A long-time BGSU professor is looking to make his mark on the city in an upcoming election.
Chemistry professor Neocles Leontis announced his plans to run for an at-large City Council seat early this month to try to win a May 7 primary under a Democrat ballot. Unlike other candidates, however, he has a specific platform of campaign promises for improving city properties.
“Not enough has been done to improve the rental market,” he said, talking about a range of issues related to “non-transparent” lease-based housing in Bowling Green. He promises to help ensure “safe, comfortable, energy-efficient housing” in Bowling Green, especially for small families and students.
Leontis specifically sees the condition of these properties as a problem. Lack of consistent insulation and modern electric wiring and mistakes made in converting properties into duplexes were on his short list of problems with rentals in the city.
He said his concern about these issues bloomed when his daughter, who decided to rent a rental property as she attended BGSU, evacuated her residence when a neighbor’s place caught fire. Leontis said he eventually learned not only was this likely due to a water heater being placed inside a clothes closet but also that similarly old housing did not often receive fire inspection in the city.
He said he wanted to try to change how safety oversights were approached in the city through citizen action, but after finding roadblocks, he decided to put himself on the campaign trail.
Another issue he has is that older properties are often energy inefficient, with winter and summer heating and cooling costs putting strains on residents’ energy bills. He said utility bills in older properties were often behind much of the stress for low-income residents.
Leontis said the owners of these properties are “burning dollar bills” by being “not progressive enough” with their policies.
Though the professor-turned-politician said he helped orchestrate a program with Columbia Gas that ensured relatively cheap insulation placement in exchange for a $20 “energy audit” for interested residents, Leontis said he was disappointed in the number of residents and landlords who took advantage of the program. This disappointment, along with a council tendency to put energy and rental concerns on the backburner, convinced him to run, he added.
Rental property issues are his main concern, but Leontis also wants to help improve environmental policy for the town. In addition to supporting the town’s solar and wind energy plans, he mentioned wanting to encourage a greater number of public electric car chargers in town and a decreased use of landfill garbage disposal.
Leontis is hopeful for his campaign and potential placement in City Council. He said the spot he hopes to attain is in position to vote down various ordinances that fit his platform and that taking that seat would ensure more progressive policies are approved.
He is also hopeful some of his more progressive goals will be attained based on the efforts of other towns. Boulder, Colorado, and its cooperative look at housing and energy efficiency could be a model for Bowling Green in making major social changes, he said.
“I want to implement approaches that have been proven in other towns to work,” he added.
However, he also said any campaign, even an unsuccessful one, itself would be worth the effort, as it would allow him to spread ideas and inspire others to fight for housing and environmental issues in town.
Leontis has taught at BGSU for 32 years and is currently a member of the East Side Residential Group.