Some people call Calaveras County “recall central” and “recall county” for the efforts to recall elected supervisors and other elected leaders.
Under sunny skies Saturday, people outside the Mar-Val Food Store in Valley Springs
collected signatures to recall Calaveras County supervisors Gary Tofanelli, District 1, and Jack Garamendi, District 2.
There’s also an effort underway to recall Dennis Mills, the District 4 supervisor.
A core issue for proponents of all three recalls is the contentious ongoing debate over commercial cannabis cultivation, which is now banned in the wake of more than a year of temporary legalization.
The pot debate has pitted many conservative longtime residents and property owners, who cite increasing crime and eroding quality of life, against other longtime residents, property owners, pot farmers and newcomers, who argue regulation is the only way to create tax revenues for cracking down on illegal growers.
Supervisors supporting the final vote to ban in January were Tofanelli, Mills and Clyde Clapp, District 5. Garamendi and Mike Oliveira, District 3, voted against the ban.
“All Tofanelli had to do was answer my emails and phone calls,” Anna Stepp, a resident of Valley Springs, said Saturday afternoon outside the busy grocery store in Valley Springs, a town of more than 3,500 residents in District 1. She was helping gather signatures to recall Tofanelli. “I finally got a hold of him. I just wanted to let him know my feelings on the cannabis ban versus regulation.”
Jason Peyton, a resident of Valley Springs, said the turnout had been good with about 25 new signatures to recall Tofanelli on Saturday.
“We’re looking for elected officials with the courage to stand behind progress in this county,” Peyton said. “He promised his constituents he would proceed with regulation of commercial cannabis. But when it got heated he gave up. He quit.”
Peyton said his wife is licensed to cultivate marijuana, and his family has invested $1.1 million to grow pot on 20,000 square feet of a 5.62-acre property they bought with a house on it.
“Right now the ban is making us broke,” Peyton said. “We want to stay and raise our kids here, but if they force us out, they force us out.”
Not so fast
Efforts to recall Tofanelli and Mills commenced in January after the Board of Supervisors voted to ban commercial cannabis. The initiative to recall Garamendi began in October, and proponents of the recall said it was because of Garamendi’s pro-regulation stance on commercial cannabis.
“We support the constituents of District 2 in their recall of Garamendi,” Aurora Weatherby, a resident of District 5, said Saturday outside the Mar-Val in Valley springs. Weatherby was also helping gather signatures to recall Garamendi on Friday at the junction of Highways 49 and 26 in Mokelumne Hill, in District 2.
“I can tell you yes, we have been harrassed,” Weatherby said Friday at the 49-26 junction. “Sometimes they put up a finger. We do get good honks and good waves and people saying ‘thank you for doing what you’re doing.’ So there’s a positive side to it.”
Trevor Wittke, a registered grower who is executive director of the Calaveras Cannabis Alliance, said Monday the recall effort targeting Garamendi is being coordinated primarily by people outside of District 2.
Wittke acknowledged there are no laws preventing people from outside District 2 involving themselves in the effort to recall Garamendi. But Wittke said it’s inappropriate for Clapp to urge people to sign the petition to recall Garamendi during public meetings, which he did back on Oct. 17.
“It’s important for people to know the attempt to recall Jack Garamendi is not organic to District 2,” Wittke said. “And it’s not OK for elected supervisors to engage in electioneering on county time when they’re being paid by taxpayers.”
Clapp, who along with Oliveira will be on June 5 ballots for reelection, was campaigning and shaking hands outside the Mar-Val on Saturday.
None of the recalls will be on June 5 ballots, says Rebecca Turner, the clerk-recorder and registrar of voters for Calaveras County.
Ballots for county residents serving in the military overseas have already shipped, Turner said.
The earliest any recall can go to voters would be an August special election to recall Garamendi. A special election like that would cost $10,000 to $20,000. The earliest the Tofanelli and Mills recalls could go to voters is November.
The recall petition for Garamendi was approved for circulation Jan. 19. Proponents are required to submit 1,319 valid signatures by 5 p.m. Thursday this week.
The recall petition for Mills was approved for circulation March 8. Proponents are required to submit 1,555 valid signatures by 5 p.m. June 6.
The recall petition for Tofanelli was approved for circulation March 30. Proponents are required to submit 1,396 valid signatures by 5 p.m. June 28.
There are more than 28,000 registered voters in Calaveras County.
Keeping it civil
Unlike the cold, damp weather clamping down on the Mother Lode with rain and snow Monday this week, it was a bluebird sunshine day Saturday in Valley Springs, and most signature-gatherers had similar sunny dispositions.
Weatherby and other signature-gatherers for the Garamendi recall smiled and talked with people at their table. Stepp and Peyton greeted people warmly at their table a few yards away along the same storefront. Clapp smiled as he greeted shoppers and supporters.
Patricia Gordo, a resident of Burson who supports a ban on commercial cannabis, said she supports Clapp and Tofanelli.
Bob Bowerman, with Calaveras County NORML, the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws, said he came out Saturday “make sure everybody is cool out here, everybody is getting along.”
Bowerman said he and Clapp disagree on whether to ban or regulate commercial cannabis in Calaveras County. But they still get along as people.
“We go to the same church,” Bowerman said. “We’re friends. My big thing right now is against Mills. He deliberately used false and misleading information to enact the current ban. That report ‘Silent Poison’ he knew that was based on false information and he chose to use it anyway.”
In January, when the efforts to recall Tofanelli and Mills began, Mills said it would be another opportunity for voters in his district to decide how they want to be represented.
There have been at least a dozen recall efforts initiated in Calaveras County since 1999, and two have reached the ballot stage.
The first recall election was for William Clemons Jr. with West Point Fire Protection District on Feb. 14, 1995. Results cited by Turner show 556 yes votes and 104 no votes in the Clemons recall. The same results show Lero Fonceca led with 368 votes to replace Clemons.
The second recall election was for Steve Kearney, the District 5 supervisor, on Nov. 8, 2016. Kearney lost his seat that day, with 60 percent voting yes to recall him.
Clapp, who backed the recall of Kearney, won the vacated seat that same day with 33 percent of the vote. As the winner of an election to replace a recalled candidate, Clapp is serving a shortened term and that is why he is up for reelection in June.
District 1 in Calaveras County includes the communities of Circle XX, San Andreas, Valley Springs, Campo Seco, La Contenta, Camanche, Burson and Wallace.
District 2 includes Mokelumne Hill, Paloma, West Point, Wilseyville, Glencoe/Rail Road Flat, Sheep Ranch, Mountain Ranch, and Calaveritas.
District 3 includes Douglas Flat, Murphys, Brice Station, Forest Meadows, Hathaway Pines, Avery, Arnold, White Pines, Dorrington, Camp Connell, Cottage Springs, Skyhigh, Tamarack, Sherman Acres and part of Vallecito.
District 4 includes Angels Camp, Altaville, Salt Spring Valley and Copperopolis.
District 5 includes Milton, Jenny Lind and Rancho Calaveras.
The next scheduled Board of Supervisors meeting is at 9 a.m. Tuesday in San Andreas.
Contact Guy McCarthy at email@example.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.