of being fired as head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by President Donald Trump. “The animus and hostility coming out of Washington, D.C.,” is palpable, Cordray said to the Wood County Democratic Committee in Bowling Green Thursday evening. “All the things we try to teach our children not to do, we are seeing the child in the White House do.” Cordray spoke to a packed house of local Democrats about his goal to take the Ohio governor’s seat this fall. “I have the background and track record to get results,” he told the crowd. Cordray has been working as the champion of U.S. citizens, protecting consumers in the financial marketplace. But that was also a job he had to fight to get. Recruited by Elizabeth Warren and appointed by President Barack Obama, Cordray was blocked by Senate Republicans for two years, before being confirmed. The consumer agency was the product of the Dodd-Frank law, intended to protect Americans from unfair practices by banks, lenders and other financial institutions. After Cordray left the post in November to run for Ohio governor, Trump appointed his budget director Mick Mulvaney to head the agency. Openly hostile to the office, Mulvaney requested a budget of zero dollars for the office this year. After speaking to his audience, Cordray said the attempts to dismantle the consumer watchdog agency are disappointing. “They are reversing direction on a lot of things I care about,” he said. However, he believes the bureau will outlast Republican opposition. “I do believe, 100 years from now, the agency will endure,” he said. “I think there’s too much need.” A federal appeals court this week upheld the constitutionality of the bureau’s structure, preserving the agency’s independence. The past year, Cordray said, has been “quite a saga.” Cordray has other governmental experience to his name, including serving as Ohio’s attorney general and state treasurer in…


BG school board defends decision to go back on ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Board of Education was told Tuesday that the wounds from the last election haven’t healed. So rubbing salt in them by putting the same issue on the May ballot was not wise. Tuesday was intended to be a workshop for the school board to come up with levy strategies. Instead it turned into an opportunity for citizens to tell the board they need to listen to their voters. “The public just told you, ‘No,’” Richard Strow said. “Seriously. They looked you right in the eye and said, ‘No.’” “Show the public you aren’t tone deaf to them,” Strow said, suggesting the board slow down and look at other options. But the board and Superintendent Francis Scruci said they have to look in the eyes of students, who are still in crowded classrooms, still using modular units, still have inadequate heat and air conditioning, still lack technological advancements, and still don’t benefit from collaborative teaching. “We understand your frustration,” Scruci said to those in the audience who will be most affected by a property tax increase. But he defended the board’s decision. “We are convinced this is not only a good thing for kids, but it brings back benefits to the district. Their decision making is based on what is right for kids.” The board voted earlier this month to put a 5.7-mill levy on the May 8 ballot for bonds just under $72 million, spread over 37 years. The bonds would pay for construction of one consolidated elementary school, plus renovations and an expansion to the high school. Due to increased property valuations, the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 house $199 annually, rather than the $210 last time it was on the ballot. “All of us are convinced there is a need,” new board member Norm Geer said. “This is the only way to do it. In order to build the buildings, we need to have a bond levy.” Board member Ginny Stewart said she was just in one of the…


BG Schools to return with building levy on May ballot

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green City Schools will be asking voters in May to reconsider the same issue they rejected in November. The board voted 4 to 1 this morning to return to the ballot in May with a bond issue for 37 years for a consolidated elementary school, plus renovations and an addition to the high school. “The longer we wait, the costs go up,” board member Ginny Stewart said during the special meeting. “We continue to put good money into inferior buildings.” The only difference to appear on the ballot may be a reduction in the millage due to the growth in the assessed valuation. That may drop the millage from 6 mills in November to 5.7 mills in May. That in turn would reduce the amount it would cost the owner of a $100,000 home from $210 a year to $199 a year. Board President Jill Carr reminded the board that their decisions included exactly what issue will go on the ballot, when it will go before voters, and whether the issue should remain as one or be split into two. The lone vote against returning with the same ballot request came from board member Bill Clifford. He emphasized that he believes the consolidated elementary and the high school improvements are needed – but he thinks putting them on the ballot as two separate issues gives at least one a better chance of passing. “It is the best plan, that has not changed in my point of view,” Clifford said of the district’s overall building plan. However, he’s heard from voters who would like to see a reduction in the scope of the $72 million project. “I’m getting a lot of feedback,” Clifford said. “I hear about ‘bells and whistles.’ I hear ‘Taj Mahal.’” The board looked for ways to trim costs, but could not make cuts without hitting vital parts of the project, he said. “That was something we just could not do. This was the best plan. It remains,” he said. Stewart agreed. “This is…


Voter purge policy on hold while high court deliberates

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The purging of any names on Wood County voting rolls has been suspended as the U.S. Supreme Court considers the legitimacy of the Ohio policy. The Supreme Court last week heard arguments on the appeal of a lower court ruling that found the state policy violated a federal law aimed to make it easier for U.S. citizens to register to vote. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act bars states from striking registered voters “by reason of the person’s failure to vote.” Ohio is one of seven states, along with Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, that erase infrequent voters from registration lists. Those opposing the purging called Ohio’s policy the most aggressive. Registered voters in Ohio who do not vote for four years are sent registration confirmation notices. If they do not respond and do not vote over the subsequent four years, their names are purged from the voting rolls. The Supreme Court’s ruling, expected by the end of June, could affect the ability to vote for thousands of people ahead of November’s congressional elections. The arguments in front of the Supreme Court focused on whether or not a state could send a registration confirmation notice based merely on a person’s failure to vote, which the plaintiffs argued is barred by federal law. Meanwhile, the Wood County Board of Elections is in limbo about updating voter rolls. “We didn’t do one last year because of the litigation,” said Terry Burton, director of the Wood County Board of Elections. “We’re going to hold status quo until we’re given instructions. Whatever the new construction is, we’ll comply.” In 2015, more than 3,400 registered voters in Wood County were purged from the voting rolls – at the directive from the Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. The state’s directive ordered county boards of election to wipe voters from the rolls if they had shown “no voter initiated activity” since the last two federal elections. That “activity” included voting, signing petitions or filing for a change of address. The…


School board ponders whether, what, and when of new bond issue request

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Back in November when the Bowling Green school bond issue went down in defeat, board members insisted that they would return with the same $72 million plan that would consolidate the district’s three elementary schools and extensively renovate and expand the high school. Early Monday morning, two months later, they met to discuss whether that was the best option. The workshop session was part post mortem of the election and part a free-wheeling discussion about what other options there may be to address the district’s building needs. In the end, the board seemed poised to return to the ballot, possibly as early as May, with the same plan. The board, which meets in regular session Tuesday, set another special meeting for Friday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 a.m. to further discuss the next step. It is possible a decision on whether and what to put on the ballot and when will be determined then. They must decide by Jan. 31 if the board is to put the issue on the May ballot. Board member William Clifford, who said on election night that the board would return with the same plan, asked Monday whether there was any way to trim the cost of the project. His fear, he said, was that coming back with the same amount would tell the voters they weren’t being listened to. “We weren’t asking for any more than we needed,” board member Ginny Stewart said. “We were so far behind we needed to catch up.” Norm Geer, who was elected to the board in November, said that those who voted against the levy weren’t “anti-education.” Many factors were at play, including the loss of neighborhood schools as well as the cost. “We have to convince people it’s money well spent,” he said. “It’s money that can save money in the future.” Superintendent Francis Scruci said that consolidating the elementary schools would save the district $100,000 a year in transportation costs, and eliminate three routes. That would mean the district would not have to buy as many…


County park district to make its case for renewal levy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   When voters see the Wood County Park District levy on the May 2018 ballot, park officials really hope the voters don’t confuse this levy with the park levy recently passed in Bowling Green. Many local citizens seem to confuse the county park district with the Bowling Green parks and recreation department. And that has the county park board a bit worried about its 1-mill renewal levy set to appear on the May 8 ballot. “There is a very big disconnect” between the two park programs, said Jamie Sands, volunteer services and communications specialist with the county park district. That could be particularly bad for the county park district if voters confuse the May levy with the city park and recreation levy passed in November. “People think they’ve already passed the levy for the parks,” Sands said Tuesday during the monthly meeting of the Wood County Park District Board. “We’re hoping to get the word out.” The county park board voted unanimously Tuesday to put a 1-mill levy on in May. Board President Denny Parish stressed that the renewal will be same millage sought when the park district last passed its levy in 2008. “Which means no new taxes,” Parish said. For the last decade, the levy has generated about $2.8 million a year. That amount is expected to grow to $3 million a year because of new construction in the county. “It won’t cost individual homeowners more than they’ve been paying for the last 10 years.” After Tuesday’s meeting, Wood County Park District Director Neil Munger said the district is committed to not raising the tax burden on local residents. Over the last several years, the park district has focused funding on land acquisitions.  That focus is about to shift. “I think we’re looking at a maintenance phase,” Munger said. Future land acquisitions will rely on grants or other funding options, he said. “We will be looking for other sources of funding rather than going to the taxpayers.” In the meantime, the county park district will be…