Recall petition drive heads to final day


November 18th, 2010

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By Josh Krohn, KVNO News

Volunteer Nicole Jesse helped kick off the recall petition drive Oct. 21 (Photo Robyn Wisch)

Omaha, NE – We’ll be one step closer Friday to finding out whether Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle will face a recall. Petition circulators have until 5pm Friday, Nov. 19 to gather enough signatures to put the recall before voters. KVNO News’ Josh Krohn took a look at both sides of the debate… to find out if the effort is worth it, and what will happen if it goes through.

With a few days left to gather the 26,643 signatures required, petition circulators stood outside the Student Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha earlier this week to round up potential voters.  The circulators were paid to gather signatures by the Mayor Suttle Recall Committee. The group said it had about 300 volunteers manning polling stations around the city, but has not said just how many or how many signatures have been gathered so far. But Jeremy Aspen, a spokesman for the group, said he’s optimistic the petition drive will be successful. And, he said, there are a number of reasons why recalling the mayor is right for the city.

“His failure to represent the citizens, raising taxes was a big one,” he said. “Betrayal, and that’s in the form most obvious: broken promises. Everyone remembers the advertisement where he said that he was going to lower taxes. That simply didn’t happen. It was probably the case that it was never intended to happen, but it did help him get into office.”

“I really think that it’s just being upset for the sake of it,” said Noelle Obermeyer, the spokeswoman for Forward Omaha, a group opposed to the recall.  They’re “really not doing anything to make the process better or to improve the city,” she said.

Obermeyer said the effort is merely an attempt to overturn the results of last year’s mayoral election between former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub, a Republican, and Suttle, a Democrat.

“I think that the recall is based on a small group of individuals in Omaha, and possibly outside of Omaha ,” she said, “that are upset with the results of the 2009 election and the fact that Hal Daub lost. And instead of moving forward, they’re trying to push the city backwards.”

Nebraska Watchdog has reported at least two key players from Daub’s earlier campaign are involved in the recall. But the group has repeatedly denied any connection.

“We haven’t said that we will not endorse somebody,” he said. “But at least what we think is that probably would not help anybody, just because then it would look like this was some sort of a front for a particular candidate.” “And it just wasn’t; it was simply a grassroots effort.”

Another criticism of the recall effort has been that such measures should be reserved for illegal behavior, or gross misconduct, and that tax hikes don’t rise to the level of an impeachable offense. But Aspen countered, the threshold for the mayor’s conduct should be higher than “he’s not a criminal.” Suttle has called the recall drive “expensive, divisive and reckless” and said the special elections could cost the city up to $900,000. The drive has until 5 pm Friday to collect the necessary signatures. The Douglas County Election Commission would have 15 days to verify them and deliver the verdict to the mayor. At that time, the Mayor could resign, although he has told Nebraska Watchdog he will not. It would then be up to voters to decide in a special election around the end of January.

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