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.