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Ted Costa says the disgruntled Westside residents are better served hiring professional signature gatherers. If “they have the money, and they can feed the pros,” says Costa, they can “get [Weiss] on the ballot.”
The Committee to Recall Jack Weiss — a group of incensed homeowner-association members led by Steve Twining, Kevin Singer, Marcia Selz, Monique Kagan and Diana Plotkin — needs to raise $50,000 in order to collect 30,000 signatures, or 7,000 more than needed, to be safe, says Costa. “They shouldn’t show up with anything less.” Yet by June 30, the last date for which information is available, the committee had spent the bulk of its $20,357 on seemingly everything but professional signature gatherers: a political consultant who insists on remaining anonymous, an accountant, fliers and posters, the creation of a wickedly funny Web site (www.recalljackweiss.com) and one signature-gathering “coordinator” — presumably to organize the struggling volunteers.
May, seeming oblivious to what professional consultants are saying about that, proudly says the signature gathering is being handled entirely by volunteers: “We have our boots on the ground, and we’re going neighbor to neighbor.”
The nature of the assault on Weiss — considered by some inside City Hall to be the most arrogant and disliked council member since lawyer Mike Feuer (also of District 5) — makes Larry Levine, Weiss’s longtime political consultant, question whether the committee even has 10,000 signatures.
“If they really have it,” says Levine, “they should put it on the table so we can see it. I don’t believe it anymore than someone telling me they spotted Elvis eating over at Canter’s.”
Whether it’s volunteers standing in front of supermarkets or trekking the canyons and long streets of Weiss’ political turf, Levine says no one has been seen anywhere. “We would’ve heard something,” he says.
“We’re not making this stuff up,” May insists with an exasperated chuckle. “Larry’s free to think whatever he wants to think.”
Weiss, according to his Ethics Commission filing, has raised $68,355, with $55,413 on hand, to fight the recall effort. The city councilman, according to Levine, is not “obsessing over it,” but “whenever someone threatens your name and your livelihood, you take it seriously.”
The recall movement has banked only $6,855 to spend, according to its filing, but May says his clients have hauled in more money since the June 30 fund-raising report, claiming, “We’re within striking distance of $50,000.”
But Costa, who has witnessed and organized many ballot initiatives over the years, says it’s a sign of trouble when a signature-gathering effort won’t reveal its current fund-raising levels. “If they don’t come up with hard numbers,” Costa says, “they are usually lying.”
The stealth approach also doesn’t send a good signal, according to Allan Hoffenblum. “The main thing about recall is money,” says Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant, “Is there going to be serious funding behind it? One doesn’t want to slay the king unless it is successful.”
Either way, political pros are watching how the recall effort develops, if only to see how it might affect Weiss’ announced run for city attorney in 2009, when Rocky Delgadillo is forced out by term limits. “If [Weiss] has a formidable opponent, [the recall movement] may hurt him,” says Afriat. But no major opponents have yet emerged, and the bizarre recall movement might actually help Weiss, who, despite his grating personality in City Council chambers, may come out looking like a winner.