While the political tool of recalling an elected official is an example of democracy at work, it is also a tool that is used far more often than is practical. California has about 12% of the U.S. population, and nearly 25% of the recall attempts in the U.S. The idea that Californians are politically active and involved has grown in to a reality that elections are seemingly never over.
A group of Culver City residents has been attempting to collect enough signatures to force a recall of two city council members, Mayor Alex Fisch and Vice Mayor Daniel Lee, and have been canvassing at parks on the weekends and paying professionals to distribute flyers all over the city. The recall attempt is focused on fears about proposed changes in housing policy and local zoning, but also offers additional complaints against the council members. If any or all these alleged transgressions are worthy of removal from office is the question being asked.
When interviewed at Vets Park on Sunday, December 5, 2021, the volunteers at the table seeking to collect signatures were highlighting the same flyer they have paid to have dropped on doorsteps. While technically honest, the complaints against Fisch and Lee veer away from being accurate through vague language that seeks to inflate issues and stir concerns. Accusing them of a “lack of transparency” and a lack of ‘commitment’ is pretty weak tea.
The eight bullet points on the flyer all strain to characterize the efforts of these two council members as negative. The lead: “Fisch and Lee are pushing to eliminate single family homes (R1 Zoning) and replace it with multi-unit dwellings up to 10 on one lot without allowing citizens to vote on the issue.”
Fisch and Lee are unapologetically pro-housing. This is the nail that the recall efforts are focused on hanging their removal from office on.
While reflecting the contentious housing issues, this statement is trying to place local blame on a state mandate. Since the requirement for the change in zoning is coming from the state of California, blaming Fisch and Lee for ‘pushing’ the concept is like blaming a truck driver for hauling cargo. Shaping policy is, in fact, the job. California is not asking citizens to vote on the change; the law has been signed. Fisch and Lee are both unabashedly pro-housing, but claiming that removing them from office will change things in Sacramento is incorrect.
RecallCulverCity reveals the slender stand they have against the council members by pointing out that the city has “incurred over $159,000.00 in legal costs” in a lawsuit the council supported. The deadly detail is the decimal point. By trying to make people think this more than a million dollars, they are offering that the evidence they have doesn’t look strong enough – they need to obfuscate to make it look worse. Besides which, the city – that deals with legal challenges of every stripe, every day of the week – routinely spends millions on legal fees, making the amount cited here extremely modest.
It does not succeed in making Fisch and Lee look worse; what it does is make RecallCulverCity look like they don’t have actual evidence to persuade people that recall is the way to go.
The recent recall against Governor Gavin Newsom, which resulted in a huge win for Newsom at a cost to taxpayers of $276 million dollars to facilitate the election, was not considered to be a cautionary example.
A member of the CulverCityRecall organization who requested anonymity offered “That was an entirely different matter. That was a lot of out- of-state Republican money trying to unseat a Democratic governor. This is a completely local effort, and driven by local concerns.”
Timing is also not favorable to the recall effort. Since both of these council members will be at the end of their terms in November of 2022, they will need to re-run to keep their positions. Any recall that qualifies wouldn’t be out as a ballot until mid-spring or early summer, and that’s if everything goes to plan quickly, which is rarely the case on recall elections. How much would it cost the city to hold another election in May or July rather than just wait for November? What are the odds of getting any significant voter turnout on a recall that goes up in August?
To qualify for a ballot, the recall needs 5500 signatures. The campaign said they were aiming for 8000 to be sure they had met the mark for qualified local voters. Culver City Crossroads was told that petitions would be called in on Monday, Dec. 6 to determine if there were enough signatures to qualify, but repeated requests for information from CulverCityRecall.org have not received a response.