Mayor faces recall effort

A community group seeking to oust D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams from office will start collecting the signatures of voters Monday in an effort to put a recall vote on the November ballot.

The group, Save Our City, has 180 days to collect the signatures of 35,000 registered voters, or about 10 percent of the electorate, said Bill

O’ Field, public information officer for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.

District officials need to validate the signatures before a recall question can be put on the November ballot. If Williams is ousted, his post will temporarily be filled by D.C. City Council Chair Linda Cropp until a special election can be held.

Recall activists have charged Williams with undermining the D.C. Board of Education by championing President George W. Bush’s school voucher plan – which would allow children to attend private schools – and overseeing the closure of D.C. General Hospital, which they said endangers residents’ health care.

“He should have reopened the D.C. General Hospital and listened to the citizens,” said Adam Eidinger, the group’s co-chair. “Actually, he should have never closed it in the first place.”

Eidinger also said Williams has not been advocating greater budget autonomy and voting rights for the District. A congressional subcommittee approves the city’s budget, and District residents lack voting representation in both the House of Representatives and Senate.

“We want to have control over local tax dollars,” Eidinger said. “(Williams) is not fighting for democracy, he is not fighting for voting rights, and he is not fighting for D.C. statehood.”

“The recall is justified because when a politician breaks his promise, the only thing a community can do before the next election is to have a recall,” he added.

On Friday, Williams submitted a 200-word rebuttal to the group’s allegations.

Tony Bullok, the mayor’s communications director, said D.C. residents, who overwhelmingly reelected Williams in 2002, were aware of his positions regarding school vouchers and D.C. General Hospital before they gave him a second term.

“Disagreement on policy is not recall material,” Bullok said. “There is no basis for this recall. This is just a group of people who have gripes for Mayor Williams.”

Williams, a Democrat, has held the city’s highest office since 1998, when he won 68 percent of the vote. In 2002, he defeated Republican candidate Carol Schwartz, receiving about 60 percent of votes cast.

“In the general election (of 2002) he won in 140 out of 142 precincts, so his support is very strong,” Bullok said. “He is taking the recall seriously and he will try to defend his right in office with every fiber of his body.”

Bullok said he is skeptical of the group’s ability to obtain 35,000 signatures from registered D.C. voters because many out-of-state voters live in the city.

“It’s an enormous amount of signatures needed, and they have to be registered voters of D.C., which isn’t easy to find,” Bullok said. “It will be hard to get real registered voters to sign a petition to throw out a guy they just elected.”

Eidinger said he is confident that his group will succeed in recalling the mayor and added that Save Our City is not backing the candidacy of any prospective successors to Williams.

“Anyone who wants to run will be able to,” he said. “But we want the next mayor to know that these issues need to be addressed.”

Eidinger said his group relies on the volunteer work of its members and donations, which may not exceed $2,000.

Bullok said the recall will be the source of unwanted publicity for the District.

“They are just a collection of people who don’t care for the mayor and it is their right to do this, but the mayor has said that it is not something good for the city because it will draw negative attention,” he said.

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