(New Buffalo, MI) - More than enough signatures to have a recall election in New Buffalo have been submitted to the Berrien County Clerk's office. The signatures presented on August 5 still have to be verified before a recall election in November can be officially authorized.
Two hundred ninety-four signatures in favor of recalling Mayor John Humphrey and 271 signatures supporting city councilman Brian Flanagan were obtained on petitions seeking their ouster halfway through their four-year terms. Two hundred nineteen signatures from people verified as registered voters in the city are required for a recall election to occur.
“The people spoke. They don’t want Humphrey and Flanagan in office anymore,” said local realtor Carie O’Donnell, who helped collect the signatures.
O'Donnell said two people, whose names she would not disclose, are committed to running against Humphrey and Flanagan if the required number of verified signatures on the petitions are certified.
The petitions seek a recall of Humphrey and Flanagan over their support last year of capping the number of short rentals in the city. Another petition seeks to recall Humphrey's alleged request for police to remove O'Donnell from a public meeting.
O'Donnell, along with Michael Davis and several other individuals, obtained the signatures.
Humphrey and Flanagan, along with Roger Lijewski campaigning on restricting short-term rentals, easily defeated their opponents in the 2020 election.
O'Donnell said she's optimistic Humphrey and Flanagan will be defeated in a recall election. She believes residents are upset not just about the cap on short-term rentals but other issues such as too many streets and sidewalks still needing repair and the number of lawsuits filed against the city.
O'Donnell alleges that Humphrey, in particular, has offended many residents with his conduct that she describes as intimidating and condescending.
“For me, this is about a bully sitting in office. He thinks he’s smarter than the city attorney,” O’Donnell said.
Critics of Humphrey also claim he unfairly blames short-term rentals for everything wrong in the city, including the lack of downtown parking and affordable housing, along with the decline in the number of full-time residents.
“I feel as if the whole short rental thing is being used as a smoke screen in a sense not to deal with the other things that are at hand like the important issues that count,” Davis said.
O'Donnell also said Flanagan is a "rubber stamp" for Humphrey on a council she believes should be more effective and receptive to listening to the public.
Davis said the cap on short-term rentals, believed to be a way of achieving a more year-round economy, will hurt the city more by discouraging tourism, the city's primary economic engine.
“We need a talent pool that truly knows how to move a city forward,” Davis said.