Jeff Jardine

February 5, 2014

Jeff Jardine: Payback coming for Modesto council’s Wood Colony, Salida decisions?

How could Wood Colony and Salida residents, who don’t live in the city of Modesto, recall one or all of its elected officials? By getting those who do live in the leaders’ respective districts and also are disgusted to file the paperwork on their behalf.

When it comes to general plan amendments, future annexations or other land-use issues, folks in expansion’s cross hairs are always at a disadvantage.

Because they live outside the city looking to absorb them, they don’t get to vote for or against those who do the absorbing. Likewise, because they aren’t residents of that city, they can’t officially initiate a recall against said absorbers. Such is stated in Section 11005 of the state election code, which says basically the same thing that I just wrote, except with a lawyer’s touch:

“The proponents of a recall must be registered voters of the electoral jurisdiction of the officer they seek to recall.”

So they have to circumvent the process, as folks in Wood Colony and Salida are preparing to do. They’ve told the Modesto City Council and anyone else within earshot – loudly and repeatedly – that they don’t want to be engulfed by Modesto and its desire to convert prime farmland into commercial and industrial properties. Yet, the council voted to proceed anyway.

In the weeks preceding the Jan. 28 meeting, Wood Colony and Salida residents began talking about recalling some or all of the council members. A Facebook page titled "Recall Modesto City Council" and created by Modesto resident and voter Mark Carter, received 252 “likes” in its first three days of existence. So there are people within the city who agree with those outside of it. Those non-residents themselves can’t file recall papers because they aren’t residents of the city. They aren’t constituents. They'll need help.

Still, while “no taxation without representation” became a rallying cry for a different bunch of colonists, “no ingestion or annexation, period, and certainly not without representation” is becoming the battle cry of the Wood Colonists and Salida residents.

So how can people who don’t live in the city recall one or all of its elected officials? By getting those who do live in the pols’ respective districts and also are disgusted to file the paperwork on their behalf.

“We won’t have any problem with that,” said Salida resident Katherine Borges, who is among those promising a recall effort.

Whether they seek to recall the entire council versus targeting one or two specific members remains to be seen. First, the would-be recallers must research the state election code to understand the process. Three council members – Jenny Kenoyer, Tony Madrigal and Bill Zoslocki – were sworn in Nov. 26. By law, the recall process against them cannot begin until after their 90th day in office, meaning papers could be filed on or after Feb. 25, if my iPhone’s calculator is working properly.

Kenoyer in particular has become a magnet for their ire because she campaigned on the promise of preserving farmland, yet voted to do just the opposite. Her first two months in office have gone anything but smoothly. Scolding people who criticize or question her during the meetings — and in some cases striking out on the offensive — certainly doesn’t win friends and influence people, as Dale Carnegie put it.

Rules must be followed to the letter throughout the recall process. The declaration needs to specify the target, meaning the official they want to recall. Then, in 200 words or less (or about the same as a letter to The Bee), the recall proponents must explain why they feel the politician(s) need(s) to go. The declaration must include the names and addresses of those proposing the recall, and there must be at least 10 from within the targeted official’s district. They have to serve the recallee, as well as election officials, with their intentions in writing. In this case, Modesto City Clerk Stephanie Lopez, not Stanislaus County Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters Lee Lundrigan, would handle a recall election involving the council.

The number of days between the time a recall is submitted and un-election day is based on the number of registered voters in the jurisdiction, ranging from 40 days where there are 1,000 or fewer voters to 160 days for 50,000 or more. Likewise, the number of verified signatures needed in a petition supporting a recall varies, from 35 percent where there are 1,000 or fewer voters to 10 percent where registration exceeds 100,000.

Assuming they’ve met all the criteria and a recall election date is established, others can file to run for the seat should the recall be successful. Consequently, voters first determine whether they want to toss the incumbent out. Then are asked to select a successor should the recall succeed.

Recalls aren’t uncommon in California, the most notable being in 2003 when California booted Gov. Gray Davis in a special election. On the same ballot, voters got to pick their next governor from a field of roughly 200 candidates that included then-Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, political wag Arianna Huffington, “Diff’rent Strokes” star Gary Coleman and Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt, to name a few. Californians ultimately replaced Davis with Arnold Schwarzenegger – Conan the Barbarian and The Terminator himself – who, compared with the rest of the field, seemed pretty normal.

To the best of my recollection, 2010 was a big year for recalls. Hughson residents put out City Council members Thom Crowder, Doug Humphreys and Ben Manley, while Livingston dumped Mayor Daniel Varela Sr. and Councilwoman Marta Nateras. Meanwhile, an effort to recall Riverbank Councilman Jesse James White fell 73 signatures short of making it onto the ballot.

An attempt to recall state Sen. Jeff Denham failed in 2007 and hardly derailed his career. He’s now a congressman.

So some succeed, some don’t. But make no mistake about it:

There is a way for people without a vote to vote out the elected officials whose decisions affect them so adversely.


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