Voters to decide if mayoral recall threshold too low

July 29, 2009

On November 3, Akron voters will be asked to decide if anyone seeking to remove a mayor from office should take on a heavier burden to prove that a recall truly is the will of the people.

Akron City Council Monday night passed an ordinance which places on the general election ballot an issue to amend the Charter of the City of Akron to require more signatures on any petition submitted for a mayoral recall. If approved, the charter would require that mayoral recall petitions be signed by 20 percent of the city's registered voters, as opposed to just 20 percent of those who voted in the prior municipal election.

Recall proponents were able to secure more than enough signatures to prompt a special election in June because of the low turnout in the last election in which Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic ran unopposed. Council made the decision to enact this change now rather than wait until the 2010 charter review to ensure anyone else seeking to prompt a recall will be held to a higher threshold.

"Our citizens have told us they would like us to fill up the hole in the dam," said Ward 6 Councilwoman Terry Albanese, who was appointed chair of Council's Committee of the Whole. Council may form a Committee of the Whole to address special issues such as a ballot initiative to be decided in an upcoming election.

Chief among constituent complaints to Albanese and other members of Council was the cost of the recall election, estimated to be at least $175.000. To the question of the cost of a charter amendment issue on the November ballot, Council President Marco Sommerville assured voters that aside from costs for minimum required advertising for a ballot issue, the cost would be minimal.

Sommerville (W-3) also pointed out the hypocrisy of recall proponents' complaints over the mayor's spending, while leaving the bill for the recall for Akron tax-payers.

"When you talk about freedom and democracy, we have to pay for it," Sommerville said. "Ironically, that's what people on the other side have said all throughout debate on the recall."

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a call to recall Plusquellic with a 3-1 vote against the question on June 23. Ward 8 Councilman Raymond W. Cox III said perhaps now that the question of raising the number of required signatures is on the table, the true will of the people will be followed if another a recall were to ever be attempted.

"I would suggest the number of petition signatures is the foundation - the most critical issue," Cox said. "All of us would agree the recall election would not have occurred if the voter toll were higher and if the recall election were based on the number of total registered voters who signed petitions."