Government

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…


Wood County JFS workers drop labor union

Another labor union for a group of Wood County government employees has been decertified. The AFSME representing between 80 and 90 workers at Wood County Department of Job and Family Services was decertified after employees indicated they would vote to remove from the union. The union had represented the Job and Family Services staff since the 1980s, according to Wood County Administrator Andrew Kalmar. In the past several years, employees also agreed to no longer be represented by labor unions at the Wood County Child Support Enforcement Agency and the Wood County Health District. “We try to treat all employees consistently and fairly,” Kalmar said of the reason for the union decertification. “Everyone is going to get the same good treatment. Hopefully that played a role in this.” The county employees still in unions include the sheriff’s office, Wood Haven Health Care, and the landfill, Kalmar said.


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…


“Rolling back state renewable energy standards will threaten future job growth” – Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton)

House Democratic lawmakers today criticized the passage of House Bill (HB) 114, saying legislation that changes the state’s advanced energy standards to unenforceable “goals” will harm consumers and jeopardize thousands of manufacturing and development jobs in Ohio’s advanced energy industry and other industries that increasingly want and rely on advanced energy sources. “If Ohio’s economy is on the ‘verge of a recession,’ as the governor has claimed, rolling back state renewable energy standards will threaten future job growth and could harm consumers, workers and the environment,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Advanced energy technologies are helping create the manufacturing jobs of the future, and we would be wise to invest now to become a leader of this emerging industry instead of falling behind the rest of the nation.” The nation and world’s leading companies are increasingly turning to advanced energy sources to power their businesses. On Tuesday, global home furnishing retailer Ikea announced it has completed a 213,000 square foot solar array on its soon-to-open store in central Ohio, one of the largest such arrays in the state. “We owe it to future Ohioans to make sure we leave behind a state that is thriving, healthy and safe,” said Rep. Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “Rolling back the opportunity to be a leader in the emerging renewable energy industry is not only harmful to our environment but also our economy.” Some of the largest corporate brands – including Apple, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Facebook, General Motors, Google, Microsoft, Nike, Cincinnati-based Proctor & Gamble, Starbucks, Walmart and more – have all publicly pledged to procure 100 percent of their electricity from renewable…


Transportation district expansion in county detoured

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Before the Wood County Commissioners give their blessing to a countywide roadwork district, they want to make sure the route ahead has no hazards for the county. For 20 years, the Rossford Transportation Improvement District has been aiding business by helping to find funding for roadways. But the Rossford TID has found its borders to be too confining, since the organization can only assist projects in Rossford and the adjoining Perrysburg Township. Other projects have had to be rejected – like a request in Lake Township off Tracy Road for the Jones Hamilton plant. Though the plant is just on the border of Perrysburg Township, it had to be turned down, said Lane Williamson, legal counsel for the Rossford TID. “We really can’t do a project in Lake Township” since it’s outside the TID jurisdiction,” Williamson said. So organizers of the Rossford TID were back before the county commissioners again on Thursday, asking to expand the TID to the entire county. Ed Pavuc, chairman of the Rossford TID, said the organization allows access to Ohio Department of Transportation funding. “It is an economic development tool,” Pavuc told the commissioners. “They would be much more successful accessing grants,” if the county had the benefit of an expanded TID, he said. Mike Scott, Rossford municipal administrator, said the current TID is the only TID in the state that is not countywide. “It’s another great economic development tool,” Scott said. “It expands the tools in your arsenal.” Wood County Engineer John Musteric agreed, noting the possibility of getting funds for the Jones Hamilton project and…


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…


Farmers warned they need to do more to stop algae

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A hundred or so farmers listened to the grim reality last week that they need to do more to prevent algal blooms in Lake Erie. A panel discussion hosted by the Ohio Farmers Union at Otsego High School stressed that while some farmers are voluntarily reducing the phosphorus that creates the harmful algae, their efforts are not likely to be enough to meet the federal goal of a 40 percent reduction. And that means if farmers don’t make the necessary reductions on their own, they may be forced to do so. “We know that farmers need to do more,” said Joe Logan, president of the Ohio Farmers Union. “Farmers need to stand up. They always have before, and I believe they will again.” The alternative is that the Environmental Protection Agency will get involved and set stricter requirements. “If we don’t achieve that, there will be additional regulation,” Logan said. “Farmers need to up their game in terms of the environmental repercussions.” Jeffery Reutter, retired director of the Ohio State Stone Lab, said the 40 percent reduction is only possible if extensive changes are made, and if problem fields are identified. But he also predicted that one-third of farmers are not likely to take needed action without “more aggressive encouragement.” When asked by moderator Jack Lessenberry about the best ways to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie, the panel had varied answers. Meindert Vandenhengel, who owns a 5,000-head hog farm in Van Wert County, said the only problem is distribution of manure. There is plenty of farmland to handle all the manure, it…


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…


BGSU faculty union faces facts about higher ed funding

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University faculty association members and guests received an update on what to look for in the coming Ohio legislative session. The news presented by Sara Kilpatrick, Ohio Conference executive director of the AAUP and a BGSU graduate, and John McNay, the president of the AAUP Ohio Conference, discussed a range of issues from textbooks to the cost of intercollegiate athletics. Republicans, Kilpatrick said, have heavy majorities in both houses. That means they can override the governor’s veto. It also means they can pass bills as emergency measures. If approved as an emergency, that legislation is not subject to be challenged by a referendum. Still, Kilpatrick said, “it’s very difficult to manage a caucus with that many members.” While they are all Republicans, they represent a range of views. The key legislative players are State Senator Randy Gardner, who chairs the higher education subcommittee of the senate education committee. Kilpatrick said given his long service in both the Senate and the House, he is “well versed” on the issues. She advised those attending that as his constituents, they had “a good opportunity to bend his ear.” On the House side, Rick Perales chairs the subcommittee on higher education finance and Mike Duffey, chairs the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee. Kilpatrick said Duffey is a moderate and “the most well-informed” legislator on higher education issues. Perales, however, is still learning the ropes. While everyone is in agreement that the cost of higher education is an issue, the various parties’ diagnosis of the situations differ. McNay said that it was the AAUP that…