GONZALES — A group of residents, calling themselves SaveGonzales, is launching an organized effort to get the signatures needed to unseat city councilmen http://theadvocate.com/news/opinion/5736146-123/inside-report-rezoning-issue-prompts">Gary Lacombe and Timothy Vessel in recall elections.
The group’s leaders told residents at a public meeting on the signature drive Wednesday that the group has a website, SaveGonzales.com and is on Facebook.
“Facebook will be the backbone” of the recall effort, said John Diez, of the research and marketing company Magellan Strategies in Galvez. He is providing his expertise to the recall effort.
SaveGonzales will be registering as a political action committee with the state Board of Ethics, Diez said before the meeting.
“These guys have thought long and hard about it. They are very serious about it,” he said of the organizers of the recall effort.
Gonzales residents Chuck LeBlanc and Wandetta Reynard, co-chairmen of the recall effort, notified the Secretary of State’s Office on Wednesday afternoon that the group is launching the recall attempt.
LeBlanc said Lacombe’s and Vessel’s repeated blocking of changes from retail zoning to heavier commercial zoning in the city is one of the reasons for pursuing their ouster.
“Over the last 16 to 18 months, it looks like they’re more concerned at playing politics,” LeBlanc said. “They just don’t have the city’s best interest” in mind.
Reynaud added, “My main concern is when we stop the city from growing, that’s a problem.”
LeBlanc told residents Wednesday they have to “band together, work together and work hard” to get the required number of signatures within six months.
Organizers have to gather the signatures of one-third of the registered voters in Gonzales for each petition. Approximately 2,100 signatures are required on each councilman’s petition before their names will appear on a ballot.
A big factor behind the recall effort, brought up several times at Wednesday’s meeting, was the loss of a local location of the Crawford Electric company, a subsidiary of a global French firm, in February.
Lacombe abstained from voting on a rezoning request for the business,
Vessel voted no and a third councilman, Terance Irvin, abstained, killing the request.
Nearly 40 people came to the meeting Wednesday at Carlico Café on the recall effort, which will be the site of weekly meetings for the petition drive for the next six months, according to organizers.
“We know what they’re against, but we don’t know what they’re for,” Gonzales resident Bill Prestridge said of Lacombe and Vessel prior to the meeting’s start.
Earlier this month, a Baton Rouge business, South Park Business Center, filed a civil lawsuit against Gonzales and council members Lacombe, Vessel and Irvin, seeking $3 million in regard to a rezoning request the city denied that business last year on property in Gonzales.
Last year, a recall petition drive against Lacombe failed to get the required number of signatures.
Residents James “Stump” Marchand and Claston Bernard initiated the drive after Lacombe, Vessel and Irvin voted against industrial rezoning for the site of the regional headquarters of Emerson Process Management, a Pittsburgh company.
Later the council unanimously voted to grant the company a special-use permit for the site.
For purposes of collecting signatures, the organizers of the new recall effort against Lacombe and Vessel will be seeking subdivision “captains” throughout the city, LeBlanc said.
Diez said residents who support the recall effort can sign on through Facebook, and volunteers will follow up by going out to get those signatures in person.
“At some point, there will be boots on the ground, knocking on doors,” Diez said.
Efforts to reach Lacombe and Vessel on Wednesday were unsuccessful.