Fight for president’s seat

WARREN – A longtime politician and a former United Auto Workers union president are squaring off in the race for city council president.

Warren Council President Bob Dean is asking voters to re-elect him. Former UAW Local 1112 president of 15 years Jim Graham is making his second run for office.

Graham, who retired from General Motors Corp. and his union position in Lordstown in 2012, ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2011.

Dean was appointed to complete the term of a vacated Warren council at-large seat in 2004, serving there until 2011, when he was elected to be City Council’s president.

Prior to returning to his hometown, Dean made a career in the U.S. Air Force, then worked in various positions under the mayor of Houston from 1982 to 1992, returned to Ohio in 1993, and working at the Cleveland Port Authority. He retired from each of these positions.

Graham said if elected, he hopes to restore a sense of trust between the council president’s position and the other members of council.

“I don’t think it exists right now,” he said. “You don’t get on TV and accuse a member of council of not being honest because of a Christmas gift.”

Graham said information should have been gathered, people talked to individually, and, if possible, resolve any suspected issues among the council members.

Dean defends his stand on pointing out that one council member who had several driving infractions should not receive special treatment, and defended himself against allegations of calling a news conference about a Christmas gift given to the council’s clerk.

He admits there were missteps and disagreements, but said they were on both sides.

“I spent $1,200 of my own money to say I’m sorry, let me be the first to apologize for any misunderstanding that I may have been a party to,” Dean said.

Most recently, Dean was questioned last weekend by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office about how money raised for six teens killed in a single-car accident on March 10 was distributed.

Dean set up the bank account. A six-member pastoral group oversees allocations. The pastors chose to pay funeral homes directly, and want to reserve the excess for future emergencies. The families contend that the excess should be turned over to them for indirect funeral expenses.

Dean said the Attorney General’s Office advised him on how to transfer money to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that raises money for charities.

Dean said he has an excellent relationship with Mayor Doug Franklin’s administration and still has close ties with former Mayor Michael O’Brien.

The council president said he has worked hard to run meetings that run efficiently and professionally.

“I’ve shown my fellow council members respect for their positions and for their work,” he said.

Graham said the council president’s job is to appoint council members to committees, set meetings and run the meetings.

Graham said he hopes to gain the administration’s trust so they can work together to turn the city around.

While he recognizes that some believe he is using the council presidency as a stepping stone to the mayor’s office, Graham insists that is not true.

“Retirement is undervalued,” Graham said. “However, I want to give back to the city. It has done a lot for me and for my family.”

Graham said he would like to see the council meetings broadcast on television so the public can see how city government works.

“You get more people involved, they will feel more connected,” he said.

Graham said he would appoint successful business leaders to an economic development committee.

“I would get people who have been successful in business to bring ideas about economic development into the city,” he said.

“I take a lot of pride at what we were able accomplish at Lordstown and would like to bring those leadership ideas to the city,” he said.

Dean has used the position to promote some of his favorite causes, including providing gifts to veterans at two Ohio nursing homes during the Thanksgiving holidays and gathering hundreds of coats to be given away for low income families in the area. He also facilitated the distribution of hundreds of fire alarms throughout the city.

Dean also has helped to raise money for families that find themselves the victims of emergencies, including house fires and auto accidents.

Dean said he is proud that as an active councilman, he is second only to Councilman Alford Novak in the number of legislation that he has sponsored over the years. Dean has sponsored more than 80 pieces of legislation.

“I’m especially proud of blight legislation passed in 2007 that addressed everything that boarding up houses property, trash, and label on doors,” he said. “I’m also proud of a piece of legislation that did not pass that attempted create a spot patrol ordinance that would have looked at high crime area and focus additional manpower in the area. The additional police presence would followed the suspects until they moved out of town.”

Among issues that Graham wants to address include getting the business incubator started and finding ways to lower the amount of illegal drugs and reduce other types of crime in the city.

During his run for mayor, Graham said the city must look beyond the federal S.A.F.E.R. grant to pay for firefighters.

“I was crucified,” he said. “I did not believe we would get the next round of federal money.”

The city learned earlier this year that its grant application for this year’s S.A.F.E.R. grant was denied by the federal government.

“While we need firefighters, we also need money for more police officers,” he said.

Graham said the council presidency can be used as a bully pulpit to get discussions started about a variety of issues.