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Published: Friday, 8/3/2001

Adrian dispute produces rare primary race

BY ERICA BLAKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

ADRIAN - A controversial rental inspection program prompted at least three of the city's nine commission candidates to run for a seat in next week's election, bringing about the city's first primary in 15 years.

Candidates Tim Templeton, Ivan Myers, and Martha Farnam have openly opposed the program approved by the city commission Nov. 20.

The program calls for the inspection of more than 3,200 rental properties within the city.

Also on the Tuesday ballot are incumbents Rhea Mills and Charles Chase, as well as newcomers Jeff Dicenzo, Gary McDowell, Jim Awad, and former Commissioner Thomas R. Faulhaber.

“I felt that the commission was arrogant and treated us in a bad manner,” said Ms. Farnam, 35, a renter who attended meetings on the subject. “I feel that people should have someone who is in touch with the citizens and will listen to them.”

Voters on Tuesday will whittle the list of candidates for the three available seats down to six people, who will run in the November general election.

Each voter can choose up to three candidates.

Several candidates could not be reached for comment yesterday, including newcomer Tim Templeton and incumbents Rhea Mills and Charles Chase.

The rental inspection ordinance requires that landlords register their property with the city for a fee. Each property will be inspected to ensure that safety and structure requirements are met.

To date, nearly 92 percent of rental properties have been registered, rental inspector Glenn Preston said.

Mr. Preston said he has been inspecting rentals full-time for the past two months. He admitted that the program has become a controversial issue in the city and caused the addition of some of the candidates' names on Tuesday's ballot.

A vocal opponent of the program has been the Rev. Rick Strawcutter, the controversial leader of The God and Country Club, a local organization that preaches freedom from government. Mr. Strawcutter has said that the program is unconstitutional and is an invasion of renters' privacy.

“This control on the part of government I think is overbearing,” said candidate Ivan Myers. “I've gotten good response from the people, very little negative response. I feel I have as good a chance as others.”

But not all of the city commission candidates oppose the ordinance. Thomas R. Faulhaber, an Adrian commissioner between 1985 and 1989, said there are many issues in the 21,574-person city that he would like to address. The rental inspection program, however, is not among them.

“I'm tired of the fact that there are so many slum lords around here that don't even live in the city,” said Mr. Faulhaber, 48, who owns several rental units. “Some of the biggest opposition to this program is coming from people who don't even live in the city. They don't care about the city and the community.”

Jeff DiCenzo, 45, supports the rental inspection program, as long as it is implemented properly. And in a year, Mr. DiCenzo believes the program and its opposition will be a “nonissue.”

He added that he is not running because of any particular issue, unlike some of his fellow candidates.

“I understand there are two or three candidates who are running just because of the rental inspection issues, and if that gets them elected, than that's democracy,” he said.

Candidates Gary McDowell and Jim Awad were out of town yesterday and unavailable for comment.

City Clerk Marsha Rowley said whatever the issues, the interest in this year's election has been unprecedented. “This is not typical at all,” she said. “We have not had a city primary since 1985. I wasn't planning on this.”

Neighboring Madison Township residents are the only other voters with local issues to decide Tuesday, in this case two five-year millage renewals. Township officials are asking for a renewal of a 1.5-mill road maintenance levy and one mill for fire and ambulance service.

The polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.



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