Both Sides Claim Some Victory Following Unsuccessful Recall Effort
GALVESTON, Texas (AP) _ Both sides claimed a measure of victory after voters failed to recall the mayor and four City Council members in a dispute over municipal improvements.
The recall was organized by opponents of a $12 million trolley system under construction between the city seawall on the Gulf of Mexico and the historic Strand district downtown.
Opponents saw the trolley as a special interest project at a time when money was needed to fix roads and decaying parts of the aging coastal resort city.
Supporters of the project, including the mayor and the four council members who faced recall in Saturday’s election, said the project will help spur tourism and development.
″I believe is it time to move ahead now, and try to put all these divisions behind us, and go for the great things that I think Galveston Island is destined to have happen to it,″ Mayor Jan Coggeshall said after the vote was tabulated.
″We have some wonderful things going on, and I am very excited they can continue,″ she said.
With all precincts reporting, Ms. Coggeshall survived with 3,749 votes for recall and 4,779 against, while the four City Council members fared roughly the same, City Secretary Patsy Poole said.
The total turnout was 8,635, or about 25 percent of the city’s 31,000 registered voters, she said. Galveston’s population is about 62,000, she said.
Pete Fredriksen, a spokesman for the group ″We The People,″ which organized the recall effort, said the election sent a strong message to city government, since 10 of the 20 precincts voted against the mayor.
″I think the mayor and council will be more responsive to the people, at least for the next nine months, after which two of the council members and the mayor are up for re-election again,″ he said. ″We hope they start listening to the people’s concern in Galveston - streets, the economy.″
Jim Mabe, a co-founder of ″We The People,″ said the election showed the power of affluent parts of the electorate.
″They have nothing to be proud of; the special interests saved her (the mayor),″ he said. ″The poor people didn’t get out and vote.″
Council member Barbara Crews, one of those who faced recall, acknowledged the divided vote.
″There are some differences in the voter turnout and the responses in the different areas of the community,″ she said. ″I think we need to pay attention to that.″
Council member John Sullivan, who also was on the special ballot, said the vote indicated citizens felt regular elections, not recall, should be the forum for airing opposition to officeholders.
″They used it (recall) because they just disagreed, and they should wait until the next election,″ Sullivan said. ″The citizens have said, ’You’ve done that wrong, wait until an election if you want to get rid of them.‴
The trolley, being built with a combination of federal, state and private money, is expected to be completed and become operational sometime next year.
Opponents claim, among other things, that the project will never pay for itself and will be a financial drag on the city.
On Jan. 17, Galveston voters approved a measure requiring a vote on all future mass transit projects.