Recall committee starts signature campaign
DJ Becker/The Madera Tribune
A man self-identified as “Butch,” who said he was 74, and Khalid Chaundhry, right, a main sponsor of the campaign to recall Mayor Andrew Medellin, waved signs and talked to the public Saturday as they sought signatures on petitions to get the recall on the November ballot. Chaundhry said he and/or others will be at the corner every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
A grassroots effort to get Mayor Andrew J. Medellin out of office was notched up Saturday by an effort to gather signatures on petitions to recall the mayor.
Some 3,600 signatures must be gathered to put the recall on the November ballot.
Recall proponents say they are targeting Medellin because he was unwilling to correct what they see as the granting of large raises by the City Council to certain city employees, even though the city was, and is, in deep financial straits.
A comparison of Madera administrative salaries with those of other cities in the Central Valley shows them to be among the highest — in some cases the highest.
Recall backer Khalid Chaundhry said he believes the raises were put through without a public airing by Medellin’s making sure they were on the “consent calendar” part of the City Council agendas — put there to keep the public — and even his fellow council members from spending too much time looking them over.
Chaundhry believes this amounts to agenda chicanery, and flies in the face of the transparency that Medellin claims to favor.
When another recall proponent, Michael Pistoresi, last November showed comparisons of Madera’s senior administrative salaries with those of other cities, citizens began to take notice. Even the politically aware were taken aback. There were gasps of surprise, for example, in a meeting of the Madera County Republican Women Federated, when Pistoresi was the featured speaker at the group’s April meeting, which more than 100 people attended.
The council hasn’t entirely ignored the public’s angst, however.
Since the recall first arose as a possibility, the City Council has hired municipal management consultant Ron Manfredi to take a look at the city’s finances, including utilities, which have seen a near doubling of prices in the past year.
Manfredi, a one-time assistant city administrator of Madera and most recently the city manager of Kerman, presented a preliminary report on financial difficulties of the water utility, in which he determined it was the reluctance of past city councils to raise rates incrementally over the years that led to the sudden increase last year, and he predicted more increases to come until the revenue from the water utility equals the cost of operating it.
He also will work with another consultant the City Council retained to help the council find and hire a new city administrator.
The former, 25-year administrator, David Tooley, unexpectedly resigned, then retired, in December after his annual compensation of some $330,000 became an issue.
The council then appointed former Police Chief Steve Frazier, who retired to become interim administrator, at more than $20,000 a month, until a new administrator is found.
Recall backers spent several hours Saturday at the northwest corner of Schnoor Avenue and Howard Road, waving signs and talking to passersby about why they are seeking the recall.
They told people the recall was about elected officials being transparent and accountable, and about reducing the salaries and benefits, some in excess of $300,000, for senior city department heads as the city struggles to avoid service reductions and layoffs in the face of a million dollar deficit.
Chaundrhy said the group would be gathering signatures every Saturday at the same corner from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.