On Wednesday, October 9, citizens in Glenwood City, WI presented the city clerk with enough signatures on petitions to trigger three recall elections against local officials for their decisions regarding frac sand mining issues.
But getting here has not been easy.
The atmosphere in Glenwood, much like hundreds of other Wisconsin communities debating the merits of frac sand mining, has boiled over into confrontations.
For instance, on October 1 a Glenwood City man reportedly lit two ends of a recall petition on fire while it was being circulated by a local woman.
Tension is high as Mayor John Larson and city council members Nancy Hover and Dave Graese have been targeted for recalls. The recall group, lead by mothers with children near the proposed frac mine site, claim the stakes for their children are simply too high.
“The council refuses to let us vote,” explains spokeswoman Julie Augesen, mother of 7-year-old twins who attend the school ½ mile from the proposed frac sand mine. ”That’s why we are recalling.”
In an October 9 press release by the group Glenwood City Citizens for Legal & Ethical Representation, Sunny DeYoung, a local resident whose property would be directly affected by the mine stated, “When this mayor and council were asked to allow the community a voice in whether an industrial sand mine was to be allowed right next to our school, they would not allow us to vote. We need people in positions of responsibility who will look to our best interests, not the interests of an out-of-state mining company.”
In a state that is recall weary, it was not their first choice for a course of action.
On August 12, local citizens first sought a referendum vote on frac sand. Former high school Principal Julian Bender presented the city council with a referendum petition signed by over 50% of registered voters requesting a vote prior to a land annexation of a proposed frac sand mining.
In a move that many see as “the last straw” on September 9, the Glenwood City council tabled a motion to discuss a referendum that would have given citizens that right. Instead of discussing the referendum, the council chose to enter into a closed-session meeting with TX company Vista Sand the following week.
Council member Crystal Booth chose not to attend the closed-session meeting with Vista Sand, exiting shortly after citizens were required to leave.
Booth has taken heat from some locals and singled out by her local newspaper for her choice to opt out of the meeting with Vista.
Booth defended her actions in an open letter to Glenwood City’s Tribune Press Reporter. She said she is troubled by legal and transparency issues, claiming that much of the information “shouldn’t be secret.” In Booth’s letter she also disclosed that Vista Sand sought a private audience with her on at least one occasion prior to the closed session meeting with the general city council. “I also had another opportunity to talk with Vista Sands when they invited me out for coffee for a private chat, but I declined because I was uncertain of the legality of it.”
Mayor John Larson has publicly denied that any private meetings have taken place with sand company Vista Sand.
These are some of the dynamics that led a group of concerned citizens to organize a recall, which led to the incident of the burnt petition.
On October 2, Julie Augesen helped file a complaint with Glenwood City Police Chief Bob Darwin. Augesen explained that a woman who was circulating a recall petition was standing on a man’s doorstep with a petition containing nine names and signatures of area residents. The man allegedly “lit two ends of the petition with his cigarette lighter.”
“She was scared, dropped the petition, and walked away,” said Augesen who added that the man continued to yell at the woman as she walked away, “Glenwood has no jobs” and claiming that the recall effort “is not fair.”
The woman returned to the scene with others, careful to remain on the public sidewalk, and snapped photos of the petition still laying in the man’s yard.
Chief Darwin was able to retrieve the burnt petition from the man’s yard.
The women then returned to the nine homes to re-collect the signatures ruined on the burnt petition.
Calls about the incident to the St. Croix County’s District Attorney’s office have not been returned.
According to the Pioneer Press, the city has 31 days to determine if the petitions have enough valid signatures. A recall election could then be held about six weeks later.
Despite the burnt petition, Augesen says that her group’s resolve is firm and that protecting their children from the hazards of frac sand mining is paramount.
Augesen said, “When you mess with moms, this is what you get.”
WIvoices.org has been closely following this story:
The Huffington Post report on Glenwood City frac sand
Want More Information? See WIvoices.org’s Reference Document
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