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Published: Wednesday, 10/13/2010

Anti-discrimination: B.G. ballot issue over gay rights intensifies

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Amid the tax levies and candidate races that fill area ballots this Nov. 2 are two questions before Bowling Green voters that have prompted some of the most organized and aggressive campaigning the city has seen in years.

A group opposed to two city ordinances that extend anti-discrimination protection to homosexual and transgendered individuals is asking voters to overturn the laws approved by Bowling Green City Council in August, 2009.

Countering the referendums is the Bowling Green Coalition for Justice.

"People should vote 'yes' on these ordinances because everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally," said Kim Welter, campaign manager for the coalition.

Crystal Thompson, spokesman for BG Citizens Voting No to Special Rights Discrimination, said her group is not anti-gay.

"It's not that at all. We are loving people," she said. "We want everybody to have rights, but I don't want a small group of people to have rights above mine. They should not have special rights."

Ms. Thompson said state and federal laws already are in place that prohibit discrimination in housing and employment for most of the groups listed in the ordinances and only provide new protection to "those who engage in homosexual behavior or cross-dressing" by adding the categories of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.

Ms. Welter agreed with that point, but said having municipal ordinances in place gives residents a local venue for filing a complaint or seeking help if they feel they've been the victim of discrimination.

"The really nice thing is it gives Bowling Green people a way to solve Bowling Green's problems here in Bowling Green," she said.

Six current and three former City Council members said in a letter to the editor of the Sentinel-Tribune that they stand by the ordinances they approved more than a year ago.

"We believe that these protections should be extended to all people who live and work in Bowling Green," they said in the letter. "America was built on principles of individual personal freedom, and we believe it is the duty of government to protect these freedoms, particularly where they impact access to jobs and housing."

Bowling Green voters also are being asked a second time to raise the city's income tax from 1.92 percent to 2 percent. While the measure failed last November, this time City Council said the increased tax revenues - an estimated $600,000 a year - would be earmarked for fire and ambulance services.

Across northwest Ohio, requests to renew and increase taxes are on the ballot for townships, cities, school districts, library districts, and county agencies.

Fostoria voters will decide whether to replace two existing 0.5 percent income taxes with a 1 percent income tax that would run for six years, generating an estimated $2 million a year.

If approved, the city would allocate $200,000 each to street repair and capital improvements, $100,000 for infrastructure, $30,000 each for Kaubisch Memorial Public Library, development, and parks and recreation, and $10,000 for citywide cleanup and beautification. City Finance Director Steve Garner said the balance of the funds would go to the general fund, primarily to support the police and fire departments.

Fostoria voters will be asked a second time to approve a charter amendment that would change its present strong mayor form of government with a city manager who would be hired by City Council. The measure failed by a slim margin last November.

A second charter amendment sought by Fostoria police officers would prohibit council from abolishing the police department or contracting with another agency for police protection "except upon a vote of the people."

All Wood County voters are being asked to replace a 0.5-mill, 10-year levy for the county health department that would generate $1.5 million a year. The current levy brings in approximately $1.37 million a year.

Health officials said the additional revenue is needed to maintain services and cover the costs of building maintenance that previously was paid by county commissioners. If replaced, the levy would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $15.31 per year.

The Seneca County health department wants voters to approve a 0.5-mill, five-year operating levy that would take the place of an expiring 0.3-mill levy. If approved, the new levy would bring in slightly more than $500,000 a year and enable the health department to maintain services, said Marjorie Broadhead, health commissioner.

In Henry County, commissioners are seeking renewal of a 1.9-mill, three-year operating levy that helps support the county nursing home, Country View Haven in Napoleon. The levy raised more than $826,000 last year, according to the county auditor's office.

Defiance County voters will decide two countywide issues. The first is a 1.9-mill, six-year replacement levy that would generate $1.47 million a year for the county's Board of Developmental Disabilities, which operates Good Samaritan School and provides early intervention, adult, and residential services.

Voters also will decide a 1.2-mill, five-year replacement levy for Defiance County Senior Citizen Services that would bring in about $929,000 a year.

Putnam County voters are being asked to replace a 0.5-mill, 10-year levy for the county's Board of Developmental Disabilities, which operates Brookhill Center in Ottawa. If approved, the levy would generate approximately $322,000 a year, which is an increase of about $150,000 a year. Superintendent Bill Clifford said the extra revenue is needed because of expected reductions in state funding.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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