The recall campaign against Gail Marshall is greasy and transparently political.
Twenty 3rd District residents, collected from a pool of wealthy North County farmers to the UCSB’s College Republicans, served Marshall with notice of their intent to kick her out of office with a special election. The petition came less than a week after Marshall fired an appointee over a fight about saying the Pledge of Allegiance at a Santa Ynez Valley General Plan Advisory Committee (GPAC) meeting.
At the Oct. 17 GPAC meeting, Chair Joe Olla led the committee in an unscheduled recital of the Pledge of Allegiance. Olla had contacted Marshall before the meeting to ask about the Pledge, and Marshall says she told him it might be divisive and that he run it by the committee as part of its agenda. Whatever discussion Marshall and Olla may have had, Olla showed up at the meeting with a flag and began by leading almost everyone in the pledge. In a not-so-strange coincidence, the flag belonged to Sheriff Jim Thomas, a prospective candidate for Marshall’s seat. In another equally un-strange coincidence, someone tipped the press off about the inevitable shouting match. Shortly thereafter, Marshall fired Olla. Her opponents were shocked – shocked – mind you, and within five days had drafted a petition to remove her from office.
Marshall’s foes claim to be acting out of patriotism and in the interests of the whole 3rd District.
The petitioners are acting with the unmitigated and unrefined spite of politics. Supportive of environmental regulations, Marshall has never voted the way the county’s conservative agriculture interests have wanted, and North County has never been able to defeat her in a regular election, thanks to the support of Isla Vistans. When the county district lines were redrawn this summer, Solvang’s Lammy Johnstone-Kockler collected 5,000 signatures in an attempt to remove I.V. from the 3rd District and cut Marshall off from her supporters. Changing the District lines would have shifted the Board of Supervisors to 3-2 in favor of North County. Marshall and the other two left-leaning supes voted to leave Isla Vista in the 3rd and to protect their majority on the board.
Now Johnstone-Kockler and North County are trying again. This time, they are trying to oust Marshall with a recall election under shoddy pretenses of patriotism and “communities of interest.”
The more likely reason is that a recall election can be held in August or September, when most college students won’t be around to vote for Marshall. Although “dirty politics” is a redundant term, this is especially shabby and undemocratic.
If you want to know what the term “communities of interest” means, look at the people using it – it means, “people who like unrestricted rights to cut down oak trees, bulldoze endangered tiger salamanders and otherwise screw up the land they own.” While his name was absent from the petition, Andy Caldwell, a viperous advocate of property rights, is throwing his full support behind the effort to oust Marshall. Caldwell showed up at the GPAC meeting to support the Pledge and silly politics. Last week, Caldwell’s conservative political group, the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, took out a half-page ad in the Santa Barbara Independent, disguised to look like an opinion column.
The charge in the ad and in the petition is that by firing GPAC chair Joe Olla over the Pledge of Allegiance, Marshall violated her oath of office by “failure to support and defend the constitutional rights of the citizens of Santa Barbara County.” No one’s constitutional rights were violated. The only thing Marshall violated was Joe Olla’s non-existent right to turn a minor committee into a circus. As for firing him, Marshall was perfectly within her rights, as he served under her and his term was long expired anyway.
All this being said, Marshall acted like an idiot, and it will only hurt the people who elected her. Marshall fell for a political trick that, while slimy, was easy to spot. She lost her temper and fired Olla, giving her foes, and the foes of Isla Vista, a chance to unseat her. Marshall, despite the recent fracas over Goleta cityhood, has been a good friend to I.V., even when it hurt her politically. But because she got angry, I.V. is going to be seriously neglected in the coming year as Marshall fights for her political future.
Marshall’s foes, as they’ve already demonstrated, will fight dirty. We hope they put the flag down before they get too much of their mud on it.