By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO, CA – Charging the actions of the city of Sacramento are “voter suppression,” the Committee to Recall Darrell Steinberg Thursday announced the filing of a U.S. District Court action asking a federal judge for a writ of mandate directing the City Clerk and the City Attorney to accept and file signed Notices of Intention to Recall Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
Explaining that the Recall Committee followed the proper steps back in February of notifying Steinberg he was going to be the subject of recall, Homeless Union chief counsel Anthony Prince said city officials have now done “everything” to blunt the final steps necessary to gather the required signatures to put the measure on the ballot
“They are refusing to let us move forward to the next steps,” said Prince, noting that the city is now relying on a state law that an elected official must be in office for six months before they can be recalled.
Prince insists that wrong.
“Steinberg has been in office for about five years,” commented Prince, arguing that the state law language the city is quoting is not in the city of Sacramento charter and that charter cities trump state law in election matters, in any case. The city, he said, is not following its own charter.
He complained that on Feb. 24, “after first agreeing to accept and file the Notices bearing the signatures of 30 Sacramento voters, 10 more than the number actually required for the first step in the process, City Clerk Mindy Cuppy, and Assistant City Clerk Wanda Klock-Johnson reversed course at the direction of City Attorney Susana Alcala Woods.”
If the winner in the early recall ballot battle hinges on the charter city question, a quick search by this reporter indicates Prince is right, that charter cities, unlike municipal cities, have jurisdiction in election matters.
“The clerks have no legal authority beyond confirming that the Notices on their face comply with local and state election law. Instead, they insisted the recall was ‘premature’ and cancelled an arrangement with the Union and (us) to permit in-person filing of the original signed Notice so that Recall leaders could be provided with a file-stamped receipt,” he said.
Prince said they are asking a federal judge now to “tell the city to back off; we want the judge to decide the underlying issue here.”
“This is voter suppression, telling all voters you have to wait months to vote,” added Prince, who said voters don’t want to wait even a few more months to get rid of Steinberg, who Prince said, “has caused a lot of harm suffered by homeless and other marginalized populations, historically oppressed, people of color, the disabled, low income tenants…he talks about them a lot and has really done nothing, and made things worse.”
The recall group said Steinberg invited them to recall him.
“After admitting responsibility for failing to open warming centers that could have provided refuge and saved lives, there was broad community outrage,” said Homeless Union President Crystal Sanchez. “This was not the first time the mayor’s negligence had fatal consequences and it won’t be the last so long as he remains in office. That’s why we have gone to court.”
According to the pleading, “Mayor Steinberg caused a massive public outcry and publicly admitted responsibility for the deaths of at least four homeless persons when he failed to open a shelter during a brutal storm with 70-mile per
hour winds, driving rain and near-freezing temperatures.”
Prince said Steinberg told the news media that, after people died when the city shelter didn’t open as planned during a wild storm Jan. 24-25, it was his fault and that if people didn’t like what he was doing, they should attack him at “the ballot box.”
That’s when the recall plan was put into play.
If the court goes the wrong way, Prince said “we’ll wait a few more months, it’ll be full steam ahead. (But) we’re not letting Steinberg off the hook…everyone is feeling sorry for him. When (that) shelter was not open as he promised, it was his negligence of what’s happening on the ground in Sacramento.”
“(T)he interference with voters’ right to recall justifies the higher level of ‘scrutiny’ because the City Clerk and City Attorney are interfering with Petitioner’s First Amendment right to free speech and expression by fully preventing this recall campaign from beginning,” according to the pleading.
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