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Council hopefuls square off

Downtown housing, pensions and home inspections are among the topics discussed in realtors┬┐┬┐┬┐ forum.

March 02, 2011|By Melanie Hicken, melanie.hicken@latimes.com

GLENDALE — City budget deficits and traffic problems were among the concerns of local Realtors who hosted an election forum on Wednesday for the six City Council candidates.

Rafi Manoukian, Mike Mohill, Chahe Keuroghelian and Garen Mailyan are challenging incumbents Dave Weaver and John Drayman for two seats in the April 5 election.

At Wednesday’s forum — hosted by the Glendale Assn. of Realtors at the Elks Lodge and moderated by La Cañada City Councilwoman Laura Olhasso, herself a candidate for reelection — the candidates addressed a large group of members of the local real estate community.

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Multiple years of budget deficits during the protracted recession dominated Wednesday’s discussion.

Glendale officials are bracing for a General Fund budget gap of $10 million for next fiscal year — the fourth consecutive year of multi-million-dollar deficits.

“The budget is of utmost concern to all of us,” said Manoukian, who served eight years on the Glendale City Council before he lost his seat to Drayman in 2007. He said he supports cutting overtime hours and eliminating the use of employee credit cards.

Other candidates — including self-described city watchdog Mohill, newcomer Mailyan and perennial candidate Keuroghelian — seized on the city’s rising employee pension obligations, which Keuroghelian said should be rolled back to the levels they occupied before the 2003 City Council vote that increased benefits.

Mohill also criticized the city’s utility and trash rates and other fees.

“What affects Realtors?” he said. “The high cost of living in the city of Glendale.”

Drayman and Weaver countered that they have been tough with the city’s four employee unions in recent years, securing millions in concessions and instituting a two-tier pension system with reduced benefits for new hires.

“We’re ahead of virtually every city in the state,” Weaver said.

When asked how they would tackle Glendale’s traffic problems, candidates offered a range of solutions — from Manoukian suggesting synchronization of traffic signals to Drayman’s support for downtown residential development.

“We have 60,000 people on our roads at rush hour,” said Drayman. He said adding downtown housing would cut down on commuter traffic.

But Mailyan, who cast himself as avidly pro-business, said the heavy traffic was “a price we pay for all the economic dividends we get from development.”

Candidates also were asked about their positions on point-of-sale inspections — a rule that some cities use to require inspections that could force upgrades before a home is sold.

Glendale does not have such a policy, but the potential for one is a perennial hot topic among Realtors, who contend that such rules constitute an added burden for sellers.

All candidates said they would not support adopting the policy.

“We need to encourage the market, rather than put any restrictions on it,” Keuroghelian said.

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