We said in a recent version of “Usually Reliable Sources” that recalling elected officials can be a heavy lift and at the local level, that’s turning out to be true.
In Huntington Beach a group is seeking to recall five members of the city council – Mayor Kim Carr, Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Delgleize and councilmembers Dan Kalmick, Natalie Moser and Mike Posey. The issue: Anger over the council’s refusal to appoint Gracey Van Der Mark to a vacancy on the council created by the resignation in June of then-Mayor Pro Tem Tito Ortiz from the council.
In Westminster, a group is seeking to recall two members of the city council, Kimberly Ho and Carlos Manzo. The issue is a little vague, but it popped up after Ho “switched sides” on the council and the issue arose of whether Chi Charlie Nguyen should be removed from his ceremonial position as vice mayor and replaced with another councilmember. The struggle over the Quang Tri monument was likely also a factor.
However, it’s easier said than done. According to Westminster City Clerk Christine Cordon, the attempted recall of Manzo was “terminated” on Monday due to “insufficiency of service.” The recall of Ho is “still under the petition review process,” and “a petition has not been approved for circulation yet.”
The Huntington Beach effort is also struggling. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the filing of paperwork for the recall of Posey, Carr and Kalmick missed the deadline.
Even if all that gets sorted out, it’s difficult to see this crossing the finish line. In the case of Huntington Beach, how can the self-identified “conservatives” pushing the recall justify spending $1 million in taxpayer money on an election less than a year after the last election?
In Westminster, recalls have become as common as Starbucks. At one time or another, nearly every council member there in the last two years has been the subject of a recall attempt, and it even spilled over into Garden Grove with a largely symbolic effort aimed at Garden Grove Councilmember Phat Bui.
Setting aside the virtues of the personalities involved, it seems to us that the idea behind the power of recall is misunderstood and abused.
The original intent was to create a mechanism for the public to remove egregiously corrupt public officials from office for demonstrated misconduct. It’s not intended to be a schoolyard act of revenge between feuding clans or ideologies. It is reminiscent of the divorced couple filing rival restraining orders against each other, just for spite.
The revolving door on Westminster Boulevard
As reported in The Tribune on Tuesday, Westminster City Manager Marwan Youssef is resigning his post after six months on the job. It’s closer to the truth to say he was forced to resign by a council that’s having trouble finding someone appropriate to serve as the city’s top executive.
City Clerk Christine Cordon has been tapped to become acting city manager, which will make her the fourth person to hold that post in Westminster in a year and a half.
The good news is that Ms. Cordon is extraordinarily competent and affable. She’s candid, easy to contact and combines skill with a sense of humor. The not-so-good news is that the leadership of the city seems to be rudderless, especially worrisome with a huge financial crisis looming right around the corner.
Youssef, who came to the top job after being public works director and city engineer, seems to be a nice guy who may have been in over his head in his new – and short-lived – job.
It’s depressing to recount all the stumbles that have led to this point, but it all seems to be rooted in personal rivalries and the sense that every problem – even the mortally serious ones – can be kicked down the road forever.
“Usually Reliable Sources” is posted on alternate weeks, trading places with Jim Tortolano’s “Retorts” column.
Local government recalls are more difficult to pull off in smaller cities because it actually requires people to solicit signatures to qualify it for a ballot. In larger elections, such as the statewide effort against Governor Newsom, big interests can hire out so-called clipboard petition companies to get enough signatures. As a general rule, there isn’t enough interest or money locally to be able to “professionalize” the process.