Primal Scream — What is the Power to Recall and Why Use It Now?

By Jeff Carlson

The story of the recall process in democratic forms of government begins all the way back in ancient Greece.  It gives voters the power to remove elected officials from office before their term is up by a direct vote.  The recall process in California begins when enough voters sign a petition calling for early elections.

Most of us know that politicians running for office will often tell us what they think we want to hear.  When they don’t follow through on their promises, we tend to shrug it off as politics as usual and lose interest in the process.  But we live in a democracy, and we don’t have to accept politics as usual.  We can hold elected officials accountable when they break faith with the voters and try to take government policy in a direction that a majority don’t wish to go.  The recall process gives ‘we the people’ the right to force a change when elected officials don’t live up to their promises.

We all know that Vallejo is not taking in enough tax revenue to fund an adequate level of policing, fire protection, and infrastructure repair.  We spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on visionary planning efforts that we can’t afford to implement, while storefronts sit vacant all over town and streets decay.  Vallejo voters recognized this reality and tried to do something about it in 2011 when they voted for Measure C by more than three to one.  This voter approved initiative directed the city to collect an additional ten percent of the gross receipts of medical marijuana dispensaries on top of normal sales tax.

The Jump Start slate of candidates all sounded supportive of Measure C during the 2013 campaign, and talked about the importance of sensible and consistent regulation in contributing to its success.  One candidate talked about collecting Measure C taxes like they were water bills.  Mayor Davis on the other hand made no secret of the fact that he disagreed with the majority of voters from the start, and felt this emerging industry was somehow just not right for Vallejo. When the three Jump Start candidates took office they broke their campaign pledges to collect taxes and backed the mayor’s efforts to push these businesses out of town.

No matter how you feel personally about the issue, even the mayor and the council majority admit that they believe legalization of cannabis for all purposes is not far off in California.  Venture capitalists are salivating at the prospect, because they know the market demand will be huge, and states and cities where legalization has already happened have reaped a bonanza in new tax revenue.  The fourteen thousand Vallejo residents who voted for Measure C were right about this, and the mayor and his backers are dead wrong.  The effort to intentionally thwart the will of the voters by neglecting to implement an approved ballot measure has already cost Vallejo many millions of tax dollars.  The bad judgment shown by the council majority has allowed more and more of these businesses to pop up all over town without business licenses and without paying taxes.

We can all agree that sensible regulations that direct the location and growth of these businesses and impose operating standards that protect the community are necessary.  We did not elect our mayor and his council supporters to impose their own version of morality on the entire community.  They are not permitted to second guess and overrule our decisions at the ballot box.

When elected officials lose sight of their proper role in a representative democracy it becomes our duty as citizens to jerk back on the reins.  The recall is the most powerful tool in our arsenal of direct democracy.  It starts with your signature on a petition, and ends with a vote for candidates willing to speak honestly and chart a new course toward a future that works for all of Vallejo.


Note: All opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin.

'Primal Scream — What is the Power to Recall and Why Use It Now?' have 15 comments

  1. July 14, 2015 @ 4:34 am Anonymous

    >> But we live in a democracy, <<

    Government – Federal presidential constitutional republic



  2. July 14, 2015 @ 7:40 am wharf rat

    Once again no facts or supporting documentation to justify this ”Coup” led by ”entitled” special interests clearly a case of ”CLASS WARFARE” by another SLATE . Here is some background on recall codes .
    CA Codes (elec:100-106)
    Have the replacement Council Members been selected by this special interest group ? we have a right to know since we are paying for this process .. Thanks for the selective civics lesson .


    • July 14, 2015 @ 10:23 am Jeff Carlson

      The reasons for a recall are not reviewable and there is no factual or legal standard to meet, only a belief that elected officials have gone down the wrong track. If you are happy with the status quo in our city, then by all means continue to support the politicians responsible and the special interests who put them in office. This isn’t a “once again” anything. It’s something completely different.
      We are entirely a grassroots movement. Our special interest groups are the residents, taxpayers, and parents. Many like myself are relatively new in town, and find the political dysfunction, cronyism, and incompetent leadership intolerable. We are determined to change it, whether by special election or the upcoming scheduled elections. We have seen enough of the current leadership to know that they are not going to provide the vision to pull our city out of the economic malaise that has us lagging the region in every category.
      We are in the process of vetting candidates, and we will not support anyone connected with the special interest politics that have dominated local government for decades. I encourage anyone thinking about public service at this level with the skill set to do the job to contact us early on, because we don’t want to split the vote among candidates we can work with. (As a recall spokesperson, I will not be running to avoid any appearance that this is about personal political ambition). We will have a web site up when the petitions are ready to circulate that will lay out the kind of policy positions that would earn a candidate our endorsement.
      If we collect enough signatures to call new elections, the candidates we support will have to face the voters in an open election. No coup or class warfare in sight. Signing the recall petitions is not a vote for any candidate, it’s a vote for the opportunity to correct our collective mistake at the ballot box and change direction.


  3. July 14, 2015 @ 10:35 am Ben

    Before this recall madness becomes too divisive, please note an AP story today from Colorado where a number of private – – read non government–individuals with some patriotic group name has been successful in suing the business providers to legal recreational marijuana providers under federal RICO laws. One by one this group has persuaded, through economic exposure to potential liability and sheer cost of litigation, the providers of such things as rental space, insurance agents and companies, bonding companies, growers, drivers, employees of dispensaries, and any other service or product provider to settle involvement in a federal civil RICO case financed and pursued by private interests who just don’t like the presence of marijuana. As a result the owner of the dispensary has been selling off remaining inventory at less than wholesale price in order to discontinue business.
    Recall is most certainly a vested government right. However, is it the best approach in this situation? Vallejo is attempting to negotiate with new potential businesses for North Mare Island, and some others in the city. The presence of a less than stable political leadership situation is often enough to be the nail in the coffin for driving those potential employers elsewhere. That is NOT GOOD!
    Be careful, Mr. Carlson, for what you wish and might obtain. The jump start rubber stamps might indeed be recalled. But, RICO remains. The result is that instability in leadership will cost the potential for new businesses. It has happened once before when the cancer research center at Touro withdrew when the honorable mayor engineered the firing of the then city manager. Without that stability in leadership it gave validation to the money managers in New York to kill the Vallejo project, and the high priced jobs that went with it. The same can, and likely will happen here yet again with a recall controversy, regardless of outcome. The lack of quality leadership in the school district is bad enough. The last four years have accomplished many positive changes in the city government. Even though one does not like the thinking of the current majority, disrupting it early is too great a cost. By the time the recall election could take place the mayor and one council person will be close to the end of time in office, absent re-election. The other two are go along with the mayor persons anyway. Why bother with them when the election is in 16 months? Simply put, the dangers far exceed the benefits. It is a bad course to chart.


    • July 14, 2015 @ 5:04 pm Jeff Carlson

      You are making the case for me by pointing out that instability and mixed messages from leadership affects our prospects for economic development. That is precisely the point. Where we disagree is thinking we can afford to wait for these people to serve out their terms. The mayor can’t run again and another targeted seat will be up, but the other two will be there until 2019. We decided to give the voters a chance to send a clear message to the investor community that we as a community desire to turn a page, and we’re serious about it. Given the commonly expressed perception that the status quo is not a business friendly environment, why wait around for the situation to change without intervention? Why would it?

      I’m sorry, I didn’t quite follow the whole RICO argument. The medical marijuana issue is just one glaring example that I tend to talk about because it’s what drew my attention to this dysfunctional mess in the first place. I just know that we have a number of communities right here in the Bay area where these businesses have been successfully integrated and are now considered valuable assets.

      I also know that the dispensary I belong to has been operating for more than three years in downtown Vallejo with none of the loitering, crime, street drug sales, etc.etc. that the mayor’s supporters go on about. In fact the other property owners in the neighborhood recognize that the this dispensary makes the neighborhood safer and cleaner. Whatever issues people may have with some of the dispensaries that have proliferated without regulation or taxation, those issues could have been addressed years ago by a properly functioning government. Our current leadership has thrown away many times the cost of a special election just on this issue alone.


  4. July 14, 2015 @ 11:52 am Bong Hit

    I like your style Jeff, it’s refreshing to have people here in Vallejo that can write a coherent sentence. Over the years we’ve tried all forms of liberal politics. Vallejo’s political tradition is the strong labor democrats who have run the city for the majority of it’s existence. More recently, we elected a progressive branch of democrats who came in with a big splash, sputtered along for a bit and then went bust.

    I’m afraid that Vallejo has been so loaded up with poor people through the section 8 and welfare housing programs that we don’t have a critical mass of people to fill a completely competent council, much less all of the boards and commissions and non-profits. We had a critical mass of competent people several decades ago but they were forced out when the Navy base closed. In addition to the base closure the exaggerated numbers of poor people, far above the percentages that HUD recommends for a “viable” economic base, motivated many of the remaining professional people to live elsewhere. We’re are in a death spiral of human capital and there are no signs of that changing.

    Good luck to you and your compatriots, you are traveling down a road that many others have traveled. It’s possible to achieve some initial successes but there are so many people living here with low brain function that fledgling start-ups or reinvigorated sections of municipal government quickly succumb to incompetence.


    • July 14, 2015 @ 5:08 pm Jeff Carlson

      Yeah, I’ve become a student of recent local political history and the attitude you express is one I hear a lot. “Oh, man, you can’t do that – nobody votes in this town.” I don’t have to point out that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. The low voter turnout means fewer people we need to motivate in order to win. I have difficulty accepting the proposition that in a city of 120,000, the people I see sitting on the dais at city council meetings are the best and brightest Vallejo has to offer. It might help if we compensated the council members enough to allow less affluent or younger residents to do the job full time.


      • July 14, 2015 @ 9:02 pm Bong Hit

        $125,000 a year plus benefits is a good starting point in my estimation.


  5. July 14, 2015 @ 5:28 pm wharf rat

    And what exactly would you win and who would loose ?


  6. July 14, 2015 @ 6:44 pm curious

    do you think the voters will be willing to spend the $800,000 from the general fund that this recall will cost?


  7. July 15, 2015 @ 12:35 am wharf rat

    Mr Carlson cites His [three years] as ”involvement in local politics” , and has some strong opinions , ”this is a good thing and well embraced by the Democratic tradition that goes back to the l860’s” … And has ”largely shaped” , the first and most PRODUCTIVE Industrial Complex on the West Coast Known as the ”Mare Island Shipyard” …. However Mr Carlson Fails to recognise the ”CLASS” and historical evolutions that led to the formation of our current Community …. Perhaps He needs a History lesson or a City wide tour of Vallejo as it is one of the only Cities that can provide a comprehensive tour of Our Historical Attributes , for those interested in the Actual Evolution of this funky Municipality …. ”Jeff do your homework pls”’


    • July 16, 2015 @ 10:12 am Bryan

      Wharf rat, all you are doing is trying to tear down an actual movement for real change. If you look only to the past, you will be stuck in it. Please stop attacking someone who is trying to actual bring culture change to our city. You simply are spewing rhetoric with no solution. Jeff is talking about solutions. You may not agree with the approach, but what are you doing to change our corrupt and inept local government. The only people galvinizing this movement are taxpayers, and disenfranchised citizen. If you have a better plan, let’s hear it. Meanwhile do your homework on whom you are attacking. Organizing, fundraising, and making sure the will of the people is heard and expressed is the goal. If you did your homework, you would also know that kinda of major businesses and players we would want to bring to Vallejo, are capitalists. If there is a real investment opportunity, and strong civic leaders, they will come in droves. We all know how much opportunity is here, let’s look long term, and not put our eggs in the basket of the couple of big investors that are currently at the table.


      • July 23, 2015 @ 4:22 pm wharf rat

        Bryan ”an actual movement for real change” Q = what kind of movement and and by whom – ”culture change” Q= explanation of culture like ”who, what ,where” or just anything – ”asking questions is attacking” Q= pls define attack-
        ”major business and players we want to bring to Vallejo” Q= are they Communist Capitalists or off shore enterprises , no info at all, why the secrecy – Q=how can the will of the people be heard and expressed when most of us have no info at all as to your groups agenda or cause beyond some stated non specific propaganda , without any info this smells like the will of a special interest group ”hope I am wrong”-
        is fundraising being reported to the FPPC or available to the disenfranchized Citizens so that they arent disenfranchised – Q= what couple of big investors at the table do you refer to , why not share this info with the disenfranchised voters , how can I do my homework when I have no study material , if your ”movement” had an iota of transparency I would not have these questions – Q= are you being paid or compensated for political activities your lack of transparency would suggest so pls clarify .
        Thank you in advance


  8. July 20, 2015 @ 3:14 pm Mrs Shihsquee

    Who ya gonna replace em with, Einstein?

    Morgan (I’m in a walking dope induced coma) Hannigan

    Liat (let’s pull the race card) Meitzenheimer


    • October 1, 2015 @ 7:49 pm Bryan

      I am available for one. I know Brenda Crawford is available. I also know that we can recruit qualified leaders, and that skepticism and archair critiquing won’t get us anywhere. Doesn’t anybody remember ask not what my country can do for me, but rather what can I do for my country, and in this case our city. I am of no special interest and I am for only fair, efficient government. I appreciate wharf rats rhetoric, but instead of me conducting an interview, check out our website, . Contact me directly if you want to work together to really evolve Vallejo to its full potential, with emphasizing education, public safety, and its diverse culture.


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