Library board gets down to the nuts & bolts of strategic planning

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When the Wood County District Public Library approves Director Michael Penrod’s next three-year “to-do” list, going to the hardware store probably won’t be one of the chores included. But the board may embrace a notion that Penrod shared from a recent library conference: “If our city is the best in the world then the library is its hardware store.” Penrod offered assurances though that he didn’t want to compete with Floyd Craft owner of ACE Hardware. The library will have plenty else on its agenda, which will be set by a new Strategic Plan for the years 2018-2020. Penrod and the board will have that plan ready by the beginning of next year. The plan is important because it brings the library through November, 2020, when it will have to be on the ballot to renew its levy. That levy generated almost $1 million in 2016, about 40 percent of the library’s revenue. When the strategic plan is done, Penrod said, its message should be simple enough to explain to an 11-year-old. Little will be simple about the process of getting to that point. The library is planning for an uncertain future, operating within an environment of constantly changing technology. Board Chairman Brian Paskavan posed the question: “Is the organization flexible enough to move when we need to move?” He admitted that “that’s a tall order.” Penrod presented the board with demographic data and library statistics that will guide the process. Those statistics show a shift toward greater use of digital materials, and less circulation for physical books, except from the bookmobile and at…


Velasquez finds his fight for immigrant laborers to be more urgent than ever

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Toledo area has anywhere from 6,000 to 10,000 undocumented immigrants. But every week, more are rounded up and shipped out from the Toledo airport, according to farm labor leader Baldemar Velasquez. “Every Tuesday morning, there are more men and women in shackles being boarded onto planes,” Velasquez said Sunday afternoon. Many are being sent back to Mexico through expedited deportations, without being allowed to see an attorney and without being given their due process, he said. “I don’t know how they are getting away with that,” Velasquez said about ICE and border patrol. “One-hundred years from now, people will look back at us like they do the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850,” when the law required escaped slaves to be returned to their owners, he said. “The fact that we are accommodating such a practice is un-American.” Velasquez grew up as a migrant farm laborer, born in Texas and traveling from field to field in the Midwest. Based on those experiences he went on to create the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, in response to the poor treatment of farm workers. That organization, celebrating its 50th anniversary, still works to achieve justice for migrant workers. Velasquez, who spoke Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church north of Bowling Green, grew up dirt poor, with a work ethic stronger than most of his white classmates, and with stamina that just didn’t quit. “You always have to finish the job,” he said. “You start that row, you’ve got to finish it. You start that field, you’ve got to finish it. When you’re a farm worker, it…


Beautiful singing takes precedence over competition in BGSU’s Conrad Art Song event

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Yes, the final round of the Conrad Art Song Competition at Bowling Green State University was, as the name makes clear, a competition. More than that it was a night of beautiful singing. That was the assessment of Kevin Bylsma, the coordinator of opera activities at the College of Musical Arts. The 18th annual competition featured 11 duos of vocalists and pianists in the undergraduate division and 12 duos in the graduate division. (The division is determined by the singer.) Honors go equally to the singer and the pianist. They must prepare a program of a half a dozen songs from different periods, including at least one selection from a living composer, with one song each in English, German, Italian and French. Regardless of the language, the 10 duos, five in each division, selected for the finals delivered emotion-packed performances, sometimes touching, sometimes coquettish, sometimes even funny. The power of drama was demonstrated in the first set by soprano Hannah Stroh with pianist Xiaohui Ma singing “He is Dead and Gone” in Russian. Even Russian wasn’t up to the task of expressing anguish, as Stroh leaned back against the piano, and began humming. The sound of her voice disembodied, as if emanating from the air itself. Then the song’s emotion swerved, ending with a demonic laugh. You didn’t need to speak Russian to be taken aback. A few hesitant claps were heard, then full blown applause. The decorum of the night – applause are usually reserved for the end of a duo’s performance – was disrupted, not to be regained. And Stroth had set…


Wood County Courthouse has countless stories to tell

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   What do Jimmy Hoffa, Ronald Reagan and the KKK have in common? They all visited the Wood County Courthouse – for far different reasons, of course. The grand Wood County Courthouse, which is recognized by many as an architectural wonder with ornate stonework, has seen more than 120 years of trials, political rallies and people coming in to do everyday business – pay taxes, get marriage licenses, attend public meetings. Though he’s unlikely to give himself the title of courthouse historian, Wood County Auditor Mike Sibbersen is the official most people turn to when they want details about the grand structure. He can rattle off details long forgotten by others, but being an auditor and a stickler for details, he frequently checks his facts as he talks about the courthouse. The courthouse has been the site of some dubious distinctions. Many know the story of Carl Bach who killed his wife, Mary, in 1881 with a corn knife. He was reportedly angry about his unsuccessful farming efforts and being forced to sleep in the barn. Bach was the last man to be executed by hanging in Wood County, next to the previous courthouse on the same site. Tickets were sold to the public event, and a special execution edition of the newspaper was published. Remnants of the murder – Mary’s withered fingers, the corn knife used to chop them off, and the rope used to hang her husband – were on the display for years at the county historical museum. A lesser known fact is that the sheriff who presided over the…


Poet Cheryl Lachowski’ “Ditches” cuts to the heart of the Black Swamp

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The ditches of the Black Swamp collect a lot of material – water, cattails, the occasional vehicle. Poet Cheryl Lachowski’s expansive project “Ditches” takes in even more. Lachowski, who teaches General Studies Writing at Bowling Green State University, gave a presentation earlier this week on the work in progress. She’s nearing the end of a semester-long leave, a welcomed respite from grading student compositions. The time to focus on poetry was made possible through a grant from the university’s Institute for the Study of Culture and Society. She said it was “unbelievable” that she, as a non-tenure track faculty, could avail herself of such a leave. One requirement is to give a presentation on the work accomplished during the leave. Ditches are a defining feature of the Great Black Swamp. They transformed the swamp from wildlands into farmlands, and they form the divide between the two sections of Lachowski’s books. The first section, which she is finishing up thanks to the leave, is “Watershed.” The second will be “Homestead.” The devoted to the time before ditches transformed the region, and the other afterward. The first before white settlers took hold, and the second when the native populations were evicted from the swamp. The Battle of Fallen Timbers will serve as a dividing line. The divide between the sections is not so neat. The Black Swamp is not so neat. Lachowski’s sprawling work seeks to encompass all its aspects. She described “Ditches” as a literary montage with ditches serving as an overriding symbol. Lachowski, who has frequently worked with musicians including a collaboration with composer…


BG ranks high among towns to stay after graduation

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   There’s no reason for brain drain here, according to a survey looking at college towns in the U.S. Bowling Green has been ranked as one of the 20 best college towns to live in after graduation, according to a study done by rentcollegepad.com. To determine the best towns, the survey looked at the following data: The unemployment rate for those between ages 25-29, measuring how likely new college grads were to get a job by looking at unemployment rates among the newest set of college grads. The benefit of having a bachelor’s degree compared to those without in the town, looking at the median income for those with a bachelor’s degree and subtracting the median income of those without to figure how valuable a bachelor’s degree is in each town. Percentage of 25-34-year-olds also with a bachelor degree. Towns that are full of young, recent college grads are considered great towns for college grads to be in. To qualify as a “college town” in the study, the town’s population must be less than five times the enrollment of the given colleges. “We really measured up very well,” Mayor Dick Edwards said at last week’s City Council meeting. Bowling Green came in second place, with the following statistics: Unemployment rate for ages 25-29: 1.5 percent. Median salary with a bachelor’s degree: $36,869. Percentage of 25-34 year-olds with a bachelor’s degree: 4.94 percent. The report describes Bowling Green like this: “Bowling Green has a population of 30,028 and is located in the middle of beautiful Wood County. Home to a few popular festivals, like the Black…


Young entrepreneurs tackle serious problems in Hatch pitches

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The young entrepreneurs competing in The Hatch Thursday at Bowling Green State University were intent on solving social issues as well as launching companies. For all the show business trappings — Kirk Kern’s game show demeanor as master of ceremonies and a live band – this was serious business. Autism, Alzheimer’s disease, lack of clean drinking water in Guinea, opioid addiction, and career planning were all issues that Hatchlings wanted to address. “You’ve all targeted some heady issues,” said Earl Malm, one of the alumni investors the Hatchlings were pitching their ideas to. No matter how sincere they were in their approach or how serious the problem, it fell to the nine Hatchlings to make their cases. This year’s Hatchlings and their products were:  Fatima Camara, 10,000 Threads clothing line; Shannon Ebert, Workforce Academy; Andrew Hood and Sarah Walter, medication dispenser; Jacob Kielmeyer, Nostalgia Therapies—Alzheimer’s assistance; Joe Lisa, wearable charging device; Thomas Moody, virtual reality sales trainer; Marharita Tavpash, Ice Sleeve; and Cory Thompson, autism app. “This is where education meets the street,” Malm said before the presentations began. “This is where Hatchlings graduate to become fledglings in business.” And he said: “Not everyone will get a deal.” Some got advice and a meeting instead. Regardless, Malm said, it was just another step in their entrepreneurial journeys. That journey has already been a long one for Fatima Camara. Born in New York City, she was raised in Guinea. As child visiting the market she was enthralled by the multi-colored hand woven and dyed fabric. Now she wants to create 10,000 Threads, a fashion company…


Sherman Alexie shows pure power of storytelling

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Readers familiar with Sherman Alexie probably weren’t expecting him to sit back in a leather chair and stoically read from his novels. But they may not have been expecting him to slaughter so many sacred cows. “You have billboards of me,” Alexie said to the sold out crowd at the Bowling Green Performing Arts Center, Thursday evening. “I saw it and I wanted to put a Bible verse up.” Not a real verse, but something like “Jason 99:12” just to mess with people. He warned that he wasn’t a typical Native American. If the audience was waiting for him to thank them for welcoming him here, they could just keep waiting. “You f—— stole everything in Ohio,” he said. He poked fun at pompous professors, conservative Christians, white Americans who are anti-immigrant, and ultra protective parents who won’t get their children immunized. “This is from a person whose entire race was almost wiped out by smallpox,” he said. “F— you.” He also warned the audience wanting autographs after the program to avoid one particular topic of conversation. “Later a lot of you are going to come up and tell me you’re part Indian,” he said. “There’s no such thing as being a part-time Indian.” But the author also poked fun at himself. This was Alexie’s second visit to Bowling Green, the first being 17 years ago when he spoke at BGSU.  On Thursday when the woman who hosted his previous visit raised her hand in the crowd, the author asked, “Did we make out? I used to be a pretty literary wonder…


Luckey cleanup could take $244 million and 12 years

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG  Independent News   Cleaning up the contaminated beryllium site in Luckey is expected to cost $244 million and take up to 12 years to complete. “It will be one of the larger in the nation,” David Romano, deputy district engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers, said of the Luckey project. Removal of contaminated soil and possibly structures from the 40-acre site is expected to start late this year or next year. Representatives of the Army Corps of Engineers, which is in charge of the cleanup, met with the Wood County Commissioners on Tuesday. The cleanup of the site at the corner of Luckey Road and Ohio 582, is part of the federally funded Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program. Between 1949 and 1958, the Luckey site was operated as a beryllium production facility by the Brush Beryllium Company (later Brush Wellman) under contract to the Atomic Energy Commission. In 1951, the site received approximately 1,000 tons of radioactively contaminated scrap steel, to be used in proposed magnesium production at the site. The Corps of Engineers has identified beryllium, lead, radium, thorium, and uranium as problems in the soil. The cleanup calls for the excavation and off-site disposal of FUSRAP-contaminated materials. The excavated soils will be shipped off-site for disposal at a facility licensed to take such hazardous materials. Groundwater wells near the site are being sampled annually for beryllium, lead, uranium and gross alpha/beta until sampling results show a progressive trend that indicates safe drinking water standards have been met. During the site soils remedial action, more frequent monitoring will be conducted. The cost…


More changes in store for BGSU campus

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News After spending the last few summers bringing new life to the two original buildings on the Bowling Green State University campus, next summer will see two 1950s vintage structures bite the dust. Steve Krakoff, the vice president for capital planning and campus operations, told Faculty Senate Tuesday that the work tearing down West Hall and the neighboring Family and Consumer Sciences building will begin as soon as classes are over. That work will be completed by the time students return to campus. The demolition will require some work on Founders Hall which is connected to the two doomed structures. Both buildings were rendered redundant by upgrades that have been Krakoff’s focus in the past years. West Hall was no longer needed once the former South Hall was renovated and expanded into the Kuhlin Center, which houses the School for Media and Communication Renovations to the Health and Human Services Building after the Falcon Health Center opened, and to Eppler, meant there was no longer a need for Family and Consumer Sciences. But the campus isn’t just on the eve of destruction this summer. Work on the renovation of University and Moseley halls will be completed, so those 100-year-old structures will open in the fall semester. Krakoff said those who taught in those buildings in the past will find the new space “unrecognizable.” He expects “a lot of positive shock.” While upgrading the buildings, the university has maintained distinctive architectural features. And less dramatic, but essential, projects will take place across campus. Krakoff said that the conversion of all BGSU’s 145 classrooms into active learning…


People of different faiths bust barriers to peace

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   People of many faiths busted some myths that stand in the way of peace, during the third annual Interfaith Breakfast in Bowling Green Wednesday morning. More than 250 people gathered for food, fellowship and to break down walls that have been built between faiths over centuries. “If ever there were a time for a candle in the darkness, this would be it,” said Rev. Lynn Kerr, of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation. “The more we learn from one another,” she said, “peace is possible.” Speakers from Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Native American, Buddhism and Christianity tried to bust myths surrounding their faiths. Rehana Ahmed, a member of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo, was born and raised in Pakistan where she attended a Catholic school. That glimpse of another faith gave her an understanding of others. “That has made me a better human being. At the core, we are all the same. What hurts me, hurts other people.” In her job at Sky Bank, Ahmed told of a customer asking her to do something she was not legally able to do. She remained quiet as he spewed several four-letter words at her. But when he told her to go back where she came from, Ahmed asked him if he was a Native American. “You and I can go back on the same boat,” she said to him. “These are trying times for all of us,” Ahmed said. “Let’s ask questions before we make a judgment.” Srinivas Melkote, who is a Hindu originally from India, addressed the immigrant stereotype first. “I’m not a drug dealer,”…


210 pinwheels-for each child abuse & neglect case in BG

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Each of the 210 spinning pinwheels decorating Wooster Green represents one case of child abuse or neglect investigated in Bowling Green last year. “The number jars our senses,” Mayor Dick Edwards said Tuesday morning as the pinwheels whirled in the wind at the corner of West Wooster and South Church streets. “I know all of us feel sad to see that number up there,” he said, referring to the sign noting the 210 cases last year. The pinwheels stand as a visual reminder, the mayor said. “Children are Bowling Green’s most valuable and precious resource. This must be remedied.” The pinwheels at Wooster Green represent only those cases in Bowling Green. For the first time, Wood County Children’s Services will be posting pinwheels throughout the county, to let people know that child abuse and neglect happen everywhere. “This year we decided to take pinwheels on the road,” said Maricarol Torsok-Hrabovsky, of Wood County Job and Family Services. They have already been posted in Lake Township, Northwood, Rossford and the Eastwood area. In all, there will be 894 pinwheels planted in the ground. “Child abuse, unfortunately, in Wood County is on the rise,” said Dave Wigent, director of Job and Family Services. Child abuse investigations increased in Wood County by nearly 25 percent in 2016 – a jump never seen before by the staff at Children’s Services. The number of cases went from 718 in 2015 up to 894 in 2016 – meaning 176 more child abuse investigations. Cases of abuse were reported in every community in the county. The increase is being…


Visiting musician Doug Yeo brings ancient sound of the serpent alive at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News After two hours of discussing the fine points of trombone playing – articulation, dynamics and the like, Doug Yeo left the student trombonists at Bowling Green State University with message. “We live in a messed up world,” the visiting artist said. All they had to do was look out the door to see that. “What you do with trombones … matters.” When people come to a concert, whether a student recital or a performance by a major symphony orchestra, the performer doesn’t know what brings them to listen. They may have just lost their job or a loved one. They might have just gotten engaged. “You don’t know what their story is, but you’re playing for them and what you play can change their lives. They’re giving you something they’ll never have back, their time.” And it’s up to the musician to make that time they spend together worthwhile. “What you do,” Yeo said, “really, really, really matters.  … I’ve been to concerts, and my life has changed.” That’s not just hearing star soloists, sometimes it has been a recital by one of his own students. Yeo has been making a difference for listeners for decades. That included 27 years as the bass trombonist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Since 1994, though, he has also performed on the serpent, a musical instrument dating by to the 16th century, and prominent through the 19th in military bands. His visit to BGSU s to mark the donation and renovation of a serpent given to the College of Musical Arts by Glenn Varney, a professor emeritus of…


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,…


Winter session is coming for BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News In moving to a new calendar with shorter sessions, Bowling Green State University is not entering uncharted waters. In his review of the progress on adopting the new calendar John Fischer, vice provost for academic affairs, said that BGSU was behind the curve as one of the last public institutions in the state to cling to the 16-week semester. The University of Toledo is switching this fall. BGSU is planning to implement the new calendar in fall, 2018. The Board of Trustees accepted the new calendar in concept at its last meeting. No other approvals are needed. Still that doesn’t mean the university can simply cut and paste what its sister institutions have done. Fischer said when they surveyed to see how other universities have handled particular issues, they got a variety of answers. And there are a lot of issues as demonstrated by the questions posed by members of the senate. The new calendar would have a 14-week semester in fall and spring, with one week of exams. That trims one teaching week. Fischer said that BGSU now exceeds the required number of “contact hours” required by the state. This will bring in line with state regulars. The current schedule has 2,370 contact minutes a semester, 2,250 of which are in class meetings and 120 minutes for an exam. The new schedule would be a total of 2,250 contact minutes with, 2,100 for class meetings and 150 in an exam period. Fischer said that the longer time devoted to exams will make that period even more important. He said Provost Rodney Rogers, who…