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Recall election spurred by marijuana decision

GOLD HILL - Ballots arrived in mailboxes Friday for an Aug. 25 recall election that will determine the fate of two-thirds of the City Council.

Coordinators of the recall effort were spurred largely by council approval of a downtown medical marijuana dispensary.

The councilors facing recall are Margaret Dials, Lorraine Parks, Doug Reischman and Gus Wolf. Given the choice to resign or face the recall election, all four decided to let voters decide.

Budget Committee member Deb West, who spearheaded the recall, said the council’s “complete and utter disregard for the city's existing land use laws” pushed her to initiate the effort.

West said the council disregarded citizens who attended meetings and violated city codes by allowing Breeze Botanicals to be sited near city parks, churches, the city library and post office.

“They failed to do their one job. Their one job was to listen to citizens, and they did not do that. They violated city code and they allowed something that most other cities in the state were smart enough to wait on doing,” West said.

“This whole thing was about more than just the dispensary," said Deb Davis, who helped collect signatures for the recall. "Some of them have said, ‘Oh, look, the dispensary is open and everything is fine. Everything is not fine. Look at how they treat the citizens of Gold Hill. They have no regard for the people who have lived here for years.”

Reischman and Parks did not respond to interview requests, but Wolf and Dials voiced frustration with misuse of the recall process.

Wolf said recall elections, which the city has held numerous times in the past decade, “are bad for the community and bad for encouraging people to serve.”

Dials pointed out that while the majority of audience members who spoke at meetings were opposed to the dispensary, councilors heard outside of regular meetings from citizens who supported the business. Dials said the council made its decision based on state law and, in the interest of the city, implemented a five-percent tax on marijuana sales.

Parks pointed to her three-and-a-half years on council and noted that the “only recallable offenses are criminal behavior or ethics code violations, neither of which apply here.”

Reischman, in his ballot statement, said he hoped voters would “keep the four councilmen in office that are being recalled to continue to make the ... hard decisions and elect some more like them in November so that we can continue to be a reasonable and respectable community.”

Brie Malarkey, owner of Breeze Botanicals, said she was saddened that the recall was focused entirely around her store.

“We have all heard for so long that their whole argument for recalling these people was because they didn't listen to their constituents. It’s nice to see that they’re just saying the truth now, and that they're really only mad because I’m here,” Malarkey said.

Malarkey said she will host an open house from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday to give voters a chance to see her facility before voting.

“Having a whole election being about the dispensary is just really interesting to me and really sad," she said. "This is really a chance for voters to speak up and support business growth.”

Ballots are due by 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25, at the Jackson County Elections office in Medford, 1101 W. Main St.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.