Vista Mayor Gloria McClellan, the political matriarch of a city frustrated in proceeding on downtown redevelopment and other public improvements, was targeted for recall Friday by a newly formed group calling itself “Taxpayers for Responsible Government.”
McClellan, who has served continuously on the Vista City Council since 1972 and who has been the directly elected mayor since 1986, said her critics are “in for a fight.”
The Vista recall effort is the third under way in North County. In Oceanside, City Councilwoman Melba Bishop faces a recall election in October because of charges that she has created political upheaval in City Hall. And the entire five-member Fallbrook Union High School District board of directors has been targeted for recall by critics angry that the board considered implementing a $3.7-million tax on property owners without a public vote.
This is the first time that McClellan, a onetime local businesswoman who now serves as full-time mayor for $12,000 a year, has been targeted for recall.
“We believe her leadership has devastated Vista’s quality of life,” said Michelle Mairesse, spokesman for the group and onetime weekly columnist for the Oceanside Blade-Citizen.
She accused the McClellan-led council majority of playing favorites among developers and said it has “provided the taxpayers of Vista with strip malls, vacant commercial buildings, congested streets and overcrowded schools.”
“The issue is fiscal mismanagement, runaway growth and an unresponsiveness to citizens,” Mairesse said.
McClellan was elected to a four-year term as mayor last November, beating two relatively unknown candidates. Until then, the mayor served a two-year term.
Mairesse said the group, composed of about 30 “hard-core” supporters, didn’t go after three other council members who are generally supportive of McClellan because two of them, Bernard Rappaport and Nancy Wade, stand for reelection next year anyway and the third, Jeannette Smith, an accountant with many clients in the city, frequently doesn’t vote on council issues because of possible conflicts of interest.
The fifth council member, Dal Williams, wasn’t identified for recall because he was elected only last November, she said.
McClellan criticized the recall effort because, she said, she has just stood election, and it will cost the city $64,000 to hold the election. She defended her record as one of service to the community, saying much of the blame for the stalled efforts to redevelop downtown Vista can be traced to former Councilman Lloyd Von Haden, who has sued over the city’s redevelopment efforts. On the issue of growth, McClellan said the council adopted an ordinance five years ago prohibiting any changes to the General Plan without public vote, so that the growth now occurring in the city is in accordance with a 5-year-old plan that had won community support at the time.
The recall proponents, the mayor said, are a collection of community activists and unsuccessful candidates for the Vista City Council “who are disenchanted and mad, and who want to take over the town.”
The 200-word petition outlining the arguments for McClellan’s recall must first be submitted to the city clerk’s office, and McClellan will be allowed to respond. After that, the recall supporters will have 120 days to collect the signatures of 20% of Vista’s 28,500 voters, or nearly 6,000 names.