Norfolk stifling citizens abilities to recall and petition

The agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting includes proposed changes to the city charter which include the removal of the ability to recall City Council members and an increase to the signatures needed for a petition from 4,000 to 8,000.

Vivian Paige has the scoop:

Of particular concern to me is the change in sections 32 and 35, which increases the minimum number of signatures required for petition from 4,000 to 8,000. This unfairly raises the bar on citizen input. One of the largest petition drives ever undertaken by the citizens was that relating to Bay Oaks Park.  That petition garnered 5,376 signatures. More recently, the residents of Highland Park undertook a similar petition, gathering over 5,000 signatures.

The Virginian-Pilot has an article as well:

The ordinance, if approved [by City Council and then] by the General Assembly, would also abolish a provision in the city code that allows voters to recall council members. Instead, the city would follow state recall procedures as most Virginia cities do. Currently, Portsmouth, Hampton and Lynchburg are the only other Virginia localities with recall provisions that allow council members who do not break the law to be recalled.

Both Norfolk’s and the state’s provisions allow residents to challenge a sitting council member by gathering signatures on a petition. However, under the city code, the petition leads to a recall election. If proposed changes are approved, Norfolk citizens could use the petition drive only to ask a Circuit Court judge to remove a council member solely for malfeasance. There would be no recall election.

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