As the nation's political discourse of discontent continues, the numbers of attempted and successful recalls of elected officials have increased, according to a new short film from the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors (). The 16-minute film, "Recall Fever," is part of USCM's public awareness initiative to educate people about the costs of such recalls.
Ballotpedia, a nonprofit that tracks recall elections, has identified 57 mayors who faced recall attempts last year, up from 23 in 2009. Out of the 57 mayoral recall attempts in 2010, only 15 resulted in mayors resigning or losing office. Already this year, 15 mayors have faced recall efforts. The attempts have been launched across the country from Portland, Ore., to Miami-Dade County, Fla. "In these challenging economic times, many local leaders around the country who have done nothing illegal are finding themselves the targets of angry voters who are expressing their feelings — often times in destructive ways — about budget cuts or other issues at the ballot box," USCM CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran said in a statement. "We have produced this documentary not only to educate our mayors, but also to help educate the general public about the economic and political costs of recall elections."
The movie highlights the efforts to recall the mayors of Akron, Ohio; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Omaha, Neb. — all of whom survived those attempts. In most cases, recalls are not based on allegations of criminal wrongdoing but rather voter anger and frustration, USCM says. Among the commonalities of the various recall battles, is that, in almost every case, the mayors proposed tax increases, the documentary points out. In addition, there is the presence of a strong Tea Party movement, an active coalition of bloggers and wealthy individuals to bankroll the efforts. "Unless a person is badly misbehaving or doing something illegal, you [should] let the democratic process play itself out," says Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield, who faced a recall election in August 2010. "If you become unhappy about things that have to be done, take it out at the next election."
Thirty-eight states allow residents to recall local officials, and recall elections are costly for local governments, according to USCM. It is estimated that $4 million was spent on the recall election of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez in March. He was recalled by more than 88 percent of the voters — just two years after winning re-election in a landslide. Backed by a wealthy businessman, who spent $1 million of his own money to support the recall, it is the largest municipal recall in U.S. history, according to USCM. "Armed with all the new tools of electronic communication, a handful of people can run a successful recall campaign," Cochran says. "It has become too easy, and it's doing a lot of damage."
View the documentary below.