TRAVERSE CITY — An effort to recall Traverse City's mayor and a city commissioner because of their vote to increase taxes came up short — by several months in one case.
Larry Gerschbacher said he couldn't get enough signatures by an early January deadline. The city resident wanted to recall Mayor Jim Carruthers and city Commissioner Richard Lewis after they voted in June to increase the millage levy to 12.1167, a one-mill increase, and to add a 0.5-percent administration fee to city taxpayers' bills.
City Clerk Benjamin Marentette said that would have been in time for a special election on May 7, and that Gerschbacher needed 1,515 signatures.
That would have been in time to recall Carruthers, Marentette said. The deadline for signatures to recall Lewis passed in August, he said.
Elected officials cannot be recalled in the first and last quarter of their terms, and Lewis's term ends this year, Marentette said.
Gerschbacher said he was unaware of that, and that he was told he had six months from when a court approved the petition language in July to get the signatures.
"It's really confusing, it doesn't seem like anybody knows for sure," he said, adding he trusts Marentette over someone he spoke to at the state elections office.
Lewis couldn't be reached by phone Friday, but he noted via email the passing of the deadline in August and declined to comment further.
Carruthers said cities have few options when it comes to funding more sidewalks, better roads and other infrastructure projects the public demands.
"None of us want to pay more taxes, none of us want to fund more than we have to but sometimes we have to do that to get projects done," he said.
Carruthers said he spoke with Gerschbacher at a recent neighborhood association meeting and found out that Gerschbacher had missed the deadline. The mayor said he was skeptical that Gerschbacher could get as many as he needed.
Not everyone is going to agree with their elected officials, Carruthers said. He deals with hundreds of items and often sees people become agitated about one if they don't agree with Carruthers' vote.
Gerschbacher said he is not considering another push at this point, and will wait to see who runs for city government before deciding whether to back other candidates, he said.
The problem is getting people to run for office, Gerschbacher said.
"There's a lot of responsibility with that position and a lot of people just won't want to take the time to be a candidate and get elected and follow through with that responsibilities," he said.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct a reporter's error misquoting Traverse City Clerk Benjamin Marentette's description of state recall law. The law does not allow a recall of an elected official during the first or last quarter of their term. Jan. 21, 2019