A group of citizens in Homer, Alaska has had quite enough of three city council members who tried to make Homer a “sanctuary city ” — a place where illegal immigrants could find safe haven from the law.
The citizens want the three recalled. The reason? The city council members’ actions have harmed the economic health of Homer and constituted “improper behavior.”
As of this afternoon, the recall petition blew past 300 signatures in less than four days’ effort. That is 80 percent of the minimum total signatures that will be required.
HAL SPENCE TAKES CREDIT
In January, shortly after the swearing in of President Donald Trump, Homer City Council members Donna Aderhold, David Lewis, and Catriona Reynolds worked quietly on a resolution that rebuked Trump and declared Homer in resistance to everything about his administration, including his entire cabinet.
The draft resolution was a blistering “Whereas” document that contained the wordsmithing of former Homer News and Peninsula Clarion reporter Hal Spence.
Spence is the former president of the Alaska Press Club and, since early 2009, he has been on contract with a number of environmental organizations, such as Cook Inletkeeper, Alaska Marine Conservation Council, and World Wildlife Fund, according to his profile at the Hospice of Homer, where he serves on the board. He calls himself an independent environmental services professional on his LinkedIn social media profile.
Spence has written a letter to the editor taking credit for the original draft.
TOO LITTLE SOFTENING, TOO LATE
Later, the draft anti-Trump language was softened by Aderhold, Lewis, and Reynolds, and the resolution was introduced as a milder, “inclusivity” statement.
But the cat was out of the bag on the original intent of the resolution. It failed to pass after more than 100 citizens came to a hearing to testify on it. Many felt the entire exercise was divisive and disrespectful of the views of the 56 percent of Homer voters who cast a ballot for Trump.
Now, the recall petition is the talk of the town. The group has until April 11 to obtain 373 valid signatures needed for a vote.
Even if it fails, facing a recall election is a heavy price to pay for Aderhold, Lewis, and Reynolds. Lewis and Reynolds are facing reelection on Oct. 3, so regardless of whether they are removed early, this will be a campaign issue and they are likely to face stiff political headwinds.
The last recall effort in Homer happened in August, 1965 to Mayor Ralph Cowles, who survived the vote. The petitioners said that Cowles, the city’s first mayor, was “discourteous and rude to Homer citizens who approach him on city matters.”
The recallers have established a storefront location to gather signatures from 11 am to 7 pm at 1104 Ocean Drive in Homer. Most of the people coming into the storefront just ask, “Where do I sign?”
But the group has also had to remove interlopers: A man started taking photographs of the process. A woman, who identified herself as a government employee, became argumentative with the petition sponsors, saying they were hurting the feelings of the three council members. She was asked to leave.
The petition sponsors have since set up better door security protocols.
PETITION CERTIFICATION NO SURE THING
The petitioners say the actions of the three council members constitute a dereliction of duty and “improper behavior.” Further, they say, the three council members have caused economic harm to the city. They cite cancellations of hotel rooms and fishing trips as evidence of that harm.
“[I]mproper behavior’ is a very subjective standard,” City Attorney Holly Wells said in a memo. Whether the city had declined the petition for recall or approved it, it would likely have been subject to legal challenge.
The city clerk is the decider, however. Once the signatures are turned in, Clerk Jo Johnson will judge the merits of the allegations and either refuse the petitioners or call a special election.
Because they are under the shadow of a recall election, the three council members have been advised by the city attorney to not speak of the matter either publicly or in discussions.
Grounds for recall include misconduct in office, incompetence, or failure to perform prescribed duties. Alaska laws governing municipal recall processes are summarized at Ballotopedia.