A grassroots effort to recall an Odessa city councilmember continues to gain momentum as the November 21 deadline approaches to file the petition.
“After every city council meeting or after another story comes out in the Odessa American, the number of Facebook followers seem to grow,” said Chris Wray, a local insurance agent and co-founder of the recall effort known as “Drain the Swamp in Odessa.”
The group’s Facebook page, which was launched by Wray and Odessa local Patti Kappauf in September, had 861 followers as of October 31 – almost double the amount it had a month ago.
According to Wray, while there seems to be widespread distaste among community members for how the entire council is conducting itself, the group is currently focusing on circulating a petition to unseat District 3 Councilmember Barbara Graff.
Graff is one of three councilmembers who voted in favor of removing former Odessa City Manager Richard Morton in September. Morton’s removal, along with the removal of Odessa Development Corporation Chairman Jim Breaux early this year, was met with heavy scrutiny from community members as both decisions were made abruptly and with little explanation to the public. An unusual amount of closed-door meetings by councilmembers in 2017 also brought on complaints that they were not being transparent with the community.
While these events, along with others, compelled residents to take matters into their own hands out of a general distrust of city council, Wray and Kappauf have made an effort to set a certain precedent for the campaign.
“We’re not going to make this about political parties or attacking character. It’s about the decisions that have been made and holding our elected officials accountable,” Wray said. “I tried to take the emotion out of it. What’s right is right and what is wrong is wrong.”
According to the city’s charter, once an affidavit seeking the removal of a city council member is filed, petitioners have 30 days to collect 2,000 signatures from registered voters – making the task at hand especially challenging.
“I’m hopeful that we will get the 2,000 signatures. The struggle is finding people who are at home, but when we do get in contact with people they’re very supportive in what we’re doing,” said Wray.
So far, the group has organized numerous planning meetings and block walking rallies, and has set up “signing stations” around District 3 to collect petition signatures – all of which are posted on the campaign’s Facebook page.
“Whether we’re successful or not, I hope this has opened everyone’s eyes up to the importance of being more engaged and educated on who’s in office,” Wray said. “I hope it wakes everybody up and that they take their voting responsibility more seriously. It affects us more than you think.”