2 Rebuttal Letters to Paul Chevalier’s Article
Submitted by Karen Strauch
Sedona, AZ (August 4, 2011) – As a citizen supportive of the Fire Board recall, I feel it is necessary to respond to Paul Chevalier’s article titled “Recall Petitions are Not the Answer.” Mr. Chevalier presents a philosophical case for not employing the recall provision in the Arizona Constitution for either City Council members or Fire Board members, or perhaps not using recall at all, under any conditions.
If this were only an academic argument, I might be able to see his point of view. However, when an idealistic stance hits the wall of reality, actions may be necessary.
Here is why. First, the recall of City Council members was only a threat, a set of papers sitting on Jerry Frey’s desk that were never filed with the city to obtain the required document number or toll the initiation of the 120 day time period required for petition submissions. The recall of 3 Fire Board members, Charles Christensen, Dave Blauert, and Phyllis Erick, is a reality. The papers were properly submitted to the County Recorder’s office with the support of many citizens who have taken the time to attend Fire Board meetings and actually observe what injustices and undemocratic procedures are occurring.
It is strange to note that as Mr. Chevalier has spent a career as a lawyer (adhering to “the law”) that he now decries the ability of common citizens to utilize that law. Mr. Chevalier states: “The arguments made for recalling them are that they vote contrary to the will of the people and/or they make decisions that could seriously affect the welfare of the people of the community.” When public officials so act against the public interest and create significant social, safety or economic damage, the citizens of Arizona have every right, and I would suggest a responsibility, to call them to account. That is the law, Mr. Chevalier.
As someone who has, in the past, spent many hours at City Council meetings and, in the present, has spent many hours at Fire Board meetings, I see a clear distinction between them. City Council members, whether I agree with them or not, have my respect. I do not feel I could ethically sign a recall petition against any one of them. City Council members take the time to read their packets thoroughly, talk with staff and listen to the input they give, research issues independently, and most importantly, listen and participate in active discussions in front of the viewing public, before they vote. That is not the case at Fire Board meetings with the majority of Board members. City Council rarely utilizes an Executive Session due to an underlying and long-standing belief that the public’s business needs to be conducted in public to the maximum degree possible. Contrary to the City Council’s approach, the Fire Board utilizes the Executive Session routinely, in virtually every meeting, with an obvious intent to conduct the public’s business to a minimum degree in public. That alone should address Mr. Chevalier’s opening remarks reflecting his basic and fundamental commitment to the democratic process. I know Mr. Chevalier has attended a fair number of City Council meetings, but I have never seen him at a Fire Board meeting. I would strongly encourage him to do so and experience this contrast for himself.
To sit in a meeting and observe the disdain these three Board members personally have toward the fire fighters, our highly respected now ex-Fire Chief, and our eminently qualified Business Manager, Karen Daines, certainly spurred me to action.
Mr. Chevalier also makes the argument that these Fire Board members should not be recalled because it will be difficult to find replacements for them. It does not follow that because it may be difficult to recruit reasonable and intelligent people to run for a position, that unreasonable and incompetent people should be allowed to maintain a significant negative impact over such an important agency as our Fire District. Indeed, there are people who have indicated they will step up and replace them. Why would citizens want to sit back as passive observers and watch as a once proud, well trained Fire District is reduced to one of low morale, with personnel attempting to cover 2 to 3 positions, and fire fighters who are unable to speak out freely due to threats of intimidation and harassment? (Please see public record documents of harassment charges by 9 fire district personnel against Charles Christensen on the web site www.sfdrecall.com)
Mr. Chevalier, recall is a serious issue. The recall of these three Fire Board members was only taken after much thought and discussion. We are committed to giving out factual information about budget, statistics and public record information. We only ask that you and all other concerned citizens talk with petition carriers and visit our web site at www.sfdrecall.com to get a complete picture of whether a recall is necessary or not.
Don’t let ignorance, apathy prevail in SFD recall
Reprinted from the Camp Verde Bugle
There is an old joke that goes like this:
Q: What’s the difference between ignorance and apathy?
A: I don’t know and I don’t care.
To paraphrase Plato: The penalty good people pay for indifference to public affairs is to live with the consequences of decisions made by others.
It is a mystery to me why citizens of our community are so indifferent to what certain members of the Sedona Fire District Governing Board are doing (successfully, I might add) to destroy the quality of services we apparently take completely for granted.
For the sake of our future, please familiarize yourselves with what is going on all around you and perhaps behind your backs. View the SFD Governing Board meetings on video at www.sedonafire.org. See the Citizens for Safety recall effort at www.sfdrecall.com and you’ll realize WHY you need to sign the petitions to recall Dave Blauert, Charles Christensen and Phyllis Erick.
Wake up, Sedona. Your very existence is at stake.
Wendy V. Tanzer
Recall Won’t Get Us The Balanced Government We Seek
By Paul Chevalier
Sedona, AZ (July 29, 2011) – After the Civil War, Americans living in states and territories west of the Mississippi found themselves under the control of cattle, land and railroad ‘barons’ that bought politicians from governors on down. As the 19th century drew to a close, the majority of people, state by state, rose up at the polls and weeded out most of the corrupt politicians, replacing them with those who believed that important community issues should adhere to the will of the majority. By 1912, as a means of protection from control by special interests, several new types of laws had been passed in almost all of the states west of the Mississippi, including Arizona.
The first new kind of law was the public’s right to a referendum (re-vote) on laws enacted by their council or legislature; the second was the public’s right to create new laws by public vote (referred to as an ‘initiative’); and the third was the right to recall (remove from office) elected politicians before their term had expired. In some states, a recall is only permitted for criminal acts or moral turpitude. In other states, including Arizona, a recall needs no grounds at all.
This year alone in our community, there have been movements to recall four of our City Council members and three of our Fire District Board members. No one has seriously suggested that any of the seven politicians named for possible recall were guilty of a crime or of moral turpitude. The arguments made for recalling them are that they vote contrary to the will of the people, and/or they make decisions that could seriously affect the welfare of the people of the community.
Even if we assume that the allegations against these politicians are completely true (and I am not suggesting that they are), it is not in the best interest of our community to have an election to recall them before their term is up.
We have difficulty in Sedona getting people to run for political office who can be objective and are willing to find solutions that require some bending of their own personal beliefs. In recent times, holding political office in the greater Sedona area has too frequently been a disagreeable experience. As a result, most of the people who now run for political office are at the extreme fringe of important community issues. They are certain they are right, and therefore do not much care when people verbally attack them for their decisions.
More and more, our political choices seem to be limited to a pool of extreme candidates. The types of people we really need in our elected government are moderates willing and competent enough to find solutions to our tough problems – solutions that most of us would consider to be good compromises. We need officials willing to yield their own beliefs to those of the majority, while fitting into the solution elements that make sense from both ends of the issue’s spectrum. Few such moderates run for office here any more; they do not want the grief that politicians are getting. They certainly would not want to be subjected to a possible recall. Of course, if our politicians were more moderate in their approach, they would receive less grief.
Recalls are historically understandable, but are not a solution to our current political problems in Sedona. If, for instance, we recall the three members of the Fire District Board, we must elect others to take their place. Who will run for this office in this atmosphere? Recalls of politicians, except for serious criminal or moral acts, achieve one thing for certain: they will discourage moderates from running for office. More likely, our only political choice will be to replace people on one extreme side of the ‘full service vs. fiscal responsibility’ issue with people on the other extreme side. Doing so will not result in a moderate balance between service and fiscal responsibility. A recall won’t get us the balanced government we need. When we go to extremes to solve a political situation all we do is perpetuate it for most of us. The only winners are those at the opposite extreme and their ‘win’ will not last for long because we will get sick of their actions too.
I need to respectively disagree with you about your position that recalls are not the appropriate tool with respect to the Fire Board members.
When elected officials make decisions that are so extreme and irresponsible that they not only cause an immediate as well as long term financial crises in the Fire Distrrict, but also make decisions that will endanger the lives and property of the citizens, a recall is more than appropriate.
Fiscal responsibility and full service are possible by balancing the responsibilities to insure that safety isn’t compromised.
Our Fire District is in serious trouble because of irresponsible decisions.
The recall is very appropiate at this time.
And I have to respectfully disagree with the insinuation that you make regarding that the four council members who were elected in our last election. They are not “on the fringe.” In fact, you fail to mention their credentials which you are well aware of since you overtly supported them. They are well educated, professionally experienced individuals, and they were all elected by a majority of Sedona voters.
In addition, three of the four councilors are retired. Therefore, they do not have an agenda whereby they will benefit financially from their specific actions.
Dear Sedona voter,
I certain agree that none of the members of the City Council have a political agenda whereby they would beniefit financially from their office. I can’t figure out how you could have inferred that from my article. Our city councilors are paid merely $450 a month ($650 for the mayor). For many councilors it costs them out of their pockets to do their jobs. They are all honest and certainly none not in office to make money.
With regard to your conclusion that NONE of the Councilors we elected in 2010 are “on the fringe” of important community issues, I respectfully disagree with you.
If being “on the fringe” of community matters refers to those councilors who were elected than I remain steadfast in what I said. First, my question is why did you support these candidates? I did because they supported my idea of good, solid candidates whose outlook to preserve Sedona is similar to my own.
However, you make it sound like these people had and have no knowledge of the community when, in fact, they are well aware of community sentiments as a result of their active involvement with our children and adults.
Reply to Karen Strauch’s article above
Karen, the justifications that you state for recalling these three members of the Fire Board are that they don’t properly prepare; they act rudely; they don’t listen; and they conduct public business in executive session.
If these politicians are recalled for the reasons you list above it will be a red flag of warning not to run for office. Only people at the extreme ends of the ‘best service v. fiscal responsibility’ debate will become candidates for the Fire Board. Those people will run because they are sure that they are right and so criticism bounces off them. We need a Fire Board that will bring balance and compromise between best service and fiscal responsibility. We need moderate candidates, who can see both sides and are able to compromise their own beliefs.
Recall elections are extremely negative in nature that is why it makes sense to only recall politicians for criminal or immoral behavior, particularly when, as here, there is another way to overturn outrageous legislative acts. In your article, you have not mentioned any outrageous decisions that this Fire Board has made. No doubt there is some legislation that this Fire Board passed which you and others think is outrageous. Why not focus on correcting that legislation by using the Arizona Referendum process? A Referendum allows citizens to overturn laws with which they disagree. It is direct democracy. As you know the Referendum process is being used in the City of Sedona this November.
If our Fire Board majority lose a referendum vote, the odds are they will alter their future behavior. It is a wake up call. If you use the referendum process you could achieve your end without harming individuals reputations, causing pain to their families and putting the community through a major negative process. As an additional positive of replacing the Recall process with a Referendum, competent moderate citizens will be less in fear of risking the public’s displeasure in office. Only if moderates take charge will we achieve the balance we need in our Fire Board decision-making
Here are a few solid reasons for the recall of Christensen, Blauet and Erick:
They ran on a campaign of fiscal responsibility yet have been spending our money on experts for everything, hiring a Phoenix Law firm in addition to having their own Board attoreny who attends meetings and is just one of two experts in the whole State in Fire Department laws….this firm was hired by Dave Blauert on his own before getting any Board Approval. They are running up bigger bills than ever in the past to talk to attornies on anything they want, were willing to pay $189,000 for another audit when one was just done, but that deal fell through with the wife of the head of the Committee working for that firm,now there is yet another committee to find a company to do an audit. These Board members plus Mr. Craig Dibel want to dismantle the dispatch centre and move it to another town merging with someone else. They even wanted to cut off the other towns we dispatch for with just a month’s notice and leave them in danger until they were told they could not do so…..the dispatch centre regardless of what these Members say MAKES money. You do not attend the meetings…I do and was there when this was discussed and they instructed Karen Daines, the Department’s Business Manager to start talks with Flagstaff even though they were told the move could cost Sedona taxpayers over a million dollars. I called the Flagstaff officials in charge and told them if they agreed there would be an uproar in Sedona over the cost and the matter of putting our Fire Dept. under Flagstaff City Council…that voters in 1988 who decided Sedona would become a City said they wanted an independent Dept. and if Flagstaff agreed it could cause a lot of bad feelings. Thank God Himself Flagtsaff finally decided “they had too much on their plate”…so what did these Board members do…instruct Ms. Daines to hold talks with Prescott who again thank God turned us down. NOW they have given $6,400 for a study to merge our dispatch centre with Cottonwood. At the meeting when all this first came up Mr. Christensen yelled and screamed at the two telecommunications managers accusing them of “ripping off the taxpayers for a Rolls Royce of a Centre”….he was politely told that the State of Arizona paid for it all….”Well”, Mr. Christensern said “you are still ripping off the taxpayers for the maintenace”…he was again politely told “NO…the State pays for it”….Mr Christensen replied he did not care he still wanted to get rid of it…..so where is the saving they promised during their campaign….they are running up bills no other Board has ever done….Mr. Christensen was found gjuilty last year on fourteen charges of harrassment….all public information….four complaints were from private citizens including Al Spector owner of L’Auberge and other resorts and properties….his deposition was loaded with lies and he finally had to confess……when this Board was told if they slashed the budget to their desires plus slashing again next year as they said they will do….that the Chief would be forced to close a station and lay off personnel which would cause a longer response time to calls and could put a citizens life at risk or even LOSS…..Mr. Christensen replied in a very angry manner “Well that’s the world…welcome to it”……I was there…I witnessed this disgusting behaviour…..yes these are MORAL ISSUES OF THE EXTREME WHEN A BOARD MEMBER SAYS HE DOES NOT CARE IF HIS ACTION CAUSES A RESIDENT TO LOSE HIS OR HER LIFE…….ALL THIS TO SAVE ME $15 A YEAR IN TAXES……I was even screamed at by Mr. Christensen when I was in the middle of my three mibute speech because I DARED TO CRITIZE THE BOARD….I was accused of character assasination and even after I sat down…tow minutres later he was at it again and CALLED ME UNCHRISTIAN…..I AM TALKING ABOUT THE SEDONA FIRE DEPT. GOVERNING BOARD NOT QUARTZITE….
Yes, these are reasons these members should be recalled and there are others but I have given the main ones and they have brought on this recall themselves by their disdain for the not only our fine and very much respected and dear I say “loved” Fire Department but for the Public and even for those who voted for them…..you must also recall it was their big supporter Lowell Johnson who was caught stealing all the signs of the opposition and when questioned by police said that Mr. Blauert told him to do it and Mr. Blauert said “I don’t remember”…..
Let us not forget Mr. Christianson put ads in the paper asking for bids for a private ambulance service with NO BOARD APPROVAL OR DISCUSSION…..
Once the Dept. loses the ambulance service the can NEVER get it back unless that private company leaves town. I did a petition on my own and gathered over 250 signatures and got dozens of e-mails from prominent business and property owners in town opposing this but Mr. Christianson did not care…what stopped this was that nobody wanted to bid…this was the previous Board he was on and they also did not care what the citizens of Sedona wanted or did not want.
So Paul….do you still maintain that these Members deserve to sit on their personal thrones and do whatever they want regardless of what Sedonans say and how much of a tax bill they will deliver to us?