A St. Helena group has indicated it intends to launch a recall campaign against Mayor Alan Galbraith.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Galbraith said he does not welcome a recall effort, calls it "extremely disruptive" and adds it does not "make good sense and threatens to waste taxpayers' money on a special election."
Recall proponents argue that, since his election in 2014, Galbraith has been pushing the agenda of special interest groups, including large corporate wine interests and hotel and housing developers, and ignoring the wishes of citizens who seek to maintain the city’s small-town character. They point to his endorsing plans for a new 100,000-square-foot hotel center and surrounding condominiums.
A Bay Area public relations firm, Public Good PR, sent a press release announcing the recall on Wednesday morning. It mentions that the group pushing for recall includes a broad group of 25 long-time residents and community leaders.
Those who signed the notice of intention to recall Galbraith include Anthony Micheli, retired general contractor; Mike Griffin, retired firefighter; Kathy Coldiron, real estate investor; and Sharon Dellamonica, art consultant.
Coldiron said, “St. Helena residents have been struggling to maintain our small-town character. But the public’s concerns and opposition to many projects have been ignored or shut down by the mayor at many public meetings. Unfortunately, we believe this recall effort is our only hope of getting our local planning process back on track.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Galbraith released a statement, which read in part: "If the voters are dissatisfied with my tenure as mayor, they have an opportunity to elect a new mayor in November 2018. To mount a recall campaign in the middle of my term will be extremely disruptive to the work of the City Council, and, even if it succeeds, is unlikely to shorten my term by more than a few months.”
Galbraith has claimed the development of city-owned property is part of a long-range plan to alleviate the city’s financial woes. To address financial and infrastructure problems, the City Council recently approved significant water and wastewater rate hikes, along with a $40 million, five-year capital improvement plan.
In his statement, Galbraith said, “Besides disrupting the work of the City Council, a recall campaign is all but guaranteed to polarize our community in ways that will make it more difficult for us to find good solutions to shared problems, many of long standing. With all the challenges we face, now is the time to work harder than ever to come together as a community. It is hard to imagine a worse time for divisive political actions.”
According to recall proponents, including Micheli, another example of Galbraith’s favoritism of corporate interests is the recent approval of a change in operations at Beringer Vineyards, the large St. Helena winery owned by Treasury Estates. This approval, say opponents, failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. As the leader of a group of residents calling themselves, “Citizens for Responsible Winery Growth in St. Helena” Micheli has filed a lawsuit seeking a court injunction to temporarily halt construction of the project at Beringer Vineyards.
“The mayor has facilitated the rapid approval of these, and many other projects, despite local wastewater challenges,” the press release states.
The group was expected to deliver its notice of intention to circulate a recall petition to the St. Helena City Clerk Cindy Tzafopoulous on Wednesday. Now, it must be reviewed by the city attorney and certified within 10 days, and then published in a general circulation newspaper.
Once certified, petitioners must gather signatures from at least 835 registered voters in this town of about 6,000 residents to trigger a recall election, according to state guidelines.
Galbraith is up for election in November 2018. The soonest general election the recall might appear on is next June. Napa County Registrar of Voters John Tuetor estimated the cost of the initiative would be in the $7,000 to $10,000 range. If a special election were necessary, he said on Wednesday morning, the cost might be $20,000-$30,000.
The press release states, “Among other issues, the notice cites that Mayor Galbraith has failed to effectively maintain and open and fair democratic process at public meetings, provide public financial statements to determine St. Helena fiscal health, and operate a well-functioning, modern and cost-effective municipal water system.”
Galbraith’s statement concludes: “There will always be differences of opinion over major policy decisions, but for as long as I have been a public servant here in St. Helena, I have sought to contribute my experience and perspective in ways that serve the long-term interest of the community as a whole. I truly do not know how else to approach my responsibilities as Mayor.
“One further point: my job is strictly non-partisan. I have no economic interest in town. A main concern has been to ensure that we have a first class City staff. I could not be more proud of our amazingly skilled and dedicated employees. We are so lucky.
“No matter what happens, I remain deeply appreciative of the opportunity to serve our community as your mayor.”