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Cost of school board recall worth the price

You can debate the merits of this recall... but not the cost.

Coming off a summer of brutal budget cuts, and in a week with more grim economic news at the Forest Grove School District, you'd think we'd be applauding an idea that could save the district thousands of dollars.

Sorry. This is a case where money really is no object.

This week, county elections officials determined that enough signatures were gathered for a Nov. 1 recall vote on two members of the Forest Grove School Board.

As we've previously made clear, we don't support the recall of Terry Howell and Anna Tavera-Weller, but we give the organizers credit for running a smart, amicable petition drive and say, 'Let the votes fall where they may.'

The problem, as some see it, is that the election (depending on when it's held) could cost the district up to $30,000.

That figure caused Tavera-Weller to privately suggest that she and Howell could step down to save the district the election costs.

That sentiment, while understandable, is misguided, as is the recent call from recall organizers making the same case.

In a letter to the News-Times, which arrived after our deadline, petition organizer Jason Giddings wrote:

'Considering the high likelihood that the board members will be recalled in a simple majority vote, the choice to incur further monetary expense to the district now falls squarely on their shoulders. If Tavera-Weller and Howell are truly concerned about the additional cost, they should resign their positions.'

We strongly disagree.

You can debate the merits of this recall, but in our view, the cost isn't part of the discussion.

Giddings and others who pushed the recall shouldn't be criticized for forcing the election expenses on the district. And those who are targeted shouldn't face any financial pressure to step down.

The ability to recall elected officials is one of several 'direct democracy' reforms (along with citizens' ability to refer and propose legislation directly to voters) aimed at providing a check on elected officials.

Adopted in Oregon in 1908, the recall is, perhaps, the most powerful of the reforms (which explains why many of our Founding Fathers opposed it), enabling voters to remove people from office before their terms expire.

It's not easy to force a recall, and the organizers of this one met the requirements. To us, that's an indication that others share their concerns about the school board. Now, Howell and Tavera-Weller have the chance to make their case.

We know it's not fun for either of them. But allowing the public to have a say in its governance is a messy, ineffective and, at times, expensive proposition. As Winston Churchill famously summed it up: 'Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.'

So, let's give this recall a try. Regardless of the cost.