At 58 years old, Jim Daniels had never gotten involved in politics. He had never registered to vote, believing the process and the people were all corrupt.
Until recently. Until the possibility materialized that a Wal Mart might be built on the edge of downtown Athens.
Daniels joined a movement in town to recall Mayor Nancy Denson for her role in dealing with Selig Enterprises, the company that wants a 94,000 square foot Wal Mart to anchor its development on Oconee Street.
The petition reads as follows:
"Mayor Denson has engaged in confidential negotiations with a private developer (Selig Enterprises) regarding a parcel of land that was under study by a publicly funded organization (Athens-Clarke County Economic Development Foundation) for inclusion in a public project. The Mayor withheld important information regarding said massive private development initiatives from fellow elected officials, planning staff members, Economic Development Foundation members, and the general public. The Mayor's actions exhibit clear favoritism for a particular private corporation and intentional subversion of public interests. These actions constitute violations of the Georgia Code of Ethics for Government Service, items IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, and IX."
The first step in the recall for the anti-Denson group is to file a petition, by Monday, with the names of 100 registered voters who live in Athens Clarke County. These are considered sponsors for the measure.
“I'm not anti development,” said Daniels in an email. “I just think we can do much better than a Wal Mart full of products made in China on the edge of downtown Athens.”
According to Board of Elections supervisor Gail Shrader, the deadline for the petition is the 18th, 15 days after they started the process. This will mean Monday is the deadline.
After the names are submitted, the Board of Elections will verify the names and approve them. Next, the anti-Densonites will get petition forms and collect about 17,000 signatures of registered voters who were qualified to vote in last fall’s election. They will have 45 days to gather the names.
“We have to verify signatures and names,” Schrader said.
Mayor Denson has four days to appeal the grounds of the petition to a Clarke County Superior Court judge. If the judge rules the grounds are sufficient, then there would be a public election in which the voters would be asked if the mayor should be recalled. If yes, then there would be an election.
It's a complicated and carefully measured process. But Schrader said that who knows? There could be a mayoral election by, say, November. Or everything may end next week.