Your right to a recall referendum (Opinion) |

Your right to a recall referendum (Opinion)

Jonathan Doegherty
Guest column

California Constitution Article II, §§ 13-19, provides your inalienable right to petition a recall election of your governing officials. This essential democratic principle actually predates the founding of our groundbreaking constitutional democracy.

The recall first appeared in Colonial America in the laws of the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631. However, because the process requires so much effort, it has been underutilized as a valuable tool to keep our government accountable. This is unfortunate because even failed attempts to recall officials, still benefit public service as instantiating our founding principle that “all political power is inherent in the people.”

In times of controversy, elections are a good thing. Activism and citizen engagement are a good thing; the tree of liberty must be refreshed. The specter of a potential recall election is designed to keep those from abusing public office.

The recall has multiple inherent screening safeguards: (1) there must be a mechanism for a critical number of proponents to be passionate enough to persevere through months of collecting signatures; (2) there must be some sympathies among the public to entertain an election for a better candidate; and (3) the officer must be so awful as to lose the recall election despite his or her significant incumbent advantage. It is like threading the eyes of multiple needles in a row. Too often the officer deserves this public reckoning, but no one will dedicate their time.

Performing a recall is a public service. Our city council has 4-year terms, twice as long as a United States congressman. Given how relatively politically inexperienced city councilmembers are, their terms are arguably too long; these officers ought to be deferential for serving on borrowed time. This is especially true in a town with a dirty political machine like ours.

Speaking of establishment, the “Ribaudo Class” of our city, who endeavors to continue lining the pockets of said machine will find the recall a threat. That is a good thing. It is democracy at work.

We are winnowing valid signatures and counting to see if we have met the muster amid a pandemic. Should we fall short, we will simply refile the recall paperwork and begin where we left off. To all of you who have stood at our tables and voiced support: thank you. We will not let you down. We may contact you to reaffirm your signature on a new petition, if necessary, to clean up our government.

To those needing inspiration for being a future agent of change, the signatures really are out there, people will readily sign petition papers if one simply has the gumption to obtain them.

Johnathan Doegherty is a South Lake Tahoe resident and part of a group attempting to recall city councilmembers Devin Middlebrook and Tamara Wallace.

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