On the offense
Kim Yamaguchi hosts well-organized press conference to kick off his defense against a recall effort
Standing in front of an enthusiastic group of his supporters Jan. 14, Paradise-area Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi ripped into two of his colleagues on the Butte County Board of Supervisors, charging that they are the puppet masters of a recall attempt against him.
At the highly orchestrated event, Yamaguchi read from a prepared text, and the approximately 100 supporters gathered around him carried signs that had been handed out as they arrived. The signs read, for example, “Keep Kim and Dump Dolan,” “Kim Works Hard” and “We Support Kim.” Almost all of Yamaguchi’s supporters appeared to be past retirement age, and many arrived in wheelchairs and on crutches.
One woman shuffled reticent Yamaguchi supporters to reporters for impromptu interviews. “Talk to him,” she said to one reporter, pointing at a man holding a sign. “He likes Kim. You should talk to him.”
When a television news cameraman arrived, Yamaguchi himself—along with supportive Supervisor Curt Josiassen—emerged from his office, melting into the waiting crowd. Holding up his arms and waving, he seemed almost surprised by the crowd.
“This is beautiful,” he said, hugging several supporters. “I want to thank all of you for coming. … These are the true leaders of the 5th District.”
Pinning a television news microphone onto his lapel and positioning himself in front of the sole camera at the event, Yamaguchi launched into a verbal tirade against his detractors, calling the recall attempt they’ve organized a “sham … of trumped-up allegations and innuendos of wrongdoing that isn’t there.”
He was interrupted several times during his 10-minute speech by applause, and several audience members even shouted over him about their distaste for Chico Supervisor Jane Dolan, a Democrat. “Get her out of there,” one man shouted.
It was Dolan, along with Supervisor Mary Anne Houx, like Yamaguchi a Republican, who bore the brunt of Yamaguchi’s scathing remarks. He was overt in criticism of both women and openly said that he hoped his controversial redistricting Plan 5 would remove them from office.
“I will not be a lackey for Jane Dolan,” he said to applause. “… This recall was engineered by [state Democratic Party] political artist Bob Mulholland and his desperate wife, Jane Dolan.”
Yamaguchi, who was elected in November 2000, has clashed with veteran supervisors Houx and Dolan since almost the day he was elected. It was his attempt to pass his redistricting plan in July that most recently split the board into two uneven sides, with Yamaguchi, Josiassen and Bob Beeler supporting the plan and Houx and Dolan opposing it.
Houx and Dolan, whose Chico districts would be split up by the plan, organized a successful referendum effort of Plan 5, which as a consequence will be on the March 5 ballot.
Yamaguchi insists that his plan is needed because the current supervisorial district lines are unfair and practically guarantee that Dolan will hold office indefinitely.
Yamaguchi called the recall organizers—one a Republican, the other a Democrat—"a tiny group who are an absolute insult to the 5th District and the people of Butte County.” Those organizers, Dorothy Vanella and John Cecil, served Yamaguchi with notice of the recall attempt Friday, along with 25 signatures needed to validate the attempt.
They now have 120 days to gather almost 5,000 signatures from Ridge voters in order to put the recall on a special summer ballot.
Yamaguchi predicted that his Plan 5 would eventually prevail at the polls March 5, and that his detractors would fail in their effort to recall him. He pointed out that he was elected by a “landslide victory” (he got 59 percent of the vote, while his opponent Len Fulton, got 40 percent) and said that he plans to fight “until we have fair districts for the whole county, and not just for some.”
Josiassen spoke briefly after Yamaguchi, telling the people that the recall effort against Yamaguchi is a "diversion tactic from those who didn’t like the way the election went, and they want to change it."