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Organizers want recall after Cd'A mask ordinance

Staff Writer | October 29, 2020 1:07 AM

Organizers are laying the groundwork to recall four Coeur d’Alene City Council members who voted Monday to approve a mask ordinance.

The Facebook group “Recall CDA Council Seats 1, 2, 5, 6” launched Tuesday morning, less than 18 hours after the city voted 4-2 to implement a mask ordinance. The 90-day law was passed in the wake of Panhandle Health’s board voting to rescind its countywide mask mandate last week.

The Coeur d’Alene council members who voted to approve the ordinance correspond with the Facebook group’s recall efforts for seats 1, 2, 5 and 6: Christie Wood, Amy Evans, Dan English and Kiki Miller.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the group had fewer than 100 members. One of the moderators of the group — who wished to remain anonymous for this story but whose identity has been confirmed by the Coeur d’Alene Press — said the group was in the preliminary stages of organizing, and that efforts likely wouldn’t be ramped up until after the general election.

The person said the group's genesis came after what organizers perceived as a tone-deaf refusal to acknowledge the voices in opposition to any kind of mask mandate.

“Also, it feels like it was done haphazard without consulting other communities surrounding the area,” the moderator said. “We feel like the odd duck out and being put under something that isn't necessarily going to do something in the grand scale of the overall community.”

Evans, meanwhile, said she stands by her decision.

“I understand that people may disagree with the mask mandate,” she said. “However, the safety and well-being of our community will always be my top priority.”

Wood concurred.

“Leadership requires tough decisions,” the first-term council member said. “I made my decision to help protect our community in the best way we know how right now. I also strongly support citizens’ rights to question their government and make their preferred choices at the ballot box.”

English, meanwhile, said the responses he’s received have been overwhelmingly positive, but that even if he’d heard nothing but boos, he stands firm in his decision.

“Given the stakes, it was an easy vote for me, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat," he said. "When you have a high-profile issue, and the folks who didn’t get what they wanted speak up, on one hand, a recall is about the most extreme you can go. On the other hand, the Legislature has put in a pretty high standard to recall someone.”

That standard begins with a 20-signature petitioner process to launch a recall effort. Once approved, petitioners have 75 days to collect signatures from 20 percent of the affected voting population.

As of Thursday afternoon, 31,507 registered voters call Coeur d'Alene home, though that number is expected to rise on Nov. 3, as more are expected to register on Election Day.

Should organizers gather the more than 6,300 signatures, those signatures will need to be submitted to the city clerk. They’ll eventually be sent to the county clerk’s office for inspection.

Once the signatures are certified, the elected official will be given five days to either resign or stay and fight, at which point a special election will be held, with a simple majority deciding whether or not to recall the council member.

Should citizens choose to follow that path, English said, Que sera, sera.

“It is the people’s right,” he said. “If they want to do that, I believe in our system of government, and that’s the mechanism that’s in there. One of the obvious rejoinders, as well, is our ability to vote someone in or out every few years, and I think that should carry some (consideration).”

Miller, who had said she was undecided on the mandate leading into Monday’s vote, said she was disappointed and disheartened upon hearing news of the recall effort.

“I had to listen to the pleas of 380 doctors, 12 regional medical facilities, school principals and Coeur d’Alene businesses,” Miller said, “and all of them were asking for (council) to do something. For me to listen to everyone fairly, the local people who wanted this mandate to go through were primarily the people reaching out to me.”

Miller added that a snap reaction to an unpopular decision unveils a sad sign of the times, times filled with what she described as full of false information and divisive rhetoric.

“I feel badly for what (the mask debate) has done to our community,” she said. “Obviously, everyone has a right to protest in the way they feel necessary. But if a recall over one issue is their first option, I feel that’s a very short-sighted resolution.”

Miller joined her colleagues in standing by their decision, saying her body of work speaks for itself.

“If you want to hold a recall just because of one issue,” she said, “and you think you can find someone more invested in this community, more passionate, more willing to put in the time to help meet the needs of our city, good luck.”