Politics

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 strictly non-partisan, and having the League of Women Voters on board helps project that image as well as helping to publicize the series, Wilson said. “I care very much about democracy,” she said, “and I think that’s true of everyone. This is a good opportunity to step outside of partisanship.” “We can all come together to discuss democracy,” Chronister said. “Everyone cares about that. It doesn’t matter what party you’re…


Local citizens fight to hang onto Affordable Care Act

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Minutes after news broke Thursday that the vote on a new health plan for the nation had been put on hold, local residents were celebrating the seventh birthday of the Affordable Care Act. Wearing birthday hats, holding balloons and blowing noise makers, the citizens presented birthday cards and decorated cupcakes to staff at U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s office in Bowling Green. Others stood along North Main Street, bearing signs like the one stating, “Trump Care Doesn’t Care….it’s tax credits for the rich.” As cars drove, they sang “Happy Birthday,” with some following the last stanza with an optimistic “and many more.” One of the birthday party organizers, Sean Elliott of Bowling Green, said he was “relieved” that the Republican health care bill failed to advance on Thursday, though he realized the delay was likely to be brief. “It seems really unacceptable,” considering the millions of people it would leave uninsured. For Elloitt, it’s not just a matter of public policy. It’s personal. “It’s not just a statistic,” he said. Elliott’s 4-year-old son, Jacoby, has a rare chromosome disorder that has delayed his motor skills. He is unable to walk or to talk. The Affordable Care Act has helped with Jacoby’s medical bills – but the replacement bill could halt that coverage. “To see that program gutted would be devastating,” Elliott said. Inside Latta’s office, citizens asked Andy Lorenz, the representative’s district director, where Latta stands on the Republican health care bill.  Lorenz said his boss supported the bill when it came out of committee, but he wasn’t sure of his stance since so many changes had been made to the legislation. “He’s currently reviewing it,” Lorenz told the citizens. The citizens crammed into Latta’s office were not happy with all the expected changes to their health care coverage – and they weren’t shy about sharing their feelings. “If you take away the Affordable Care Act, you’re just going to be making America sicker again,” one said. “You’re supposed to be replacing it…


Speakers at BGSU rally decry the specter of white supremacy

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A rally to protest surreptitious visits by the white nationalist group Identity Evropa drew about 60 people outside the Education Building on the Bowling Green State University campus. Speakers condemned white supremacy and criticized the BGSU administration for not taking stronger action. Those fliers are the “burning crosses of the 21st century,” Ashley Philipp, one of the organizers of the rally, said quoting Indiana University professor Charles Geyh. The initial posting of the flyers, which occurred over spring break, and subsequent postings represent an attack on campus and “show how the ideology of white supremacy runs deep in this campus and in this country.” Some postings have reportedly been booby trapped with razor blades. Dave Kielmeyer said that was “absolutely not” the case with the flyers posted at BGSU. On its website the group asserts: “We are a generation of awakened Europeans who have discovered that we are part of the great peoples, history, and civilizations that flowed from the European continent.” The site publicizes the group’s opposition to sanctuary cities and support for building a border wall. City Councilor Daniel Gordon noted that Wood County had been early in the last century a hotbed of the Ku Klux Klan. “This was always here.” Gordon said he was tired of protestors being condemned as anti-American. “The only anti-American thing I see is Fascist support, stated or understood, for our current administration.” Anisah Hashmi, an American of Pakistani descent, said too many people believe the country has entered a “post-racial utopia.” People remember Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, but not the speech in which he opposed the War in Vietnam and the country’s militaristic reach around the globe. Hashmi said as a Muslim she must endure lectures from strangers about what her religion says about women. “They don’t even speak Arabic.” Beatrice Fields urged her listeners to guard against complacency and “learn about people who can’t fight for themselves” and recognize their own privilege. She said training for those who want…


Higher ed, faculty are under fire, union president says

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Higher education has been dealing with challenges for a awhile. “Basically for quite some time it’s been open season on public education,” Rudy Fichtenbaum, national president of the American Association of University Professors, told a gathering of union members and guests last week. Those include attacks on unions, funding reductions, challenges to tenure, increased use of part-time instructors, and changing rationale for funding. Fichtenbaum’s talk for the first part of a session that included a review of legislative action pending in Ohio. (A story on that presentation will be forthcoming from BG Independent News.) “Many of these problems stem from ill-conceived policies implemented over the last 30 years on a bipartisan basis,” he said. But those threats on all fronts have escalated since the November election. “His presidency represents the greatest threat to academic freedom since the McCarthy era,” Fichtenbaum said. “Actions show this not an exaggeration.” Trump’s election has emboldened followers to threaten others. “The AAUP continues to make a distinction between speech and action,” he said. .”We’re talking about actions that threaten people, burning a mosque, painting swastikas, yelling at people, pushing people into the street because of the color of their skin or their religion. … We oppose discrimination on the basis of race gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin. We’ll fight for a welcoming learning environment where all people can freely and safely learn.” The AAUP, he said, is supportive of the idea of sanctuary campuses. Tightening restrictions on immigration has an effect on international students, about 10 percent of whom come from majority Muslim countries, he said. He said there’s already “anecdotal evidence” that international students are already looking elsewhere, particularly Canada and Australia, to further their studies. That’s a loss for campuses. Having foreign students on campus provides the kind of atmosphere needed for students dealing with a global economy. International students also benefit higher education budgets. “These are students who generally pay full tuition,” he said. More legislation is taking aim at faculty unions and unions…


Funding defended for programs Trump wants to slash

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   While President Donald Trump’s administration is attacking the value of federally funded community programs, the proof is right here in Wood County. Local officials suggested the administration look at the seniors kept in their homes by the Meals on Wheels program, the children nourished through the WIC program, and the small villages improved through the CDBG program. When Trump’s budget proposal was unveiled Thursday, the winners were the military and border control. The losers were the arts, the environment, the poor, the elderly and the very young. And the cuts weren’t made with a scalpel, but with a guillotine. Local officials who normally make tempered responses to hot button political issues could no longer bite their tongues. When Mick Mulvaney, the president’s budget director, said the Meals on Wheels cuts were justified because the program was “just not showing any results,” the comments pushed Denise Niese past her normally polite poise. “I heard that last night and I was appalled,” said Niese, executive director of the Wood County Committee on Aging. The local Meals on Wheels program is not as dependent as some areas on the federal funding, but it is vital to local residents, serving 132,000 meals last year. Sometimes it’s difficult to collect hard data on social services, but Niese said the proof is in the pudding – and all the other menu items. “We do know that people with home-delivered meals can maintain themselves in their homes at a much lower cost than going into long-term care,” she said. Considering the fact that the local Meals on Wheels cost an average of $4.92 per meal to produce and deliver, that is a real bargain compared to a senior citizen moving to a nursing home facility. “It is cost effective,” Niese said. “There are people who have been able to stay in their homes for five, 10 or 15 years,” thanks to the home-delivered meals. Wood County Health Commissioner Ben Batey is also worried about the cuts coming from Washington….


State universities face tough battles in Columbus, Mazey says

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News President Mary Ellen Mazey apologized for being the bearer of bad news to the Bowling Green State University Faculty Senate, Tuesday. A storm front is approaching the university from Columbus, and though Mazey said she hopes the worse effects could be forestalled, she knows it won’t be easy. “We have our work cut out for us” she said of the state budget. Gov. John Kasich’s proposal calls for a 1-percent increase in state support in the first year of the biennial budget and no increase in the second. This would be paired with a freeze on tuition and freeze. Now it’s up to the House to fashion its proposal. Mazey said the state’s university presidents were focusing on three areas as the House begins working on the higher education budget. Mazey seemed confident that a proposal that would shift the cost of buying textbooks from students to the university was fading. “I think we’re making progress,” she said. The proposal to have university pay for textbooks in exchange for levying a new $300 annual fee “does not seem to be getting a lot of traction in the House,” she said. The governor’s plan, Mazey said, is not academically sound. Also the financing was not adequately researched. It would not benefit all students and would create a new bureaucracy to administer. The state’s university provosts have shaped an alternative policy that would require universities to submit a plan to reduce textbook costs by fall, 2018. In the meantime university officials would gather the data needed to formulate that plan. The plans would involve hiring professional negotiators to deal with textbook publishers. The plans could also require professors to consider the costs of textbooks, standardize the texts used in some “gateway” first year courses, use digital sources where possible, develop more open source materials, and use consortiums to identify the least expensive texts. This plan, Mazey said, is in line with the charge given by the governor’s task force on affordability, which was then overridden by…


Latta gets way on ACA repeal, but future of bill is uncertain

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News U.S. Rep. Robert Latta (R-Bowling Green) is throwing his support behind the House proposal aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act, and replacing it with a new plan. Latta, who has voted numerous times to repeal what is known as Obamacare, issued a statement Tuesday. “Obamacare has failed and it keeps getting worse as insurance marketplaces collapse and costs continue to rise. It’s time to repeal its broken promises and replace it with patient-centered health care. The plan proposed in the House will give Americans more choices, lower costs, and provides states with more flexibility to help repair markets damaged by Obamacare.” His spokesman Drew Griffin said the congressman was not available for an interview. A Bowling Green State University political science professor, however, questions the feasibility of the proposal and its political future. When Russell Mills saw the proposal that was released last night, he wondered:  “How are they going to pay for it?” Transforming subsidies into tax credits, he said, is a wash. “What they did was keep the most expensive parts of Obamacare but didn’t provide a way to pay for them,” Mills said. The proposal will allow young people to stay on their parents’ plans until they are 26. And it continues to stop insurance companies from refusing to insure people because of pre-existing medical conditions. And it maintains, at least for a few years, the expansion of Medicaid to help people with low incomes. But the funding to the states to support that Medicaid funding will get less generous after a few years. “I think they believe they’ll realize the savings by trimming the Medicaid portion of the ACA,” Mills said. The changes to the Medicaid expansion has already prompted four Republican senators from states that accepted that money to question the bill. That includes Ohio Sen. Rob Portman who came out “pretty immediately and said he had concerns about the House proposal.” Mills questions some of the assumptions. The bill would remove the penalty for people and businesses…


From Tunisia to BGSU, Amira Hassnaoui advocates for equality

By HOLLY SHIVELY Special to BG INDEPENDENT NEWS From being tear gassed in the streets of Tunisia during the Jasmine Revolution to working for students as Bowling Green State University’s Graduate Student Senate president, Amira Hassnaoui has stayed true to her passion—advocacy for equality of all people. “I care because I care about the human experience,” she said. “We share a lot as humans—more than we think we do.” While she didn’t grow up in a political family, Hassnaoui has time and time again found herself in political scenes, alongside journalists, scholars and underground musicians, fighting for the communities she cares about. Currently, that involves using her passion for advocacy in her Graduate Student Senate leadership role while completing her masters in popular culture. “I really care a lot about my BG community, and I’m so passionate about what I do,” Hassnaoui said. “I’m so involved—it’s because I do care. It’s because I do think that we can be the best. We’re good now, but we can definitely be among the best…That passion was the ribbon of my own experience because I definitely know how it feels.” While Hassnaoui has become the voice for international students, she said she advocates for students, whoever they are. “I don’t believe a lot in just sitting in my office and wait for things to come to me. I’m more of a person like feet on the ground,” Hassnaoui said. Since becoming an active member of the Bowling Green community, Hassnaoui has set forth as an information source and activist. In addition to serving as GSS president, Hassnaoui has additionally spoken on panels, most recently about the hijab, and joined in a city council conversation leading to the passage of an anti-Islamaphobia and anti-hate crime resolution. “This is what America should be like,” Hassnaoui said. “The America that I was taught about growing up back home was the melting pot America. The diverse America. The America that you can be whoever you are without being threatened. You can succeed. You can follow your dream,…


BG writer adds her voice to “The Nasty Women Project”

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News For Kirsty Sayer, the rise of Donald Trump was personal. The Bowling Green woman was just starting to emerge from a complex Post-Traumatic Stress when Trump started his general election campaign. What she felt was more than political disagreement. His inescapable appearance triggered something deep inside. Emotions that she was just starting to come to grips with. Deep trauma that had controlled her life. Now Sayers saw in Trump a reflection of the older family member who has sexually abused her. And the candidate’s dismissive attitude toward the women who accused him of sexual improprieties, including assault, reminded her of how her abuser treated her. They were cut from the same cloth, both domineering narcissists. So Sayer was one of so many other women who “gritted our teeth” as the election approached, waiting for it to be over. Hopeful, even confident, that after Nov. 8 they’d be done with Donald Trump. Then the votes were counted, in Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. “There was a sense of great helplessness,” Sayer said. “We were just unmoored. Nobody was really expecting it. … Now what?” For Sayer and about 80 other women, the answer to that question includes bringing their written reactions to Trump’s election together in a book “The Nasty Women Project,” available today (March 1) through the website http://nastywomenproject.com. All the proceeds will benefit Planned Parenthood. “This is a labor of love. Nobody’s taking any money,” Sayer said. “Women particularly feel better when they have something to channel their energies into, and when they are connected with other people in well doing. It’s therapeutic.” For Sayer, who blogs and  has published in magazines, it was “a difficult time.” “I needed a project,” she said, and she had a story that was demanding to be told, but she didn’t feel quite ready. She connected with the project’s editor Erin Elizabeth Passons. They agreed her piece would fit within the parameters of the project. Sayer sent a draft, a self-of-consciousness story, overflowing its narrative…


Residents to lift voices in protest song at Grounds for Thought

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When people are frustrated, sometimes the only thing to do is sing. Pastor Mary Jane Saunders, of the First Presbyterian Church, knows many people are concerned about the current state of affairs, and she decided to help organize an event that will enable them to give voice to their frustrations. She was inspired in part by a video of Pete Seeger, Holly Near and others who use music as a form of activism. So Friday, March 3, at 7 p.m. ‘Singing for Our Lives: Empowering the People through Song’ will be presented at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green. Saunders enlisted the local ukulele quartet the GRUBs – Grande Royale Ukulelists of the Black Swamp – to be the house band for the event. Sheri Wells-Jensen, of the GRUBS, said the set list will include both old and new material. The GRUBS have already dipped their toes, or ukuleles, into current issues when they recorded “Where’s Bob?” a humorous song about Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Latta’s unwillingness to hold a town hall meeting. Wells-Jensen and her husband, Jason Wells-Jensen, added their voices to last Sunday’s rally to support immigrants. They have written a call and response blues number “Send Them All to Me” for “Singing for Our Lives,” she said. “The purpose is to reintroduce people to the power of singing together and why people do that,” Wells-Jensen said. The event seeks “to reclaim the label ‘protest music,’ and to give people permission to ditch that label if it gets in the way.” “We Shall Overcome” has to be on the setlist, Wells-Jensen said. They will also include “This Land Is Your Land” with all the verses. The Woody Guthrie classic has come to be perceived as a harmless ditty, but taken in its entirety it is “a marvelously rich and wide-ranging song that includes a lot of people,” she said. “We’ll sing patriotic music, too,” she said, “because these folks are patriots.” So “America the Beautiful” will be on the…


Forum on future of ACA generates healthy debate

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A town hall forum on the future of health care drew about 150 people. Many of them had something to say. Many had questions for their legislators. Lawmakers, though, were in short supply. The dais in the front of the community room in the Bowling State University student union had signs representing a bipartisan all-star team of no-shows, including U.S. Rep. Bob Latta and U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur. Kaptur did send a letter expressing her regret at not being present and praising the attendees for getting involved. Two state lawmakers did make the forum. State Sen. Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) and State Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon). Gardner, as a Republican, knew he was in hostile territory, but he received applause on several occasions for showing up, listening to comments, sometime shouted, even when they were expressed while he was still talking. Gardner could not provide what many in the crowd wanted, any sort of commitment to take specific action. As Dr. Johnathan Ross, of Toledo, noted little of what concerned the crowd was in the hands of state government. Gardner made it clear that his purview was the state, and he urged those present, a large number of whom were his constituents, based on a show of hands, to monitor the progress of the state budget. As a legislator, he said, it is his job to listen to his 360,000 “bosses”– and that means not coming to a conclusion about anything as soon as it is presented. He said he hopes the forum is just part of an ongoing give-and-take between himself and his constituents. He must channel the personal stories into some kind of legislation as he’s done decades ago after hearing about family with a child with hemophilia. He’s now working with a family with a child with cystic fibrosis on legislation that may assist them. As a legislator that’s what he does. He tries to address the concerns of constituents through legislation. What Gardner refused to do was take a stand…


DeWine stumps for governor during stop in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   More than a year out from the next gubernatorial election, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine brought his early campaign for the office to Bowling Green on Thursday. DeWine, a favorite for the Republican ticket for governor, spoke at the party’s Lincoln Day Dinner at Stone Ridge Golf Club. As attorney general, DeWine has worked to strenghten victims’ rights and to correct some wrongs in the legal system. He spearheaded efforts to get hundreds of sexual assault kits tested after they had languished for years in evidence rooms. Many of those have resulted in DNA matches with people already in the system. DeWine has worked with State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, to create a violent offender registry. This was done in response to the abduction and murder of Sierah Joughin, 20, in Fulton County. Like the sex offender registry, this registry would notify communities of someone with a violent criminal past living nearby. And DeWine continues to work on solutions to the opiate epidemic in Ohio. Following the advice of people with addiction experience, DeWine said more emphasis needs to be put on K-12 age appropriate education on drugs, “to lessen people going down the path of addiction.” “As attorney general, sometimes I feel I’m picking up the pieces” after problems occur, he said before speaking Thursday evening. So he’s now looking at getting in front of problems – as governor. DeWine and others arriving at the Lincoln Day Dinner drove past a group of protesters at the entrance to the golf club. “One of the lessons from the last election is that people want government that works,” he said. “They want people in office to make things happen.” DeWine said he plans to do that as governor. One of his goals would be to create a business climate for job growth. That means stable taxes that are predictable from year to year for businesses. “We need to keep regulations reasonable,” he added. The number one concern of the business community right…


Latta eludes protesters outside Lincoln Day Dinner

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As 200 prepared to dine in the Stone Ridge Golf Club, another 40 stood outside holding posters and chanting. Their signs supported the Affordable Care Act, refugees, the environment, transgender youth, and asked the question, “Have you seen Bob?” They chanted “Love not hate makes America great,” and “We’re not paid,” in reference to accusations that town hall protesters across the nation are being paid for their efforts. Their presence on the normally quiet corner of the Stone Ridge housing development was met with a range of reactions. As motorists pulled into the golf club for the annual Republican Lincoln Day Dinner, some honked and waved, others stuck out tongues or stared straight ahead. Though the protesters were trying to get the attention of U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, it was State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, who pulled over, got out and talked with the protesters for several minutes. “He came up, shook hands and chatted,” said Katie McKibben, one of the sign-holding protesters. “Randy actually parked his car and got out.” Latta’s vehicle proceeded into the golf club parking lot without stopping. One man going to the dinner stopped at the entrance, held up the middle fingers on both hands and yelled at the protesters to go home. “I’m tired of people being paid to protest,” the man said as he parked his vehicle. “They’re stupid.” But others welcomed the exchange of ideas. “I feel like we should always be able to have a conversation,” said Ryan Lee as he entered the golf club dining room. “What’s more American than standing on a street corner and holding signs?” Inside the country club, Latta said he has always been willing to listen to his constituents. Last year he held 10 courthouse conferences where he met face-to-face with citizens. Last week, he held a “telephone town hall,” but there was no public notice about it ahead of time. When told that his constituents feel a need to talk with him now because of…


Sanders supporters hope to spark discussion of health coverage after Obamacare

By DAVID DUPONT BG independent News The Republicans have been gunning for the Affordable Care Act since it passed without a single GOP vote. Now with control of both Congress and the White House, they are on the brink of doing it. The problem, according to Kris Johnson, a Northwest Ohio activist, is: “They want to get rid of ACA, but they can’t come up with a solution that’s any better Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio, a group Johnson is affiliated with, wants to help. Yes, they are a group that is taking up the mantle of Independent socialist Bernie Sanders’ failed run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. “We are taking Bernie’s agenda and manifesting it any way we can,” said organizer Dennis Slotnick. Still they see a way out of the current logjam. One that addresses the problems that led to the passage of the ACA, and one that addresses that law’s flaws. Slotnick agrees with Sanders that while imperfect the law is “a lot better than what we had before.” More than 30 million people now have insurance who didn’t before, he said. And the law makes sure those with pre-existing conditions can still get insurance. What the ACA needs, he said, is a public option, where people can forego the private insurance market entirely. “We’re in a position of offering real solutions,” Slotnick said. Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio in conjunction with Single-Payer Action Network Ohio, a group that has been around for 20 years, want to be able to make their case face-to-face with legislators. On Saturday they will hold aT0own Hall on the Future of America’s Healthcare from 2-4:30 p.m. in Ballroom B at Bowling Green State University Student Union. While the hope is for U.S. Rep. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) to attend, his staff has said little beyond they will forward the information to him, according to Slotnick. Also invited has been U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) and about a dozen state legislators. As of mid-week Slotnick didn’t have any commitments from politicians…


La Conexion will hold rally Sunday

La Conexion de Wood County will hold a rally on Sunday, Feb 26 at 5 p.m. in Bowling Green’s Green Space across Church Street from the police station. The rally is being help to express support and solidarity for immigrants following the issuance of the Trump Administration’s recent executive orders on immigration. The rally is also in support of the city’s and Bowling Green State University’s efforts to build welcoming, safe and inclusive communities.