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Recall petition against MWC mayor gains momentum

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Unions have 90 percent of signatures required for new election

MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – Police and fire unions have collected more than 90 percent of the required signatures needed for a recall election of Mayor Dee Collins.

“Right now, we have 395 signatures that have been notarized,” said Midwest City firefighters union President Doug Beabout. “We still have 70 copies of the petition out there that need to be notarized and each page has 20 signatures on it. We’re moving forward with the recall. By next week, we’ll be able to turn in all the petitions.”

Beabout said he expects the city’s public safety unions will collect about 600 signatures by next week.

The recall effort was initiated by the unions because of Collins’ lack of support for the fire and police departments. Ironically, Collins spent 30 years with the Midwest City Police Department before retiring.

Midwest City’s charter requires 433 valid signatures, which equals 35 percent of the total votes cast in the last mayoral election, before a recall election can be authorized by the city council. An election would likely be held at the same time as the municipal elections on Feb. 9.

Collins did not return a telephone call for comment.

Beabout claims public support favors a recall election.

“Ninety seven percent of the people we engage sign the petition and about 80 percent of those people aren’t asking any questions,” he said. “Those who do ask questions are signing the petition within about two minutes of us explaining the situation.”

As expected, scattered opposition to the recall effort has surfaced, but union reps aren’t concerned.

“Some people ask if this is for a raise for firefighters. In no way does this recall have anything to do with a raise or personal financial gain of a firefighter,” Beabout said. “This is about public safety and the city’s effort to reduce our ability to protect the citizens.”

In September, the city council attempted to close Fire Station No. 6, the newest in the city, but changed their minds after tremendous public outcry against the proposal. City officials, including City Manager Guy Henson, decided not to hire firefighters for five open positions, leaving firefighters without a full staff on all shifts.

Beabout also claims the city council is putting money into their wants and not basic services, noting $1.5 million will be spent on a plan to redevelop the city’s Original Mile, an area that was built when Midwest City was founded.

“In the same year they’re trying to close a fire station and not fill positions and supposedly there’s a flat budget, our city is spending more than a million dollars to begin implementing the Original Mile plan. This same money could be used for basic essential services,” he said. “We need city leadership that has their priorities straight. They need to take of the needs before they go diving off into their wants. Getting the priorities straight and having solid leadership at the mayor’s position is the reason for this recall petition.”

The public safety unions have received some negative feedback, but it pales in comparison to the number of residents who show support, Beabout said.

“We’ve had a few snide comments as people walk by.  One man muttered that unions are the scum of the earth and we had an odd encounter with Jim Ray, the current Ward 4 councilman. He walked by and said we are horrible people and would lose,” the union rep said. “There are 56,000 people in this city and only a handful has said anything negative. We don’t live in a fantasy world. We know not everyone is going to support what we do, but it’s a small percentage that has been verbally hostile.”

A recall election would likely pit Collins against potential challengers, but so far no one has publicly announced their intentions to seek the mayor’s seat.

“If he (Collins) won, then the people have spoken,” Beabout said. “We would just have to live with that and do more with less.”

Still, Beabout contends city officials are disseminating misinformation to the public.

“They reduce the number of firefighters, they take a truck out of service and then tell residents there will be no reduction in service. That can’t be. Service would be affected,” he said.

Meanwhile, Archie Houston, president of the Midwest City Fraternal Order of Police, said manpower is a constant issue with officers.

“We have fewer officers now than before all of those businesses on SE 29th came in. We’ve added all these businesses and now traffic has increased and calls for service are up. With that kind of development, calls will go up, not down,” he said.

One store alone, Houston said, generated 94 arrests in one month.

“That requires a lot of time by officers,” he said.

While the police budget has not increased, the city has purchased new equipment including car cameras, computers and body cams.

“Grants help some but maintenance costs are not included in that. We should be going forward, not backward,” Houston said.

Police and fire union reps announced earlier this month that the full union membership issued a no-confidence vote in the mayor and city manager.

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Tim Farley

Tim Farley is an award-winning journalist with more than 30 years of experience, including...

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