Citizens of Ashland, hear me out: As your mayor, I want to share my views on the proposed recall of three Parks commissioners, scheduled for March 13 (ballots to be mailed today).
The recall is a drastic but necessary component of our Oregon system of democracy. Its purpose is to allow removal of elected officials in between regularly scheduled elections. It is the "death sentence" of electoral politics and, as such, should be used only when absolutely necessary, with clearly stated and truthful justification and when validated by a majority vote of the citizenry.
Recalls are risky business because emotionally charged issues, fanned by demagoguery, can swing an off-season, low-turnout election in favor of impulsive action.
For this reason there are three safeguards built into the provisions for a recall:
1) Placing a recall on the ballot requires the signatures of 15 percent of the registered voters who voted for governor in the last regularly scheduled election.
2) It is a felony to knowingly place false information in the justification statement on recall petitions.
3) If sufficient valid signatures are gathered, then the decision to recall must be approved by a majority of the city's registered voters who participate in the recall special election.
With regard to the proposed recalls of three of our Parks commissioners, safeguard No. 1 has been satisfied. While serious doubts have been raised about the veracity of the petition justification statements, proving that such statements are intentionally false is difficult and almost impossible before the election takes place.
That leaves the election itself, and here is where I want to call on each of you, my fellow citizens, to live up to that implicit contract you signed when you registered to vote in our fair city. Being a citizen means something, right now, that will affect our city's future and the lives of three of its elected officials.
It is your job to examine the evidence (see below), assess its validity and the impact of the recall and render your judgement by voting your conscience.
If, like me, you find the arguments complicated, it is your job to make your best decision and vote, not to step away from your commitment to your community.
I offer the following as my personal perspective for assessing the recall's impact on the community:
If passed, the three recalls would:
1. Be a victory for the group that organized the recall.
2. Vindicate the reasoning that prompted the recall.
3. Hold the recalled commissioners responsible.
4. Punish the commissioners by removing them from office.
5. Humiliate the recalled commissioners.
6. Paralyze the Parks and Recreation Commission, eliminating a quorum by removing its three most experienced and knowledgeable members.
7. Create a chilling effect on citizens considering applying to fill the newly created vacancies — and possibly on citizens willing to run for other city offices as well.
8. Possibly end Parks and Recreation's independence if it becomes necessary to consolidate it as a department of the general fund because replacement commissioners can't be found or can't capably manage the organization.
Your decision is yours alone and no one can make it for you; our ballots are secret. But as your fellow citizen I remind you of the commitment our forefathers made when they first created our American democracy:
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor."
Two hundred and forty-one years later, we are the beneficiaries of their efforts and their sacrifices.
We have responsibilities.
I will vote no on the recall for all three commissioners.
Here is further, factual information that bears on the recall:
— John Stromberg is mayor of Ashland.