Cortez voters, in rejecting the recall of five city council members, made the right choice among those they were offered.
A recall election is always an uphill struggle, even when the targets are demonstrably guilty of egregious and intentional misconduct. That wasnt the case this time. Most Cortez residents, and demonstrably more than four-fifths of those who voted, apparently saw the recall complaints not as evidence of a broad failure to govern appropriately, but as an isolated issue a mistake, a problem, even a serious problem that the city needs to rectify but still one that didnt disqualify current councilors who are otherwise doing a very good job.
The recall proponents would have been well served by accepting some realistic advice. If they feel theyve proved a point, more power to them, but their flawed strategy left more than a few of Tuesdays voters feeling peeved that the lopsided election theyd been forced to fund was nothing more than a public-relations stunt.
Democracy works best when voters can choose among qualified candidates. Exchanging elected councilors for one poorly qualified candidate and four people who didnt see fit to let the public vote on whether to elect them simply wasnt an acceptable plan. Among the 71.6 percent of registered Cortez voters who did not cast a ballot, and also among the 1,300-plus who voted against the recall, more than a few might have supported it if they had been offered alternate candidates who were both viable and visible.
Only 25 petition signatures were required to qualify replacement candidates. (The higher standard by far is being qualified to serve on the council and contribute more than the current council members are doing.) Despite rumors of actions taken by council members and their supporters to discourage a competitive election, that is not a difficult hurdle, as demonstrated by the sole replacement candidate, Justin Dodson, who deserves credit for stepping up. The 187 voters who filled in the oval by his name illustrate the risks in inherent in using ones vote to make a statement instead of to choose the best possible leadership for the city.
The election was decisive. The highest number of votes to recall a councilor (291 against Betty Swank) not only did not approach the lowest number of signatures collected on a recall petition (355 against Mayor Dan Porter), the votes also did not account even for the required number of signatures on each petition (295). Although some people are willing to sign a petition to bring an issue to a vote even though they do not agree with the petitioners position, the low vote totals still are evidence that the recall proponents did not cover all the needed bases.
Now the recall proponents have a choice of their own to make. They can work to forward their cause in the time-honored manner: by supporting like-minded candidates in the next municipal election. Thats fair; the deal the city struck to extend Tucker Lane and provide access to the Flaugh-Clark subdivision was not, by far, the best plan that the city could have devised. Of the candidates on the recall ballot, one will be term-limited in 2012 and two more will leave office in 2014, with the remaining two having the option of seeking re-election in 2012. Those are five opportunities that are far less susceptible to the pressure recall proponents say was applied to discourage challengers in this election.
A continued effort could gain the respect and votes of more Cortez citizens, as could showing grace in defeat. Undermining the democratic process by continuing to complain without offering solutions will gain nothing for anyone. To put it bluntly, its time to put up or shut up.
Without an election or a lawsuit at stake, its also time for municipal leaders to admit that theyve made a mess in the northeast part of town.