COLUMBIA — Keep Columbia Free plans to focus recall efforts on First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt.
The group announced before the previous Columbia City Council meeting that it would work to recall any council member who voted in favor of re-establishing the Enhanced Enterprise Zone Board. The council voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.
"We're a citizen group, and as such, we have limited resources," said Mitch Richards, treasurer of the group. "We don’t have the deep pockets of REDI. We’re doing the best we can with the resources we have."
Mark Flakne, president of Keep Columbia Free, said the response from First Ward residents interested in the recall petition was strongest among all the wards. He said while residents had a "laundry list" of reasons to recall Schmidt, the petition will focus solely on his votes in support of the enhanced enterprise zone.
"Our recall petition is going to focus on the EEZ, although the other issues may become talking points in the campaign," Flakne said.
The City Charter requires signatures from registered voters that represents 30 percent of vote totals in the most recent ward election. There were 1,000 votes cast in the most recent First Ward council election, which means exactly 300 signatures of registered First Ward voters will be needed to initiate a recall election.
That’s the lowest number of signatures for any of the four council members who can be recalled. Council members Barbara Hoppe and Michael Trapp cannot be recalled because they were elected less than six months ago.
Flakne said the number of signatures did not play a role in targeting Schmidt. He said no decision has been made on whether to pursue the recall of other council members.
Schmidt was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.
"It depends how long it takes us," Flakne said. “We are assessing the rest of them right now, but we haven’t received as much interest from the other wards.”
Richards ran for the First Ward council seat in 2011 but has said he will not be running in the recall election if the petition is successful.
"We just decided it would pose a conflict of interest," Richards said. “It would alienate people, and they might think I was using it as a back door to get onto the council, and that's not our goal at all."
Flakne said the petition will be available for signature at the discussion with Greg LeRoy on the enhanced enterprise zone issue at 7 Thursday evening at the Columbia Public Library.