Protests and a first round of legal battles failed to stop the relocation of Glazier-Gates Park in the 1000 block of Manatee Avenue East. The park, as people once remembered it, is no more, and now an effort is underway to try for the same fate of sitting elected officials.
Members of Stone Soup Unity Community, which led a lawsuit against the city to stop the Villages at Riverwalk development on the site of the old park, formed a political action committee called Recall Them All Bradenton. A petition drive will begin Saturday, and the group is getting a boost from Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith.
“I am not part of the recall effort part, but I am part of democracy,” Smith said. “If I did support that, I would publicly tell you, but when my constituents ask me to speak, I’m on record of opposing the demolishing of trees. I believe trees and history should be preserved and not for sale.”
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Smith went on record during a contentious series of public meetings as the development process went through the city council. Smith also spoke at a Stone Soup event memorializing the loss of dozens of ancient oak trees at the site of the former park. Smith said he will focus his Saturday speech on that issue.
The recall kickoff event will be held at 313 12th St. W. from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and involves the attempted removal of sitting councilmen Patrick Roff, Gene Brown and Bemis Smith. Mayor Wayne Poston and councilmen Gene Gallo and Harold Byrd Jr. are up for re-election and not subject to the recall.
I am not part of the recall effort part, but I am part of democracy.
Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith, who will speak at Saturday’s recall rally.
Bemis Smith, who had opposed the project and criticized his fellow council members for pushing the project through during the first public meeting with very little public notice, said he was caught off guard.
“I was surprised about it,” he said. “Voters have certain rights, and it’s good to be able to hold your elected officials accountable. Recalls are part of the American process, and that’s a good thing, but I don’t really understand the accusations and it makes me think you just can’t win as an elected official no matter what you do, even if you vote no.”
Brown said, “I don’t feel there are any grounds for it,” noting that until the process plays out, “I have no further comment on it.”
Roff could not be immediately reached for comment.
Elliott said the event is the public’s “opportunity to show city hall how upset they are with all the shenanigans that have been going on, especially in the past year. This city is of and for the people. People are sick and tired of seeing (the council) belittle citizens.”
According to state law, Stone Soup will need to obtain 5 percent of registered Bradenton voters, or 1,517 valid signatures, by the end of October. If successful, the petition would be reviewed and verified within 30 days by the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office. At that time, Recall Them All Bradenton would have 60 days to complete a second petition drive, which requires 15 percent of registered voters, or about 4,500 valid signatures, to move it forward to a final phase of having a judge set an election date.
Grounds for a recall in Florida include malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties and conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude. The petition charges those named with misfeasance, malfeasance, neglect of duty and incompetence.
Allegations against the council include much of what was in Stone Soup’s initial legal action, which was thrown out of court in May, but is currently on appeal.