Recall Effort Targets Lingner
On May 5, South Mountain Village resident Ray Carvajal – on behalf of the Out With Lingner campaign – filed a recall petition with the City Clerk’s Office seeking the removal of Phoenix Vice Mayor Doug Lingner.
Supporters of the organization claim Lingner, who serves as councilman for District 7, has misrepresented the district by failing to meet with constituents, while voting to approve major development projects that fail to consider impact on local schools, roads and traffic, infrastructure and quality of life. Additional language in the recall petition states he has failed to send out a newsletter in three years.
“The biggest thing you run into in the district is that he basically works with developers, a few influential Realtors and a couple of community leaders,” said Carvajal, adding that support for the petition has stretched throughout the district which, in addition to portions of Laveen and South Mountain Villages, includes segments of downtown Phoenix as well Maryvale and Estrella Villages.
The Phoenix City Council elected Lingner vice mayor in January 2006, and he also serves as chairman of the Housing, Neighborhoods and Historic Preservation Subcommittee.
To force a vote on the recall in September or November, OWL volunteers must collect 1,605 signatures from registered voters in District 7, which is home to approximately 160,000 residents. The campaign, however, is pushing to accumulate 3,000-5,000 names, said Carvajal.
Skip Redpath, a resident of downtown’s Willow Historic District, recently signed the petition and doesn’t see the mandatory signature total as a major obstacle.
“I don’t think there will be any problem getting the required signatures and more,” he said, adding that the Willow Homeowners Association has been trying to get in contact with Lingner since October. “He’s a lame duck councilman, and I just think he has forgotten that he has constituents.”
The recall attempt comes as Lingner, who was the focus of an unsuccessful recall effort in September 1997, closes in on the final stages of his tenure. Nevertheless, OWL supporters are steadfast in making a change before his term expires at the end of next year, although they are not backing any candidates.
“Even if he only has a year and a half to go, get him out now,” Carvajal stressed. “That might make it difficult or prevent him from going on further.”
Lingner, who was first elected to the Phoenix City Council in 1995, views his stances on some previous Laveen-area zoning cases and his support for the 55th Avenue alignment on the proposed South Mountain Freeway as the primary reasons for the OWL campaign’s discontent. He points to his involvement with helping establish the Laveen Village Planning Committee and the Laveen Citizens for Responsible Development as proof of his support for community involvement during the development process.
“We work hard to communicate with folks, and we work hard to make sure we are giving them accurate information,” Lingner responded. “There are times when the information may not be what they want to hear, but for the most part, even those folks understand at least we’re working and working for them.”
Eliminating the newsletter, he added, was a cost-cutting initiative that saves the district $8,000-$10,000 per year.
At the start of the last two years of his term, Linger said he made it his priority to get the freeway alignment selected, while expanding the opportunities for affordable housing. The possible recall has now forced him to refocus his agenda and devote time to campaigning again. However, he stressed that he still supports the system that gives residents the opportunity to express their displeasure.
“It’s a democracy, it guarantees you the process. It doesn’t guarantee you the desired results,” he remarked.
With more than a decade of service on the city council, Lingner is confident the results he’s demonstrated during his occupancy will get him through a potential recall. When he started campaigning in 1995, he set out to change the perception of District 7, an area of the city that some people considered a “black hole, a place where social services were needed and a place that was too dangerous to live.”
Today, Lingner noted, many of those opinions have diminished.
“It’s hard for me to blow my own horn, but I do know what I’ve done,” he said.
As for the lack of communication with constituents, he acknowledged that responding to everyone’s needs in a timely matter is a challenge, especially in a diverse and sprawling region such as District 7.