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Let's Not Overdo It

March 16, 1988

The recall process is available for voters to remove officeholders whose performance and representation is so substandard that their replacement cannot wait until the next regular election. It is a reasonable and necessary power that should be used thoughtfully.

But that's not always the case. Unfortunately, the process is sometimes misused, and sometimes abused.

Two recalls launched last week in Orange County seem to fall into the frivolous category; a handful of people who didn't get their way want to throw out of office people with whom they disagree.

Simple disagreement seems to be enough in Laguna Beach, where a group of merchants is seeking to recall three of the city's five council members. The reason, as listed in the official notice of intent, is that the council members put "selective" restrictions on the use of private property.

That sounds serious enough, but what it amounts to is this: The council majority last month voted against a request for permission to put a clothing rack outside one downtown clothing store. To some merchants, that's promoting an anti-business atmosphere and justifies recall.

But what about the other merchants who opposed such outdoor racks? Should they have launched a recall movement if the council had voted to permit them?

In Garden Grove, the intent-to-recall notice filed against all five members of the Garden Grove Unified School District is also misleading. One of the charges accuses board members of "implementing an unnecessary forced busing program."

The dispute in the district is over the changing of school attendance boundary lines to relieve overcrowding; the changes put more Latinos into predominantly Anglo schools, and some Anglo parents are objecting. Busing in the district is an everyday reality, and the use of the buzz-words forced busing is misleading and, as the district trustees say, inflammatory.

In Newport Beach, the people who started a recall against the Newport Mesa Unified School Board because parents opposed the transfer of two high-school principals have, sensibly, dropped it.

The right to recall is an important element of the Progressive system of local government adopted in California three-quarters of a century ago. But the people shouldn't overdo it to cure things that the next regular election can fix more easily--and more cheaply.

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