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Miss Valenzuela, I Cannot Recall

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

The attempt to recall Councilmember Katie Valenzuela seems to have crashed before it left the ground, although it’s still possible they’ll manage to get something on the ballot.

The backstory:

Several anti-homeless activists over in East Sacramento with the group Safe Neighborhoods and Parks (SNAP) of Sacramento got together at brunch (not a joke, they actually held a brunch for this) and made a plan to circulate a recall petition. Their stated reasons for wanting to recall Valenzuela are the same inhumane, nonsensical rhetoric that the anti-homeless folks are always spewing:

She has ignored constituents’ requests for much-needed action to address the growing problems of crime and lawlessness ... local residents face an imminent threat to our personal safety, as well as the destruction of our private property, loss of our family finances, and the lowering of property values

One of their leaders, John Morales, served Katie with a recall notice last month. Unfortunately for the brave rich folks, somewhere in the mix of mimosas and pancakes, the actual correctly filled-out paperwork must have been lost, because the city has rejected their “Notice of Intention to Circulate a Recall Petition”. Apparently they left some important sections blank.

The folks at SNAP can still submit new paperwork, but even if they do, the newly redrawn city council districts could screw up their efforts even more. The group is based in East Sacramento, which is Katie’s new district after the redistricting which occurred last year, but it’s not clear whether they are even allowed to file a petition. The city hasn’t ruled one way or the other yet, but according to Paul Mitchell, an expert in redistricting who wrote an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee on the subject:

The fact is that they can’t, and the law is very clear on this. When it comes to replacing or recalling, the 'new' district has no legal standing, a fact that the California attorney general recently affirmed

Recalls can serve a valuable purpose in a functioning democracy; if an elected official is consumed in scandal and refuses to resign, recalls give a mechanism to remove them anyway. But the last few years have seen a massive spike in the cynical use of recalls to attempt to subvert the Democratic process. Recall elections always have dramatically lower voter turnout, so it gives those not social justice minded a chance to gain political power in areas where they otherwise wouldn’t stand a chance.

If the voters in Katie Valenzuela’s district aren’t satisfied, she’ll be up for re-election soon. But in the meantime, wasting city money on a pointless recall is, well, pointless. And Katie doesn’t deserve to be attacked for being one of the only city council members who is at least sometimes willing to do the right thing and advocate for our unhoused neighbors.

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