TAKOMA PARK — With the City Council set to vote on the Takoma Junction redevelopment proposal on July 25, some residents are mounting a partial recall of the city’s elected officials over the project.
“There are those of us and there are many of us, who feel as though our council is basically ignoring us,” said Byrne Kelly, a Ward 3 resident who is leading the recall effort. “When we go before the council and we get our three minutes at the podium … they look at us with blank faces.”
Kelly explained that he was mounting the effort in response to what he called “gross silence” from the Council in response to a portion of the residents opposing the development proposal.
“We’re doing this for the Co-op, the public land, and the city,” he said.
According to the Takoma Park City Charter, residents can petition a recall election of the Council members and the mayor if a signature threshold is reached. For Council members, the threshold is 20 percent of eligible voters, or 100 signatures in the specific ward, depending on which is greater. For the mayor, a petition must attain signatures from 1,500 voters, or 20 percent of eligible voters across the city, depending on which is greater, to trigger a recall election.
Once the signatures are deemed valid, the city clerk has between 30-45 days to call an election.
The recall is done by a ‘yes or no’ question, asking residents if a certain elected official should be removed from office. If a ‘yes’ vote attains a majority, the elected official is then removed from office and may either reapply for reappointment or petition to be listed as a candidate for a special election.
Kelly, a resident of the city since 1983, said his effort was “nothing personal,” that it’s “parliamentarian, and we’re just using rules that our charter allows us to use to preserve and protect our cultural values and our economic being.”
Carter Dougherty, a Ward 1 resident and organizer in support of the development, responded to Kelly’s efforts via text, writing:
“Any recall effort is doomed, thanks to the careful manner in which the city council has handled the Takoma Junction debate. Supporters are going to keep making the case on the merits, which is where this debate should take place.”
Should the council approve the proposal, Kelly said that he and those opposed to the project would continue to gather signatures in the short term and, in the long term, would convene a town hall to rewrite the city charter.
Kelly explained that he would like to transform the current part-time council positions into full-time positions to ensure those elected can focus on the city’s issues full time and require that the City Manager reside in the city for at least five years.