A popular Democratic politician takes the necessary steps to provide justice and safety to the people of the community and for their trouble takes not only heat from conservatives and know nothings but ends up having to contest a recall election.
Oh, did you think I’m talking about Gavin Newsom and the Half-Witted Recall?
No I’m talking about the OTHER recall that hits a bit closer to home for me.
Jill Ravitch, Sonoma County District Attorney, faces a recall election this September. This even though her term would be over nine months later and she long ago announced she was not going to run for re-election.
So what heinous crime did she commit that requires the extraordinary enterprise of a recall election? Was she caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar? Was she allowing criminals to walk away Scot free? Was she in league with the forces of Satan?
None of the above. She did her job. She prosecuted a company for abandoning seniors living in a senior care facility the company ran during the 2017 Tubbs fires, leaving them with no way of getting out even though the area was under mandatory evacuation notices. That’s right, they left grandma to a raging firestorm. Residents of the facilities had to be rescued by loved ones and first responders. Fortunately none of the residents died. The county filed a civil suit against the company. I wish they had filed criminal charges for elder abuse, but the civil suit was the best they could do. The company, Oakmont Senior Living, eventually settled the county’s suit against them for a payment of $500,000.
Now you would think that kind of publicity is the kind you’d like to have just quietly fade into the mists of history. You’d like to think they’d take their licking and hire a good PR firm to smooth out the rough edges. You’d think that, but if you did you wouldn’t be Bill Gallaher, owner of Oakmont Senior Living and one of the larger developers in the county. He decided it wasn’t fair his company had to pay out half a million bucks just cause they left a bunch of old people to potentially die a gruesome death. Nope, he took a clue from the QAnon based recall efforts against Governor Newsom and started a recall petition against DA Ravitch.
According to state campaign financing records Gallaher has bankrolled the entire recall effort by himself. $750,000 or thereabouts. And how did he get Sonoma county voters to sign his petition? He had the petition peddlers tell potential signees that Ravitch needed to be recalled because she didn’t prosecute PG&E, the local power company, for their part in the Tubbs fires.
That is true, she didn’t. She didn’t because she and her office investigated PG&E’s culpability for that particular fire and found, unlike other fires, there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. As someone I know who has greater insight into the world of law and courts once said, it ain’t what you know is true, it’s what you can prove.
Nevertheless the anger still seething within the public breast over the fires found it’s way into the fingertips of enough registered voters to get the recall on the ballot. And so this September the county will spend somewhere between $600,000 and $900,000 to administer an election that is only happening because of the spite of one man.
I’ve written in the past about how easy it is to get a recall petition turned into an election here in California. For this one it only took 30,000 signatures to qualify. That’s the number of votes Ravitch’s opponent got in her last election . She on the other hand got 86,000. That’s 75 to 25 in percentage terms. Even a Repugnicant would call that a landslide.
We need to make the recall process more difficult. It’s absurd that a small percentage of the population can force an unwanted recall election on the rest of us. And it’s particularly galling that this election can be forced upon us simply because of the petty peek of a rich land developer who, when you really get down to it, got handed a slap on the wrist penalty for putting people he was being paid to care for in harm’s way.
Recalls should be the weapon of last choice. They should only be used when it’s patently obvious that a public official is engaged in criminal behavior. They should not be used as a vehicle for political revenge or out of disagreement over a particular course of political action. If someone is truly, obviously criminal then the impeachment process should be the remedy. If complicit elected officials refuse to impeach then a recall election should be the solution. But we need to raise the threshold necessary to get a recall election on the ballot. Currently it’s 12% of the total number of voters who cast a ballot in the last election for that office. That number is way too small. As seen in this case that’s literally half the number of votes the landslide loser got. The recall process should demand 50% of the electorate from the last election to sign on.
This recall must be defeated and decisively. Anything less than that will only further encourage rich people and corporations to abuse the system for their own selfish reasons.
And by the way, doesn’t this all sound so terribly familiar? A rich land developer bamboozles a swarth of the citizenry by playing on their fears and grievances and turns them into a howling mad mob ready to storm the capital…oh sorry, I’m getting my land developers mixed up.
Maybe I should have called this piece “Bill and Don’s Bogus Journey”.