The recall election going on in Upper Arlington is off topic for this blog, but it is instructive to learn how a city council can get in big trouble with the voters when it doesn’t communicate well, and engage the citizens in the process of decision making.
Recall election are rare
In a UA News article, Jeff Mackey, manager of the operations section of the Franklin County Board of Elections, is quoted saying that recall elections require signatures totaling 15 percent of the number of votes cast in the last municipal election, a tough figure to reach. “The election has to happen within 30 to 40 days of the petition being found valid,” he said. “That would be quite a feat. We haven’t had one of those around here for some time.”
Northam Park controversy
I don’t know anyone involved, so I am reading the net to learn about the dispute. The best summary I can give is that U.A. residents are upset over the use of tax money to renovate a city park, they are accusing council members of acting in bad faith, and have convinced three thousand voters to sign a petition to recall the election of four council members. The council members claim they did signal they were going to spend money on Northam Park when a tax passed in 2014, raising the city income tax to 2.5 percent and generating an extra $3 million. The opponents of this spending say the council did not specify the park in pre-election statements, and that the process that resulted in the park renovation was opaque to the taxpayers.
Read the story from the recall website
The people who are asking for the recall have a website, called UA for Accountability. It has a long list of complaints about the city council, and backs them up with documentation. For instance, the city said before the tax vote:
“By law, 100 percent of the revenue generated – approximately $3.5 million annually – will be dedicated to improving our roads, curbs and gutters, bridges and underground water and sewer lines.”
That was in the City of UA flyer, and the website links to a copy (one suggestion to the pro-recall people running the website, links to JPGs would be better that PDF files). Understandable why the anti- council group feels deceived. Lots more complaints and links to backup documents at the website.
The city council empaneled the standard “Task force to look at city infrastructure”, who were “independent” but somehow gave the council the results that were just what it wanted – a tax increase. Something for the Grandview school board to think about, Potemkin task forces don’t always impress people.
She is tired
One of the council members, President Deborah Johnson , is quoted saying that “she is tired of suggestions that council is hiding something”. Quick PR tip for Ms Johnson – when you say you are tired of listening to the voters, the voters are quite justified in saying they are tired of hearing you speak from the position on council, and are doing you a favor by allowing you to step down and rest your ears.
Results of voting, Aug. 23, 2016
(8PM) Absentee Voting is extremely close! (9:30 PM) Those voting no on the recall are up anywhere from 62% to 57% in favor of keeping the council (each member had a separate vote).