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.