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September 22, 2014

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Boulder City recall effort gets down and dirty at Vons

Supermarket brouhaha reflects rising tensions over council members

Image

Tiffany Brown

Bob Beebe of Boulder City signs a petition against a City Council recall effort Monday outside the Boulder Dam Credit Union.

Linda Strickland

Linda Strickland

Travis Chandler

Travis Chandler

Now, for the latest on the effort to recall two Boulder City Council members, we take you, not to City Hall, not to a community forum, but to Vons.

That’s right, Vons. While many of the townsfolk were grocery shopping Sunday, the two sides in the increasingly acrimonious recall effort found plenty of politics to chew on outside — and for a while, inside — the supermarket.

Most of the petition signature gathering by those seeking to unceremoniously bounce City Council members Linda Strickland and Travis Chandler from office midterm has been going on outside the Boulder Dam Credit Union.

There, the two sides of the recall fight have met daily to match political passions in the town of 15,000. It has been a mostly quiet battle, each side staying calm on the surface, even exchanging pleasantries, with little yelling or screaming and zero threats.

That changed abruptly Sunday, when the epicenter of the recall effort shifted to the grocery store.

Things started getting ugly when some anti-recall folks showed up and proceeded to make it clear that they saw the attempt to unseat Strickland and Chandler only months after they took office as something less than democracy in action.

According to onlookers, a profanity-laden debate ensued. By Monday, no one wanted his name used in connection with the fracas, although each side was more than willing to blame the other for starting the whole thing.

When Sunday’s argument spilled inside the store in front of shoppers, everyone was asked to vacate the premises.

Count Vons’ management among those declining to comment. “I’m just not going to talk about it,” an assistant manager said Monday.

Local message boards, the preferred method of mass communication for the city’s anti-government forces, have been especially busy in recent days.

One resident, Matt Ragan, suggested a bizarre and possibly illegal strategy to scuttle the recall effort. He wondered openly whether people should write fake names on the recall petitions. Then, when the city clerk reviewed the signatures, maybe enough of the names would be illegitimate to keep the matter off the ballot.

Ragan did not return calls Monday to discuss that wily plan.

Since the effort began, personal attacks and conspiracy theories have been bandied about the town.

“It’s an assault on how I am, what I represent and the people who voted for me,” Strickland said.

The three official petitioners for the recall are Christine Milburn, Robert Draney and Ed Waymire.

Milburn was appointed to the council in the mid-1990s and also ran unsuccessfully for Clark County public administrator in 2006. Waymire is the president of a Boulder City homeowners association. And Draney, a retiree who donated $500 to Strickland’s campaign last year, has been in Mexico since the recall petition was filed March 5.

Strickland said she has not spoken to Draney since before last year’s election. But she believes Draney’s change of heart stems from her efforts to stop awarding city redevelopment funds to private parties. In 2005 Draney received a $99,000 grant to make improvements to a building now used to house the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce.

Milburn denies the redevelopment funds have anything to do with the recall effort. Draney, she noted, leases the building for $1 a year to the chamber in an act of philanthropy.

That doesn’t matter to Strickland. She said the city shouldn’t be giving money to wealthy businesspeople and points out that the building’s value has increased since the improvements.

Milburn has repeatedly said the petitioners are simply fed up with how Strickland and Chandler have done business since taking office, including continuing to question the finances of the city-owned Boulder Creek Golf Course. The decision to open the course is in the past and should stay there, Milburn said.

Strickland said she and Chandler have simply been seeking transparency in government and greater fiscal responsibility.

Chandler took one of his children on a college visit Monday, so he hadn’t heard about the Vons brouhaha or some other fresh rumors. But he did write an editorial in one of the weekly newspapers challenging those seeking to recall him to a good old-fashioned debate. He hasn’t gotten a response yet.

The pro-recall group has collected about half of the signatures needed for a special election — all of them real voters, Milburn said.

They have until June 3 to collect 1,085 signatures to put Strickland’s recall on the ballot and 1,268 to force a recall campaign on Chandler. The numbers are different because Strickland was elected in a primary election, while Chandler was elected in a general election with a higher turnout.

If enough signatures are verified a special election will be held 30 days later.

If voters recall either or both council members, the council would appoint replacements. Candidates could petition to be placed on the ballot along with the recall and seek to be elected that way, but City Clerk Pam Malmstrom said no one has filed a notice to do so.

The election would cost the city about $20,000. That’s what it cost the previous time the city held a recall election, in 2004, when former Mayor Bob Ferraro and Councilman Mike Pacini survived. The 2004 campaign was spearheaded by some of the same folks now protesting this recall effort.

Strickland and Chandler supporters have gathered about 600 signatures on an unofficial list opposing the recall, said Nancy Nolette, one of the leaders of a group calling itself Citizens for Governmental Accountability.

She said the group isn’t going to use dirty tricks like putting fake names on the petitions.

“We’re honest people,” she said. “We don’t have to resort to those tactics. We have enough supporters.”

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