Are San Bernardino Recall Efforts Worth the Time and Money?

San Bernardino City Hall. | Photo: JimmyWayne/Flickr/Creative Commons License

There is a concerted effort underway to toss out the majority of the city of San Bernardino's elected officials. The recall is targeted at the mayor, the city attorney, and all seven members of the city council. This is significant if only for the sheer number of elected officials that recall proponents are seeking to toss out of office.

I discussed this issue during a live chat hosted by the Los Angeles News Group.

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Proponents of the recall contend that San Bernardino's elected officials are responsible for driving the city into bankruptcy. Those opposed claim that the recall is actually about the desire of the proponents to sell the city's water system for their own benefit. Opponents are busy circulating an "anti-recall" petition. I will not weigh in here on the propriety of either argument.

Those pushing for the recall are undoubtedly taking an aggressive, partly symbolic stand. The mayor and three city council members are already up for re-election in November, when the recall election would be held. Further, the mayor has already stated that he will not run for another term.

Sometimes symbolism is important. It lets elected officials know that their constituents care. But on the other hand, this symbolism comes at a cost. Estimates are that the recall election will cost close to a quarter million dollars. That is real money, particularly for a city dealing with bankruptcy issues. A more cost efficient alternative might be to campaign against those up for election and target recall efforts only at those not up for election on the same day that the recall election would be held.

The recall is designed to allow voters to oust their elected officials before they would otherwise leave office. In this case, if some of the officials that are the target of the recall are voted out of office, they will only leave office a few months earlier than they would if they were defeated and served the remaining time in their terms, which end in March. Are those few months worth the expense?

About the Author

Jessica Levinson is an Associate Clinical Professor at Loyola Law School. She focuses on the intersection of law and government.
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