Recall organizers say they're pushing harder to get signatures

Recall organizers say they're pushing harder to get signatures
LEWISTON - With just four weeks left to get over 3,000 signatures, Lewiston citizens petitioning for the recall of four city councilors point to the proposed budget as one of the reasons for the recall.

And they say they're increasing their efforts.

"We've been making steady progress all along," said citizen supporting recall Mark Havens. "We have about 35 people carrying petitions all over the community, collection signatures of people who want to put recall on the ballot in November."

The group, Citizens for Better Government, has a new brochure which lists over 30 questions they believe should be asked of those four councilors, Mayor Kevin Poole, Thyra Stevenson, Brad Cannon and Dennis Ohrtman. It includes questions about campaign contributions, the parting with former city manager Jay Krauss and the city's proposed budget.

"They are not dealing realistically with our present budget, which is a flat budget," said former council member Jim Kluss. "A budget that has flat to declining revenues, but has a spiraling, out of control payroll. It's not correct to believe that citizens who have been ravaged by a deep recession should be obligated to shelter those in the public world from the economic downturn."

Mayor Pro Tem Brad Cannon said city department heads and councilors have worked hard and long to make sure they can see the city through the recession.

"We are in tough economic times," said Cannon. "It is difficult for us. We thought we hit a homerun before the Bradbury decision (halting the collection of stormwater fees) and now we're up against something else. This council is bound and determined to get it to a balance budget. Yeah, we may have to increase taxes a little bit - one, one and a half percent maybe. I think everybody would probably feel pretty good about that. I felt pretty good about that when we were there. I think it's a win-win situation for everybody."

The proposed budget has a 3% property tax increase, plus additional forgone tax increases, but Cannon said it's not official until after the public hearings and can only go lower. He wants to work it down to the original 1.5% proposed increase.

"It's important for everybody to realize although we have tough times, we have cut significantly out of the budget and we continue to try and do that," said Cannon. "Before we get down to formally adopting this budget, hopefully we will be at a balanced budget. That is the direction we're going. Cuts will still have to be made to some extent. But we are trying to maintain a service also, that everyone expects."