LYNWOOD — Residents and business owners who do not want to rename Century Boulevard in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are attempting to remove the two city councilmen and the mayor who voted for the change.
Councilmen Robert Henning and Paul H. Richards were served Tuesday with notices of intention to circulate recall petitions against them.
Mayor Evelyn Wells was not served because the law does not permit recall attempts against elected officials with less than six months remaining in office, attorney Michael Cambridge, one of the leaders of the recall attempt, told the council Tuesday.
Wells is up for reelection in November. However, on Tuesday Cambridge did not say why recall papers were filed against Richards, who is also on the November ballot. Cambridge could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
While serving the recall petitions to council members on Tuesday, Cambridge accused them of "using high-handed arrogance" and being "drunk with power in changing the name of the street."
During the celebration of Black History Month in February, the council voted 3 to 2 to rename a 3 1/2-mile section of Century Boulevard in the northern part of the city. Wells, Richards and Henning voted in favor of the renaming. Councilman E. L. Morris and Councilman Louis J. Heine voted against it, but they supported renaming other streets in the city after King.
Richards and Henning are accused in the petitions of not giving adequate notice to residents and businesses along Century Boulevard before the renaming.
The recall petitions assert that the renaming also will place a major financial burden on the boulevard's businesses because they will have to reprint letterheads and labels.
Additionally, Henning is accused of being involved in the disappearance from City Hall of petitions signed by more than 2,000 people who objected to the name change.
The signatures opposing the name change were submitted shortly before April 21 when the council held a ceremony to rename the street.
No Police Report
Wells said that after reviewing the petitions, she passed them on to Henning. Henning said they were later stolen from his car. No police report was filed.
Richards and Henning have seven days in which to reply to the accusations made in the recall petitions. If the petitions are approved by the city clerk, recall backers will have 120 days to collect signatures. They will need the signatures of about 20% of the more than 14,000 registered voters to force a recall election, City Clerk Andrea Hooper said.
Hooper said that during her seven years as clerk three notices of recall petitions have been filed against council members, but there have never been enough signatures gathered to force a recall election.
Richards said the latest recall attempt is a political tactic to try to defeat him at the polls in November.
"They are trying to parlay it (the street renaming controversy) into a political gain," Richards said.
He accused Emma Mendez Esparaza, one of the recall proponents, of "using something that is obviously a point of racial tension" to get elected to office.
Esparaza, a private workers' compensation consultant whose Lynwood office is on the renamed street, said she did not originally intend to run for office.
However, she said, "if they continue to make this a racist issue, I might run."
Wells, Henning and Richards are black. Heine and Morris are white.
Richards said the continuing controversy would destroy the "racial and ethnic harmony" in the city. Lynwood, predominantly Latino, has a population of about 54,000.
Henning said he knew the decision to name a street after a black would cause controversy but he did not regret doing it.
"I'll wear this recall (attempt) with pride," he said.
Cambridge, who is black and also has an office on the renamed street, said he was "disappointed that race was injected" into the issue.