There is a fun side to being subject to a recall effort. It can inspire a great cartoon – and Ms. Martens’ cartoon in last week’s Star, suggesting that the recall should be against traffic and not me, is one of the finest.
Let me proceed to two significant issues discussed in last week’s Star: Town Hall Meetings and Recall Mediation.
1. Town Hall Meetings: I am a big fan. In the run-up to the Measure D (local sales tax) campaign last fall, working with city staff, we held three town hall meetings devoted to city finances. City staff and myself were highly prepared to answer any and all questions with the facts, which we did. The effort was more than worth it. Measure D passed with about 70 percent of the vote.
The lesson for me was that town hall meetings, to be worthwhile, must involve not only members of the City Council, such as myself, but also the city manager and sometimes other city staff with deep expertise in the subject addressed at the meeting (such as the finance director if the topic is city finances).
Like any productive meeting, town hall meetings require careful thought and preparation. Accordingly, having heard that the City of Calistoga had been particularly effective with the town hall format, and wanting to learn as much as possible in order to organize future town hall meetings here in St. Helena, I accepted Mayor Canning’s invitation to attend the Town Hall Meeting held in Calistoga on Sept. 20. I learned a lot.
There were several takeaways, but perhaps the most important was that town hall meetings should stay on topic, and, while there may be passionate differences of opinion, it is important to establish common ground with respect to facts. As Mayor Canning stated in a slide displayed at the meeting: “We are all entitled to our own opinion but we are not entitled to our own set of facts.”
Ms. Dell in last week’s letter to the Star states that the mayor “refuses to discuss the possibility of town hall meetings. This has been very successful in Calistoga.” She is mistaken. Sadly, Ms. Dell’s letter not only fails to acknowledge my past commitment to town hall meetings, but assumes, with no basis at all, that I have no interest in pursuing new meetings. In fact, I announced my interest in scheduling a series of monthly meetings to the City Council at our last meeting (Sept. 26).
2. Recall Mediation: In last week’s Star two of the recall proponents, seeking my recall as mayor, called for mediation over my recall. I understand the appeal of mediation in the abstract; it suggests a non-adversarial process in which adversaries work out their differences. In the present context, however, where the proposal is for an elected official “to mediate” the issues raised by recall proponents, I am genuinely puzzled.
The objective of the proposed recall is to remove me from office before the end of my term. Is the idea that we bypass the voters by mediating whether I am going to serve out my term or not? If that’s the case, I can only say “no.”
If, on the other hand, the concept is to mediate something other than my removal from office, I can only respond after receipt of a detailed mediation proposal from the recall proponents, setting out the issues to be mediated and the parties to be present. I will promptly respond in public – I cannot agree to keep the terms of any such proposal confidential, and all concerned should understand that I will not agree to anything that could compromise my ability as mayor to act in the best overall interest of our community, as I have always sought to do.
Finally, as I have said many times, I am available to meet on short notice with any constituent, as I do on a daily basis, and that includes the recall proponents. Indeed, I have reached out to a number of them but, so far, they have shied away.
Mayor, City of St. Helena