Jeffers, Leontis run for BG at-large council seats

Incumbent Bruce Jeffers and challenger Neocles Leontis are running in the May 7 Democratic primary
election for the Bowling Green City Council at-large seat.
Jeffers has served as an at-large member of council for eight years.
Regarding how he would like to see council continue implementation of the Community Action Plan, Jeffers
noted the current focus on the redevelopment of East Wooster.
“The CAP guides us to think about roadscape and housing quite a bit,” he said.
The city approved a new land use plan in 2014, which he said was “a more general guide, then CAP focused
in more precisely,” providing a better idea of where and how to try certain building projects.
With the recent East Wooster redevelopment report, Jeffers said the city has gotten to the point of
sending out requests for proposals for firms “that can help us figure out how to deal with zoning issues
especially along East Wooster. So we’ll have to see what properties come available for development and
we want to be ready to have the best kind of zoning that will make it work for developers while still
maintaining the kind of neighborhoods that we want to have.”
Discussing aspects of street improvements, Jeffers used as an example the desire for shade trees – but
the right shade trees – along city roadways, and goals for replacing “big old problem trees with the
right species and cultivars that will work,” saying some of that has already been done.
“We have looked at places where we might put in bicycle lanes. So far we’ve just put in some sharrows and
widened some sidewalks,” he said.
He acknowledged that movement on bicycle lanes has been slow, and “that’s one thing I’m glad we’ve been
careful about.
“I just see a lot of bike lanes that start nowhere and end nowhere, and nobody’s using them, and I don’t
want that to happen in Bowling Green,” Jeffers said about other cities.
However, he said bike lanes are still worth studying, and posited that East Wooster Street might be a
place to start with them, because of the concentration of students in the area. They could encourage
people to come into the downtown by other means than cars, he said.
He spoke further on bicycle infrastructure and complete streets issues.
“I think we want to keep in mind ways to get people from the university to the Slippery Elm Trail, from
maybe just the east side of town to the Slippery Elm Trail,” he said. “We’ve been looking for ways to
create paths to the community center. A few years ago we started on a pathway from the high school to
the Community Center and that’s kind of stalled for lack of funds.”
Recently the idea was brought up to put widened sidewalks or a combination bicycle path-sidewalk along
Haskins Road, to lead up to the center.
“Both of those ideas are worth continued study,” Jeffers said, “but we’ve got to do it in a way that
works.
“As we think about these kind of ideas, we still are looking at a lot of surface streets, neighborhood
streets that are in a less than idea condition,” said Jeffers. “So as we think about planning for East
Wooster, we also have to think about maintaining streets we already have. And we’re a little bit behind
where we’d like to be on that. A lot of that depends on what happens with state-level decisions with
taxes like the gas tax and how that money will be shared with us.”
Jeffers said that the conditions of neighborhoods is important to people.
“I think that there’s not a magic wand to make all the neighborhoods that are aging, and that are largely
composed of rental units … something like it was 50 years ago. But we can try to develop neighborhood by
neighborhood, but it’s slow going, it takes a lot of money, it takes a lot of private investment. The
government involvement is important.
Jobs will also be a focus in the future.
“I also think a really important thing is jobs. We have been examining manufacturing jobs and that’s
good, that’s helpful,” he said.
However, both the city and the county are finding it hard to find enough workers, Jeffers said.
He praised the Welcome Bowling Green initiative, which he said the city has been working on in recent
years.
“(It’s) to make immigrants, legal immigrants, feel welcome in Bowling Green and help them connect with
potential employers. The city has been working with other entities in Wood County to see if we can
create partnerships to make Bowling Green welcoming for potential workers including legal immigrants.

“I think the main thing for people on council to keep in mind is people elect us to deal with local
issues,” he said. “There are national issues that impact us. There are national approaches to energy
that impact us. What we have to do locally is find the best energy options that we have and I think we
have done a great job for several decades.
“It’s nothing that I take much credit for, but I think the city has done a great job of seeking
alternative energies,” said Jeffers, noting that 40% of the city’s energy comes from alternative
sources.
Leontis is a professor of chemistry at Bowling Green State University.
He said that the Community Action Plan isn’t specific on issues of housing safety and energy efficiency.

“The Community Action Plan, to my understanding, does not have specifics that address these questions in
a comprehensive manner that has been proven in other communities to work,” he said, adding that it
should have “concrete goals.”
As an example, he said, no rental property could be on the market unless it has been fire inspected in a
certain number of years. In Athens, Ohio, a fire inspection is performed on a rental property every time
a new renter comes in, he said.
“We need proven solutions that lead to maintaining standards for fire safety, health safety, and we need
to implement solutions” he said, adding that those would be for energy efficiency and insulation in
rentals that have been undertaken in progressive communities.
He said that an apartment insulation program in Boulder, Colorado, has “put more money into the economy
because it’s not going up the smokestack. … It’s time for us to discuss things like that.”
Insulation for properties, if necessary, can be obtained through the program as well.
Leontis said that he meets students and parents on the BGSU campus and said they assume rental properties
have been fire inspected.
“People in the city need to know that when they rent, they cannot be assuming they are renting a safe
place,” he said.
Leontis said he would like to see the Bowling Green Fire Division, instead of destroying fire reports
after five years, keep them and post them online so they can be searched by address, and people can see
if there have been any fire incidents at a certain property.
Leontis said he’s concerned about issues like climate change and people’s economic well-being.
“For me, it’s a no-brainer… It’s been gratifying to see because we worked with Columbia Gas over the
years, and Columbia Gas picked Bowling Green a few years ago to provide a low-cost energy audit
program.”
Regarding bicycle infrastructure, Leontis said many of his students don’t have cars, and it’s difficult
for them to get to shopping areas, and to commute. He said he hopes the improvements on the Interstate
75 bridge at East Wooster Street will be built in a way that it’s convenient for everybody and
multimodal.
He said it’s “remarkable” how little progress there has been on bike lanes in the city, but added that
the city’s Bicycle Safety Commission has been active.
“Short of putting arrows in the middle of the street, which I’m not quite sure what the effectiveness of
that is, I have not seen bike lanes anywhere in town,” Leontis said.
A recent statement from the East Wooster redevelopment report predicts a more competitive environment in
the coming years for universities seeking to draw in students, and Leontis said he suspects people
shopping for universities will be looking at amenities like bike lanes and will be more bicycle
oriented.
He also said the city could work with the university to create bikeways that cross campus itself, so that
walkways would be less of an issue for pedestrians.
“The point is, when you don’t provide bicycles a place to go, then you create a danger for pedestrians,
and there is further reason to address this.”
Leontis said he’s heard complaints that there is no adequate yard waste disposal in the city, and that
some residents are having to rent a truck or go to other measures to get yard waste taken from their
property.
“If we in Bowling Green are serious about reducing our greenhouse gas emissions … we need to be more
aggressive in doing our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and one of the places we can look at is
this issue of the food waste and the yard waste.”
He said that 25-30% of urban waste is food waste which, when it goes into a landfill and isn’t separated,
is acted on by bacteria and creates methane, contributing to global warming.
Food waste and yard waste, Leontis said, could be composted and the product sold, or returned to
community gardens and other such areas.
“So, really, my program is about let’s waste less, and save more.”