Signatures are still being collected in the effort to recall Mike Alifano, Doug Mackintosh, and Gary Riddell from the Coastside Fire Protection District board of directors. Just swing by New Leaf Community Market at lunchtime and you can’t miss recall volunteer John Lynch’s stovepipe-style Uncle Sam hat, which is firmly attached to his head with a chin strap. His style certainly adds some flair to the task (although I do think that the full ensemble with red-and-white-striped pants and a goatee might attract more takers).
While eating lunch, it has been interesting to watch people exit the store. Those that don’t try to skirt the table by going out the “in” door (just pull hard and it opens) are quickly petitioned by those manning the table to “Keep CalFire,” as the big sign says, by voting out the three members of the fire board. The board majority incurred the wrath of recall supporters by voting to return to a stand-alone department, without CalFire management.
This feels a little disingenuous.
You are not actually signing up to “Keep CalFire.” You are signing a petition to bring to the ballot, at some point, a referendum to remove the majority of the board. It is certainly possible, if and when the recall is voted upon, that all of the members would keep their positions. Or that only one member would get the boot, although all or nothing seems to be a most likely scenario. And if all three members are removed, there will need to be another election to vote new members on.
Of course, there is certainly no guarantee that the new directors will be in favor of keeping CalFire. What if the new members also favor a stand-alone department? Do we start another recall effort?
We should keep CalFire. The state agency is doing a fine job by most accounts and is doing so for less money than a stand-alone department would cost — without all the past drama. I have not been convinced that we would be better off with a stand-alone solution. If it’s not broken, why fix it?
But using a recall effort to oust the majority of the fire board doesn’t feel right. Recalls should be reserved for those that neglect their duties or have clearly misused their power, and, as far as I know, the board majority is not guilty of anything like that.
Although the board majority is not obligated to answer to the public, I have to keep the faith that if there is a big enough citizen outcry and enough feedback, any reasonable board member could not, in good conscience, ignore the people’s views.
The bottom line is that the recall effort, even if it is successful, doesn’t guarantee its intended result. Only the concerted effort to convince board members to stay with CalFire will do that. Likely? Maybe not. But no more unlikely than gambling at the voting booth.