Editorial: Where’s the abuse of power? | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Editorial: Where’s the abuse of power?

The power to recall an elected politician is certainly available to anyone who can gather enough signatures to get it on a ballot, or instigate a special election. But with that power comes a responsibility to consider when to use it. In the case of Evan Williams and his call for a recall of South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Ted Long, going forward with signature gathering is his right, but not necessarily the right thing to do.

In recent months, Williams and Long have been sparring, even mudslinging, in the Tribune’s letters to the editor section over a proposal to build a roundabout at the intersection of highways 50 and 89. Williams, and other letter writers, have repeatedly challenged the idea, and Long has repeatedly responded. What has resulted is an entertaining, albeit vindictive, public dialogue by some of our more opinionated community members and leaders.

But it apparently doesn’t end there.

Williams has taken the fight to the next level by proposing a recall of Long, alleging that Long does not “listen to voters.” This fight’s bitter turn might be motivated more by a personal conflict than a legitimate abuse of power, which should be the standard for a recall petition.

Since he first announced his candidacy, Long has been outspoken on a number of issues, and has used several venues, including this newspaper, the Mountain News and KTHO radio, to discuss his opinions. Throughout the discourse, he has invited strong opposing positions, often taking liberties to counter those arguments.

Being an opinionated, outspoken, argumentative, publicity hound is not grounds for a recall. In fact, those attributes might be found in the dictionary defining the word “politician.”

If during his short tenure in office, Long had pursued legislation for personal gain, made back-room deals, grossly mismanaged city finances or otherwise abused his power, a recall might be a legitimate response. But a recall is more than simply “un-electing” an elected official, it’s stripping a politician of his elected position. And in South Lake Tahoe, a special election of that magnitude would cost as much as $30,000. Nothing that Long has done, including his previous recall in 1971 as a city councilor in San Bruno, indicates that he has met this strict threshold while in office in South Lake Tahoe, especially at such a high cost to taxpayers.

In the end, in a democratic system, voters live with their choices, and choose again when election season rolls around. If voters believe Long has served his constituents poorly, they will certainly have the ability to remove him from office legitimately. Until then, barring a revelation of wrongdoing, he should complete his term.

Save the recalls for politicians who really deserve them. It’s a powerful tool – use it wisely.

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