Scorched earth politics.
Manteca has been there before.
The 1983 recall of three council members - Mayor Trena Kelly, Rick Wentworth, and Bobby Davis over termination of a popular police chief - injected toxins into the community that took the better part of 20 years to dissipate.
Since then there have been no less than four unsuccessful recall efforts launched against Manteca Unified and Manteca City Council members that failed so bad they did not even qualify for the ballot. In their wake they left a lot of bitter feelings, and a lot of wasted opportunity as energy was diverted from pressing issues.
The flame thrower of last resort is being eyed again.
This time it is being directed at three council members elected in 2010 - Mayor Willie Weatherford, Vince Hernandez and John Harris.
A formal inquiry has been made of City Clerk Joann Tilton for details necessary to circulate a recall petition for the November 2012 ballot to coincide with the election of the two council seats currently held by Debby Moorhead and Steve DeBrum.
The timing and motives are curious given the fact the request was made less than 19 hours after the council opted to stick with previous decisions to tear down the Wetmore Street water tower and erect a data tower in the corporation yard.
The person behind the move is Ben Cantu who is making his third run at the council this fall.
The reasons he gives for pushing for a recall that would require three separate petitions filed with 20 percent of the city’s 27,000 registered voters is almost a verbatim reciting of his campaign platforms in the last two elections with the added caveat that the council didn’t save the water tower.
One of his points is city services being scaled back which apparently he believes has nothing to do with the biggest economic downturn since The Great Recession. The candidate who vows to spend limited general fund money in what he perceives as a wiser fashion is poised to trigger spending upwards of $207,000 in tax dollars on a recall according to the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters.
The reaction of the intended targets? “So” in the form of a question from Harris who - like Hernandez - astutely points out that Cantu has every right to do what he thinks he must do. The mayor notes that Manteca has fared the ravages of the recession and reduced services much better than many of its neighbors.
It seems that the alleged transgression here isn’t anything illegal, unethical or malfeasance in office. The sin, as it were, is simply council members who take opposing views to the man who seems eager to start a political fire in a bid to get what he wants.
A recall effort - whether it succeeds to reach the ballot or not - can and usually does create an inferno that can’t be controlled. If there aren’t clear cut black and white reasons why a recall effort should be pursued such an effort does major damage to the entire community and not just the intended targets.
And if this isn’t a serious undertaking by a serious council candidate - which is what Cantu says it is - it speaks volumes.
Manteca can ill afford spending $207,000 for the sake of political expediency.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.