Scandal and illegality aren’t the only reasons a mayor or city council member can face recall.
In Hercules, the two members of the city council are facing recall, and the mayor would have faced the same election but chose to resign instead. They lost the trust and confidence of the community after questionable hiring’s and firings. But so far, nothing illegal seems to have happened. Questionable, definitely; suspicious, certainly; but illegal, not necessarily.
That recall is focused on the city’s financial deterioration.
But Hercules is a small town, with less than 25,000 residents.
Bell has its recall in March after the scandal and alleged criminality that ran rampant in their city hall. But that too is a small city, not even 40,000 residents.
What if one of California’s minor metropolises tried to recall a mayor? Imagine if a city of 400,000 people tried to oust their mayor or city council.
In Nebraska’s largest city, however, people went to the polls on Tuesday for the recall election of Mayor Jim Suttle.
Mayor Suttle is only 20 months into his first term as mayor, wasn’t sure he’d see the end of this one.
Omahans are angry about taxes, and angry at their elected officials. The result was a movement to oust the mayor.
After defeating former mayor Hal Daub in 2008, Suttle assumed office. Since then, there have been back-to-back years with property tax increases. This year, there’s a new tax going onto restaurant and bar bills, as well as an increase to the city’s wheel tax.
The organizers behind the recall effort said that voters are fed-up with these policies, and by 2012, when the next election comes around, the damage may be beyond repair.
At a news conference announcing the recall, spokesman Jeremy Aspen listed the reasons for the recall. “[Mayor Suttle] is not representing the citizens of Omaha,” said Asepn. “[There’s a] lack of leadership and management skills necessary for the job.”
Mayor Suttle issued a statement on Sunday defending his record. Claiming that he has cut costs, reduced pension deficit, and limited tax increases to targeted and manageable levels, Suttle seems to stand by his record.
However, his campaign to remain in office was hampered some last week when the Mayor was forced to apologize for a campaign strategy that some people called “boneheaded.”
The campaign had hired homeless people from Omaha’s shelters. In exchange for $5, they would be taught how to go door-to-door to help get out the vote. As part of this program, they were also provided with a bus to transport them to the County Clerk so they could cast ballots.
The appearance of paying for votes was hard to explain away. Instead, Mayor Suttle said it was a mistake.
California isn’t necessarily new to recalls, having elected our last Governor during one.
The difference is cause. The recall that launched Governor Schwarzenegger into the Capitol was caused by mishandled crisis, rolling blackouts, and economic turmoil.
Omaha’s election was because of differences of political opinion and ideology.
However, as results came in last night it appeared that the political situation hadn’t really changed all that much since his first election.
In 2008, Mayor Suttle won election with the same margin of victory as in the recall effort. Some 79,000 ballots were cast yesterday, and the Mayor remained in office by approximately 1,500.
The recall effort claimed that the cost of the recall, at some $900,000, would be a safe investment to save the city the money that Mayor Suttle’s decisions would cost over the next few years.
But with the failure of the recall, Omaha is just out of the money and has the same leadership as always.
What can be striking about this election is the ease with which it qualified, the margin by which it failed, and the cost to an already struggling city.
It makes me wonder, what would happen if this sort of reactionary politics took hold in our cities?
It is, I suppose, the marvel, the wonder, and the danger of direct democracy.
And it’s the worst form of government, except for all the others.