Gold Hill residents voted resoundingly for common sense on Monday, defeating attempts to recall four City Council members for doing their jobs in a way that upset some people.
At issue was the council's decision to lift a moratorium and approve a medical marijuana dispensary downtown. Unlike other communities in the county, where civic leaders seem determined to block dispensaries for as long as possible, Gold Hill councilors made a reasonable decision in favor of fairness. It's a decision that has so far paid off.
Despite the fears of opponents, the county's first marijuana dispensary has been operating for more than two months with no reported problems. In addition, the move has been a revenue success for the cash-strapped city, because the tax the city enacted on medical marijuana transactions has yielded about $2,000 a month, which might permit Gold Hill to pay for more police protection than the half-time sheriff's community service officer it has now.
Gold Hill has a long and unfortunate history of recalling City Council members over decisions some citizens disagree with. That is a fundamental misuse of the recall process, which ought to be reserved for actual wrongdoing or ethical lapses by public officials.
The council acted properly and within the law in approving the dispensary. Some residents objected to that decision, but the remedy for policy disagreements is to elect someone else at the next opportunity. That's what elections are for.
Recalls over policy disagreements are a waste of public money, and can leave the city ungovernable. If all four council members had been recalled, the council would not have been able to conduct business until replacements were appointed.
Budget Committee member Deb West, the recall's organizer, said she was sorry the dispensary became the focus of the effort, because there were other issues that needed to be addressed. She accuses the City Council of not listening to residents.
If there were truly a groundswell of public sentiment against four council members in a town the size of Gold Hill, the outcome would have been much different. As it happened, a large majority of those casting ballots clearly did not agree with the recall supporters.
Nearly half the registered voters in town had their say. More than half didn't bother to vote, but the turnout was unusually high for a single-issue special election.
The next time they disagree with a council decision, perhaps the recall supporters will exercise their civic duty in a more constructive way and run for office themselves.