Supporters of a campaign to remove Alison Gary from the Metro Council have one month left to collect the necessary 7,847 signatures needed to hold a recall election.
Despite an aggressive and visible recall campaign across Gary’s district, Gary said she remains unfazed and focused on her constituency.
The recall effort was initiated March 22, after Hunter Bridges and Charles Bowden hand-delivered a recall petition to the Secretary of State’s Office.
In order for the recall to be placed on the ballot, the petitioners must collect signatures from one-third of the registered voters in Gary’s district — in this case, 7,847 signatures — within 180 days of filing the petition.
Gary represents District 11, which covers an area south of Florida Boulevard between Interstate 10 and Sherwood Forest Boulevard.
A Republican, Gary took office in 2009 and her four-year term ends next year.
Neither Bridges nor Bowden returned phone calls last week to comment on the campaign or on the number of constituents who have signed the petition.
It’s clear, however, that the campaign continues in earnest.
“Recall Alison Cascio” signs can be found across different neighborhoods in her district.
Gary, the former Alison Cascio, changed her name after getting married a few months ago.
Volunteers with the recall effort staff a small headquarters in an office trailer near Airline Highway and Coursey Boulevard where constituents can sign the petition, pick up yard signs and stickers, or volunteer to canvass neighborhoods.
The Baton Rouge Tea Party supports the effort on its website.
“Your support in this drive for good government will be to sign the petition to RECALL CASCIO,” the website says. “There is no stigma attached to this; in fact, it is a legal remedy against bad government provided by the Louisiana Constitution.”
The Tea Party of Louisiana, on its website, calls for more volunteers to remove “the irresponsible representative of District 11.”
Numerous calls and emails made last week to the recall campaign organizers and its headquarters were not returned.
“I think that’s because their effort is a miserable failure,” said Donald Hodge, a Democrat who ran against Gary in 2008.
Hodge said he thinks Gary has done a fine job representing the district.
“She stays in constant contact with the civic associations,” he said. “Constituent outreach is a priority for her.”
Dennis Vidrine, president of the Goodwood Property Owners Association, said Gary gets an “A+” for service and accessibility. “We’ve always found her to be exceptionally available, to listen and attend any and every meeting we’ve asked for,” Vidrine said.
He said he thinks the recall campaign is being organized by people who are still sore about her vote to support the downtown library rebuild.
Some residents have protested the project as a waste of taxpayer funds, citing the $19 million price tag and low user numbers of the facility.
“In my opinion, the (recall) campaign is a small group of very boisterous people,” said Robert Howerton, another member of the Goodwood Property Owners Association, which has a membership of about 700 people.
“I’ve never had a councilperson more open to communication and more cognizant of what’s going on in the area than what we’ve had with Alison,” Howerton said.
Gary said she scarcely gets complaints from her constituents when she interacts with them.
Asked about the recall effort, she said, “I don’t really think it’s changed the way I do anything.”
The website http://www.re
callcascio.com cites some votes Gary has made with which the group takes issue, including voting in December to allow the Library Board to move forward with a $19 million downtown library, paid for with its dedicated tax funds.
Other votes the group disagrees with include:
• Her votes in support of sending the mayor-president’s 2008 and 2009 tax-and-bond proposals, valued at $989 million and $901 million respectively, to the ballot. Gary this month voted against sending the mayor’s most recent tax-and-bond proposal, valued at $748 million, to the voters.
• Her support at a 2009 Library Board meeting to build a library on donated property in the disputed Rouzan development on Perkins Road, instead of on other donated land in south Baton Rouge. Gary said the other land was “in a flood plain, more expensive to build on and wasn’t in as good a location.”
• Her support of the One Baton Rouge proposition, which was withdrawn from the Metro Council agenda before it came to a vote. The proposition expressed tolerance toward all people, including the parish’s gay population, but was opposed by some religious groups.
Gary said she doesn’t regret any of her votes.
If enough signatures are collected, an election will be held to decide whether to recall Gary.
If voters pass the recall proposition, Gary would be removed from office and a special election would be held to replace her. Gary, however, could run for the same office in the special election or subsequent elections.
The odds are against most recall efforts.
Between 2000 and 2010, there were 258 petitions submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office initiating recall efforts in Louisiana, according to information provided by the office.
Only 21 of those resulted in a recall election, of which three were canceled.
There have been no recall elections in East Baton Rouge Parish since 1966, the last year information on recalls in the parish was available from the Secretary of State’s Office.