Fred Gerke, of North Eastmoreland, told Oregon City Council on Monday that the community should have a Christmas tree lighting ceremony to spread more holiday cheer.
The city every year decorates a tree on Navarre Avenue, but Mayor Mike Seferian said the location was too dangerous to invite the public for a lighting ceremony.
“It’s probably not a proper place. It’s kind of dangerous out there, so we will not be having one,” said Seferian.
Gerke agreed it was not safe, but thought the municipal complex on Seaman Road would be an ideal site next year.
“I went to a lot of towns that had Christmas tree lighting ceremonies for the first time. Why can’t we have it here at the city? We got parking. We have a police department. We should have a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, shouldn’t we? I see Northwood had one. I’m just saying, the people of Oregon love this city. Where is the love of the council people to just put up something for the city? It’s like saying to me, `Ok, we’ll have a city, but we don’t like to have ceremonies for Christmas,’” said Gerke.
He praised officials for organizing Boomfest, the annual Fourth of July celebration Seferian started four years ago.
“I think it’s fantastic you guys doing that for the community. But would a Christmas tree ceremony affect our budget, our council, our people? You should be out there to meet the citizens of Oregon who voted for you,” said Gerke.
Seferian said there had been Christmas tree lighting ceremonies in the past, but few attended the event.
“Each year, we had less and less people show up. There was almost no one attending when we did have it. Some people here felt obligated to come. We were the only ones who were here. There wasn’t a strong outcry for it. You are the only one. If we see a desire for it, we will consider it,” said Seferian.
Council President Dennis Walendzak said he was also open to having a Christmas tree lighting ceremony again.
“The current place on Navarre, our Christmas tree, is not a safe area to have, unless you close down Route 2. But we could potentially have it in the future. Last year we did have Christmas lights and a display here at the administration facility. Obviously, a sense of community, a sense of pride in the community, is something we should all strive for,” said Walendzak.
“As a citizen of Oregon, I feel I have a right to come before council and give my opinion,” said Gerke. “I love the city. I love the workers. I love the people of Oregon. I love Christmas. I love to give people holiday cheer and stuff like that. It makes me happy.”
Administrator Mike Beazley said the city has added more Christmas decorations in the last few years.
“Oregon has upped its public investment in public decorations and lighting. Every year, three years in a row, we do more than the year before. We take a little step at a time. Navarre Avenue we’re still working on. The city has increased its investment in lighting and display,” said Beazley.
“I appreciate it,” said Gerke. “But like I said, there’s a chance for people to meet you guys. We vote to put you in office. A lot of times, people are afraid to say hi. You’re just citizens of Oregon like I am. You’re a higher authority. If I want to find out things, I talk to you guys. You’re the people I come to. If we could just get the community of Oregon together to meet you guys one day of the year. A lot of people need to meet you.”
Councilman Jim Seaman agreed with Seferian about the weak public attendance at previous tree lighting ceremonies.
“If we tried to reach out more in advance, with stronger public relations - have candy for the kids - maybe more people would come. Maybe we could put you in charge of notifying everyone if we ever did that,” Seaman said to Gerke.
“I love the idea of handing out candy canes,” said Gerke. “And you guys, too, could talk to people. A lot of people open up at Christmas time.”
“We’ll encourage Mr. Seaman to organize that event next year,” said Walendzak.