Small Town News


Considering risks of a recall for every decision by officials

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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A group of Camp Verde residents are currently endeavoring to recall four members of the Camp Verde Town Council.

Targeted in the recall are Mayor Charlie German and council members Robin Whatley, Bruce George and Jessie Jones. The foursome is not accused of violating open meeting laws, nor taking kickbacks, nor blatant corruption nor abuse of power, but for making a tough decision that will in the end benefit Camp Verde as a community.

Their opponents are circulating petitions calling for a recall because these four voted for a retail sales tax increase from 3 percent to 3.65 percent. Combined with other taxes charged by the state, Yavapai County and other governments, the total tax on purchases will be anywhere from 9.35 percent to 10 percent, making the 0.65 percent increase only a small portion of what Camp Verde shoppers will add to their sales tax.

Camp Verde Finance Director Mike Showers estimated the new tax increase will provide around an additional $400,000 for the town per year.

The right to recall a public official is not enshrined in federal law, but rather a right relegated to the states, some of which offer no path to remove an elected official from their office other than court decisions. Other states require proof of corruption or malfeasance, which a judge must then verify as rising to the level of worthy of a recall election. Arizona is one of only a few states that require only a statement by petition gatherers as to why the elected official should be recalled.

In this case, the petitioners said the council members who approved the tax increase ignored the will of the voters and had "bad spending habits."

No one likes to pay taxes, but they are necessary for a working government and to keep a municipality functioning. The Town of Camp Verde and its residents suffered during and after the Great Recession, but with the local and state economy improving, the town can legitimately ask for a fair and minor tax increase to rebuild local infrastructure. The council acted lawfully when it decided to raise taxes. It's hard to justify a poor use of funds when Camp Verde Town Clerk Virginia Jones said the recall would cost the town roughly $30,000, if enough signatures trigger a recall.

Even if the four council members are defeated in a recall and replaced, the town will still face a budget shortage, merely kicking the can down the road until another budget crunch requires council to choose another tax increase, which may trigger another recall, and so on and so on, wasting $30,000 or more for each one. Can the town really afford a moratorium on any tax increase ever and risk threatening elected officials with recalls every time they decide to act in the best interests of the community as a whole?

Think carefully on what precedent you want Camp Verde to set if you encounter a petition and — if it goes to a recall election — when you vote. Taxes are uncomfortable, but the necessary component of the social contract: They draw from the community as a whole to provide for the community as a whole, creating a healthy, productive town in which to live.

Copyright 2015 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: April 8, 2015

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