Recall Debate Highlights Small Town Dynamics
Members of the public spoke both for and against the petitions to recall three Homer City Council members at the regular meeting Monday night. Much of it boiled down to rifts in small town politics.
The petitions ask for the recall of Council Members Donna Aderhold, Catriona Reynolds, and David Lewis. They were certified by the city clerk on April 5.
Many of the comments made during the most recent council meeting focused on both togetherness and division within the community and where the council’s responsibility falls within that. It’s small down politics at its most basic.
“We will see each other at the grocery store forever. We teach each other’s kids. We hire each other’s kids. We are each other’s scout leaders and swim coaches and so forth. Our lives are intertwined. We can’t get away from that. We will see each other forever," said Homer resident Poppy Benson.
Benson said the difference between national and local politics is how well you know the people you’re dealing with.
“And whenever there’s one of these really painful incidents that happen in town where people are yelling at each other, I always wonder, what’s going to happen if your son wants to marry their daughter. Are they going to forget what you said about them? No, they’re not," she said. "We have this tightly woven fabric in this town and we have to protect that fabric and this recall is too much for that fabric. It’s tearing at us.”
Other speakers on both sides of the aisle echoed her words in one way or another.
Brandy Super said she’s been a Homer resident since 1996. Like a few others who spoke, she mentioned how she felt those national politics have come into play locally, dividing the town.
“Even though we all had an opportunity to go and vote behind closed doors, I, for one, I did vote for President Trump and it was a hurtful thing to hear, ‘Oh, let’s resist.’ So, when that came across, I felt that was very hateful and hurtful," said Super.
Cassie Lawver has been live-streaming the meetings on Facebook for people who can’t attend in person.
“Though the conservative voice usually is not here due to working or childcare issues or whatever, they are watching. I just want to let you guys know that the conservative side is very involved," Lawver said. "We’re watching. You’re probably receiving emails. We’re trying our best to communicate and be a part even though we don’t have a show here.”
The southern peninsula is an area built on waves of changing demographics. Over the last several decades, many groups have moved to the homer area following religions, opportunities, and industry. It’s created an area with a more conservative voting base, seen in statewide elections, and a vocal liberal component.
Kris Holderied said she doesn’t support the recall effort. However, she thinks increased public engagement has been a good side effect of these conversations.
“I would say the only thing that’s been encouraging to me in this is it’s brought up a lot of dialogue and there are a lot of people who may have been sitting by the sidelines of our democracy who are now coming to city council meetings. There’s more people here than I think I’ve ever seen before, so that’s not a bad thing," Holderied said.
However, she said she is worried the recall may cause other elected officials to shy away from this type of dialogue in the future.
“I would say one of the things that I appreciate as a citizen is the ability to bring something to my council members and say, ‘Hey, I would like you to put this forward,’ and whether or not they might agree with it, they would at least put it into the public debate…that happens here with what the council is doing. So, I really appreciate that opportunity and hope we don’t lose that opportunity," Holderied said.
While many speakers said they’d like to hear from the council their thoughts on the recall effort, Mayor Bryan Zak explained why they wouldn’t be speaking.
“Please be aware that while the city council members are free to discuss the recall petition when they are on their own time and not acting in their official capacity as council members, the city attorney has advised all council members to refrain from discussing the recall petition during council meetings, work sessions, and other official public events," said Zak.
The recall election has been scheduled for June 13.