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2007-10-01
Atascadero, CA. Effort to Recall Anti-Wal-Mart Council Members Fizzles

On November 13, 2006, Sprawl-Busters reported that Wal-Mart suffered a political setback in Atascadero, California in a City Council election. Voters supported Planning Commissioner Ellen Beraud and retired police officer, and Mayor Pro Tem, Mike Brennler. The citizen's group, Oppose Wal-Mart, said that both Beraud and Brennler had pledged that they would vote against a proposed rezoning that must precede any Wal-Mart plans for the city's north side. By the following May, a movement was launched in Atascadero to recall these two officials. But this week, that recall effort fizzled. Although the recall group had until October 18th to collect signatures, they suddenly stopped three weeks early. The organizers of the recall, one of whom is a real estate broker, announced that they had halted the process. "We have decided with tremendous soul searching and discussion in the interest in the common good to halt the process of a recall and to focus our energy and resources on the next election," one recall organizer said in a letter. "We succeeded in gathering the signatures of thousands of Atascadero voters. We have made the point; there is no mandate for the agenda of the Atascadero City Council." Brennler, one of the subjects of the recall, told the Atascadero News, "Naturally this situation has been pretty divisive for our city so for our city's sake that comes as good news. It's been distracting. I'd rather be dealing with the issues that are important to the city of Atascadero and it's operations. There was nothing factual in the allegations against us to deserve being recalled. I committed to the people of Atascadero when I ran to do the best job I can and that's what I intend to do, fulfill that promise." Brennler told the News that the recall effort stopped because organizers didn't want to spend more money on the cause. The recall leaders told their supporters that the group would not be able to gather the 3,000 signatures needed by the deadline. In the midst of their defeat, the group declared victory. "We're not going away," said one. "We're just gathering our reserves, and we're moving on to the bigger thing." The group claimed to have gathered one-third of the signatures needed, but would not tell the media exactly how many residents had signed the recall petition. Ellen Beraud, the other recall target, said the whole experience might intimidate good people from running for office. "It's hard enough to get people to volunteer their time on the council, but to take the beating Mike and I had to, I think this will affect people's desire to run. It was ugly."

What you can do: Local residents believe that Wal-Mart was one of the prime instigators of the recall effort. One community activist said, "While there has been no direct mention of Wal-Mart's role in or behind the recall effort, it is clear that it is the 'elephant in the room.' The citizens of Atascadero recognized the frivolous nature of the recall and what was really at stake. These two council members represent two thirds of an anchor around Wal-Mart's neck, to sink its grandiose plans for Atascadero. A recall of either one of these could have given Wal-Mart the majority vote on the five person City Council. The City Council will be voting on Wal-Mart's applications to change our General Plan and zoning ordinance at their October 23, 2007 meeting. We are planning for a big turn-out to put to rest the myth that Atascadero wants Wal-Mart to happen -- a quote by the representative of the Wal-Mart developers, the Rottman Group. A group calling themselves Citizens for Atascadero was formed. They supported the recall effort and on a local radio talk show, called for support of Wal-Mart's applications. Our guess is that this is Wal-Mart's front group. We fought this recall effort by going directly to the residents at local farmer's markets and grocery stores, letters to the editor, TV and radio news interviews. In their defeat, the recallers accused us of using "union East Coast Tactics" -- whatever that is, and whatever we did, it worked!" For local contacts in Atascadero, contact info@opposewalmart.com










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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