NOREEN: Recall? Let's not lose our heads

November 6, 2009

Off with their heads.

By all means, let’s grab our pitchforks and storm the Bastille.

After we lop off the head of the king, we can institute a reign of terror and lop off thousands of more heads. No need to stop with a mere recall of elected officials when it will make us feel so much more fulfilled to run hundreds of city employees into the ground, eh?

On Friday,  Colorado Springs resident Patrick Ayers announced he’ll launch a recall effort aimed at Mayor Lionel Rivera and Councilman Larry Small. Ayers, known for his work as an advocate for the homeless, said Rivera should be recalled for “ethical violations that went down” during the city’s wrenching attempt to keep the United States Olympic Committee headquarters here.

Small’s sin, according to Ayers, was his shouting down of anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce, a widely known provocateur, at a council meeting after Bruce interrupted the proceedings. Small “went after a private citizen,” Ayers exclaimed, perhaps forgetting that when Bruce went to the Statehouse representing a Colorado Springs district, he kicked a newspaper photographer who had the temerity to take a picture of a public official inside a public building.

Ayers never launched a recall effort against Bruce, presumably because kicking another human being is OK as long as it is a journalist.

There’s no doubt Colorado Springs voters displayed their anger on Tuesday, rejecting a council-supported tax increase and voting to rein in the city’s enterprises. If Ayers was so incensed at Rivera and Small, why didn’t he get a recall measure on that ballot?

Ayers couldn’t explain, but he defended the expense paying for a special election right away.

After that divisive campaign, does the community really have the appetite for another special election? Based on the anger we saw Tuesday, maybe so.

The other side of Ayers’ coin is that the USOC is a done deal now, and there’s an argument to be made that despite the missteps, it was the right thing to do for the long-term vitality of the city. And if we recalled every official who reacted to Bruce’s brickbats, we’d never have time for anything else.

Ayers will have about two months to circulate his petitions. During those same weeks, the council will have to decide how to balance a massive budget shortfall.

Some city services will disappear. There are sure to be some layoffs. No one will be happy with the council’s decisions.

Against that backdrop you could recall anybody. Ayers was mum about who would replace Rivera and Small, other than to say he will not be a candidate.

“These gentlemen have made everybody mad,” said Ayers. If the council does it job, it’s inevitable that more people will be mad.

That’s not a good enough reason to recall a public official.

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