As students at Bowling Green State University, we often hear the phrase, “A Public University for the Public Good”. We may dismiss this as a slogan or marketing campaign, but come this November we have a great opportunity to advocate for the Public Good right here in our community.
We are not just students at an institution of higher learning. We are important members of a community where people live, work and build lives in.
Like any community, we have a responsibility to be engaged and active citizens, and one way we can do that is by using our voices to support candidates running for local office that share our values.
The issues on the table in this election will affect the future of Bowling Green and will also have a tremendous impact on the way students live and interact with the city. Perhaps the most direct issue that affects students living in Bowling Green is the issue of mandated rental inspections.
This issue has been debated for decades in Bowling Green, but ever since Councilman At-Large Jeff Dennis introduced a bill to mandate independent rental inspections in April earlier this year, the issue has taken on new energy.
All students have the opportunity to move off campus after their second year. This creates a large demand for rental units in the city and presents students with a simple choice: rent from landlords in Bowling Green or pay higher prices to continue to live on campus.
With most students only needing housing for two to three years at a time, landlords in the city see a high turnover rate in tenants making it easier for some to justify relaxed maintenance standards and subpar living conditions.
These incentives have reared ugly results recently as more and more students are speaking out about their living situations in off-campus rental units.
One only needs to look at last semester’s great investigative piece by Falcon Media entitled, “The Hell Hole” to see the current state of rental housing in Bowling Green. Students living in the city temporarily should not have to face uncomfortable, and often unsafe, or unhealthy living conditions just because most of us are temporary residents.
This is an economic inequity issue as well. Lower-income tenants already have limited options for housing and by requesting maintenance in their homes they may jeopardize their access to housing. It should not be the tenant’s responsibility to push for their landlord to follow health and safety guidelines, this is something the city can and should ensure for our neighbors.
This issue will be on the ballot indirectly as candidates both for and against inspections and stricter health and safety guidelines are running for seats on Bowling Green City Council.
The candidates on the ballot that have been most vocal in prioritizing holding landlords accountable and advocating for students are Nick Rubando and Joel O’Dorisio. Rubando is a First Ward candidate, which encompasses the vast majority of off-campus students between Main Street and Thurstin Avenue.
Students have played a prominent role in Rubando’s campaign since the beginning, and because of this, he has been able to synthesize student concerns with the concerns of longtime BG residents in the ward.
O’Dorisio is running for the Second Ward, which contains apartment developments such as Copper Beech, Campbell Hill, Falcon’s Pointe and The Edge.
Students will comprise a large number of voters for both of these candidates. We have the power to influence their decision-making while in office, either to lend support when they stand on the correct side of an issue or be critical when they waver. Living in a rental unit myself, I have been affected first-hand, and because of their advocacy, they have earned my support and my vote.
The second issue that is essential to students living in Bowling Green is the issue of sustainability in our community.
Sustainability is a broad issue which contains many different efforts the city has considered recently, including parklets downtown allowing for more outdoor eating spaces, more pedestrian friendly infrastructure, bike lanes in and around downtown and a climate resolution with a goal of carbon-zero emissions.
From my experience as a student, and as I talk to friends about these issues, bike lanes are long, long overdue in our town. Many students bike around campus with ease, but as soon as you leave the campus pathways, you’ll find it is difficult, confusing and dangerous to bike around downtown. Many community members have also voiced these concerns during city council meetings and students have voiced concerns via social media.
Our generation uniquely cares about protecting the environment and ensuring a healthy planet for our future. Further initiatives such as more tree planting in and around downtown, development of new parks and green spaces, greater support for recycling and community composting and pursuing green energy development in the region are all being considered by city council.
The foundation for global sustainability begins at the local level and implementing measures and policies that make our community more sustainable is the first step for a greener future.
Once again, when it comes to advocacy for these issues, there are clear stand-out candidates that have made sustainability and accessibility central to their campaigns. O’Dorisio and Rubando have been strong voices from outside of city council, and Third Ward councilwoman Rachel Phipps has been active within Council pushing for these measures and many more.
Our generation has a responsibility to advocate for the values we believe in, and we have a clear choice in our candidates for city council for who will carry out those values in our local government.
Early voting begins this week and continues up until Nov. 2. Please consider voting if you have not already and I hope you consider these issues when you cast your ballot.