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Grassroots Democracy at the Crossroads
by Steve Pleich
Friday Jun 28th, 2019 10:14 AM
Recall Would Not Serve Our Community
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Grassroots advocacy has the power to sway hearts and minds, tapping into public sentiment to refresh its ranks with new activists that are unafraid to participate and anxious to contribute to a cause in which they believe. At its best, it is a beautiful thing to be on fire for justice… there is no greater joy than inspiring and empowering others––especially those who have for too long been among the voiceless and powerless. At its worst, it can be used as a blunt instrument to further empower those who feel their existing control over a community is slowly slipping away. Such is the case with the recent movement to recall two Santa Cruz city council members. 

Although I support in principle the value of grassroots politics to change the political landscape, a citizen petition calling for the ouster of a public official based upon nothing more than allegations of bias, lack of civility or disagreements as to public policy sanctions the nullification of the majority vote in favor of a minority of the electorate. It bears particular notice that Article II, Section 14a of the California Constitution provides that the reasons for the recall are not subject to review by the Secretary of State and may not be challenged on the basis of their veracity of lack thereof.

Not unlike jury nullification, recall of elected duly elected officials should be used, if at all, to correct obvious and egregious mistakes of judgment by elected officials that are clearly contrary to the will of the electorate. By any reasonable measure, this is not the case in this instance and the use of this grassroots democratic tool does nothing more than legitimize selecting public officials by favoristic fiat. 

Santa Cruz has a rich history of using the grassroots movement to empower and enrich our community. Recalling Council Members Drew Glover and Chris Krohn would cast a pall over that tradition and diminish the democratic process it purports to serve. Consider that if, and when, the petition is certified and placed on the ballot. Thankfully, as a democracy, the right to make a choice remains beyond recall.

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