COEUR d'ALENE - Anti-recall organizers said this week they encouraged recall opponents to express their opinion with Sherman Hardware after the business allowed recall petitioners to solicit signatures near the storefront last week.
Jennifer Drake, organizer for the Stop The Recall movement, said she emailed more than 200 recall opponents asking them to contact petitioners or the store owned by John Montandon, but didn't intend to intimidate or threaten the business.
Montandon said he did feel intimidated after receiving 15-25 phone calls last week after petitioners set up shop on his property, and felt it was an organized effort.
The organization came from Stop The Recall, Drake said, not the city, mayor or anywhere else.
But the group didn't ask people to withhold business from the store - a threat Montandon said he did hear in telephone conversations.
"We would never ask people to shop somewhere or not shop somewhere," Drake said in reference to Sherman Hardware. "We're a source of information for people to make up their own minds."
The issue came up at the City Council meeting Tuesday, stemming from an article in The Press last week about reaction Montandon received after allowing recall supporters to use his lot. Included in the dozens of phone calls, Montandon said he lost two small accounts tied to Mayor Sandi Bloem's family.
Bloem reiterated Tuesday that was a personal decision made by family members who have a right to shop where they please, just as people on the other side of the political divide do.
"I don't see a lot of you in my store, and haven't for years and that's your right," she said. "A lot of you don't go to Woody's (McEvers) restaurant, and that's your right. And in the same way we have a right to shop where we want, but we certainly do not condone any threatening or any intimidation."
Montandon told The Press he never believed the phone calls, which he classified as intimidating but not threatening, had anything to do with the city or mayor, only that it was organized somewhere.
"I'm not the type of person that would hold a grudge," Montandon said, after learning Stop The Recall issued the email. "I don't hold any animosity."
The email Drake sent, according to a copy forwarded to The Press, states:
"Just wanted to let everyone know that RecallCdA (Kathy Sims) is at Sherman Hardware trying to get people to sign. If you are out and about stop by and the let the hardware store know your thoughts and let the recallers know too!"
It included the store's phone number.
But Montandon said that after last week's Press article ran, his store received positive feedback too, including new accounts.
"It was like a big party in here," he said of supporters who stopped by his Sherman Avenue store.
It's another example of how the controversial political topic has worked its way into many aspects of the community, including businesses.
RecallCdA is trying to put a recall election on the ballot for City Council members Mike Kennedy, Woody McEvers, Deanna Goodlander and Bloem, largely for their support of the McEuen Field redevelopment plan. Signs are stuck in yards and hang in shop windows in support or against the effort.
Petitioners on sidewalks, when The Press has stopped by several times, have been cheered or jeered by passersby. Opponents and supporters accuse one another of using misleading information and defaming the other side. Public comment at City Council meetings is filled with passionate speakers on both sides. And this week, some downtown businesses with signs against the recall in their store windows received more postcards mocking them for their stances.
The two postcards, sent anonymously, are meant to act as parody signs the businesses should hang in their windows in addition to the "Decline to Sign" signs on display.
"Wiiii 2 stoopid 2 vote $topp teh reKall," one reads.
"What's up with these recall people anyhow? Why won't they recognize & accept that throughout history the Elite have plundered the masses & that is not going to change," another states.
They are nearly identical to the postcards that businesses started receiving around two weeks ago - of which RecallCda said it had no part - and were also mailed anonymously from Spokane.
"If we're not entitled to our opinion, who is?" said Todd Hudson, co-owner of Hudson's Hamburgers, one of the businesses that received the cards. "It shouldn't be do or die. It should be a simple disagreement and move on ... Especially since we're all going to live together sooner or later (when) it's done. That's what's really too bad."
RecallCdA organizer Frank Orzell, meanwhile, said Thursday the signature drive is "very close" to 4,000 signatures. The four petitions need 4,311 signatures each from valid Coeur d'Alene voters, and need to be turned over to Kootenai County by June 11.
Orzell and Bloem agreed in April that if any signs of intimidation surfaced with RecallCda, the group would notify the city. That led to Montandon speaking to the City Council Tuesday about his experience, followed by Drake's statement that it started with her group.
"We're trying to deal with this with complete respect," Orzell said Thursday of the signature gathering process, adding that the opposition movement "will continue to do what they continue to do."
Drake, who apologized to Montandon, said she didn't have any regrets notifying the Stop The Recall supporters about petitioners at Sherman Hardware. She said it was blown out of proportion with rumors that tried to tie it to a city effort. She has notified people when petitioners gathered outside other businesses, such as Safeway on Fourth Street.
How people express their opinions is only up to those people, she said.
That could go both ways.
McEvers, owner of Rustlers Roost restaurant, has said he has been threatened with loss of business for his support of the McEuen Project since before the proposed public advisory vote was at the council's desk in January.
"They're free as members of the community to do and say what they want," Drake said. "We're just trying to keep it respectful."