A campaign pushing for the removal of 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone from office is underway, and the Goleta resident championing the effort must now gather nearly 8,000 signatures if the recall is to appear on the ballot this November.
Brett Wagner, president of the California Center for Strategic Studies – a Ventura-based public policy think tank – announced his intent to remove Firestone from his elected position at a press conference held last Thursday at the Santa Barbara County Administration Building downtown, claiming that the supervisor has violated his oath of office, hurt the county’s environmental future and ignored the will of the people. Wagner said he will present an official letter to the County Clerk-Recorder, Assessor and Elections Dept. within the week, marking the start of the recall process.
In order to remove Firestone from office, Wagner said, he has 120 days to get 7,800 signatures on the recall petition. If the petition receives the required amount, the county clerk has 30 days to verify the signatures, after which the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors must set a date for the recall election. Wagner said he thinks the recall should appear on the ballot for the upcoming county elections in November.
Wagner said Firestone is part of a political machine intent on ignoring the student voice, and said he is certain Firestone would lose the recall.
“I.V. will probably determine the outcome of the election,” Wagner said. “I fully expect to win. This movement, I believe, is already starting to catch fire. There’s no way Brooks Firestone could win a second election in this district.”
Wagner said he thinks Firestone was elected under false pretences and should be removed.
“He ran as a moderate, but as soon as he took office he immediately swung to the far right,” Wagner said. “I took him for his word, and I was disappointed from day one.”
Firestone said the claims Wagner made against him are largely based on generalities, and said he does not know how to respond to what he called Wagner’s unfounded accusations.
“I really just don’t know what I could say,” Firestone said. “It’s a question of someone saying I beat my wife. I’m not going to stand up and say I don’t beat my wife.”
Firestone said he is bothered by the effort to recall his election because it discourages people from running for office.
“I regret this kind of thing happening because there’s lots of good people who should run for public office, and people don’t because of the ugliness,” Firestone said.
Wagner said he decided to launch the recall effort against Firestone and run for the position of 3rd District supervisor after he was denied his request to create a public forum where community members could speak with county officials. If elected, Wagner said, his first act as supervisor would be to host a public forum at least once a month to give county residents an opportunity to voice their concerns.
“We had hoped against hope that [a recall] would not be necessary, but when it became clear that the public forum was being rebuffed, [we knew it was],” Wagner said.
Firestone said he was not aware that Wagner ever called for a public forum. He said there are no records of Wagner ever calling the office, and that the two have never met. Firestone also said the board holds forums frequently and its meetings are open to the public.
Wagner said Firestone promised to unite the county when he was elected, but has not taken any measures to do so. He said Firestone’s actions have actually increased the tension between northern and southern Santa Barbara County.
“As the initiative to recall Brooks Firestone picks up steam and support and awareness, the growing support for the county to split will die out,” Wagner said.
However, Firestone said the board of supervisors unanimously voted to express an opinion against the county split at its meeting Tuesday. He said the board’s stance is a significant step toward ensuring the county remains in one piece.
Wagner said Firestone has also done everything he can to undermine a local oak tree protection ordinance, which the board of supervisors amended recently. Wagner said Firestone has attempted to set a precedent by creating artificial distinctions between various oaks, weakening restrictions on which trees can be cut down.
“We can’t sit idly by and let there be three more years of decisions being made that will reverberate for generations to come,” Wagner said.
Firestone said Wagner probably does not know what he is talking about, and said the protection of the oak trees stands. Firestone said he played an important role in saving the ordinance.