Pressure mounting on recall backers
August 23, 2005
Those trying to recall District Attorney Colleen Truden need to step up their efforts – especially in Pitkin County – if they’re going to have any hope of forcing an election, according to the man who perhaps knows more about recall elections than anyone on the Western Slope. With about three weeks remaining to collect 5,455 signatures of registered voters in Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, recall proponents need “many, many more” names, Pitkin County Commissioner Mick Ireland said.He would know. Ireland has been involved in at least three recall campaigns, including two recall attempts against him that went to a vote. He won both easily.Ireland is not directly involved with the effort to recall Truden.”You have to way exceed” the minimum number of signatures, Ireland said, citing reasons names can be nixed from petitions. They include people writing the wrong address or not being registered voters.Asked if he thought the campaign against Truden will get the requisite number of names, he said, “It’s going to be pretty close.”
“They need 6,000 or 7,000,” Ireland said. “The problem is, when you start out on these recall drives you get all the low-hanging fruit right away. But then when you get past that, you get to the people who don’t know what a recall is, never heard of Colleen Truden, don’t know what a DA is.”He said he was surprised there is not more emphasis on gathering signatures in Pitkin County. About 28 percent of the voters in the 9th Judicial District reside in Pitkin, Ireland said, but “there hasn’t been that much activity” in the upper valley.”I think there’s a lot of interest here because both papers have done a pretty good job of raising the issues. People here are familiar with it and they read newspapers a lot,” he said.Recall organizer Sherry Caloia said she understands the concerns.”I am not an optimistic person. I’ve never been, and I’m always looking at what can go wrong in my cases, in my trials, in my life. And it carries over to this,” she said. “I’m not going to say that I’m confident. I think we can do it; it’s very possible, but we need to continue on with the effort to get it done.”Somewhere between 4,100 and 4,600 names have been gathered, Caloia said while sitting in her Glenwood Springs law office with a thick stack of petitions at her side.
Petition circulators are finding visible places to get names, including the Bradley gas station on Grand Avenue in Glenwood, she said. The station’s owner has given petitioners permission to approach drivers as they fill up.”It’s a gold mine there,” she said.But Caloia allowed that the hardest thing about the campaign has been finding enough volunteers to circulate the petitions “in the right locations.”Recall proponents have attended various events and made T-shirts for signature gatherers to alert the public.”It’s a tremendous thing that we have to do. I’d love to have 8,000 signatures today, but I don’t,” said Caloia, a private lawyer and the town prosecutor for Basalt and Carbondale. Nevertheless, “It seems like this whole thing is gathering momentum as we go through, rather than lagging.”She said she hasn’t had any volunteers get tired of the process – “In fact, they’re doing more,” Caloia said.
The trouble is, new places to try to get people to sign are dwindling.”I worry about where we’ve been, whether we’ve saturated [a certain] area,” she said. “We meet every week and discuss where we should go, whether there’s going to be locals or out-of-town people there.”Officials at the Super Wal-Mart and City Market in Rifle have refused to let petition gatherers stand near their stores.Employees at the Woody Creek Tavern have pledged to get 500 signatures, but “We haven’t heard from them yet,” Caloia said. Another woman told her she could get 1,000 names, but she also has yet to contact Caloia since then.Petitioners will be outside every post office from Glenwood Springs to Parachute from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, she said.”I wish people would be more proactive and would actually come to my office to sign. A lot of people have said, ‘I’ve been looking for a petition to sign and I haven’t found one,'” Caloia said. “I wish that they would take a little more initiative to find one because the [petitions are] out there. And all they have to do is call my office.”Chad Abraham’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org