Recall drive comes to end
The campaign to unseat four Pitkin County commissioners has failed.
With about 72 hours left before recall petitions were due for submission to the county clerk, organizer Jeffrey Evans on Friday conceded the drive to force a recall election for four of the five county commissioners would fall short.
“We don’t have enough time,” said Evans as he packed up a signature-gathering stand near Clark’s Market. “We never had the number of volunteers we needed. Basically, if we had four or five committed people on this, we would have gotten there. But I never had the time to really devote to this.”
Not surprisingly, Commissioner Shellie Harper is happy to put the matter behind her.
“I’m so pleased because this restores my faith that people understand what the issues are and didn’t get sucked into personal agendas,” said Harper, one of the commissioners targeted in the recall campaign. “I’m proud that people stepped back from the frustration at hand and understood that elected officials aren’t responsible for everything that’s gone wrong. I mean if you were to believe the ads, we’re the root of all evil.”
Sparking the recall drive was a decision by commissioners not to place a rail-funding question before county voters on the November ballot. Evans and his backers contended the voters, in November 1998, mandated an election on rail funding this fall. Evans and his anti-rail Common Sense Alliance put such a question before city of Aspen voters this month via a citizens initiative, and then campaigned successfully for its defeat.
Targeted for recall, along with Harper, were Commissioners Mick Ireland, Dorothea Farris and Leslie Lamont. Only Commissioner Patti Clapper, who supported putting a rail question on the county ballot, was spared from the recall campaign.
Although the recall drive fell short on signatures, organizers say the effort itself was far from a waste of time.
“We accomplished the two things we set out to do. The most important was we let people know what the county commissioners had done,” said Evans. “And we also identified what is probably the largest political action committee around with about 1,000 people committed to political change. At this point we’re going to identify candidates for the next commissioners’ race.”
Commissioner Farris, however, believes Evans’ inability to collect enough signatures to force a recall election reflects the political savvy of county voters.
“I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and tell me what an inappropriate use of recall they thought this was,” Farris said. “Recalls are a very valuable tool in a democracy, but it needs to be used for truly inappropriate behavior like the misappropriation of funds or a blatant disregard of ethics, not over a difference of opinion.”
Harper and Farris also both said they are glad to avoid the “destructiveness” a recall election would have wreaked on the community.
“Now we can devote our time and energy to productive things instead of continuing this endless antagonism,” Farris said.
The recall campaign had 60 days to collect signatures. To force a recall election, petitioners needed to collect signatures amounting to 25 percent of all votes cast in the last election for the seat in question. That meant 1,316 signatures to force a recall election for Ireland, 1,483 for Farris, 1,555 for Harper and 1,569 for Lamont.
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