By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
Six candidates are running for two open At-Large City Council seats in Bowling Green. And for the first time, the ballot has a mix of Democrat, Republican, Green Party and Independent candidates.
Two candidate forums have already been held in the city. So rather than ask the candidates to talk about the same topics, BG Independent News asked all of them to talk about their top three priorities if elected to City Council.
Following are brief descriptions of each At-Large candidate and their priorities. The answers for the contested ward candidates will appear on Wednesday.
Holly Cipriani, Democrat, works at BGSU as an academic adviser. She has two degrees from BGSU, and has worked for various non-profit organizations serving survivors of domestic violence and people who have been trafficked or exploited. She serves as the programming chair for Not In Our Town, and was on the planning committee for Court Street Connects. Cipriani’s priorities are:
- Continue to review and keep a close eye on the city budget. “I would continue to anticipate cuts from the state,” Cipriani said. “So we need to be prepared.”
- Help to implement the Community Action Plan, with a focus on neighborhoods and Complete Streets. “We need to find ways we can actually implement it,” such as ways to fit bike lanes on existing streets and focus on improvements to the East Side.
- Examine ways to keep building city and university relationships. “I would like to continue to foster those relationships,” Cipriani said, noting that she has seen it pay off in positive ways in the past.
Nathan Eberly, an Independent, is an adviser with Modern Woodmen Fraternal Financial, with more than 18 years of experience in finance. He has degrees in business management and finance. He is a member of the Exchange Club, BG Young Professionals, Chamber of Commerce, and volunteers with the Wood County Humane Society and Brown Bag Food Project. Eberly’s priorities are:
- Conduct a thorough review of the city budget and fund allocations. “I want to be a fresh set of eyes on that,” he said.
- Work with developers and property owners on improvements to the East Wooster corridor. Zoning rules may need to be modified to meet the community’s needs. “We need to do it effectively, so we have all voices at the table,” Eberly said. “I want everybody talking.”
- Examine opportunities to expand the city’s economic development foundation. Eberly praised the work of the foundation’s director Sue Clark, but added, “She’s only one person. We need to do what we can to get her additional help.” The city seems to be doing a good job of attracting large industries, but it also needs to bring in small and medium sized businesses, he said.
Beverly Keeling Elwazani, of the Green Party, has raised four children in Bowling Green. She has volunteered with BG Christian Food Pantry, theater, soccer, 4-H, Girl Scouts and school activities. She prides herself in saying she is not a politician, but sees a need for a political party based on values like ecology, social justice and non-violence. Elwazani’s priorities are:
- Work with landlords and the city to set minimal standards for inhabitability, so all residents can be assured safe housing.
- Enact a tax on plastic bags used at retail stores. That would result in fewer bags going into the landfill and help the city’s struggling general fund. A tax of 5 cents per plastic bag could go into the city’s general fund, and perhaps replace the new trash pickup fee. While going door-to-door, Elwazani said many citizens called the trash fee “very annoying,” and felt it unfairly burdened homeowners. A plastic bag fee, however, would impact all residents.
- Focus on improving the relationships between BGSU students and full-time residents of the city, and create real bike lanes, not just paint sharrows on some streets.
Carolyn S. Kawecka, of the Green Party, has worked for Ashur Inc. in Perrysburg, and as an in-home child care provider. She has two degrees, including a master’s in teaching English as a second language. She has been a Boy Scout troop leader and volunteered for a suicide prevention hotline. Kawecka’s priorities are:
- Create dedicated bike lanes by changing some streets to one-way traffic, which would be less expensive than widening streets, she said.
- Implement inspections and licensing for rental units in the city. “The city counts on students,” Kawecka said. “We have to take care of them, so they’re more likely to take care of us.”
- Put the “green” back in Bowling Green. The city has wind turbines to the west and now a huge solar field to the east. “We need to try to move the whole community toward 100 percent renewable energy,” in the next couple decades, she said. “It’s something we can work toward.”
Gregory Robinette, Republican, is an engineer, attorney and an Army combat veteran who retired as a colonel after 32 years. He was elected to City Council from the Fourth Ward in 2011 and served as vice chair of the zoning board of appeals, but was deployed overseas and had to relinquish his seat. He is a member of St. Aloysius Catholic Church and serves on the Business Council of the BG Chamber of Commerce. Robinette’s priorities are:
- Make Bowling Green more attractive to business. By partnering with the city’s economic development office, the city schools, university and local industry, Robinette wants to identify what the city does well and what should be improved to attract new businesses and families to the community. “Are we doing everything we need to do to make the city attractive,” he said. “I know we can do better.”
- Give a closer look at the city budget. “I want to dig deeper than I believe council did,” before City Council decided earlier this year to start charging for trash pickup to make up for a decreasing general fund. Robinette wants to look at every line item, “to make sure we’re doing right by the taxpayers. I’d like to find a way to revoke it if possible,” he said about the trash fee.
- Make citizens more aware of services offered by the city. At a recent candidate forum, a question about renewable energy was posed. “I think the city is doing a good job in that area,” with 40 percent of the city’s energy coming from renewable sources. Yet, people seemed to not know that, Robinette said. He would like to see the city website tweaked so it communicates more information to citizens.
Sandy Rowland, Democrat, has served on City Council and several of its committees for six years. She is the only incumbent running for an at-large seat. She chairs the parks and recreation committee, is on the planning and transportation committee, and serves on the Convention and Visitors Bureau. She is a Realtor, and was formerly the regional director for the Humane Society of the United States for 27 years. Rowland’s priorities are:
- Help implement the Community Action Plan, which Rowland said is taking up much of her desk right now. Specifically, she would like to see revitalization plans put to work on the East Side of the city. “We need to bring back the neighborhoods on the East Side,” Rowland said.
- Update the city’s zoning rules. Rowland pointed out that the city has approximately 240 houses that are not in compliance with the zoning codes. “We need to bring back neighborhoods any way we can,” she said.
- Work to bring back single-family ownership in the community. Rental units now make up at least 60 percent of the housing in Bowling Green.