Secrets to stay sealed – unopened time capsule likely to be buried again

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It looks like secrets buried in City Park will stay buried in City Park – at least for another 15 years. The riddle of the mystery time capsule rediscovered last week was solved. The capsule was buried as part of the city’s 150th birthday party in 1983. The sesquicentennial  bash also featured a 150-foot banana split and square dance demonstrations. But as far as the secrets contained inside the time capsule – well, city residents may have to wait several more years to have those treasures revealed. Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Director Kristin Otley said Monday that the original intention was likely that the time capsule remain buried for 50 years. It has only been 35 years since it was put in the ground during a community ceremony. “My guess is we will probably rebury it,” Otley said. The forgotten time capsule was rediscovered last week then city park staff and architects walked the area of City Park where a new building is being planned. The time capsule is under the footprint of the building. When the park department’s natural resources coordinator Chris Gajewicz posed the question about the time capsule last week on Facebook, it sent local residents scurrying for their local history sources. The time capsule is covered with concrete, a rock, and some etching that was too weathered to read. But some long-time Bowling Green residents recognized the location as the site of the sesquicentennial time capsule. The capsule was buried with great pomp and circumstance on Oct. 2, 1983, during a community gathering in City Park that commemorated the city’s 150th birthday. More than 1,000 townspeople showed up for the festivities which included a box lunch for $3 each, a hymn sing, children’s games, horseshoe tournament, pie baking contest judging, a style show of old fashions, softball games, wagon rides,and prizes awarded for a beard growing competition. Top-billing, right after the box lunch, was the burying of the time capsule. The event was recorded by Joan Gordon, who headed up the sesquicentennial committee. A photo taken by Jim Gordon shows local historian Lyle Fletcher burying the time capsule. But 35 years later, the time capsule, with its now undecipherable etching, had gone unnoticed. The mystery memorial would be allowed to rest there undisturbed, except that it is sitting in the path of the new City Park building being constructed next year. The new building in City Park will take the place of the existing Veterans Building, Girl Scout Building, and the Depot. It has necessitated the moving or replacing of some memorial trees. And now, the time capsule will likely join in that transplanting – no longer a mystery except for its 35-year-old contents.


Columbia Gas agrees to alert fire division immediately about dangerous leaks

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Columbia Gas officials have agreed to immediately notify Bowling Green Fire Division if gas leaks in the downtown construction area get close to dangerous levels again. “We’ve come to an understanding that they will call us immediately if there is a leak of significant levels,” Bowling Green Fire Chief Bill Moorman said Monday morning. Eleven days ago, a leak occurred in the downtown area of South Main Street, where Columbia Gas is replacing old natural gas lines. By the time the fire division was notified, the leaking gas had reached explosive levels, Moorman said. Last Friday, Columbia Gas officials agreed to meet with Moorman and Bowling Green Public Works Director Brian Craft. City officials wanted to make sure if a similar incident occurred in the future that it would be handled differently by the gas company. “We wanted to make sure we are called immediately,” Moorman said. “If we’re not needed, we can just go home” back to the fire station. When the leak occurred on the evening of Sept. 13, Bowling Green Fire Division was not notified about the gas leak until at least two hours after gas odors were strong enough that some businesses shut down on the west side of the 100 block of South Main Street. Those businesses included Grounds for Thought, Lahey Appliance and Coyote Beads. When the fire division arrived downtown, the smell of natural gas was obvious. Atmospheric tests done by firefighters showed explosive levels of gas. “The gas levels were at a dangerous level,” Fire Chief Bill Moorman said. “It was getting to the point that a spark, anything can really set it off. Pretty much anything ignites natural gas.” The Bowling Green Police Division joined the fire division in evacuating the businesses and residents in the general area of the leak in the 100 block of South Main Street. The street was also closed to traffic to reduce the risks. After the leak, Columbia Gas defended its response. “They followed all their protocols,” Moorman agreed. But city officials are not satisfied with those protocols. Cheri Pastula, communications and community relations manager for Columbia Gas, said the gas crews followed proper procedures. The fire division was notified when the gas company knew the electricity needed to be shut off, she said. The fire division removed the electric meter from the buildings involved. “We have gas professionals that are experienced in emergency response and will notify first responders when necessary,” Pastula said. “All of our policies and procedures were followed appropriately and most importantly, safely.” However, after Friday’s meeting with city officials, Columbia Gas officials agreed to go beyond their protocols and immediately call the fire division in the case of a significant leak. The work to replace aging gas lines downtown has been going on all summer. The work should be wrapping up sometime in October, said Assistant Municipal Administrator Joe Fawcett. The meeting between city and gas officials should result in an improved response in case a leak occurs again, he said. “They made a mistake, obviously,” Fawcett said. “I’m happy that they saw the importance of meeting with the city staff,” he said. “And they were willing to modify their procedures.”


Sleek Academy won’t have to teach to state tests

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Erica Sleek believes that kids can learn far more by doing. The proof of that is in their enthusiasm, their inquisitiveness, and their creations – not the scores on some state-ordered testing. So Sleek, who has operated All About the Kids learning center for 13 years in Bowling Green, is expanding to offer preschool through high school education at the new Sleek Academy. The academy will practice the same theory Sleek has been using for years – project-based learning. When they are learning about space, they go to the BGSU planetarium. When they are learning about plants, they go to Klotz Greenhouse. When they are learning about produce, they go to an orchard, pick apples and cook up applesauce. “It’s getting them to figure things out themselves,” Sleek said. For example, the older students are in the process of researching how to build a walipini – an underground greenhouse. All About the Kids has had a garden over the years, but a walipini would allow for year-round fruit and vegetable production. The produce would be eaten by students, and the extras would be given to local food pantries, Sleek said. The students are involved in every step of the process. They researched how the garden is built. They wrote letters for seed donations. They are creating a kickstarter video. They are applying for the necessary city permit. And they even researched child labor laws. “They are pretty deep thinkers,” said Kris Westmark, assistant principal. Sleek Academy focuses on STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. But it takes those lessons a step further, Sleek said. “Part of STEAM is giving back to the community,” she said. “We want our students to know their community.” Recently, some of the older students did just that when they visited the Cocoon shelter for people affected by domestic violence. They learned about the services offered. “I was struggling to not cry,” Alexandra, a student, said. The students asked how they could help – and were told the Cocoon residents could use a picnic table for outside. “They had no chairs to sit on outside,” Sara said. “We started researching about abuse in general and how to build a table,” Duncan said. The students got some repurposed wood, and went to work. Isobel described how they used hammers, screwdrivers, pliers and crowbars. Once constructed, they painted the picnic table and signed their names underneath. Then they delivered the table to the Cocoon. “I just felt good about myself for making something for someone else,” Daniel said. “It was nice to give back.” “People at the Cocoon don’t have much to sit on. It felt good,” Sara said. The students took it a step further and created posters to place around Bowling Green listing items needed at the Cocoon. “Basically we fixed up flyers to put around town to get people to donate stuff,” Chloe said. Those items included diapers, toothpaste, shampoo, peanut butter, juice and more. For 13 years, Sleek and her staff have been offering care for infants through preschool age children. During the summer, kindergarten through sixth graders also attended. Over the years, parents unhappy about standardized state tests have asked Sleek to offer project-based learning year round. The project-based learning allows greater student…


Jazz guitarist to share his passion for music at BGSU Orchard Guitar Festival

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News  When jazz guitarist Mike Stern stumbled on a sidewalk in New York City on July 3, 2016, and fell and broke both his arms, that seemed bad enough. Then five days later before he was to go in for surgery he developed nerve damage in his right hand. Then, he admits, he panicked. “It was amazingly scary because I love to play so much,” he said in a recent telephone interview. So much of his life is revolves around playing the guitar. More than his career, it’s his passion. So in a way he didn’t have a choice but to address the problem. “I settled down and figured it out.” Stern found a specialist who could treat him, and he devoted all his energy to recovering. Within several months he was back performing. That required adjustments. He used wig glue to affix his pick to his finger. He learned that trick from a drummer who lost most of the joints in his hands from burns when he was a child. “I always encourage students to keep going,” Stern said. Stern will be visiting Bowling Green State University, where he last played in winter, 2014, on Saturday, Sept. 29,  on the second day of the two-day Orchard Guitar Festival http://bgindependentmedia.org/mike-stern-headlines-orchard-guitar-festival-at-bgsu/. He’ll share that advice, talk about his love of bebop, and more at a master class at 2:30 p.m. in Bryan Recital Hall. At 8 p.m. that night he’ll perform with the faculty jazz ensemble in Kobacker Hall. Tickets for the evening concert are $7 and $3 for students in advance from bgsu.edu/arts or 419-372-8171, and $10 the day of the show.  The more someone plays “the closer you get to the music,” Stern, 65, said. Life has no guarantees, he said. “The only guarantee in music is that you’re going to have the music and no one can take it away from you.… You’ll have the music no matter what you have to do to make bread.” But the more someone puts into the music, the more options they have whether that’s performing or teaching. “The most important ingredient,” Stern said, “is you’ve got to water the flowers.” That’s means practicing. Musicians also need to “keep learning new stuff.” Guitar offers a world of new styles and techniques to learn. The instrument has flourished around the world from country music to transcriptions of lute music by Bach. The guitar basics are easy to learn, though mastery is difficult to achieve.  Stern incorporates as much of that into his own work. “When I write I like to put some of those influences in.” He reaches beyond his instrument though. He studies pianists such as Herbie Hancock, and horn players such as Sonny Rollins and Sonny Stitt., and incorporates that into his playing. “It feels natural when I do it. It feels like that’s what I’m meant to do.” More and more Stern brings a vocal element into his music. He encourages his students to sing along with their guitar lines, even inaudibly. “It makes it feel like it comes from the heart.” His new album, “Trip” — the title a darkly humorous reference to his accident — employs those vocal sounds. Sometimes it’s actual voices, sometimes it’s the way Stern uses electronic effects. Recorded after…


Art fest’s Chalk Walk competition goes on despite rainout

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Two weeks after the Black Swamp Arts Festival’s Chalk Walk competition was washed out by rain, four teams from Bowling Green High School were at work bringing their designs to life. Working on the sidewalk leading to the school the chalk-dusted students created out-of-this-world art. This year’s theme was Outer Space and the Solar System. After the competition had to be canceled, Tom and Lorena Perez, who coordinated the event for the festival, and guest artist Chris Fry decided that instead of judging the works based on the designs submitted by the 15 teams, they would give the students a chance to draw those designs at their schools. Most of the other teams have either scheduled or completed their work. They are teams from Otsego, Sylvania Northview, Eastwood, Holgate, Wayne Trace, Anthony Wayne, Genoa, and Lake. The basic rules remain the same — teams of five or fewer, no teacher involvement in the actual creation of the drawing, and a four-hour time frame to draw the image. Teams are required to submit time and date stamped photos documenting the beginning and end of the process, as well as other photos showing the work in progress. Teams have until Sunday at 6 p.m. to submit their work.  Winners will be notified at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29. The BG students were disappointed that they weren’t able to create their work as originally planned. “I definitely prefer to do it at the festival,” Anne Weaver said. She loves “the ambiance with all the music and people walking by. “Still this is fun,” she added. “We were bummed we didn’t get to talk to the chalk artist,” said Sophi Hachtel. On Saturday morning each team had it own soundtrack. Etta Gallaway said she was glad the school organized the event so all the teams could work together. Kate Bozzo said she and her teammates have been participating in the event for the past three years since art teacher Lloyd Triggs suggested they give it a try. They always have fun creating art with their friends. “We’re all the secret sauce,” said Uzochi Nwauwa. “We all bring stuff to the table for the perfect recipe.” Sophie Pineau said that the chalk medium can be difficult. She highly recommends wearing gloves.  “When you don’t have gloves blending with bare fingers on asphalt is brutal.” But that blending is needed to bring out the full range of colors. Nwauwa said it did have a nostalgic feel, of drawing with chalk as a child. “It’s like that childhood experience,” Bozzo said, “except up a level. Now we can make it really, really beautiful.” Nwauwa said: “There’s a lot of hidden talent in Bowling Green. In an event like this you get to see that talent.”


Lazy days of summer are crazy days for school maintenance

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Forget spring cleaning – summer is when schools get scrubbed down. During the lazy days of summer, school maintenance workers really get busy. When classrooms are emptied of students and staff, the Bowling Green School District maintenance workers can complete projects that just can’t be done during the school year. Chuck Martin, Bowling Green’s maintenance director, reported on the summer work schedule during last week’s board of education meeting. The lockers – that store everything from stinky gym shoes to moldy lunches – are thoroughly cleaned during the summer months. The classrooms – normally crowded with desks and chairs – are all emptied of furniture, Martin said. Floors are waxed, carpets are shampooed, and light tubes are replaced. Summer cleaning not only takes a lot of time, it also takes a lot of cleaning products, Martin said. The district goes through about 400 gallons of general cleaning solutions, 55 cases of bathroom cleaner, more than 100 gallons of floor stripper, and more than 200 gallons of floor wax. Though the regular school traffic is gone, there are some obstacles for maintenance staff, Martin said. All of the school buildings have some type of summer programming to work around. The high temperatures and humidity sometime create slow drying times. And maintenance has to work around summer construction repairs – such as new flooring at Conneaut and Kenwood this summer. Plus there are staffing issues, he added. Maintenance workers wanting to take summer vacations with families can lead to days of short staffing. And teachers sometimes often want to keep working on their rooms once school is out for the summer – and some like to get back into their rooms early before the new year begins. Summer is also the time for classroom moves. This summer, there were 23 room changes in the middle school, 10 at Crim, eight at Conneaut, plus a few more in the high school and Kenwood buildings. Maintenance staff also uses the summer to complete “work order” requests. There were 42 requests during the last month of classes, followed up by 81 more in the summer, Martin said. Also at last week’s board of education meeting, Superintendent Francis Scruci further reported on the district’s state report card. Bowling Green received an overall grade of “B.” Only 28 districts in the state received an “A.” Scruci said there is a direct correlation between district affluence and the results. “We’re moving the needle in a positive direction,” he said. The district earned “A”s for student growth and graduation rates. Scruci also reported on the decisions to close school early some days due to extreme heat, and start late some days due to fog. “Our staff and students’ health, safety and well-being is our top priority,” he said. Toby Snow, the district’s transportation director, reported that the district has more bus drivers than past years, but more would be helpful. “I’ve never got enough,” he said.


Poet Rita Dove brings ‘another way of singing’ to BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Rita Dove, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former Poet Laureate, almost stopped writing poetry. Her home had been struck by lightning and was destroyed, she told her audience at Bowling Green State University Thursday night.  Rebuilding so consumed her that when someone asked what was next for her as a poet, she questioned whether she’d ever write again. “I’m done. I just need to get my life in order.” That was in 1998. She’d already served as the youngest and first black Poet Laureate of the United States and won the Pulitzer Prize for “Thomas and Beulah,” a collection of poems inspired by her grandparents.  Then a neighbor asked Dove and her husband, Fred Viebahn, to go out to a local dinner dance as a way of cheering them up. They were fascinated by the dancing, and wanted to join. They ended up taking ballroom dancing lessons, and now do it competitively. The dancing inspired poems. In “Foxtrot Fridays,” she writes, of how dancing keeps problems at bay with: “Just the sweep of Paradise  / and the space of a song  / to count all the wonders in it.” Dove was on campus as the keynote speaker for the Edwin H. Simmons Creative Minds Series. During the day she spent time meeting and conversing with students. At 11 a.m. she was seated on the stage of the Donnell Theatre surrounded by creative writing students. This was an “inhuman” hour for her, Dove said. She usually writes from midnight to 6 a.m. Does she write every day? That was the first question posed. Dove said while she doesn’t necessarily sit down at her desk and write daily, she’s always “writing,” adding “I always have that attitude.” Even while traveling she has with her “a notebook or three or nine” and her phone is handy to take notes. The poet did advise the two dozen or so students that they should write every day.  This practice is akin to athletes training or musicians doing their scales. “When inspiration strikes, you’re ready.” The disadvantage, she said, is “you write a lot of junk.” But there’s a lesson in that as well. “It inures you to having to be perfect the first time.” Dove spoke of how her own poems take shape. She works on several at once, each assigned to a different color folder. As she starts working, she’ll select the colored folder that suits her mood. The poems evolve slowly, and finally she comes to the point “I can do no more.” Sometime “it’s as if the work is saying: ‘I’m tired of you.’” Dove also spoke of her relationship to music. She often listens to music while writing. It may be related to what she’s writing. When she was working on her book “Sonata Mulaticca” about George Bridgetower, a mixed race violinist in 18th century Europe, she listened to classical music from the period. Jazz, though, is what she usually listens to. It best echoes the syncopation of contemporary syntax. Dove studied cello when she was young and even contemplated a professional career. She’s still active, adding viola de gamba, and more recently voice. She started to study voice she told the students  because it was a musical instrument she could take wherever she goes….


Help sought solving time capsule mystery in City Park

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green is being asked to help solve the puzzle of a mystery time capsule buried in City Park. (See update.) The time capsule, covered in concrete with a rock on top, has been there long enough to have been forgotten. It has gone basically unnoticed for years – except by the person mowing around it. But earlier this week when city park staff and the architects for the new City Park building walked around the site for the new structure, they happened upon the mystery memorial. “Somebody told me at some point that it was a time capsule,” Natural Resources Coordinator for BG Parks Chris Gajewicz said. The engraving in the concrete has a date, though the year is particularly difficult to read. The date appears to be Oct. 2, but the year could be 1958 or 1969 – or anything in between. “It’s so worn, it’s really hard to tell,” Gajewicz said. “It’s one of those institutionalized knowledge things that’s gone,” Gajewicz said. The mystery time capsule would be allowed to rest there undisturbed, except that it is sitting in the footprint of the new City Park building being constructed next year. Kristin Otley, director of the Bowling Green City Parks and Recreation Department, is confident the city will be able to solve the mystery. She suspects the time capsule is referenced somewhere in old park board minutes. “There may be records. We just haven’t dug them up – pun intended,” Otley said. The new building in City Park will take the place of the existing Veterans Building, Girl Scout Building, and the Depot. It has necessitated the moving or replacing of some memorial trees. But so far, the time capsule under the rock is the only unknown in the construction footprint. “It’s the only mystery,” Otley said. Seeing that Oct. 2 is the anniversary of the time capsule burial – though the year is unknown – Otley said that date might be a good time to unearth the capsule and see what’s inside. Gajewicz has posted a photo of the time capsule site on Facebook in hopes of jogging some memories of longtime townies. So far, the responses have been more humorous than helpful. “That’s just before I was born. Maybe it was to commemorate me,” one person posted. Another predicted that unearthing the site would not reveal a casket. And another asked “Where’s Lyle Fletcher when we need him,” a reference to a long-gone historian, who could recall just about everything about Bowling Green. So since Fletcher is gone, it’s up to the rest of Bowling Green to dig into their memory banks to solve the time capsule mystery.


Local judges voice negative verdict on State Issue 1

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Common Pleas Judge Alan Mayberry uses a penny to show one of the flaws with State Issue 1. He points to the minute beard on Abraham Lincoln, and explains it would take just 2 milligrams of fentanyl to cover Lincoln’s beard – and to potentially kill 10,000 people. Then the judge explains that under Issue 1, someone could be picked up with 19 grams of fentanyl and only be charged with a misdemeanor. “That’s unconscionable,” Mayberry said. Wood County’s three common pleas judges are in agreement that Issue 1 – which will appear on the November ballot – would be bad for Ohio. The intent of the state issue is to offer treatment rather than jail time for drug offenses. The language makes the vast majority of drug offenses misdemeanors rather than felonies. “The state is struggling with whether drug addiction is a crime or a mental health issue,” Judge Reeve Kelsey said. But the judges – Matt Reger, Kelsey and Mayberry – said treatment is already being offered in Wood County. All that Issue 1 would do is result in the courts having one less tool to use to convince addicts to get clean. “We see people in front of us every day,” Reger said. A simple slap on the hand is not enough to convince most of them to give up drugs – though in front of a judge they may profess their commitment to quit. “We’ve all had someone in our courtroom who has died a week later.” Issue 1 would take away the judges’ “stick” and leave them only with the “carrot.” “There’s no stick. There’s no consequence,” Mayberry said. “They can blow off treatment or restoration, and there’s nothing we can do to them.” Wood County Common Pleas Courts already use graduated responses for drug offenders, with many people offered intervention in lieu of jail time, Reger said. Many of those sentences are designed with the individual in mind, he said. The offenders can be ordered to attend treatment, get education, get mental health help, go to an anger management or domestic violence program, or perform community service. “It’s giving them the tools to live,” Kelsey said. “We already have gradual responses,” Reger said. “We’re already doing it.” For example, Reger has required offenders to work on getting their GEDs, do volunteer reading to kids at the library, or work at the 577 Foundation. “We try to be very individualized to that person,” he said. However, if the offenders fail to follow through on the judges’ orders, the threat of jail is always hanging over their heads. That will no longer be the case if Issue 1 passes. “All we can do is say, ‘No, no. Be a better person,’” Kelsey said. “This will not work.” It’s not uncommon for an addict to come in for a drug test before arraignment, professing that they are drug free – only to be found with multiple drugs in their system. “That person is not going to give up drugs,” voluntarily, Reger said. But under Issue 1, the judges would not be able to order jail time for a person who fails a drug test. The three judges also feel strongly that making these changes in a state…


BG task force studies building blocks of school funding

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News More than 50 citizens went back to school Wednesday evening to brush up on their math skills – specifically how the Bowling Green City School District can pay for building improvements. This first meeting – like all that consultant David Conley will hold – was an “open mic night.” The citizens on the task force rattled off questions they want answered as they dig into financing the school district’s future. Such as: What’s the difference between income and property taxes? What public-private partnerships are available to fund school projects, such as naming rights for private businesses? What legislation is in the works that could make a difference for BG schools? Are there public-public partnerships that could help BG schools, such as with Bowling Green State University, the city, the public library or through public health? Can different types of taxes be combined for projects? The monthly meetings of the financial task force are intended to give citizens the building blocks to help them make a decision that can then be presented to the school board. Conley explained some of the basics, such as – financing tools are the instruments used to borrow money. A funding plan is how the district can pay off that financing for a building project. “Schools only have a few financing tools available to them,” Conley said. But the funding options are far more plentiful, he added. “I want to give every opportunity a chance,” he said. That includes exploring the use of an income tax put on by the city but used to pay for school buildings. Or the sale of properties owned by the school district that are no longer occupied by buildings. Conley, of Rockmill Financial Consulting, has worked with about 125 school districts in Ohio to find funding solutions. He stressed to task force members that they are in control. “We’re in control of our own lives – especially when it comes to government. We just have forgotten that we are,” he said. The district’s request for open minds fell on a few closed ears. A handful of the citizens vehemently opposed to the last two bond issues talked about the district being deceptive in its use of permanent improvement dollars to put an addition on the middle school. Conley pointed out that permanent improvement funds can be used for projects like a building addition without going back to the voters. Some of the questions went further than just dollars and cents. One person asked if it would be possible to change the district boundaries, so that those areas outside the city can become part of another district, perhaps joining Patrick Henry or McComb. Another asked if the task force members will learn about demographics – what will sell and how they can sell it to voters. Yes, Conley said. “You will know how to look your neighbor in the face and say ‘We did our best.’” Conley cautioned that while the information about the district is “a snapshot of who you are today,” the task force’s decisions will have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years. “We’re making decisions not just about right now,” he said. These decisions will affect the citizens’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “We want to create the best possible options” for…


‘Welcoming’ language inserted in city charter preamble

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Not everyone on City Council welcomed the same language proclaiming Bowling Green as a “welcoming” community. But after some word wrangling and drawn out analysis, the city charter got a new preamble Monday evening. The new preamble makes a statement about the city being welcoming, inclusive and non-discriminatory. It reads as follows: “We the people of Bowling Green, in the county of Wood, and in the State of Ohio, desirous of securing for our City and for ourselves and our children the advantages of self-government conferred by the home-rule provisions of the Ohio constitution; and determined to be a welcoming, inclusive community with adherence to practices of non-discrimination as established by law; do hereby ordain and establish the following Charter.” Council member Daniel Gordon, who led the effort for the preamble change, acknowledged the compromise that went into the wording. After words had been added and subtracted, the preamble commits the city to “standing with marginalized communities within Bowling Green,” he said. The preamble change was supported by all but one City Council member – Bruce Jeffers. “I appreciate the language you put together,” Jeffers said, noting that his fellow council members “fought it out” until they reached a good compromise. Though he approved of the wording, Jeffers said the welcoming statement did not belong in the city charter. They were the “right words in the wrong place,” so he voted against the preamble change. Council member Bill Herald said he understood Jeffers’ concerns, and he reminded council how the vote to pursue the preamble change narrowly passed by a vote of 4 to 3. However, Herald commended the work of the council committee, which included himself, Gordon and John Zanfardino. There was “spirited” and “respectful” discussion which resulted in a worthy compromise. After wrestling with the meaning of the term “welcoming,” the committee arrived at wording that did not detract from the purpose of the preamble, Herald said. “It goes with the type of community we want Bowling Green to be,” he said. Council members Gordon, Herald, Zanfardino, Mike Aspacher, Greg Robinette and Sandy Rowland voted in favor of the preamble change. But Robinette challenged council to look further if it wants to truly be welcoming. “If we really care for the well-being of citizens,” council should look at the city’s codified ordinances, he said.


Hold the tuna — ocean explorer Sylvia Earle offers recipe for saving the sea

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Sylvia Earle wants to take tuna off the menu. The same with swordfish and orange roughy. The appetite for fish is depleting the fish population, and that disrupts the ecosystem of the ocean, and that’s a threat to the human population. Large scale commercial fishing is one of many attack on the oceans. “We’ve become so skilled at extracting wild life from oceans, streams and lakes that we’re seeing an unprecedented decline in population,” the marine biologist and explorer said. Earle was at Bowling Green State University Tuesday to give a talk based on her book “The World Is Blue.”  When she was a child, she said, people couldn’t see Earth from outer space. Now children grow up knowing the photo of the blue planet. Yet humans are just coming round to understanding the importance of protecting those vast blue stretches. “No ocean,” Earle said,” no us. No blue, no green. We need water.” Those oceans, whether saltwater or the vast freshwater bodies such as Lake Superior, rely on intricate systems. Just like a computer, removing one small part means it doesn’t work so well. “The attitude has been the ocean is too big to fail,” Earle said. But “never before has the change happened so rapidly or as comprehensively.” Except, she added, 65 million years ago when a comet hit Earth. Those changes have brought increased prosperity for humans, but not so much for wildlife, except cockroaches and rats. That period has also been a great age for exploration. Only in the last several decades could people venture beyond where light penetrates, into the dark depths of the ocean. Earle was on the forefront as the first woman aquanaut. She had to convince officials that a woman could handle the job. Now she’s one of the most prominent explorers. In 1986 when she went on her first mission she was the only woman among 79 men. Recent photos she projected as part of her talk included a larger number of women. The vastness of the ocean leaves much to explore. The average depth is two and a half miles, the deepest parts are seven miles deep.  An enthusiast for marine exploration she urged her listeners “to take the plunge” if they have the opportunity. The over fishing of large species is not the only problem. The decline of algae plays a part in the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reefs. Prochlrococcus, a bacteria so small it was only identified in 1986, generates 20 percent of the world’s oxygen and also takes up carbon. Nations around the world are setting aside Marine Protected Areas. (Some have exceptions for local, subsistence fishing.) These give the ecosystems a chance to rebound. But only 3 percent of the oceans have been set aside. Treating the waterways as a sewer and place to dispose of trash, much of it plastic, puts those systems at risk. Somehow, she said, humans survived for centuries without plastic. Now it is seen as an essential.  She advocated for collecting and repurposing what could be. Reducing how much is used — lips do a fine job of getting liquid from a cup in most cases — and reusing plastic implements that we do have. Throwing things away is not an option. “There is no…


Bicycle safety groups look for affordable solutions

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   City groups looking at transportation and bicycle safety want to do more than just spin their wheels. So on Monday evening, a joint meeting was held with the Bicycle Safety Commission and the City Council Transportation & Safety Committee. Together, the groups wanted to look at the two priorities involving bicycling that City Council selected in the new Community Action Plan. After discussion, the groups decided on the more manageable goal of pursuing grants to fund a bike lane on Court Street. They also decided to further explore the more “sweeping goal” of creating bike friendly streets in the area of Clough, Scout Hamilton, Thurstin and South College streets. Meanwhile, John Zanfardino, head of the council committee looking at bicycling in Bowling Green, said he continues to struggle with the seemingly opposing threads of the bicycling discussion. One direction focuses on education of bicyclists and motorists, so they learn to better share city streets. The other focus is on creating infrastructure for bicyclists – whether that is the more expensive bike lanes or the less costly sharrows painted on roads. “I’m a fan of Yay Bikes,” Zanfardino said of the Columbus-based organization that has worked with Bowling Green officials to better educate bicyclists and motorists. “It has the benefit of being a low cost way of making the city safer for bikes,” he said. Council member Daniel Gordon, also a member of the council committee, agreed that the Yay Bikes program was helpful. But he questioned the Yay Bikes conclusion that Bowling Green only needs education – not biking infrastructure. “Your streets are fine. You don’t need bike lanes. You don’t need infrastructure,” Gordon said of the Yay Bikes’ observations. “That’s certainly not the sentiment I’m hearing from folks in town,” Gordon said. The communities of Toledo, Sylvania and Perrysburg are working on biking infrastructure, he said. So it seems strange that a college town like Bowling Green would be veering away from bike lanes, Gordon said. “Residents have been calling for bike lanes for decades,” he said. “I think it’s well past time for us to make further efforts.” While people who bicycle a lot in the city are comfortable sharing the road with motorized vehicles, many people don’t have that comfort so they just don’t bike, he said. It seems, Gordon and others have concluded, that the momentum for bikes lanes has stalled in the city. The expense of building bike lanes can be great. Oftentimes street width needs to be extended into yards, utility poles may need to be moved, or street parking may need to be prohibited. “These two goals, if we push forward, are going to be expensive,” council member Greg Robinette said of the two CAP bicycling priorities. Those expenses have led the focus to shift to educational opportunities, said Steve Langendorfer, head of the city bicycle safety commission. However, that does not mean an end to infrastructure efforts. “The education is not meant to over-ride the engineering,” Langendorfer said. The city has been offering several community “slow roll” bike rides, plus training for local third graders. “Those have been particularly helpful encouraging people to get out on the streets and ride,” Langendorfer said of the community rides. The commission has also identified the most “rideable…


BG board advised to save money for teacher raises

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The Bowling Green Board of Education was schooled Tuesday evening to watch its spending – or when teacher negotiations roll around there won’t be enough for raises. Citizen Richard Strow warned that the $12 million in the bank right now should be maintained for teacher raises.  That $12 million, however, was the same money that some citizens criticized the board for not using on buildings earlier this year. The money in the bank was used as a reason for some voters to oppose the school levy. “You’ve got to find a way as a board to maintain what you have in the bank,” Strow said during the public comment portion of the school board meeting. Strow began his comments by thanking the board for changing the meeting times to 6 p.m., to make it easier for the public to attend. “It looks like a full house tonight,” he said. Strow also thanked the district for taking a conservative approach to delaying school due to fog. He recalled a fatal car accident on a foggy morning in 1972 that killed a fellow student. Strow suggested the board adopt that conservative approach with its budget. “You’ve got to get spending under control,” he said. “Otherwise the money is going to be gone.” After the board meeting, district treasurer Cathy Schuller said she shares Strow’s concerns. “He’s absolutely right. Those are the same concerns I have as well,” Schuller said. However, those concerns are based on the May budget numbers. The district updates its budget numbers every May and October, so new numbers will be available next month, Schuller said. Those numbers are expected to look much brighter, she said, explaining that the last district treasurer was “ultra-conservative” when forecasting the budget. Strow said the district will need that $12 million in reserves if it intends to offer pay raises of 2 to 2.5 percent. Negotiations with teachers will take place next spring. The district’s revenues appear flat for the next five years, but those raises will add another $500,000 to $750,000 to the annual expenses, he said. If the district isn’t careful, the board will have to ask voters more operating funds. And that could occur about the same time the district will be asking for more building funds. “It’s going to be a hard sell to the public,” Strow said, predicting “levy fatigue.” “They’re going to have to balance the needs of today with the realities of the voters,” he said. Also during the public comment portion of the school board meeting, citizen Frances Brent talked about the task forces established to find solutions to the district’s building issues. Brent asked that as the board members maintain their distance from the process, that they not go too far. School board member Paul Walker asked Brent if progress was made at the last meeting of the task forces. Brent replied yes, and said the decision to bring in an architectural firm to lead the facilities task force was a wise choice. “I was frankly frantic about how you were going to handle the meetings,” with all the strong personalities involved in the community, Brent said. But the firm selected kept the meeting in check. The next financial task force meeting will be held today…


Deeply moving ‘Considering Matthew Shepard’ leaves BGSU audience at a loss for applause

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News “Considering Matthew Shepard” ended in silence. A packed Kobacker Hall went quiet as the C-triad softly hummed by the members of the vocal ensemble Conspirare and the 100 singers filling the mezzanine faded out. At first it seemed the usual pause at the end of a concert. But the silence extended in length, and somehow increased in depth. The conductor-composer Craig Hella Johnson stood in front of the stage head bowed. Silence. Then his head rose and his gestured to the performers on stage. The audience erupted. The applause rapturous, as loud as the previous moments were soft. On their feet, the audience called the ensemble out for three curtain calls. The applause did not so much break the silence as let loose the emotions it contained. The listeners and performers had for the past 100 minutes lived the story of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man beaten and left for dead in October 1998 outside of Laramie, Wyoming. When he died several days later he became an icon for those who opposed hate crimes and longed for greater tolerance.  The oratorio was performed Monday by Conspirare at Bowling Green State University. When, a few minutes after the performance ended, about 150 members of the audience assembled in Bryan Recital Hall, members of the panel who were there to discuss the work and the meaning of Matthew Shepard, said it was hard to speak about the experience. Katie Stygles, assistant director for Diversity Education and LGBTQ+ Programs at Bowling Green State University, said she was still processing the experience. “I still have tears flowing over. It’s just so beautiful.” She sees the students she serves in Matthew Shepard. Susana Pena, director, School of Cultural and Critical Studies, said that when the news of Shepard’s death came, the nation had reached a point where it was open to hearing this tragic story, and acting on it. Olivia Behm, a graduate student, said she grew up in the world shaped by Shepard’s death. “Considering Matthew Shepard,” she said, was more than research into the facts, but allowed her to be emotionally absorbed in the story. The oratorio had plenty of facts, drawn from court documents and news reports. It included Shepard’s own words from journals and childhood jottings. It also had long passages of reflection. Johnson composed the piece over a long period of time, drawing on various texts, and in several instances collaborating with poet Michael Dennis Browne, credited as co-librettist. Johnson’s discovery of another poet’s work gave him the guiding image for the piece. Leslea Newman wrote a series of poems from the point of view of the fence on which Shepard was tied and left to die. He hung there for 18 hours barely alive before he was discovered. The man who found him at first thought he was a scarecrow. Those pieces form the skeleton of “Considering Matthew Shepard.” The first poem “The Fence (before),’ a robust bass solo, prefigures Shepard’s fate. “Will I always be out here exposed and alone?” Later in the oratorio, we hear the speech Shepard’s father gave in court. His son, the father said, was not alone. He had the stars and moon, which he’d studied as a child. He had the wind from the plains. The…