The present Recall effort is a naked power grab aimed at destroying local democracy. A couple of wealthy families and their companies are trying to use money to intimidate present and future councilors who might wish to be guided by their constituents' needs or their own consciences, not fear of Big Money.
Forget their somewhat comical outside operative, Jeffrey Isbell, who can only hurl misleading mud but doesn't seem ready to debate issues. (Maybe he's still too new here to have a clue.)
Forget how absurd some of that mud looks when it dries. White-haired “thugs” from PVA out stealing councilors' taillights late at night? Screaming “conflict-of-interest” with no evidence, but ignoring an apparent conflict where there's a real issue. Casting minimum-wage workers as a “special interest” while being paid by a very small cabal of petulant rich folks?
Most recently, when Mayor Ken Miyagashima, appalled by the Recall and its dishonesty, spoke out against it, Isbell screamed Ken should recuse himself. From what, and why? Having opinions doesn't require recusal, except maybe for judges. Mayors are supposed to have opinions. They articulate them to constituents, get elected, and try to enact laws based on them. Is Isbell suggesting a congressperson who says publicly that federal spending should be cut sharply must shut up about that issue if a relevant bill gets introduced? That'd be strange. In our world, anyway.
The Mayor had the courage to speak out. Isbell wrote, “As a recall effort, we denounce the intimidation tactics of Mayor Miyagishima and ask for a public apology.” Hnnh? People who spend a bundle of money to recall good councilors aren't intimidating anyone, but the Mayor is?
Again, this is a blatant attack on local democracy. It threatens to destroy civility and rational discourse in local politics. I just had lunch with a friend who opposed CAFé on the minimum wage ordinance but is disgusted by the Recall effort. “It's terrible, and destructive. I'd hoped after the sharp talk during the minimum-wage discussions, we could get back together. This could make that impossible!” (Actually, in a curious way, my friend might get his wish: the Recall effort, abetted by Isbell's childish theatrics, is so far beyond the pale that maybe decent people, whatever their opinion on minimum-wage, will find common ground opposing the Recall.
This Recall attempt is also insulting to voters. They elected and re-elected these councilors (Sorg and Pedoza just last year) knowing the candidates favored the new Monument designation and a minimum-wage hike; but the Recallers figure a barrage of misleading advertising and outright lies will outweigh what constituents have personally observed. I hope not.
So what should we do?
If Recall foot-soldiers ($11 an hour) come to your door, don't sign just because they're young and friendly and you don't want to disappoint them. The Recallers may get enough signatures, but there's no need to help them make the city (you!) pay for a special election.
Commit in your mind to vote against recall.
Talk now to your friends and neighbors, and especially to those who live in Districts 3, 4, or 5, or whose friends do. Ask them to commit to NO signature and to a “NO” vote if there's a special election, and to talk to their friends.
Also, please email (and ask friends to email) LoveLasCruces@zoho.com to express your commitment to fighting this thing, share information, or ask questions. Your communication will be passed on to your councilor – and, if a group forms to oppose the Recall, the group.
The Recallers have the money and outside hirelings. The Councilors have the vast majority of Las Crucens. For good reasons.
[The column above appeared in the Las Cruces Sun-News his morning, Sunday, 14 December.]
[The Sun-News correctly pointed out that so far, the Recallers wild claims about "conflict of interest" and misuse of public resources haven't proved out. They made a lot of noise, demanded and got a lot of documents, and omitted the misuse charge in their latest press release. This is a power grab, pure and simple. As the Sun-News also pointed out, if it were about ethics or good government, there are far more compelling targets here, such as David Gutierrez.]
[ A letter in Saturday's paper illustrated how badly these folks can fool citizens who haven't been paying attention.
The trigger for all this recall business was that the three target councilors favored raising the minimum wage, while businesses generally didn't. The issue came to the council as an ordinance requested by a set of petitions. Under the City Charter, the City Council had two choices: to pass it as it stood or submit it to voters. Since most councilors figured it would pass if the voters got it, the Council voted to pass it -- but with several councilors clearly planning to eviscerate the thing as soon as possible. The three target councilors, though they favored the minimum wage, voted to let it go to a vote of the people. (Can't get more democratic than that!) Presumably they hoped that a civty-wide majority vote might carry more weight with their fellow councilors than the City Charter did.
That seems pretty simple. But the Recall spokesfolks have tried to portray it as some strange, nefarious act. And Saturday's letter shows how easily the less attentive citizens can be gulled:
a lady named Carolyn Brandt wrote that she saw something "if not illegal, most definitely unethical to the extreme" in this, although she never got around to specifying an illegality or broken law. She said that "when they did not vote for the ordinance . . . they showed their hand." She seemed to feel that the councilors were betraying CAFé and the many people who favored the minimum wage; but far from feeling betrayed, CAFé and the other proponents thanked and praised the three target councilors for their vote to send the thing to the people.They understood, as perhaps poor Ms. Brandt did not, that the majority planned to enact the ordinance in order to gut it. The three councilors tried their best to keep their promise, to constituents and other city residents, to make the minimum wage law according to the terms of the initiative. Their valiant efforts helped minimize the changes the Council made. CAFé and minimum-wage workers following the issue know that. Most constitutents also know by now that the three councilors are now paying for their courage and consistency.