Muslim student thanks BG for anti-discrimination efforts

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Nearly two years ago, Ahmad Mehmood stood up in front of Bowling Green City Council and asked city leaders to stand up for people from different lands. On Monday, Mehmood was back – this time thanking City Council for taking a stand against discrimination in the community. “I didn’t expect life here to be as easy,” said Mehmood, who has been a student at Bowling Green State University for two years. As a “brown Muslim student” from India, he was prepared to face discrimination and distrust. But instead, he found acceptance. “There is no space for hate,” he said praising the anti-discrimination resolution passed by City Council in January of 2017. “The City of Bowling Green has made it clear. It won’t accept that from its residents.” Back in 2017, as council was considering the anti-discrimination resolution, Mehmood stressed that for international students the measure was far more than a symbolic act. “We’ve always felt like we belong here,” he said on Monday evening. “We share something bigger than what divides us.” Mehmood talked about his homeland of India, where groups are targeted as part of the caste system. “We don’t want our country to be like that,” he said. No two people are identical, he said. “It’s almost like finding the same two colored socks on a Monday morning.” Yet, there are enough similarities that different people can coexist. “We can live side by side,” he said. To show appreciation to city leaders for their efforts, Mehmood invited City Council, the mayor and others to the annual Muslim Student Association dinner on Oct. 19 on campus. Council member Sandy Rowland thanked Mehmood for the invitation, and said she would attend. “I’m proud and happy to have you here,” Rowland said. “I want to thank you for your kind words, and want you to know you are appreciated in Bowling Green.” Mayor Dick Edwards thanked the Muslim Student Association for its involvement in the community. “I too have been the beneficiary of their very thoughtful invitations to various events.” The resolution passed by council in 2017 condemns violence, hate speech and discrimination targeting Muslim people and expresses solidarity with the Muslim community and all those targeted for their ethnicity, race or religion. The resolution calls on council to: Condemn all hateful speech, violent action, and discrimination directed at Muslim people and those perceived to be Muslim anywhere in the city or outside the city; Reject political tactics that use fear and misinformation to manipulate voters or to gain power or influence, and commits to prevent this from happening in the City of Bowling Green; Commit to pursuing a policy agenda that affirms civil and human rights, and ensures that people subjected to hate speech, violence, or discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or immigration status can turn to government without fear of recrimination; Reaffirm the value of a pluralistic society, the beauty of a culture composed of multiple cultures, and the inalienable right of every person to live and practice their faith without fear; Urge the citizens of Bowling Green to increase their involvement with the Human Relations Commission, Not In Our Town, and other community organizations, programs, and events that promote these principles, including by engaging with the local Muslim…


Bandleader Ken Thomson finds inspiration between the musical lines

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Composer and bandleader Ken Thomson admits to having “a tortured relationship” with jazz. Thomson, who plays clarinet and saxophone, loves jazz and wants to play music that reflects its aesthetics. He’s not, though interested in recording a session devoted to jazz with a capital “J.” Instead he straddles the line between the contemporary art music and jazz with his quintet Slow/Fast, brass band Gutbucket and his involvement with the new music super group the Bang on a Can All Stars. He’ll bring his newest project, the Ken Thomson Sextet to Toledo Thursday, Oct. 4,  at 8 p.m. in the Toledo museum of Art’s GlasSalon.  The album “Sextet” was released in September, and it represents further development from his work with Slow/Fast. “There’s definitely a through line from the last couple records,” Thomson said in a recent telephone interview. “My idea was to challenge myself, and to have an expanded canvas to work with.” To that end, he dropped the guitar from the five-piece Slow/Fast line up, to “buy” himself a couple more horns. He created the sextet by adding another reed player, Anna Webber on saxophone, and a trombone — Alan Ferber on the recording, but Nick Finzer for this 10-day tour. Adam Armstrong plays bass and Daniel Dor is the bassist. The plumped up wind section has significant implications. Now Thomson has a larger palette to work with and explore. The horns, including Thomson on alto saxophone and Russ Johnson on trumpet, take on some of the harmonic duties of the guitar.  The band’s debut session wore its duel allegiances on its sleeve. The cover art is a kid’s wagon, evoking the cover of jazz composer Thelonious Monk’s “Monk’s Music” album. Like that album Thomson starts with a chorale — in his case an orchestration of Gyorgy Ligeti’s “Passacaglia ungherese.” These are apt guideposts. Both composers wrote knotty, difficult music that nevertheless sings. Thomson’s music takes up that challenge.  Most of the music is written out, melodies that twist and soar, dart and dash, all with a distinct, yet subtle sense of swing. Thomson leaves “careful spaces” for the players to improvise. Sometimes they ride over just bass and drums, often the other horns provide the harmonic backgrounds. Sometimes they mix it up with the horns improvising under, over, and through each other. This approach does pose a physical challenge for the horn players, especially the trumpeter and trombonist, who end up with “their horns in their faces” for long stretches. They have made suggestions of where they need a break, Thomson said. All the band members are highly respected bandleaders in their own right. Ferber, who visited  Bowling Green State University as a guest artist  last year, has extensive credits as a writer and instrumentalist. Webber has won a Guggenheim Fellowship for composition. “What’s cool about having a group that’s really accomplished is I can lean on them a little bit,” he said. If something’s not working, he can seek their suggestions. They all have played together in various contexts. When Thomson writes it’s not an abstract exercise. He thinks about how each of individual will execute the parts. And he pushes them a little bit. One way he’s kept matters simple is the instrumentation. Everyone plays one instrument. So the leader…


Teachers pack the PAC for guidance and guffaws

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Elementary principal Gerry Brooks started doing videos for his staff out of frustration. How else could he do justice to the daily trials of teachers? For example, few people realize just how chaotic kindergarten lunchtime can be. But with Brooks’ southern twang, he matter-of-factly talks about his last stint on cafeteria duty. He dutifully opened 47 Lunchables, including inserting the straw into the explosive drink pouches. He engaged in debate on whether or not a pony would make a good house pet. He listened to one child talk about his grandma having six toes on one foot – to which Brooks’ responded, “She’s so fancy.” He retrieved children from underneath the tables. And he glanced down to see a little girl licking his hand. She had noticed something brown on his hand and wanted to help get it off. Sigh. Just another day at school… Brooks has been a principal for 12 years, currently at an elementary in Lexington, Kentucky. Prior to that, he was a classroom teacher for six years and an intervention specialist for two years. His videos resonate with teachers, since so many of his frustrations are universally shared among educators. Brooks has a following or more than 500,000 people. On Saturday, 1,500 of his fans crowded into two presentations by Brooks at the Bowling Green City Schools Performing Arts Center. The event, hosted by the Bowling Green Education Association, attracted teachers from all over Ohio and Michigan. Brooks donates the proceeds from his talks back to the host district. In this case, those funds will be used for mental health resources and programming for staff and students. His talk and video clips all have an irreverent tone – and had teachers in the audience cheering in agreement. Brooks talked about his latest “products” such as a shirt stating, “My principal is great.” Once the principal has left the room, the teachers can then untuck the bottom of the shirt which reads, “at making dumb decisions.” For fellow teachers, there’s the pencil with “You’re awesome” stenciled in one side, and “at jammin’ the copier” on the other. And for parents, there’s the pencil stating, “Yes, your child is gifted.” The other side reads, “at eating erasers and losing his jacket.” No one is safe from Brooks’ ridicule – least of all himself. Most is in good humor – even when talking about state testing, which he detests. “I believe state testing is the most stupid thing we do,” Brooks said, to rousing cheers from the audience. In Kentucky, teachers are required to remove everything from classroom walls during testing. “We teach our kids to learn from their surroundings, and then we take them down for testing,” he said. Even bulletin boards in the hallway have to be cleared. “We don’t want a kid to go pee and learn fractions on his way back to the room,” he said. To point out the stupidity of the rule, Brooks made a video showing a hallway bulletin board still having staples stuck in it, and another with children’s photos. “I’m not sure what you’re trying to pull here – but it needs to be taken down,” Brooks said to the responsible teachers, noting the staples and photos could be used for counting….


For Matt Wilson, music is about more than making sounds on his drums

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Matt Wilson is in the middle of it all. And the  jazz drummer and composer wouldn’t have it any other way. As much as the music, he said in a recent telephone interview, he was drawn to the jazz community. Wilson remembers as a teen going to festivals and watching in awe at the interaction among the performers. “I just saw the way players greeted each other … how they talked and showed their love and asked about families. I’d sit and see that from a cloud. Now I’m part of it. I love the social aspect.” The 54-year-old musician has gone on to play and teach with many of those he first admired, and he also passes that sense of community on to a new generation, not just as a teacher but as a fellow musician. Now he’s sometimes the oldest musician on the stage. This week Wilson will interact with the students at Bowling Green State University during a four-day residency. His visit will culminate in a performance with the jazz faculty and the Jazz Lab bands  at 8 p.m. in Kobacker Hall. Tickets in advance are $7 and $3 for students from bgsu.edu/arts or by calling 419-372-8171. All tickets are $10 the day of the performance. Wilson said his mother attributes his playing drums to his childhood. He was born with a clubfoot. Because of the treatment to correct the problem, he couldn’t run around. He’d be seated in one place with toys around him, like a drum set. And he used his imagination to find new ways to play with his toys. That approach to drums have earned him the respect of his peers. In 2017 he was named Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalist Association.  His parents played a lot of music, not necessarily jazz, but instrumental music. Then he saw Buddy Rich on an episode of “The Lucy Show” in the 1970s, and he was hooked. “I liked the  look. I liked the energy,” he said. “I liked the way to brought people together.” Wilson started learning drums on his own. When he did start taking lessons, he found a teacher who was more interested in teaching music rather than just the rudiments of drumming. So when he was showing Wilson a bossa nova beat, the teacher would play along on bass. Budget cuts had taken their toll on his school’s music program. It had a band, but no jazz ensemble. He and his brother, a saxophonist, would by sheet music and play duets. They’d play for 4-H and PTA meetings, complete with some comedic schtick.  “I had to go in the community,” Wilson said. “I was around older musicians who gave me really great guidance.” Staring in his early teens he worked a number of jobs at weddings and dances. Once he was playing with a pianist at a nursing home. After the tune she asked: “We were playing ‘Sweet Georgia Brown.’ What were you doing?” Playing a solo, he said, taken aback. “I knew I had to play the song like everyone else.” Performing in a rock band that played original material taught him how to come up with drum parts when he didn’t have a recording as a model. Though he grew up…


Kids’ interest in learning gets a lift at air show, STEM in the Park

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Saturday was a day for kids’ dreams to take flight. For the first time the STEM in the Park and the Wood County Air Show teamed up in their offerings, giving families a double dose of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and yes, some arts and sports, activities. The result as Saturday’s Take Flight with STEM. Yolanda Robles-Wicks said in past years she’s attended the air show at the Wood County Regional Airport with her children. They see airplanes in the air, and the show gives them a chance to get inside the cockpit and see them close up. “It expands their horizons and shows there’s endless possibilities of what can be created,” she said. This year her children were again on hand, but Robles-Wicks was working. She’s  staff member at the project-based earning school iLEAD in the Holland. This is the public tuition-free charter school’s third year in Ohio, and first year at the air show.. The air fair fits right into what the academy teaches, said Monique Myers, the outreach coordinator. Students learn by doing. The academy was offering a hands-on activity at the air show. Kids got to build construction paper helicopters that had working LED lights in them. Robles-Wicks, a 2009 graduate of BGSU, said the project was selected because it was a change from the usual paper airplane. Over at the Perry Field House, activity spilled out on the lawn. More than 110 different stations were offered. Kara and Lucas Eisenhauer traveled to STEM in the Park from Fremont with their four children, ages 3 to 10. They’d spent almost three hours there and as the event was wrapping up regretted not getting there earlier. They were happy to learn that the air show was still going to be open for a while. Kara Eisenhauer said she was impressed by all the activities that were offered. Every station had something for children of different ages. “Each station seemed to engage everyone,” she said. “This is the most important way to teach kids. Give them a fun, hands-on activity.” She feels so strongly about this kind of learning that she quit her job as a teacher to stay at home to use these methods to teach her own children. Though college choices are still in the future for her family, Kara Eisenhauer said certainly BGSU would be considered “if this is what they’re teaching.”


Push is on to get local citizens to register to vote

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The man picked up the brochure in the library on how to check on his voter registration status. “I think I’m registered,” he said. “I definitely don’t want to miss out on this one.” The League of Women Voters don’t want him or any other Wood County citizen to miss out on voting. So on Tuesday, members staffed tables at libraries throughout Wood County to help people register or make sure they are already registered to vote. “Most people have said they’re registered, which is great,” said Judy Knox, as she sat at a table in the Wood County District Public Library on National Voter Registration Day. The window to register to vote is nearing closure, with the last day on Oct. 9. Early voting for the general election starts the next day on Oct. 10. The League of Women Voters teamed up Tuesday with libraries in Bowling Green, Grand Rapids, North Baltimore, Pemberville, Walbridge and Weston, to give local residents opportunities to register to vote. “It’s a very dynamic political environment,” said League member Joan Callecod as she volunteered up at the Walbridge Library. “It’s important for people to cast their votes.” The League of Women Voters have had a registration table at the Bowling Green downtown farmers market all summer. “We’ve tried to put a real push on,” Knox said. “This is the first step to being a citizen,” Knox said about registering to vote. “The next step is getting to the polls.” There are multiple options for how people vote, she explained. They can vote absentee, or do early voting at the board of elections, or vote on Election Day Nov. 6. As she was working at the voter registration table in Bowling Green, Knox heard a common refrain from a citizen. “Someone walked by and said, ‘I don’t know why people wouldn’t vote. Countries fight for the ability to do that,’” Knox said. Voting, she said, should just be part of a person’s life. “Every voting is important, frankly.” In addition to registering voters, the League of Women Voters members also offered information on registering online, the types of identification accepted at the polls, and verifying voter registration. “It’s just good to check,” with voter purging being done, Knox said. Prior to being removed from voting rolls for inactivity, citizens should receive notice from boards of election, Callecod said. “People should be contacted by mail,” she said. But citizens with questions if they are still registered to vote after moving, not voting recently, changing their name, or serving jail time, can verify their registration by calling the Wood County Board of Elections at 419-354-9120, or going to lwv.ohiovotes.us. Following is basic voting information from the League of Women Voters. Step 1: Register to vote by the deadline: The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 6 general election is Oct. 9. Who is eligible? You must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years old or older by the general election, an Ohio resident for at least 30 days before Election Day, not currently incarcerated for a felony conviction (people with prior convictions may register to vote), have not been declared incompetent to vote or denied the right to vote by a court. Register to vote or check your…


Facelift for College fo Technology building moves forward

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The Bowing Green State University Board of Trustees have approved spending $1.6 million to get the renovation of the home of the College of Technology, Architecture, and Applied engineering underway. The money which comes from funds appropriated by the state legislature will go toward architecture and engineering work. That includes $1 million for studying the building itself, and $630,000 toward studying the infrastructure upgrades needed to support the renovation, said Sheri Stoll, BGSU chief financial officer. This work will enable university officials to give trustees a “rock solid estimate” of the final cost of the project. It its capital budget, the state has allocated $16.7 million for the project — $10.4 million for the building, and $6.3 million for infrastructure. The project is expected to get underway by late 2019, with completion set for summer, 2021. The building was constructed in 1971 and is getting “a little long in the tooth,” Stoll said.  “The College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineers is one of our growing colleges,” she said. As the college programs develop to meet the contemporary needs, “they are in a building not designed or intended for some of those purposes.” President Rodney Rogers said the programs offered in the college help meet the state’s workforce needs. The building, he said, was originally designed with an open space concept. That’s been altered over the years. Most recently a robotics lab was added. During the morning session, the trustees heard good news about enrollment, which is up overall about 1 percent, as well as retention rates, which are just shy of 77.2 percent. The goal is to have 80 percent retention of first year students from fall to fall. Vice President for Student Affairs Thomas Gibson addressed what the university is doing for segments of the student population who are not returning at as high a rate as others. These are commuting students, students from underrepresented minority groups, and students in the TRIO program, a federal effort to increase enrollment of low income students and those who are the first in their families to attend college. For commuter students, the university has created the Falcon FLOC, a program aimed at helping students connect with their peers and feel more a part of campus life. Also, within a couple weeks, the university will open drop-in offices to provide academic advising in Findlay and Perrysburg.  Commuter students are distinguished from off-campus students, who live near the university and typically have lived in residence halls early in their college careers. Commuter students, who most often live at home, tend to drop out at a higher rate than their peers. For TRIO and minority students some of the solutions overlap. Getting more students involved in summer programs was one solution, and prompt intervention at the first sign that they are struggling academically was another. Gibson also said allowing TRIO students to register early for classes could help address “the summer melt.” The university is also shifting some scholarship funds to make them available to students from underrepresented minorities. Interim Provost John Fischer said another group of vulnerable students are those who are admitted “underprepared” in math. Those students typically are enrolled in a remedial class that does not earn college credit. The university is working on having…


NSG Pilkington may build new glass plant in Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Troy Township is on the list of possible sites for a new glass plant estimated to cost close to $300 million to build and furnish. Earlier this week, paperwork was filed at the Wood County Commissioners’ Office from NSG Pilkington Glass requesting an enterprise zone agreement that would give the company a 100 percent tax abatement for 15 years. “This is not a done deal by any means,” said Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. “They are still investigating other sites.” The Wood County site making the short list of locations for the new plant is off Pemberville Road, just south of Garling Road, Gottschalk said. The location is south of the massive Home Depot warehouse off Pemberville Road. The paperwork states that NSG Pilkington will create 150 jobs at the new 511,000-square-foot plant, according to Sandy Long, clerk of the county commissioners. The total investment at the site is estimated at between $260 million and $294 million, including the construction, machinery, fixtures and inventory for the new float glass facility. Todd Huffman, plant manager at the Rossford NSG facility, said Thursday that the company recently developed a new type of glass coating. The new transparent conductive oxide coating is thinner and lighter while being durable and resistant to chemicals. It can be widely used for solar cells, buildings, cars and various electronics and medical devices. The Rossford plant will continue its production, but a new plant is needed to produce the transparent conductive oxide coating glass. “We are going to be expanding in North America,” Huffman said, not elaborating on how many sites are under consideration. The request for tax abatement is just one item on a long list of criteria the company is considering for a new location. The location will be somewhere close to Toledo, Huffman said. “We need to be making glass for our customers in the fourth quarter of 2020,” he said. That means construction must start in the spring of 2019, Huffman explained. Gottschalk said he is hoping the Troy Township location makes the cut for the new plant. “It’s a great local company,” he said of NSG Pilkington. “We’d love to land this company in Wood County.” “This is yet another example of the attractiveness of Wood County for economic development,” Gottschalk said. “We hope to get another big win for Wood County.” Earlier this year, NSG Pilkington was named Wood County Corporate Citizen of the Year, during the annual meeting of the Wood County Economic Development Commission. The company, one of the largest manufacturers in the glass industry, started out as Libbey-Owens-Ford – the last names of three inventors in the glass business – Edward Drummond Libbey, Michael Joseph Owens and Edward Ford. The earliest roots reach back to 1818 in England. The mission of NSG Pilkington is to produce quality glass with world-class yields, Huffman said. The company has 350 employees at its highly robotic float glass and advanced assembly plant in Rossford, and another 120 engineers and finance employees at its Northwood location. The company sells to automotive customers around the world, as far away as South Korea and Turkey. The glass is also used in architecture as windows and shower doors, Huffman said. Some of the…


Pop culture scholar recalls when comics were considered the scourge of the nation’s youth

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Banning books never seems to go out of style. To make that point, before Charles Coletta started his talk “The Seduction of the Innocent: The Anti-Comic Book Crusade of the 1950s and Beyond” he listed entertainments his students in Popular Culture classes have been forbidden to read or watch. Those include Harry Potter, “South Park,” “The Simpsons,” and  “Sponge Bob Squarepants,” a recent addition. Then he quizzed his audience in Jerome Library. “The A-Team” was a surprise, but “Family Guy” and “Bevis and Butthead” were staples of the do-not-watch list. Recently the reprinting of a classic comic story   “The Monster Society of Evil,” which hasn’t been reprinted in 30 years, was canceled because some of the characterization are racist, including depictions of Japanese from World War II and stereotypes of African-Americans that are “horrible,” Coletta said. And when just over a year ago the United Nations tried to name Wonder Woman as its fictional good will ambassador, there was an outcry over her skimpy outfits and that the superhero was not a good role model for women. Those complaints echo what was said about her 70 years ago. Because banning stuff never goes out of style, every year the Friends of University Libraries hosts an event to mark Banned Books Week.  Coletta’s focus on Thursday was on a crusade led by psychiatrist  Wertham against comics for all manner of offenses, particularly promoting violence. Superheroes, he said, was fascist role models who promote the idea that problems were solved with superior strength and violence. “I think Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic book industry,” he once stated.  Wertham also complained about unrealistic body images projected by female and male characters, racism, and embedded sexual messages. Wonder Woman, he claimed, was into bondage — a claim that proved not so outlandish when it learned that her creator William Moulton Marston was as well. But Wertham also said that her strength and independence, and hanging out with Amazons indicated she was a lesbian. And Batman and Robin’s relationship, he said, was “like a wish dream of two homosexuals living together.” He also said that comics were harming youngsters’ reading skills.   Wertham had a willing audience, Coletta said. The post-war era saw a rise in juvenile delinquency nothing major, the young folks were just getting into all kinds of mischief.  What they weren’t doing so much was reading comic books. From the 1930s through World War II, comic books were riding high. They got shipped to GIs overseas as diversion. They came in all genres romances, Westerns, cartoon characters, and, of course, superheroes with Superman coming first, followed shortly by Batman, as well as Wonder Woman. But as demand waned, publishers, most prominently EC Comics turned up the heat with horror and crime comics. Given the comic book was viewed as being aimed at juveniles this created panic. Wertham became a pioneering talking head addressing these concerns, and he testified before Congress. Bill Gaines, whose father had founded EC Comics, had a meltdown on the stand speaking for the industry. The hearings led the industry to adopt the Comics Code. Coletta noted that the panel that reviewed the comics was made up of women, and included a librarian, social worker, and movie script editor….


Library piano recital showcases the top talent from BGSU College of Musical Arts

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Entering her senior year as a piano performance major, Yuefeng Liu has a lot on her agenda. That includes preparing for the next stage of her career — auditioning for graduate programs. On Monday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m.  she’ll take time to join six fellow Bowling Green State University Piano students to perform a free public recital in the Wood County District Public Library’s atrium. The program will include music by Beethoven, Chopin, Bach, Rachmaninoff, and Carl Vine. Liu, a student of Laura Melton, will perform two movements from Beethoven’s sonata in F minor, the “Appassionata.” That piece will be part of her audition repertoire. These recitals, said fellow pianist Hanqiu Xu, who also studies with Melton and has performed at the library in the past, tend to be more relaxed than those on campus. “It’s more enjoyable,” she said, and that can lead to a more expressive playing. Pianist Zhanglin Hu, a student of Robert Satterlee, feels the same way. But it doesn’t matter the venue or the audience. The goal is always to make beautiful music, he said. Solungga Liu, professor of piano at BGSU, said that though the students may feel more relaxed, it does not mean they and their teachers take these concerts, which happen several times over the year, lightly. Rather they take the library recitals very seriously and prepare diligently for them, she said.  “The selection (of performers) is very strict.” Only the most prepared students are selected to perform. “We only want the best. This is good exposure for the college,” Solungga Liu said. While the recitals have occasionally had themes, that’s only been by happenstance. The pieces are selected by the faculty members based on what the students have best prepared.  “The library is the most ideal environment outside the College of Musical Arts,” Professor Liu said.  “The audience is receptive and always very attentive. It’s very encouraging for the students. We need a venue like that. It makes students leave their comfort zone and have an opportunity to perform for a completely different group of people.” While there are familiar faces in the audience, she said, “there’s some new faces as well and more kids, and they stay quiet the whole time. It’s very nice.” Xu said at the library the performers also introduce their pieces, telling a bit about themselves and sharing background about the composition they are about to play. Some people who have come to the library to check out books also happen upon the music. And Hu said he enjoyed the chance to chat with community members after the concert. Solungga Liu said she appreciates the efforts Michele Raine and other library staff members put into staging the recitals. In the end it all comes down to the music. Hu said he always welcomes a chance “to share musical ideas.” “We’re performers,” Yuefeng Liu said, “so we should find many opportunities  to play in front of people.” 


Utopia pipeline uses existing line to cross Wood County

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   One of the three pipelines crossing through Wood County found a different route – allowing it to transport its product without digging a single new trench through local fields. Rather than plowing its own route through the county, the Utopia pipeline built by Kinder-Morgan ended up using an under-utilized existing pipeline to pump ethane from the east side of Ohio to Sarnia, Ontario. “You’re not going to see that,” Allen Fore, Kinder-Morgan public affairs vice president, said recently as he sat in Kermit’s Restaurant and looked outside at the torn up pavement for the Columbia Gas project in downtown Bowling Green. The $540 million Utopia pipeline, which is capturing the gas being flared away from fracking in southeastern Ohio, has been in operation since January. But before Kinder-Morgan officials found the existing line to use, its route for the Utopia pipeline ran into court battles from Wood County landowners. Last year, local landowners who dug in their heels against Utopia’s eminent domain efforts won the battle to keep the pipeline from crossing their properties. Maurice Thompson, of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law which represented 26 Wood County landowners, said the use of existing pipelines is the best solution. “That’s what we’ve argued all along,” Thompson said. “Use existing pipelines instead of taking more land.” The proposed Utopia line would have run 21 miles through Wood County – south of Pemberville, then north of Bowling Green, then crossing the Maumee River south of Waterville. It would have affected 67 landowners on 117 tracts of land. “Sometimes these things start as adversarial and end in a good way,” Fore said. Meanwhile, two other new pipelines have been constructed through Wood County in the past year. The Rover pipeline cuts through the southern portion of the county, and the Nexus pipeline runs north of Bowling Green. The repurposing of a pipeline worked well for Kinder-Morgan and local landowners. The project started with 147 miles of pipeline being constructed from Harrison County to Seneca County. There the new line connected with the repurposed pipeline for 77 miles through Sandusky, Wood and Lucas counties. “It can work,” Fore said. “This was a real win-win for everyone.” There are more than 2 million miles of pipelines already buried across the U.S., according to Fore. “If you can utilize existing infrastructure, there’s a benefit. There’s more certainty,” he said. By using 77 miles of an existing pipeline, Kinder-Morgan avoided construction headaches, and landowners didn’t have acreage dug up. The environment also benefited, Fore said. The existing pipeline from the Clyde area through Wood County, eliminated the need to cross 103 streams, 16 wetlands, and 42 archaeological and cultural sites. “It lessened the environmental impact,” he said. Repurposing old pipeline also means no repaving of roads, and no restoring of land for owners after construction.   The older pipeline was built in the 1970s, and was in good condition, Fore said. “Pipelines don’t have an expiration limit,” he said, adding that the line was thoroughly tested before Kinder-Morgan bought it. “We did our due diligence before purchasing it to make sure it’s good.” According to Fore, the use of an existing under-utilized pipeline did not save Kinder-Morgan a great deal of money. An estimated 25 percent of the landowners…


Park fees to increase, but pool rates treading water for now

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Park fees will likely increase next year – but the city’s park and recreation board agreed Tuesday to not dive into rate hikes at the pool just yet. The board voted to raise rates for several park programs and facility usage by 3 percent. Excluded were programs that are already at the top that the market with bear. There will be no increase to membership fees at the community center, and a lower non-profit rental rate is being introduced. The proposed rate increases will be reviewed and acted on by City Council in October. Also on the list for proposed fee hikes were daily and season pool passes. But park board chairman Jeff Crawford asked that the proposed increases at the pool be studied further. He spoke about his wife’s experience teaching at Crim Elementary School, where a portion of the student body is lower income. Crawford said he would like to wait and see the summer statistics at the pool to see if it’s necessary to raise fees for kids using the facility. Kristin Otley, director of the parks and recreation department, said families can get discounted passes. “I get that, but the parents don’t generally reach out for that,” Crawford said. Board member Jodi Anderson echoed that concern. Otley said that operating the pool is expensive. “Our expenses go up every year,” she said. The total revenues and expenses for this past summer aren’t available yet. The year was a good one for the pool – with attendance up by nearly 7,000. Labor Day weekend alone saw attendance of 1,598 at the pool. But those good years are needed to cover for bad years, Otley reminded. “I get what you’re saying,” Crawford said. However, he sees it from a different perspective, he explained. “If we’ve done well, we don’t need to raise them.” Crawford asked that while the other fee increases be passed on to City Council for approval, that the pool rates remain unchanged until after the board sees the numbers for this past summer. “I would feel more comfortable acting on this,” after viewing that information, he said. The board agreed. Recommendations call for a 3 percent increase in family pool passes, raising them by $4.50. The daily fee increase would be 25 cents. The rates were last raised in 2017. The proposed pool fees for daily admission are: $6.25 for adult residents; $7.25 for non-residents. $4 for child residents; $5 for non-residents. $5.75 for youth residents; $6.75 for non-residents. Annual fees proposed for pool passes are: $155 for resident families; $191 for non-residents. $108 for resident adults; $129 for non-residents. $98 for senior residents; $118 for non-residents. $88 for student residents; $98 for non-residents. Board member Karen Rippey said when she took visiting family members to the pool this summer they commented on the high daily pass cost. Otley said the Bowling Green pool gets several users from outside the city because its rates are lower than many other area pools. A day pass for Maumee’s pool, for example, is $8. “We have people coming from all over,” Otley said. Mayor Dick Edwards thanked the board for delaying a decision on the pool rates until numbers for the past season are available. “There’s a huge part of…


Clearing the air – BG to ban all smoking in city parks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Board put principle (and clean air) above profits Tuesday evening as members voted unanimously to ban smoking in city parks. The park board asked that City Council adopt an ordinance prohibiting smoking in the parks. The only concern expressed by the board was the possible loss of rental revenue from people using park facilities. But the board agreed that the loss of a couple rental fees was worth the effort to provide clean air to park patrons. “If we’re a trend setter in that area, I don’t think it’s a bad thing,” said Kristin Otley, director of the city’s parks and recreation department. The city has long banned smoking in park buildings. Then in 2007, the policy was taken a step further. “At that point the staff was very concerned about smoking near our programs and around our younger users,” Otley said. In order to keep smoking away from ballparks, playgrounds, and shelter houses, the park board banned smoking in all areas except parking lots. In 2015, vaping was included in the smoking restrictions. On Tuesday, the board voted to ban smoking anywhere in the parks, starting in 2019. “We can make sure people using our facilities are in a healthy environment,” Otley said. Park board president Jeff Crawford agreed. “It fits with what we stand for as parks and recreation,” Crawford said. “Maybe we’ll gain a few rentals.” Natural resources coordinator Chris Gajewicz said he doesn’t envision the smoking ban hurting park usage. He noted the smoking ban at BGSU has not cut into the university’s enrollment. “It doesn’t seem to be hurting them,” he said. Park staff has noticed an uptick in cigarette butts being tossed in the parks.The new smoking rule would be enforced by park staff – as are the current restrictions. “I have no problem walking up to someone and saying, ‘Please smoke in the parking lot,’” Gajewicz said of the current rules. If staff ran into problems, they would call city police to assist. Passage of a city ordinance would strengthen the enforcement, Otley said. Mayor Dick Edwards commended the board for taking steps to completely ban smoking in city parks. “Given what we’re all about with the parks, it makes really good sense from my perspective,” Edwards said.


BG asks county to help welcome immigrants to fill jobs

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   “Help wanted” signs are going unanswered in Wood County. So local officials are looking at attracting immigrants to the region to fill those openings. Bowling Green initially wanted to put out a welcome mat to immigrants because it was the right thing to do morally. Then as city officials researched the idea, they discovered it was also the right thing to do economically. As evidenced by the number of “now hiring” signs posted in the region, Bowling Green and Wood County economic development officials have been hearing for months that the region is running low on workers. In May, Wood County economic development officials were celebrating a banner year in business expansions – creating nearly 1,000 new jobs. But the issue waiting in the wings was the low unemployment in the region, wavering between 3 and 4 percent. While that low rate is great news to employees, it is worrisome to economic development officials. “It’s a good thing. But there is going to be a time when new businesses slow down looking at Northwest Ohio,” Wade Gottschalk, executive director of the Wood County Economic Development Commission, said earlier this year to the county commissioners. On Tuesday, the county commissioners heard the same warning – this time from Bowling Green officials. “We hear the same message time and time again,” Mayor Dick Edwards said. “We need good workers.” City Council passed a resolution in 2017 welcoming immigrants and “condemning any discrimination, harassment or unjustified deportation of immigrant residents.” As the initiative was researched, it became obvious that the welcome mat could have far-reaching economic benefits. Ohio Means Jobs estimates there are 9,200 job openings within a 20-mile radius of Bowling Green. “We are looking for skilled and other kinds of workers to come to Wood County and Bowling Green,” Edwards said. While Ohio has always been looked upon favorably by companies because of the region’s work ethic – that means nothing if there aren’t people to fill jobs. Wood County Commissioner Craig LaHote said site selection teams will notice if the available workforce is too low. “We might get ruled out before they look at anything else,” he said. Communities around the region – like Toledo and Sandusky – have already adopted “welcoming” initiatives. And while the success of the region and Wood County to bring jobs here is great, it has created a critical need to attract more workers to the area, said Sue Clark, director of Bowling Green’s economic development commission. “That only makes the workforce demand more crucial,” Clark said. Clark explained the local effort is being designed to welcome immigrants and refugees. She listed possible refugees escaping the war in Syria or the unrest in Central America. “We’re not talking about bringing in illegal immigrants,” she said. The initiative would also extend the welcome mat to international students who come to Bowling Green State University. “We do not make it particularly easy for them to find a job and stay on,” Clark said. Beatriz Maya, from LaConexion and a member of the Welcome BG Task Force, said the initiative makes economic sense. “This is based upon hard demographic data,” Maya said. “There is a shortage of more workers, for a younger workforce.” Companies that can’t find workers won’t come…