Recall is a "total crock"

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That's the phrase that Tulsa County Republican Chairman Don Burdick used in his valedictory speech on Friday at the monthly Tulsa County Republican Men's Club luncheon. (Burdick is not running for re-election.) Burdick pointed out that most of the signatures on the recall petitions seeking to remove two Republican city councilors, Chris Medlock and Jim Mautino, came from Democrats, and the signatures included the names of the two former Democratic city councilors who were defeated last March, Darla Hall and Art Justis.

A Tulsa World analysis of the signatures on the petitions also reveals that the overwhelming majority of the signers didn't bother to vote in the last city election (63% in District 6, 74% in District 2). So much for forfeiting your right to complain if you don't bother to vote. One wonders what those people were told to convince them to sign a petition.

The threshold for signatures is ridiculously low (25% of the number voting in the last city election), and the standard for cause is non-existent -- it makes me wonder if recall was designed by the framers of the charter specifically as a means to harass and, if necessary, overthrow the Council if the local oligarchy ever managed to lose control of the body.

Do a thought experiment with me: Imagine that the charter required that all of the signatures to meet the 25% threshold must come from people who actually voted in the last city election. Councilor Smith loses to Challenger Jones by a resounding 60-40 margin. If the defeated incumbent could convince little more than half of his voters to sign a recall petition, he could at least torment his replacement by putting him through another election. Never mind that 60% voted for the winner, and another 15% are content to wait until the next general election to make a change -- a tiny minority of those who voted can force the district to go through at least one more election. At the very least, the recall is going to distract the winning councilor from accomplishing what he set out to do.

The reality is worse than that. Only 8% of the voters in the last District 2 election and only 9% of the voters in the last District 6 election bothered to sign the petitions. Over 90% of the people who bothered to vote are content enough with their representation to wait until the next general election, when they can decide for themselves who will serve as city councilor, but their wishes are being overturned by a tiny minority afflicted with sour grapes.

A recall has another advantage over a regular election for sour grapes losers like Darla Hall and Art Justis. A recall election is treated under the ethics laws as an issue campaign, not a candidate campaign. There is no limit on individual donations, and corporate contributions are permitted. If you're a loser with ties to the Cockroach Caucus, they can raise and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to trash the reputation of the guy who beat you.

I was amused by a couple of quotes from the sour grapes losers in the World's story. Darla Hall denied playing a role in the recall effort, but she was named as a circulator of the petition back in November in a story in the westside's Tulsa County News. Art Justis is quoted by the World:

"It boils down to the fact that I really don't like either one of these men," he said. "It's not that they ask questions, it's the way they do it. They're power-hungry and are looking to upset a process that works well."

The only hunger for power I see is on the other side of the argument. Does the process work well? It may have been working well for Mr. Justis's campaign contributors, but his constituents didn't seem to think it worked well, nor did a majority of the voters in a majority of the Council districts. That's why we wound up with a majority on the Council challenging the process for the first time ever.

The recall is not a popular uprising against corrupt or incompetent public officials. The recall is the city establishment trying desperately to cling on to the power they've been misusing for decades.


Concerned Citizens said:

Michael, you hit the nail on the head when you said...."The recall is about the city establishment trying desperately to cling on to the power they have been misusing for decades".

A question: Will you be able to post the latest petitions with those who signed? Seems that would be public record.

We citizens appreciate you and all you are doing! Keep up the great work!

If someone wants to do the grunt work of transcribing the petitions into an Excel spreadsheet, I will be happy to post the information here.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on February 20, 2005 3:16 PM.

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