MONTEREY PARK — Three City Council members have been formally notified that an effort will be made to recall them because they adopted a "blatant racial resolution (that) has promoted hatred among the Asian, Anglo and Hispanic residents of Monterey Park."
Kevin Smith, a 27-year-old developer, served the recall notices against council members Barry Hatch and Pat Reichenberger, both elected in April, and Cam Briglio, who is in the third year of his four-year term, at Monday's council meeting.
All three recall targets voted for a resolution on June 3 that instructs police to cooperate with federal authorities "in regards to illegal aliens," denounces cities that give sanctuary to political refugees, urges Congress to control the borders and supports the adoption of English as the nation's official language.
Signed by Former Mayor
The recall notices were signed by Smith and four other Monterey Park residents, including David Almada, former mayor and councilman who was defeated for reelection in April.
City Clerk Pauline Lemire said that recall proponents must publish a legal notice and give the officeholders seven days to respond.
Then, the recall charges and responses can be printed on petitions for circulation to voters. The petitions must be signed by 4,482 registered voters (20% of the total) to force an election.
In their written charges, recall proponents accuse council members of hurting the elderly by rejecting a Taiwanese group's proposed housing project for senior citizens and of adopting planning policies that have reduced revenues and forced cuts in police and fire services.
The incumbents denied in separate interviews that the immigration resolution was racist, said that the senior citizens complex would be welcome in a better location and denied that emergency services have been reduced.
Recall proponents said the key issue in the recall effort is racism, which they contend is reflected in the immigration resolution.
Hatch has said he authored the resolution to focus attention on national problems created by the influx of illegal aliens.
Smith said he regards the resolution as an attack on immigrants, who compose a large part of the city's population of about 60,000, which is 40% Asian and 35% Latino.
The council has been under fire ever since it adopted the resolution on June 3 without advance notice and at the end of a council meeting that lasted beyond 1 a.m.
A group called the Coalition for Harmony in Monterey Park (CHAMP), which was created last year to oppose a proposal to declare English the city's official language, has led the attack on the immigration resolution. CHAMP is preparing to circulate petitions asking the council to repeal the resolution, but has not joined the recall effort.
Michael Eng, one of the CHAMP leaders, said that he is not against the recall effort, but that CHAMP's priority is the campaign to repeal the resolution.
Another coalition leader, R. C. (Pete) Hollingsworth, said the recall effort is "premature to say the least."
Concerned Over Replacements
Hollingsworth said that before he could support a recall he would like assurance that any council successors would be an improvement over the incumbents.
"The situation is not right to bring back the deposed council members and run them again," he said.
Voters in April ousted Councilwoman Lily Lee Chen, who was born in China, and two Latino councilmen, Rudy Peralta and Almada, and replaced them with Hatch, Reichenberger and Chris Houseman.
Chen said that she is concerned about the racial devisiveness that has occurred since the council election, but has no intention of participating in the recall.
Peralta said that he hopes the council will show "some flexibility" and retreat from its immigration resolution, which he said has offended many groups and is giving the city "a flaky image."
"We've never had a recall in Monterey Park," Peralta said. "I think it's an ugly process. It disturbs me that it has come to this."
But he said he has not decided what position to take if the recall goes forward.
Smith said that although Houseman voted against the housing complex for senior citizens, he is not a recall target because he has voted to repeal the immigration resolution.
"We left Chris out of the recall because he did not support the resolution and has not directly attacked the (immigrant) community," Smith said.
The only council member to both oppose the resolution and support the housing project is Mayor G. Monty Manibog, but the mayor said he is not endorsing the recall.
"I think people ought to finish out their terms unless there is some indictment or charge against them," he said.
Manibog himself has been the target of recall threats in the past by a political opponent, Frank Arcuri, and Arcuri announced at this week's council meeting that he intends to initiate a recall against Manibog, although he has not yet drawn up the formal charges.