Commentary: Paul Kozakiewicz

Power to the People

When politicians go sideways, due to corruption, malfeasance or gross incompetence, the people have a right to recall them. That right was established and incorporated into the State Constitution more than 100 years ago. 

Article II of the California Constitution, which was overwhelmingly approved by California voters, gives the people the power to recall and remove elected officials and justices of the State Supreme Court.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, even though recall provisions were not written into the U.S. Constitution, some of the original 13 colonies wrote recall provisions into their state constitutions as a safeguard against elected officials. 

“In 1911, California voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that made the state the third to allow recalls,” the Times wrote. “Now, 110 years later, most states allow local officials to be recalled; 19, including California, allow the removal of state officials as well.”

Occasionally, you get a misguided recall campaign, like the effort to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office, but the people are smart enough to know when they are being snookered. 

School Board Fiasco

In San Francisco, city voters recalled three school board members in February for malfeasance and, in one case, outright racism.

While in the midst of a pandemic, the school board voted to remove a controversial mural at George Washington High School, changed the admission policy at Lowell High School, and voted to move ahead with a plan to rename 44 public schools.

One of the recalled members even called the Chinese community “house n____s” because they used “white supremacy thinking” to get ahead.

Had the electorate not had a chance to remove these three trustees of our children, they would still be on the board contributing to one of the most mismanaged school districts in the state. 

 In the upcoming June 7 election, there is a proposition to recall San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Voters will get a chance to weigh-in on the efficacy of Boudin’s performance to date. Proposition H was put on the ballot by moderate Democrats who question the tactics the DA is using to make the city safer. 

Creating a ballot measure and putting it before voters is neither an easy, nor inexpensive, endeavor. It is not a process that is abused or taken lightly, as some would have you believe. 

In 2007, I joined a group of Richmond District residents who tried to recall District 1 Supervisor Jake McGoldrick on numerous issues of malfeasance. One of the things he did was successfully close the eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park on Saturdays for about six months out of the year. He ignored the will of his constituency – the two-thirds of Richmond District voters who went to the polls and voted “no” to closing the park’s roadway.

To make the ballot, the recall effort required petitions with 10% of the district’s registered voters, or about 3,600 signatures. 

 Although 4,000 signatures were turned in to the SF Department of Elections by deadline, the department determined not enough of them were valid, so the recall never occurred.

What did happen, however, was the SF Board of Supervisors put a ballot measure before voters in November 2008 to make recalls more difficult by requiring 20% of a district’s registered voters to qualify.

City voters approved the measure.

Politicians Cover Backsides

Those decrying the use of the recall are usually politicians and their loyal followers. 

Proposition C, on the June 7 ballot, was put before the voters by a 7-4 vote of the SF Board of Supervisors. District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan and District 4 Supervisor Gordon Mar supported the plan, which would severely limit the times a candidate could be recalled. 

Ironically, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, a supporter of Prop. C, survived a recall attempt the same year McGoldrick sidestepped a referendum on his tenure as supervisor. 

Those politicians willing to strip away voting power from city residents should be recalled. 

Vote “no” on Prop. C.

More Money Down the Transit Rat Hole

Proposition A asks city voters to approve a $400 million bond measure for the SF Municipal Transit Agency to spend on transit issues, including, of course, to “ensure fast, safe, clean, reliable and convenient transit.”

How many times have we heard this over the past 30 years? Muni is still a mess that takes more than $1 billion a year to operate, about three-quarters of that total being subsidized from the City’s General Fund.

The cost to city taxpayers, after lining the pockets of bond buyers, will be more than double the $400 million going to transit – more money down a transit rat hole. 

Furthermore, the clowns running the show just exploited the people of the west side by working with Rec. and Park to shut down the eastern end of John F. Kennedy Drive (permanently) and closing the Upper Great Highway on weekends. The Upper Great Highway is closed at noon on Fridays because our city leaders can’t get anyone to lock the gate on Friday evening, after people have returned from work or picked up the kids. Unbelievable incompetence. 

 Now is not the time to spend city money frivolously, especially coming out of a two-year pandemic where no one knows what the future of public transit will look like.

Vote “no” on Proposition A. 

Paul Kozakiewicz is an editor, and former publisher, of the Richmond Review and Sunset Beacon newspapers. 

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