DECISION '94 : Tax Foes Hope to Unseat 3 on Fullerton Council


Residents angry about a 2% utility tax imposed last July by the City Council to finance local government will get a chance June 7 to oust the mayor and two council colleagues in the city's first-ever recall election.

Mayor A.B. (Buck) Catlin and council members Molly McClanahan and Don Bankhead face a recall effort by the Fullerton Recalls Committee, which advocates replacing them with council members who will repeal the tax.

As part of its effort to shake up City Hall, the committee also advocates firing City Manager James L. Armstrong and electing a full-time mayor to run the city, imposing term limits on local officials, eliminating the Redevelopment Agency and electing council members by district.

"We believe representatives of the people should represent the majority of the people," committee chairman Thomas S. Babcock said.

The council instituted the utility tax so it could balance the $70-million 1993-94 fiscal budget without having to trim fire and police services, Catlin said. At the time, the city faced a $3-million deficit, which the council reduced by trimming about $1.5 million in city services. The utility tax is scheduled to expire in June, 1995.

"We made a decision in good faith because we did not want to lose essential services," Catlin said. "This recall is ridiculous. Recalls are for people who are incompetent, fraudulent or immoral in office."

In addition to the council members, City Clerk Anne M. York also faces recall. York, who has served in her post since 1976, was targeted by Babcock's group, which has accused her of delaying the recall process by rejecting valid recall petitions against the council members.

York acknowledged rejecting several petitions because its language exceeded the 200-word limit set by state law. She said she consistently handled all recall paperwork within a day.

To fight the recall, a group of residents formed Citizens for Fullerton, which has about 300 supporters and has raised $20,000.

Voters also will be asked whether any vacancies created by the recall should be filled by special election or by council appointment.

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