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Editorial, 10/30: Recall effort has no merit, belies intent of process

Editorial, 10/30: Recall effort has no merit, belies intent of process

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Leirion Gaylor Baird

Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird demonstrates putting on and wearing a face mask at one of her daily coronavirus briefings in early April.

There is simply no reason to recall Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and four members of the Lincoln City Council. So, there is no reason to sign petitions aimed at gathering enough signatures to force a recall election early next year.

The recall effort, by a group that calls itself LNK Recall, was triggered by the mask mandate and directed health measures implemented by Gaylor Baird and her administration to combat the coronavirus in Lancaster County, in addition to the council’s expedited installation of Pat Lopez as Lincoln-Lancaster health director.

That latter charge is the direct result of the legal challenges to Lopez’s interim appointment by Madsen’s Bowling & Billiards Center and owner Ben Madsen, a leading critic of the city's policy.

That challenge forced the council to act quickly -- in what organizers say was underhanded, system-manipulating fashion -- and set the stage for another effort to remove Lincoln elected officials who couldn’t be defeated at the ballot box. This attempt echoes the successful implementation of mayoral term limits aimed at short-circuiting Mayor Chris Beutler’s time in office.

Madsen’s legal challenges of the city’s authority to implement directed health measures, including the mask mandate, are making their way through the courts, which, almost certainly will rule that Lancaster County has the right to make its own health measures -- a position already affirmed by Gov. Pete Ricketts.

Courts are also almost certain to affirm the city’s constitutional authority to issue directed health measures under policing powers, destroying the recall efforts arguments of overreach and abuse of power. 

Given those facts, the effort to force a referendum on Gaylor Baird and the council members becomes an abuse of the recall process.

Put simply, challenging the mask mandate and the quick approval of Lopez is a dispute over policy rather than malfeasance in office, the standard intended for recall by the state and city founders more than 150 years ago.

As evidenced by two failed attempts to recall Omaha mayors in the last decade, the efforts largely accomplish nothing but to divide a community. And, if recalls go to a vote as did a 2011 Omaha effort, wasting taxpayer dollars. In Lincoln, that would be $275,000 to $325,000 to conduct an election if all five recall efforts were on a ballot.

Last year, the attempt to recall Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert collapsed when organizers failed to get the signatures required to force a vote. That would be the best possible outcome for the ill-conceived, near frivolous, unnecessary attempt to recall Gaylor Baird and the council members, who have done admirable, not condemnable, work during the pandemic.  

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