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Published: Tuesday, 10/27/2009

Civility marks Oregon mayoral forum

BY CARL RYAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Civility was the order of the day at the 2009 Oregon Mayoral Forum last week, as incumbent Marge Brown and challenger Mike Seferian answered questions and delivered statements to an audience of 100 in the Mercy St. Charles Hospital auditorium.

Not a barbed comment was heard during the one-hour forum moderated by Jeff Smith of WTVG TV Channel 13.

Neither candidate engaged in personal criticism of the other, and the mayor's potentially problematic son, a city police officer who was suspended for 20 days last month following a misconduct investigation, was never mentioned.

Both candidates came out in favor of building a new senior center, although few specifics were offered.

If elected, Mr. Seferian said he would build the new senior facility at the city's municipal complex. He said it would not be "a Taj Mahal" that costs $6 million to $8 million, which is the estimate the city received from an architect.

Mayor Brown agreed that this cost estimate was too high. She ruled out paying for the new center with an additional property tax, adding that Oregon residents already were overtaxed.

The evening began with introductory remarks.

Mayor Brown said, "I love my city and I love the people in it." She noted that Oregon was doing well, with no municipal layoffs. She took credit for $8 million in grants the city has been awarded and the fourfold increase in its rainy day fund.

"These are the accomplishments of a mayor working full time," said Mrs. Brown, an endorsed Democrat who has been in office eight years. "Make no mistake about it, Oregon is winning, and change will make it fall behind."

Mr. Seferian, who is running as an independent and has been on city council for 18 years, talked of his background as a businessman.

"I currently run a business that my father started in 1947. I started working there in 1969 when I was 12," he said.

He maintained his experience as a businessman would hold him in good stead as mayor. He had the trust of his customers, and he would use that trust as mayor, he said.

Mayor Brown was correct in saying that Oregon was doing well in hard times, he said, but credit for that success belonged to a lot of people, including those on City Council.

The mayoral race heated up last month when Mrs. Brown's son, a city police officer, was suspended without pay for 20 days following a misconduct investigation. Jeffrey Brown, 39, was disciplined for illegally using a statewide law enforcement database to search for information about a former girlfriend.

Former Police Chief Thomas Gulch told council that the mayor's son, who has been an Oregon officer for 10 years, was investigated in 2003 for telephone harassment. The case was dropped because the female accuser changed her story.

Mr. Seferian pressed Mr. Gulch for more answers about that investigation and other city matters, and Mrs. Brown retaliated, pointing out police reports about Mr. Seferian, including a petty theft in 1976 and criminal trespass in 1981. Mr. Seferian explained he and two friends took a extinguisher from an apartment complex hallway as part of a prank and, when blocked by a train stopped at a crossing, drove on a frozen field to get to the next intersection.

In Oregon's mayoral primary last month, Mr. Seferian took 55 percent of the votes to Mayor Brown's 37 percent.

Written questions submitted to the candidates covered subjects from regional cooperation to drainage issues to help for small businesses.

Mrs. Brown said her experience with the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments had given her a good knowledge of area officials. Whoever is elected Toledo mayor, "hopefully, I will be able to work with him," she said.

Mr. Seferian said his experience in dealing with people as a businessman would carry over into his mayoral duties, if elected. "I also have to be able to deal with anyone who comes in my front door."

On improving drainage in Oregon, both candidates said that ditches had to be cleaned and maintained. Mrs. Brown noted that the city would begin $35 million worth of work in January, much of it involving drainage. Mrs. Brown and Mr. Seferian spoke highly of Public Service Director Paul Roman and said he played an important role in dealing with Oregon's drainage issues.

Mr. Seferian said small businesses would be helped by modifying the city's strict sign code.

Mrs. Brown observed that her opponent has had many years as a councilman to work on changing the sign and building codes.

Both candidates voiced strong opposition to Oregon's joining TARTA. Joining the regional transit agency would be an irreversible move and raise taxes, Mrs. Brown said.

"Oregon does not want TARTA. It does not benefit everyone," she explained.

Contact Carl Ryan at:

carlryan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050



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