By Kevin Kelley
Who will win the city’s first contested mayoral race in 12 years?
Both Eileen Patton, the incumbent mayor, and Richard Deem, a retired police officer, say their respective campaigns are going well, with potential voters giving them positive feedback.
Both say they have had difficulty keeping up with demand for their campaign yard signs.
But elections aren’t won with yard signs; they’re won with votes. Each candidate has a different message to garner those votes.
Patton, the former Ward 1 councilwoman seeking her fourth term as mayor, says she wants to continue the progress her administration has made during the past 12 years.
Specifically, she said she wants to finish three economic development programs now under way – the nursing home/assisted living project planned for Lorain Road across from City Hall, the credit union office planned on the site of the now demolished Cleveland Motel, and the Earth Fare grocery store to open soon at Westgate Shopping Center. Patton is also eager to execute a proposed transfer of federal government property on Brookpark Road to the city so the latter can sell it to Geis Co., which would redevelop it for a NASA contractor.
“We talk about it almost every day,” Patton said of the effort to redevelop the former NASA buildings.
Except for complaints about flooding, Patton said, she has not heard any negative comments while campaigning.
“(Residents) seem to be very content with the progress that has been made,” the mayor said.
They are happy about the redevelopment of Westgate and the coming grocery store, according to Patton.
“People truly like to spend their money in Fairview Park,” Patton said.
Patton points to the various economic development projects that have come to Fairview Park in the past dozen years, including the often overlooked business park on Brookpark Road. Economic development is the key to a successful city, Patton said.
In contrast, Deem said residents are telling him it’s time for a change at City Hall.
His campaign, he said, is drawing support from residents who, for whatever reason, have come to dislike Patton and her administration.
This is the time to make a change, Deem is telling voters.
“We have some new ideas,” Deem said he tells voters. “We want to include you in everything we do.”
Sewers and basement flooding are a big concern, he said, with residents unsatisfied with the Patton administration’s response to the problem.
“They think everything has fallen on deaf ears with the city,” Deem said regarding residents he has spoken with.
Patton has said her administration has made progress on the sewer issue and has a program in place to address the issue street by street.
Deem acknowledges it takes money to tackle sewer problems. He said that if elected he would conduct an extensive audit of the city’s books to determine how much money is available. He points to statements and campaign literature of Patton’s that give differing amounts – $6 million and $8 million – for how much the city has spent on sewers during her tenure as mayor. He also points to discrepancies in line items in the municipal budget, such as one for a full-time animal warden when the city doesn’t have one, as reasons for the need for a full audit.
An audit done by the office of Ohio Auditor Dave Yost for the year 2010 found no issues with the city’s financial statements taken as a whole. The city received a certificate for excellence in financial reporting for 2009 from the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada.
Patton calls Deem’s main economic development proposal, the establishment of an economic development corporation, as a “buzz word” for his campaign. Such corporations are uncommon in suburbs, Patton notes, adding that she has never heard anyone propose one for Fairview Park before this year. The chamber of commerce has the ability to attract businesses to the city, the mayor said.
Deem argues that such a corporation, which can give tax credits to investors, would work with the city and chamber of commerce.
“Why wouldn’t you want a group that could help the chamber of commerce?” Deem asked.
Such a corporation can be appropriate for an inner-ring suburb such as Fairview Park, Deem said. And, he noted, it was mentioned in the city’s 1999 master plan.
Deem said he’s hardly ever asked about his lawsuit against the city in which he seeks lost wages from a demotion initiated by a budget crisis. Others demoted around the same time had their pay restored, but Deem didn’t. Asked if his situation was made personal, Deem told West Life, “It sure seemed like it to me.” The case is currently in the Cuyahoga County Court of Appeals.
Both candidates are against retaining the state’s new collective bargaining law. A “no” vote on Issue 2 would repeal the controversial law.
Patton complained that municipalities and unions were not at the table when the law was written, but they will be required to implement it. When Fairview Park faced a budget crisis a couple of years ago, the city and its unions successfully solved it without the new law through negotiations that yielded concessions, Patton noted.
Patton added that she understands that the salaries of public employees need to be controlled in these difficult economic times. The mayor said she would be supportive of an effort to rewrite collective bargaining legislation if municipalities and unions played a role in drafting the law.
Deem, who served 29 years with the Fairview Park Police Department, said he didn’t like the process by which the law was drafted and passed by the Ohio legislature.
“I think it was poorly written,” Deem said.