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Restaurant owner wants councilman removed

Susan Wood

From newspaper letters to the street – South Lake Tahoe restaurateur and longtime resident Evan Williams is considering the launch of a petition drive to recall Councilman Ted Long for his alleged inability to “listen to voters.”

The two men have recently waged a war of words in the Tahoe Daily Tribune’s Letters to the Editor section, primarily over the building of a roundabout at the “Y.”

A successful effort by Williams and other like-minded individuals would mark the city’s first council recall in 40 years, but it would not be the first for the retired attorney. In 1971, Long, 66, was recalled from the San Bruno City Council, south of San Francisco, along with the mayor and another councilman.

Joining Long and fellow Councilman Neil Christal, member Dick Griffith was re-elected two years later and became mayor.

According to records obtained by the Tribune from the Peninsula city’s clerk’s office, Long was stripped of his title on March 2, 1971, on the grounds he “violated the basic fairness inherent in democratic processes by refusing to consider, discuss or debate the selection of a San Bruno City Manager,” the ballot language read.

Long said the accusation was overstated and unwarranted – declaring it an example of small-town politics. He said he proposed the selection of former City Manager Christopher (Kit) Menkin in closed session, but the decision was announced publicly. He added the session was also publicly noticed.

The city councilman expressed interest last week in running for an El Dorado County supervisor’s seat vacated by Dave Solaro. But he admitted Tuesday his interest has waned and won’t run if he’s confident the best interests of Tahoe will be represented by another candidate with clout at the county’s seat in Placerville.

“I have always endeavored to respond to the people of the community and most importantly made every effort to inform you of not only my actions but my reasons. As your councilman, I have stood firmly by my principles,” his 1971 response reads.

This week, Long echoed a similar sentiment. He admitted his personality and style may be misunderstood by others.

“What’s my job as a city officer if I back down because people disagree? I’ve always been controversial. It’s my style,” he said, adding he’s convinced Williams’ motivation is personal.

In a Tribune letter, Long accused Williams of being upset because his brother, Jeff Williams, lost in last year’s council election.

“I lived through this before. I know how nasty it can get,” Long said.

Williams, who co-owns Evans American Gourmet Cafe and the Cantina, denied such a claim. He did indicate that Long’s reference to his brother was irritating.

“This is not a crusade for me. I’m not looking for fame and fortune. I don’t feel Ted Long is good for the community at large,” Williams said, adding he has never run for office and doesn’t plan to. He likes politics but fears its dark side. ” Frankly, any person who wants to crave power so much scares me.”

“Where’s the power?” Long countered. He cites Caltrans as the ultimate authority on whether a roundabout gets built. The issue has been at the center of Long and William’s public disagreement.

“If he really doesn’t want a roundabout, why doesn’t he get a roundabout on the ballot?” Long asked, adding he’s disappointed by Williams’ intentions.

“Isn’t a recall supposed to be about dishonesty?” Long asked.

Not true, according to San Bruno City Clerk Ed Simon.

“Someone could not like you, and you could be recalled,” he said.

Within 120 days from submitting an intention to circulate petition, Williams would need to collect 2,475 signatures from city residents – 25 percent of the registered voters in the city. They would also need to be verified. From there, the City Council would issue an order for a special election, which City Clerk Susan Alessi has estimated would cost the local government up to $30,000. If the council doesn’t issue the order, the El Dorado County Elections Office would be able to step in.

Williams, who has lived at Tahoe 27 years and run restaurants for 35, said he’s only interested in advancing a petition drive if perhaps 50 people believe in his cause.

“If there’s just a handful (of people), I’m not interested in giving up my summer to sit at Raley’s (with a petition) all day,” he said.


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