March 5, 2010 - Ventura library group targets mayor for recall
Paper: Ventura County Star (CA)
Title: Ventura library group targets mayor for recall
Date: March 5, 2010
Author: Kevin Clerici
Led by an outspoken critic of the closure of H.P. Wright Library, a group of Ventura residents are targeting Mayor Bill Fulton for a recall.
Maili Halme Brocke, who founded the citizens group Library Justice after the branch was shut down, said Thursday that she and 20 other voters are planning to sign papers to launch a recall bid against Fulton.
While she blames him for voting to close the library, others in the group have their own grievances - the City Council’s decision to install parking meters downtown, a 911 fee that was later repealed, and the city’s proactive code enforcement.
“This is not a one-issue recall,” Brocke said.
Fulton, 54, said he understands people’s frustration, but defended his voting record. He noted that he wouldn’t let the possible signature-gathering effort be a distraction.
The recall effort surfaced when Brocke sought procedural information from Ventura City Clerk Mabi Plisky, who notified Fulton, the rest of the City Council and top city administrators of Brocke’s intentions.
Fulton sent Brocke an e-mail saying he knew of her intentions and “before you charge into this particular battle it might be a good idea to sit and chat for a bit,” according to a string of e-mails obtained by The Star.
On Thursday morning, Brocke said she would file papers with the required 20 voter signatures Monday, which would allow her to circulate a recall petition. But she later backed off, saying she would file “sometime in the future.”
Getting a recall on a ballot won’t be easy. Once a petition is certified, proponents have 160 days to collect signatures of about 9,500 valid registered voters - or 15 percent of Ventura’s roughly 63,700 voters, according to city election code.
If proponents don’t qualify in time for the November ballot, a special election would cost taxpayers about $250,000, election officials said. Fulton, a two-term councilman, is up for re-election in 2011.
Brocke is still angry about losing H.P. Wright Library in Ventura. She and fellow Library Justice members continue to hound library officials, particularly Ventura County Library Director Jackie Griffin. They have filed dozens of public records requests and complained about Griffin at public meetings and to her bosses.
Brocke singles out Fulton for not doing more to save the 42-year-old library on Day Road on the Ventura College campus that closed Dec. 7, even though the mayor has no authority to act alone.
“Your mayor is supposed to represent the majority of voters that elected you,” said Brocke, a chef and mother of two who moved to Ventura with her husband six years ago. “But people keep telling me about how unhappy they are.”
She said the recall is being hanged on Fulton because “he seems to be the ring leader. People seem to follow him.”
Fulton voted along with a 5-2 majority of the City Council in the fall to go along with the county’s recommendation to close H.P. Wright Library and consolidate its collection at the downtown E.P. Foster Library.
As chairman of the Ventura County Library Services Commission, an advisory board made up of elected leaders from around the county, Fulton also voted to eliminate $280,000 in funding for the library to help close a $650,000 countywide library system shortfall.
Fulton stands by both votes, saying they were “painful” but necessary to live up to a pledge for the city to live within its fiscal means.
“Everyone is suffering in this economy,” said Fulton, an author and planning expert. “It’s our responsibility to deal with these difficult financial issues before us head on.”
He said he didn’t want to see one of the city’s three libraries closed, either. But he couldn’t justify digging into shrinking budgets to pay library services as the City Council was slashing funds for public safety, maintenance and city jobs.
Several public meetings were held to discuss the issue, and voters didn’t warm to a sales tax measure that would have provided funds for the library, he said. Many library supporters have accepted the decision and are working toward a long-term plan, he said.
Not all members of Library Justice support the recall effort, said Carol Lindberg, longtime library supporter.
“I, too, want to see the Wright Library reopened and don’t think the city did enough to keep it from closing,” she said. “However, I don’t think recalling the mayor is appropriate. I am not supporting the recall.”
Jack Tingstrom, a former city councilman and mayor, agreed to sign the petition, saying he’s “never agreed with Fulton’s motives” or his high-brow vision for the city. “He’s more concerned about himself,” he said. “He ought to go write another book.”
But he conceded that the recall will take a Herculean effort, noting similar efforts in the past have fizzled.
“It’s pretty hard,” said Tingstrom, who served in public office from 1991 to 1999. “But maybe you grab their attention a little bit.”
Record Number: 250621
Copyright, 2010, Ventura County Star