Why a recall makes no sense

By most measures, Stockton is well-governed at present. The mayor is a Stanford grad with a head for policy and heart for the disadvantaged. The Council works well together.

They’ve got good priorities and fiscal discipline. They listen. Stockton just won an All-American City Award for the way it’s tackling its challenges; voters okayed new taxes, a tacit vote of confidence.

Given all that, the recall of two Council people isn’t really a recall. It’s a shibboleth for petty malcontents. Some of these critics think they should be running the show, which is a knee-slapper. Others seem to get their kicks from disrupting City Hall.

I’m not kidding about the pettiness. Much of the fuss is over two new staffers in Mayor Michael Tubbs’ office — though voters approved them! In this story, activist Ralph Lee White threatens a recall over them.  The citizen who actually filed recall papers, JR Guillory, mentions them explicitly (with false numbers) on his Facebook page, and alludes to “Lack of fiscal prudence” on his recall document.

The idea of a recall over two voter-approved staff positions is crackbrained.


If Guillory is alleging broader fiscal mismanagement of the city budget, he’s wrong there, too. The 2077-18 budget reflects fiscal discipline, as shown by the latest iteration of a bar graph familiar to readers of this blog.

As you can see, Stockton is heading into very narrow straits, as the ballooning cost of public employee pensions eats up city budget reserves. The crisis comes around 2029. But costs never drop reserves below the 5% reserves line. Those are dangerously low reserves. But marginal solvency beats insolvency. City officials have done their level best to keep Stockton out of Chapter 18 through the very fiscal prudence Guillory says they lack.

After thinking through Guillory’s half-baked grievances in this column, I’m left with the feeling that the stated reasons for the recall are just a pretext. What the real deal is may involve a small subclass of permanently disaffected citizens so addicted to raging against the machine they have become part of the problem, not the solution. Or people unable to tolerate Tubbs’ success — which tell you all you need to know about them.

Anyway, if your’e interested, here is the procedure for recalling public officials.


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