Yamaguchi recall effort coming up short

The citizens’ committee to recall Paradise supervisor Kim Yamaguchi is still chugging along, despite some opposition it alleges is coming from the county.

The major flap last week concerned an event the committee had planned at the Paradise branch of the Butte County Library. The library gave the committee permission to use its conference room Saturday afternoon for a signature-gathering and envelope-stuffing event, said committee Secretary John Cecil. But when committee members went on Friday to pick up the key, they were told they couldn’t use the room after all.

Cecil accused county CAO Lawrence Odle of shutting them out of the library to protect Yamaguchi. But Odle said he read about the meeting in a newspaper announcement, whereupon he simply referred the case to the county’s lawyer because he wasn’t sure if that was a legal use of county property.

County Counsel Bruce Alpert said the recall committee, like any other group, was free to use the conference room for regular meetings and activities, but petitioning for signatures inside the library would not only disrupt the activities of library patrons, but might also suggest that the county had taken a position on the recall effort, which it has not.

Cecil framed the conflict as a free-speech issue but said the group wasn’t going to get bent out of shape over it. It held the signature drive at a table outside the library on Saturday and moved the envelope-stuffing to a committee supporter’s nearby home.

“It turned out there was enough publicity on [the issue] that we gathered close to 100 signatures anyway,” he said.

Nonetheless, the petition drive is running behind schedule, with the committee having collected only about 2,000 of the necessary 5,000 or so signatures needed to force a recall vote. The deadline is 5 p.m. May 21. Cecil said bad weather and other factors have hindered collection efforts, but he was optimistic that a direct-mail campaign the committee is working on will bring in the signatures.

The two biggest obstacles, Cecil said, have been that no candidate has stated definitively that he or she will come forward to replace Yamaguchi, as is necessary for the recall to be placed on the ballot, coupled with the fact that Yamaguchi’s controversial redistricting plan, Measure B, was an enormous flop at the polls earlier this month.

“He [Yamaguchi] has been keeping pretty quiet lately,” Cecil said. “And people’s memories are pretty short.”

Yamaguchi has indeed been keeping a lower profile, at least compared to the time of the redistricting fiasco that spurred the recall campaign in the first place. Though he once accused the committee of being a political tool of Chico Supervisor Jane Dolan and her husband, state Democratic Party operative Bob Mulholland, he has since been careful not to make too many waves, either on the board or with the press.

Cecil said the committee is a grass-roots organization and denied again that Yamaguchi’s political rivals have contributed anything to the recall effort. The committee is operating on a total budget of about $800, he said, with the largest single donation being $99. Most of the donations the group has received have reportedly been from Paradise residents, though a few have come from Chico.