COEUR d'ALENE - The clock has started.
The petitions to begin a recall effort against three Coeur d'Alene City Council members and the mayor were certified Thursday, leaving the citizen group spearheading the campaign 75 days to collect 4,311 signatures.
The deadline to collect enough signatures from registered city voters to get a recall election on the Nov. 6 ballot for Mayor Sandi Bloem and council members Mike Kennedy, Woody McEvers and Deanna Goodlander is 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 19.
"We're going to go out and get signatures," said Frank Orzell, RecallCdA organizer, the group heading the effort.
Wednesday, Orzell had delivered the petitions to begin the drive, but each of the four 20-signature forms lacked a reason to oust the current members. A reason is needed, so each member can defend against the charge should the recall election make on a ballot.
The updated petitions Orzell delivered Thursday charged three reasons. Each incumbent, they say: Denied a public advisory vote on the McEuen Field conceptual plan and approved a plan to remake the field; continues to approve "excessive salaries" for city employees; and "consistently supports excessive spending of taxpayer dollars."
Orzell said the group could begin collecting signatures by Saturday. He said around 85 volunteers will be trained to go door-to-door and describe the three listed reasons when they seek support. The group's headquarters, 296 W. Sunset Ave., should be open April 11, earlier than the original date, April 15.
"We want to be perfectly legitimate and we will go out and get signatures," he said.
Before Orzell delivered the incomplete documents Wednesday, around 75 recall supporters rallied outside City Hall. Thursday, around 40 citizens who are against the recall gathered at the Fort Ground Grill to show support for the targeted incumbents, all of whom attended.
"I think it's huge," said Sara Meyer, who is leading the anti-recall campaign along with Jennifer Drake, on the need to combat the recall movement. "We are not going to let these people take over our town."
According to Idaho statutes, if the petition drive and recall election is successful on each of the incumbents, the four officials would be removed. That would leave three council members, Ron Edinger, Steve Adams and Dan Gookin, all of whom opposed the McEuen Field project.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter would appoint one replacement. That would give the council a quorum, essentially enough members for the council to take action. The four members would then appoint the remaining positions. In this case, the seats would all expire in 2013.
While the recall effort is largely due to the incumbents' stance on approving the redevelopment plan of McEuen Field, Mayor Sandi Bloem told the crowd at the Fort Ground Grill the recall is about the direction the city will go, not just on the downtown park, but on everything.
"What is going to happen to this community if they get the recall?" she asked, standing in the restaurant in the middle of the improved education corridor, a project that was recently completed after years of planning by multiple stakeholders, including the city. "You're throwing out the entire vision for what we have for the future."
The goal of the anti-recall group, which has started a Facebook page, is to educate people why not to sign the petition, Drake and Meyer said. They pointed to a flier RecallCdA is circulating as spreading false information. The flier says the incumbents "approved a $40 million plan to remake McEuen Field."
The City Council approved to move forward with an estimated $14.2 million Phase 1 plan for the park. That passed four votes to three, with the divide being which incumbents are targeted by the recall and which aren't.
During the planning process of McEuen Field last year, the park designers estimated that if everything was built out on the plan, including providing replacement facilities for displaced facilities like the boat launch and American Legion baseball field, the total could hit up to $39 million.
But the city reduced Phase 1 to the $14 million price by dropping some items in the plan, and said everything else after that could fall into place down the line, if funding, including from grants and donations, became available.
Orzell and supporters have maintained the recall is not a personal or political attack, but reaction from dissatisfied citizens who wanted a vote in the fate of McEuen.
"Stop spending our money on an overly extravagant park," said Chuck Russell, recall supporter at the Wednesday rally. "It's for the tourists and not for the (local) people."
Thursday, Ron Lahr, of the Kootenai County Reagan Republicans, said his campaign marketing firm, Strategery, did design the RecallCdA fliers. Strategery did so independently from KCRR, he said, and the political group was staying out of the recall effort.
KCRR has become active in recent elections, supporting seven municipal candidates - also Republicans - across Kootenai County during last November's election on grounds that municipal elections aren't nonpartisan elections. All seven won seats, including Adams and Gookin.
While individual members may support the petition, the group won't act one way or another, Lahr said. That could change if the drive is successful, however, and the recall election makes it to a ballot.
"What would be the benefit, pro or against, of signature gathering?" he said. "As an official position, I don't expect there to be any action until it gets on the ballot."
Adams, Gookin and Edinger have said they are staying out of the recall effort.
Adams is a former KCRR board member who stepped down several months ago, before the recall effort took foot in February. He said he did so largely because of time constraints with his new job as a councilman. He and Gookin were elected to the City Council in November.
Gookin is a KCRR member. He said at the KCRR February meeting, discussion about a possible recall came up, and he left the meeting, an incident Lahr also recounted to The Press.
Should the KCRR engage in the effort officially, Gookin said he could resign from the board in order to stay neutral.
"I'll make that decision at that time," he said.
The 20 signatures on the RecallCdA petition:
Frank Orzell, Phil Motl, William 'Dusty' Rhoads, Terri Seymour, Kenneth Stuker, Kathleen Sims, Jeff Connaway, James Doty, Don Kilian, Keith Peila, Gary Ingram, Julie Clark, Jaqueline Mayo, Sharon Alexander, Rita Sims-Snyder, Robert Hough, Jaqueline Wright, William Wright, Bruce MacNeil, Linda MacNeil