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Pro-recall group holds rally as ACLU case lands on fourth judge

Aaron Bolton, KBBI News

The group leading a recall effort to oust three Homer City Council members held a rally Saturday in downtown homer. Heartbeat of Homer, the newly formed political action party, has also been granted standing in a lawsuit against the city.

About 40 Heartbeat of Homer supporters gathered at Wisdom, Knowledge, Faith & Love Park to rally their support for the recall of Homer City Council members David Lewis, Donna Aderhold and Catriona Reynolds. Reynolds and Lewis are both up for election in October. Organizers say about 120 people came and went throughout the event. 

Heartbeat of Homer was granted standing in a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska brought against the city for certifying the three recall petitions. The ACLU says the certification violated council members’ right to freedom of speech. In joining the case, Heartbeat of Homer chose to side with the city.

Spokesperson Sarah Vance spoke to supporters from the park’s gazebo decked out in red, white and blue. Vance says the group expects accountability from city council members. 

“And that’s what Heartbeat is doing, giving conservatives in this town a voice. That’s what we’re about, to come and to make our voice heard because we’re not going to be silent anymore,” Vance announced through the PA system.

This all started last fall after the three council members sponsored a resolution supporting the battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline and an inclusivity resolution in February. 

Vance argues the council members were not transparent while crafting the latter resolution via email. She says it declared Homer as a sanctuary city and was "watered down” after it was met with opposition.

“Until that weekend in all the opposition, the emails of people saying ‘No way, we’re not going to have this,’ then they made the change. That doesn’t seem straightforward,” Vance said.

According emails KBBI obtained from the city, City Clerk Jo Johnson told Reynolds on February 16 the first public comment was received, the day the final draft of the “inclusivity” resolution was added the council’s agenda later that month.

The resolution would have committed Homer to resisting efforts to “divide the community”. It also says local law enforcement would assist federal agencies in detaining undocumented immigrants when a court-issued federal warrant is received.

Vance says regardless of language, the intent to declare Homer a sanctuary city is there, and that the recall does not violate their right to freedom of speech.

“They were speaking on the behalf of council. They were not speaking as individuals. They were acting as council, and that’s a completely different story. That’s not their individual rights of freedom of speech,” Vance explained.

The inclusivity resolution failed on introduction. The Standing Rock initiative, also used as grounds for the recall, did pass. Mayor Bryan Zak cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of the resolution.

Vance did not offer a reason why Zak was not included in the recall effort.

“But as far as the mayor goes, I don’t know,” she said.

The ACLU filed its case in late April and has made its way through four judges due to premptory challenges. Parties are allowed one challenge to disqualify a judge for fear of bias.

Oral arguments were scheduled for May 25, but that hearing was canceled because of the judicial turnover. A new hearing has not been scheduled, and the recall election is scheduled on June 13. The city will put out notices for the recall election Thursday and again on June 8. 

Correction: The Standing Rock resolution was introduced November, 2016. 

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