[Source: Long Beach Press Telegram] Residents in Paramount are attempting to recall three elected leaders as the city continues to grapple with an environmental crisis after the discovery of elevated levels of hexavalent chromium in the air.
Proponents expect to begin collecting signatures early this year in their effort to recall councilmembers Daryl Hofmeyer, Peggy Lemons and Diane Martinez.
“This city needs change,” said Allen Gomez, a member of a group called Let Paramount Vote, which is organizing the campaign.
Proponents of the recall say a November decision by the City Council to postpone the next council election by a year until March 2020 was among the reasons for the petition.
Paramount, like other cities with low voter turnout, was subject to requirements under recently passed state legislation requiring cities to align local elections with their state primary or November general elections, in hopes of drawing more voters to the polls.
Over the last four general elections in the fall, an average of 46 percent of registered voters in Paramount cast ballots, according to a presentation by City Clerk Lana Chikami at the Nov. 21 council meeting. In the last four statewide primary elections held in June, local turnout has averaged close to 17 percent.
Gomez said it makes no sense to extend the current council terms by roughly a year — the election would have normally been held in March 2019 — rather than hold the city election this fall, when data shows turnout is much higher.
Hofmeyer and Lemons both said in separate email responses that they supported the March 2020 option because it will be a presidential primary, which should garner more interest than the fall midterm elections.
The city clerk data, however, shows the average turnout for the two most recent June primary elections in presidential years was roughly 23 percent, while the average fall turnout in non-presidential years was 31 percent. But, officials noted, California will hold its 2020 primary in March instead of June, which will likely give Californians a greater say in the outcome.
“If the election is held in March, rather than June, of 2020 along with the presidential primary, voter turnout will be higher,” Hofmeyer said in the email.
Martinez did not respond to a message for comment.
Gomez and his group said voters should be given the chance to cast ballots as soon as possible in light of environmental concerns that have plagued the city for close to two years, when air regulators found levels of hexavalent chromium far above what is considered safe.
The source of the cancer-causing compound was primarily attributed to two metal finishing companies, Anaplex Corporation and Aerocraft Heat Treating — though other companies, such as Carlton Forge Works and Forge Press, have also been cited by regulators.
Laurie Guillen, who had criticized the council for its handling of the crisis, narrowly defeated incumbent councilman Gene Daniels in the most March 2017 election, when just 10 percent of voters turned out. Lemons won reelection in that race.
In her email response, Lemons said the city has taken a number of proactive steps in light of the environmental revelations, including adopting a moratorium of new metal finishing business, hiring an environmental firm to work with the city in developing solutions, supporting state legislation to quell pollution, testifying at regulatory hearings and holding community forums at schools, churches and service clubs. The city is also reviewing its zoning and permitting process to ensure businesses comply with the law.
“The City Council and staff are fully committed to protecting the health and safety of our residents,” she wrote.
In order to qualify for a recall election, proponents need to gather signatures from at least 20 percent of the city’s 22,579 registered voters, or about 4,515 people. Once the recall petition is finalized by the city clerk, the organizers will have 120 days to gather enough signatures.
Source: Long Beach Press Telegram
December 27, 2016