Well, notwithstanding the title of this blog post, actually Salem Bridge Solutions should think more than twice about the wisdom of attempting to recall the six progressive members of the City Council who voted to kill the Salem River Crossing project last Monday.
I'll describe the more-than-two reasons below.
First, though, let's look at some evidence that Salem Bridge Solutions, a group that's pushed hard (fanatically, even) for a Third Bridge across the Willamette truly is seriously considering embarking on recall efforts.
One person then questions why this should be pursued given the September 30, 2019 deadline for completing an Environmental Impact Statement -- which was going to be difficult to meet even if the City Council had voted to continue on with the bridge project last Monday.
Another person then leaves a comment that shows the motive of some Salem Bridge Solutions supporters is revenge, not getting the bridge built.
Mike Evans is one of the leaders of Salem Bridge Solutions. He tells another commenter that the group will be organizing to make recalls happen.
The recall kickoff is a West Salem Neighborhood Association meeting on Monday, February 18. It's questionable that this sort of blatant political organizing is allowed by the City of Salem ordinance governing neighborhood associations, but I'll leave this issue aside.
So now let's turn to what Salem Bridge Solutions should consider before it commits to attempting to recall some or all of the six city councilors who aroused their ire.
(1) Only three councilors currently can be recalled. The state Elections Division Recall Manual says that a local office holder can't be recalled until six months of their current term has expired. Progressive councilors Tom Andersen, Chris Hoy, and Jackie Leung were elected in 2018 and their terms began in January 2019.
So they couldn't be recalled until sometime in July.
That leaves councilors Cara Kaser, Sally Cook, and Matt Ausec -- who were elected in 2016. If Salem Bridge Solutions wants to shift the balance of power on the City Council, two progressives need to be replaced by two bridge supporters, which would turn the recent 6-3 vote against the Third Bridge to a 5-4 vote in favor of it.
(2) How liberal are the wards of the three recallable councilors? Salem Bridge Solutions needs to remember that Salem leans decidedly leftward, based on the results of the last presidential election (Clinton won in each of the eight wards).
Using Clinton's winning percentage as a proxy for how liberal a ward is, Cara Kaser and Tom Andersen represent the most left-leaning areas of Salem (tied for #1). Sally Cook represents the next most liberal ward (#2), followed by Chris Hoy's and Brad Nanke's wards (tied for #3), Matt Ausec's ward (#4), Jim Lewis's ward (#5), and Jackie Leung's ward (#6).
Thus it would be tough for the conservative Salem Bridge Solutions group to win two of three recall elections among the councilors currently eligible to be recalled. Plus, I suspect many voters wouldn't take kindly to recall efforts aimed at two of the three women on the nine-member City Council (Mayor Bennett is the ninth).
Councilor Ausec seemingly would be the group's best shot at a recall victory. But even so...
(3) A replacement election would follow any successful recalls. Above is what I found on the City of Salem web site regarding vacancies on the City Council.
The two sections don't make sense, perhaps because of a typo. Seemingly one section should refer to what happens if a vacancy occurs more than one year to the next primary election, and the other section should refer to what happens if a vacancy occurs less than one year to the next primary election.
But both sections speak of "more." Which is confusing.
Logically it seems that a special election would be required if there's more than a year to the next primary election, and a majority of the City Council would appoint a replacement if there is less than a year to the next primary election.
Regardless, Salem Bridge Solutions needs to keep in mind the possibility that even if they're successful in recalling one progressive councilor, that still would leave a progressive majority on the Council that might be able to appoint a temporary successor.
And if a special election is held, obviously there's no guarantee that a pro-bridge candidate would be elected.
(4) It'd be a tough sell to argue why a councilor should be recalled. The Recall Manual says that a petition to recall a local elected official has to state the reason, which appears on the recall ballot along with a statement from the official about why they should remain in office.
Good luck with that, Salem Bridge Solutions.
Each of the six progressives on the City Council made a commitment to oppose a Third Bridge during their election campaign. Last Monday these councilors fulfilled that pledge. I deeply doubt that voters are going to consider that keeping a campaign promise is a recallable offense.
Salem Bridge Solutions seems to live in a political bubble of their own making that reflects their own passionate desire to have the Salem River Crossing, or Third Bridge, built at a cost of half a billion dollars or so -- which almost certainly would require tolls on both the new bridge and the two current bridges, plus increases in various taxes.
But they need to remember that other people in Salem are just as passionate about other things. Such as, not building a wasteful bridge that studies show wouldn't reduce congestion, just shift it from one part of town to another. Tom Andersen made the case against the Salem River Crossing in this video of his remarks at last Monday's City Council meeting.
And people also are passionate about not having elected officials removed from office for no good reason. Which gets me to my last reason...
(5) Pushback against recalls would be powerful. I know how strongly my fellow liberals feel about their hard work over a series of City Council elections paying off with a 6-3 progressive majority on the council. Believe me, they will not react meekly to recall attempts by a conservative single-issue group, Salem Bridge Solutions.
Especially since Salem Bridge Solutions didn't support any candidates in the 2018 election other than incumbent councilor Jim Lewis.
Tom Andersen and Chris Hoy were unopposed in their re-election campaigns. If Salem Bridge Solutions wants to win votes in the City Council, they need to do it the old fashioned way: by winning elections, not by trying to recall people who won their council seats fair and square.
I also suspect that independents and even many Republicans would react strongly against recall efforts whose only basis is that a public official voted in accord with a campaign promise. People can smell unfairness a mile away, and what Salem Bridge Solutions is considering doing reeks of it.
Even more lastly... just noticed a Facebook post by State Representative Paul Evans that shares a press release from his office regarding a proposed formation of a bridge district in Marion, Polk, Linn, and Yamhill counties. This is the sort of positive effort that Salem Bridge Solutions should be focused on -- not on the negativity of recall elections.