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Pioneer lights Christmas tree

PIONEER — Community members gathered downtown Saturday evening to celebrate the holiday season as, for the fifth straight year, the large evergreen outside the Pioneer Community Center was ceremonially lit.

There was a slight chill in the air, but nothing a warm cup of coffee or hot chocolate — served up at the gazebo, along with chocolate chip cookies — couldn’t fix.

And as village council member Connie Salisbury remarked just before the tree was lit, “This is actually the best weather we’ve had all day.”

Salisbury came up with the tree-lighting tradition in memory of her daughter, Tiffanie, who died from cancer in 2014.

Mayor Ed Kidston provided some welcoming remarks before turning the microphone over to North Central music teacher Crystal Gillaspy, who led the crowd in a holiday sing-a-long, ending with “Silent Night,” which, she opined, “should be sung at every Christmas tree lighting.”

Kidston then welcomed all the children in attendance to come to the front, close their eyes and image what they wanted for Christmas, and then count down from 10 with the colorful lights turning on when they got to zero.

“This gets bigger and I see more people out here every year,” Kidston said of the event.

Ohio Gov. DeWine signs Republican congressional map with huge GOP advantage

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has signed Statehouse Republicans’ congressional map for Ohio giving the GOP a substantial advantage, claiming that of all the maps presented it “makes the most progress to produce a fair, compact and competitive map.”

DeWine pointed to fewer county splits in the map and the number of Ohio cities the map keeps whole.

“With seven competitive congressional districts in the SB 258 map, this map significantly increases the number of competitive districts versus the current map,” DeWine said.

Without bipartisan support, the map is slated to only be in place for four years. With DeWine’s signature, legal challenges are expected to be forthcoming. Statehouse legislative maps approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission with only Republican support in September are facing legal challenges currently before the Ohio Supreme Court.

DeWine’s son, Justice Pat DeWine, has refused to recuse himself from the case, making Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor the potential swing vote on the constitutionality of the Republican plans that continue Republican supermajorities in the Ohio House and Senate and now an 11-2 advantage in congressional maps with two potential toss-up districts.

Ohio voters passed redistricting reform for state legislative maps in 2015, with more than 70% support, and congressional redistricting reform in 2018 with nearly 75% support. Those reforms called for maps that do not “unduly favor or disfavor” one political party or another.

The map approved Thursday in the House was introduced just Monday night as an amendment replacing the maps previously discussed in committee hearings. After the map was unveiled, it had one hearing in which a committee heard public comment. Every speaker was an opponent. The Princeton Gerrymandering gave the map a flunking grade.

An analysis of the map on Dave’s Redistricting App shows seven Republican districts, two Democratic districts and six districts listed as competitive for being within a 54-46 margin. Five in six of the “competitive” districts lean Republican, and the one that leans Democratic, Ohio’s 13th district, does so by 0.88%. It was passed along partisan lines in both the Ohio Senate and Ohio House this past week.

DeWine’s signing of the GOP congressional maps was criticized by anti-gerrymandering advocates.

“Once again, Gov. DeWine has failed to stand up to the extremists in his party. He could have rejected gerrymandered maps, but chose weakness instead,” said Desiree Tims, president and CEO of Innovation Ohio. “These rigged districts will lead to more extreme politicians who pass dangerous laws that devastate Ohio communities.”

The map will give Republicans 80% to 87% of Ohio’s congressional seats, the advocates noted, despite the fact that Republicans only win about 55% of Ohio’s statewide vote.

“Regardless of our skin color or zip code, everybody deserves to have a meaningful influence on our political process and choosing who gets to represent us,” said Jeniece Brock, Policy and Advocacy Director of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative. “By cracking and packing communities of color, this congressional map dilutes the power and voices of Black and brown Ohioans.”

Stryker discusses open seats, stray cats

The village of Stryker is looking for people to fill four empty council seats at the start of the year, and if candidates have an idea of how to deal with the stray cat problem, the village would likely appreciate it.

Four council seats were up for election this year, though no one filed a petition to actually run for the positions on the ballot or as a write-in.

“I don’t know if you guys have been asked about this. The way it was exactly worded was ‘What the heck is going on?’ Quite honestly, we missed it,” Mayor Joey Beck said during the council’s meeting last week. “That kind of snuck up on us.”

Some people have already submitted letters of interest and Beck said they had until December to deliver them in person or they can be postmarked no later than Nov. 30.

With only two people on council at the beginning of January, he was unsure what the process was going to look like to appoint them.

Separately, Councilman Sam Farmer asked if the village would be able to hire a cat catcher as “there are a lot of stray cats.”

Beck said he believed if people start feeding cats then it becomes their animal, something Police Chief Steve Schlosser disputed to a degree.

“Council had an opportunity back when my fiasco happened to right a wrong and it never happened,” Schlosser said, “because I can’t find anywhere in my green book that says if you feed it you own it. I’m saying within the (Ohio Revised Code) it may say that but ... our village ordinances have nothing.”

Schlosser was suspended for two weeks in 2013 after he pleaded no contest to a charge of illegal treatment of a companion animal stemming from allegations he and his officers had needlessly killed cats found around the village.

“ ... We have absolutely no backing in our village ordinances to do anything about it,” Schlosser said last Monday.

Beck said stray cats can be trapped and turned over to a humane society, but that costs money and Schlosser said no humane society in the area is currently accepting stray cats.

Another option Beck read about is that spaying or neutering a stray cat and then releasing them can help, as if the cat just disappears another one would take its place. Putting a cat back after neutering them allows them to keep their territory, helping the situation in the long term.

“Yes, we have dealt with cats for a while,” he said. “What the answer is I can’t tell you.”

In other business:

• Council was told the town’s fifth annual tree lighting ceremony is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

• Beck said the third annual Christmas decorating contest will happen this year with the top three winners receiving an award. The contest is open to anyone in the Stryker Local School District, but they have to let the village know they are participated by Dec. 6.

• Council accepted the resignation of Solicitor Katie Rakes.

• Beck said the new village electronic sign was in, though it would take some time for them to learn everything they can do with it.

• Village Administrator Alan Riegsecker said leaf pickup will last until Dec. 1 and said leaves should be off the street.

A good Olde Tyme in Montpelier Saturday

MONTPELIER — After skipping a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people appeared excited to flock back to the Olde Tyme Holiday Gathering on Saturday.

The day opened up with a craft and book show at the school featuring 132 booths and roughly 80 vendors.

“People started coming in at 9:30 (a.m.), they were excited to be here,” said Michelle Kannel, craft show organizer. “The vendors are glad to be back. A couple actually sold out already. So, it’s a good show all around.”

Shoppers were excited to be back, with people coming in and out all day.

Overall, Kannel said the show was a success.

“Just thank you to everyone coming out,” she said.

The celebration continued Saturday evening, with a parade going downtown at 6 p.m. with lighted tractors, horse-drawn carriages and more.

Santa Claus took this opportunity to make his grand entrance into town ahead of all the other parade entrants.

Consumers urged to shop locally

Despite the pandemic, an estimated 58.7 million shoppers hit the stores in person on Black Friday last year with millions more doing their holiday shopping online.

But small businesses, including those in Williams County, are hoping that local shoppers will show support for the services that they can provide.

American Express is again promoting its Shop Small Saturday program, which encourages patrons to spend their holiday shopping dollars at smaller businesses, rather than big box stores or major chains.

Asked what separates his store from major retailers, Steve Donaldson, owners of Donaldson’s Ace Hardware in Bryan, said it comes down to two words:

“Customer service. We take the time to find out what they need,” said Donaldson, who’s owned his business for 33 years.

But that’s not the only reason to shop locally, as stores like Direct LinQ Appliance and Hardware, also in Bryan, often tout deals that their bigger competitors simply don’t have.

“We get a lot of unique scratch-and-dent items with a manufacturer’s warrantee below what the box stores offer,” said owner Direct LinQ owner Phil Walsh, who noted the family-owned business has operated in Bryan for 25 years in one form or another.

For Leslie Pence, owner of Pence’s Concessions, the product speaks for itself, and has since the business began operations in 1956.

“Everything is a fresh, good-quality product,” she said. “All of our food products we make ourselves.”

Those foods include saltwater taffy, fudge and — of course — caramel corn and other popcorn products.

As of the past three years, the popular local shop also sell Christmas trees and wreaths.

Local shoppers will also have plenty of chances to patronize local businesses via the Christkindl Market, an open-air, European-style Christmas bazaar on courthouse square which will be open on the Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Local retailers supporting the Shop Small Saturday initiative include:

Fancy Petals, Woolace Electric, Donaldson’s Ace Hardware, Pence’s Concession, Fat Saturday Salvage, Direct LinQ Appliance and Hardware, Stryker Hardware, Wallace and Johnson, Fair Auto Repair, Unity Plumbing & Heating, Laube Auto Parts, Bryan Ford, Kora Brew House & Wine Bar, Rings Pharmacy, D&M Tire Center, Thiel Supply Center, The Bryan Times and Ten Thousand Villages.