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November 30, 2023

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Ward two split fifty-fifty

Originally printed in the Oct. 13 edition of In Focus


No University student has ever represented Ward 2 on Bowling Green City Council.

The upcoming election might change that.

Ashley Gilbert, Republican, hopes to be the first student to represent Ward 2. There have been six students on City Council but all have represented Ward 1. Ward 2 starts east of Main Street and south of Wooster Street.

B.J. Fischer, president of council, said because Ward 2 is made up of off-campus students and Ward 1 is made up of dorm students, it’s easier for students to get elected in the first ward.

“Students in the dorms are easier to get involved and vote,” Fischer said.

The second ward is also unique in that it is made up roughly of half student population and half permanent residents. The main issue surrounding these two groups is noise, said candidate John Zanfardino, Democrat. Residents feel students are too loud, and Council frequently hears of these problems.

“There is a house across from me that is active with parties late at night and many of my neighbors have a problem with the noise,” Zanfardino said. “I would like to make proactive neighbor agreements to organize outreach for the residents to open communications with their college neighbors.”

Gilbert said to effectively make both residents and students happy with sharing a neighborhood, both groups have to tear down communication barriers to find a happy medium.

“I understand that the students and the residents don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues,” Gilbert said. “This is why getting the students and the long-term residents together so that both have a voice is essential.”

Gilbert said she does side with residents on some issues because she sees the problems they see.

“It bothers me as much as it should anyone with trash in my yard and loud noises,” Gilbert said.

But the most important issues Gilbert feels students want changed are the nuisance party laws and the three-person occupancy laws.

“Both need to be revisited,” Gilbert said.

The nuisance party law puts the responsibility on the party-holder for their guests. If a party-goer does damage to property neighboring the party, the host of the party is responsible. Zanfardino said the law is used in extreme cases, and that it’s mostly used for noise issues.

“You should have a certain amount of responsibility on who attends your party,” Zanfardino said. “Having 50 to 75 people is not an issue but you need to maintain a responsible atmosphere.”

The three-person occupancy law is set so that no more than three unrelated people can live in one house. Gilbert said she does not understand why this law is just now beginning to be enforced.

“It is not fair to surprisingly start enforcing it on people,” Gilbert said. “I see the reasoning behind it, but with the high rent prices it’s not feasible to ask students to live in a four-person residency with only three people paying rent.”

Another major Council decision that has frustrated many citizens was the decision to knock down an old house to build a parking lot behind the county library. More than 150 residents came to voice their opposition to the planning commission.

Zanfardino said there will always be issues between progress and preservation. He fears if the city doesn’t accommodate its businesses, it runs the risk of pushing them out.

“How do we maintain the village feel and still have enough parking for progress?” Zanfardino said. “Where do you put more parking when there is a need for it?”

Gilbert, who also believes in preserving Bowling Green’s authentic look, does not have easy answers for these questions. She said it is a case-by-case decision for preservation versus progress.

Each candidate’s stance on these issues has helped some voters decide whom to vote for. For others, it may be a simple student versus resident decision. John Mura, councilman-at-large, said the best person should be the one elected.

“Whether it is a student or non-student, the best qualified should represent their citizens of that ward,” Mura said.

Fischer said it’s most important for people in Ward 2 to elect someone who will represent their interests, whether it’s a student or not. Fischer has worked with four different students on Council in the past, and said they have all done a good job representing the best interests of the city.


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