Las Cruces — Las Cruces’s City Clerk announced late today that attempts by Tea Party insurgents to recall city councilors who voted for an increased city minimum wage has failed – by a substantial margin.
Conservative political operative Jeffrey Isbell announced the effort in November claiming City Councilors Olga Pedroza, Nathan Small and Gill Sorg had behaved “unethically,” but he never explained the underlying actions leading his group to the conclusion.
It has been widely speculated that the effort was a response to a hotly-contested campaign to raise the city’s minimum wage. From KVIA:
Las Cruces City Council voted Monday to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by Jan. 2017.
But some fear that decision will not hold up.
Supporters of raising the minimum wage are celebrating while preparing to continue to fight to make sure Monday’s vote is carried out.
It was just months ago when the same City Council voted to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 by Jan. 2016…
The proposal was brought forth by the grassroots organization, New Mexico CAFé, which stands for Comunidades en Accion y de Fe.
After months of debate by community and city leaders over the proposed amounts, Las Cruces City Council and Mayor Ken Miyagishima will finally vote on the proposal.
It’s taken nearly a year of preparation for CAFé to get the proposal through the lengthy ballot-initiative process. CAFé’s Executive Director, Sarah Nolan says Las Cruces is behind on the times and desperately needs to catch up when it comes wages.
“What we don’t want is to become the low wage capital of New Mexico right now, we’re the largest city with the lowest minimum wage,” Nolan said.
Las Cruces’ current minimum wage is $7.50 an hour. In June, city council approved an increase in the current wage, to $8.00 an hour in July of 2015, and $8.50 in January of 2016.
CAFé is proposing an even higher increase, it includes three separate bumps before reaching $10.10 in 2017.
The recall effort has been mired from the beginning about allegations that petitioners were hiding the true intent of the petition from signers or flat-out misleading them in an attempt to gather enough signatures:
The recent recall effort targeting Las Cruces City Councilors Gill Sorg, Nathan Small, and Olga Pedroza is now facing allegations by some citizens who say that they have been victims of misleading attempts to get them to sign the recall petition form.
Susan Lindeman resides in Las Cruces. One weekend day she was relaxing with a book when she says a pleasant young man approached her door to speak with her.
“He asked me if I had some time to discuss with him some injustices that were happening in our district, and I said sure. Social justice has always been an issue to me living in Central and South America, so of course I’ll talk about that.”
Lindeman says the man informed her of possible closings of local youth social centers.
“He said the government wanted to close down some very worth while social centers, and then proceeded to tell me which ones and what they were doing and why they were worthwhile to keep them open.”
Lindeman says she opened her door, and took the clipboard to start to sign the petition when she noticed that it was not a petition to keep open social centers, but something else…A Recall Petition for her district’s city councilor.
“And so I started to read it, and he continued to talk and I said stop, I need to read this. I’m not the kind of person that signs without reading what it says. And, it said something about… The petition wants to initiate a recall of our elected Councilman Gill Sorg,” says Lindeman.
Lindeman didn’t sign the petition and turned away the man, and later emailed local law enforcement, and the Las Cruces City Clerk.
RECALL GROUP SAYS CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT IS UNDEMOCRATIC
From the Las Cruces Sun-News:
Isbell said New Mexicans for a Better Tomorrow is particularly concerned about influence by NM CAFé and the local Progressive Voters Alliance on the City Council.
Sorg said he doesn’t see PVA or NM CAFé as special interests.
“I believe they represent most of the people in the city,” he said. “That’s been proven election after election. Progressive Voters Alliance, for example, doesn’t endorse anybody (in elections), So really I don’t see where that comes into play.”
New Mexicans for a Better Tomorrow paid for advertisements against Joanne Ferrary, the Democratic contender against incumbent state Rep. Terry McMillan, R-Las Cruces, in the District 37 House race.
The group reported raising just over $28,000 about a month into their effort. The group did not list the names of about two dozen donors who gave between $10 and $250 each, but reports show that even those donors were dwarfed by big business interests. The Southern New Mexico Business Coalition, a newly-formed conservative political group, was joined by a developer, a property management company, industrial food manufacturer and the CEO of a local hardware company as the group’s largest donors in the city, as well as a large out-of-town donor, Matt Gaddy, who owns Cash Express and was a donor to Susana Martinez. Clearly, the group is taking leadership from big business interests.
EFFORT COMES UP SHORT
The city clerk notified Isbell’s group today that they had failed to meet the recall requirements:
The three petitioners seeking to initiate a recall election of three city councillors have failed to collect the required number of valid signatures.
City Clerk Esther Martinez-Carrillo today notified petitioners for districts 3 and 5 by phone. Under the City Charter, the petitioners must also be notified by certified mail. The city clerk has so far been unable to reach the petitioner for district 4.
According to Martinez-Carrillo, the petitioners will have 15 calendar days from today to notify the city clerk’s office in writing of their desire to file a “notice of intention to amend” their petitions. Doing so would allow the petitioners an additional 15 days to collect signatures from the date the notice of intention to amend is received by the city clerk’s office.
The subjects of recall are Olga Pedroza, Dist. 3, Nathan Small, Dist. 4 and Gill Sorg, Dist. 5.
The following are the required number of signatures for each district and the actual number of valid signatures collected:
District 3 (Councilor Olga Pedroza)
District 4 (Councilor Nathan Small)
District 5 (Gill Sorg)
If the petitioners decide to amend their petitions and successfully gather the required number of valid signatures, the paperwork would go before City Council in the form of a resolution. If the council approves the resolution, the city clerk’s office would conduct a special election within 60 calendar days.