Ten years after he was recalled in 2003, former California Gov. Gray Davis was quoted as saying, “Anyone who goes into politics in California knows that initiative, referendum and recall are part of the process. If you don’t like it, go into some other line of work.”

At their July 12 meeting, Calaveras County supervisors failed to adopt a resolution certifying the sufficiency of the petition to recall District 5 Supervisor Steve Kearney. With Kearney absent, board members called the recall “divisive.” County counsel explained that the resolution was not about whether the board supported the recall. The resolution was about certification of the fact that there are sufficient signatures to place the recall on the November ballot.

Board Chairman Cliff Edson maintained he had heard from “a lot” of people that the way in which signatures were gathered “wasn’t done right.” Because he “wasn’t there to verify that,” Edson was going by what he heard, which did not allow him “in good conscience” to certify the recall petition. If Edson has evidence that signatures were fraudulently obtained, he should provide it. Otherwise, he should respect the will of District 5 voters.

Supervisor Debbie Ponte’s motion to certify the signatures failed for lack of a second. The board’s failure to pass the resolution means that, Clerk/Recorder Rebecca Turner will certify the petition, and it will appear on the ballot regardless. As Turner said, “It’s the law,” which makes one wonder why the supervisors felt justified in questioning a legitimate recall effort.

When asked by email to comment, recall proponent Janice Bassett wrote, “Their behavior demonstrates exactly why the recall is happening and why Edson has a tenuous hold on his seat. Their inclination to dismiss the voice of the citizens forces residents to take drastic measures because their representatives refuse to do their job.”

The board has a sworn duty to protect the rights of the people. It is not their job to undermine the recall process when it has been carried out in accordance with the law. I have no doubt Kearney has been hurt and offended by his critics, but, as Gray Davis knows, that is the nature of politics in California. Politicians run the risk of being unpopular with their constituents. They serve only as long as it is the will of the people.

District 5 voters have a history of initiating recalls, but this is the first time a recall petition has qualified for the ballot. The primary issue that prompted the recall is the proposed asphalt plant at Hogan Quarry, which was approved on appeal with a 3-2 vote by the board of supervisors, with Kearney’s support. The board’s action meant the asphalt plant did not have to get a conditional use permit, which would have required an environmental impact report.

What complicates the issue is that Kearney maintains that the county always intended to do an environmental impact report on the asphalt plant as a requirement of the application for an authority to construct, even though there would be no conditional use permit. Last month, Kearny and Edson revealed that the asphalt plant proponents are now focused on building an asphalt plant at Carson Hill, although a July 14 article in the Union Democrat reports proponents have not given up on the Hogan Quarry site.

The secondary recall issue is the board’s decision, again on appeal and with Kearney’s vote, to remove the required off-site improvements to Olive Orchard Road that were originally a condition of approval for Olive Orchard Estates. Both the proposed asphalt plant and Olive Orchard Estates are in District 5. The California Department of Transportation pointed out in a letter dated March 12, 2015, that it has have no jurisdiction over Olive Orchard Road, though Kearney maintained that Caltrans had removed the requirement to do road improvements. Caltrans recognized that the county “has the discretion” to “retain” or “modify” the conditions of approval for Olive Orchard Estates. Caltrans didn’t require a turn lane on Highway 26, it had no opinion on the conditions of approval for Olive Orchard Road. There was more at stake than a turn lane. By removing the conditions of approval for Olive Orchard Road, the potential savings for the developer is in excess of $1 million.

As a registered voter in District 5, I signed the recall petition, albeit reluctantly. I did not feel misled by the signature gatherers. Though I had no involvement in initiating the recall, I know many of the recall proponents. I would not question their honesty. I do, however, question the intent of some members of the board of supervisors in their effort to affect the outcome of the recall by calling into question the integrity of the recall proponents. Rather than being divisive, the recall has brought together a diverse group of residents to stand up for their community.

Muriel Zeller is a poet, writer and Valley Springs resident. She is a member of the Calaveras Planning Coalition and former member of the board of directors for MyValleySprings.com. Contact her at murielzeller52@gmail.com.


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