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Recall effort planned to oust Victoria mayor

By DAVID TEWES
Oct. 13, 2010 at 5:13 a.m.

Heiling

WHAT HE NEEDSThe city charter states that a recall election petition must be signed by at least 10 percent of the qualified voters in Victoria.

Anyone wanting to help with the petition drive may call Robert Heiling at 361-575-8563.

A Victoria man said the city lacks leadership and he's preparing to launch a drive to recall Mayor Will Armstrong.

"I'm passionate about those people who are being ignored," said Robert Heiling, who is planning the petition drive. "I'm passionate about Victoria."

The 55-year-old retail salesman said he has no vendetta, and he doesn't even know Armstrong. But he said he would run for mayor if he is successful in unseating Armstrong.

"If he's successful in getting me out of office, he would be a pretty formidable opponent," Armstrong said. "There have been others who have disagreed with me, and as U.S. citizens, they're certainly within their rights."

Heiling said he is researching what it will take to conduct a legal recall election petition drive, and he thinks he should be ready no later than mid-November to begin collecting signatures.

He said the effort will include stations where people can stop by and sign the petitions and a door-to-door effort. Heiling said he thinks he will need about 3,500 signatures and an election could be conducted as early at May.

It might cost taxpayers as much as $30,000 to conduct the election because the city has no election scheduled for 2011. But he said that would still be cheaper than the city proceeding with plans to pay the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau $750,000 to conduct a "Bring Your Boot" promotion.

He said he opposes that plan and he would like to work with the chamber of commerce to come up with a marketing plan to truly reflect the city's history.

Heiling said several issues have prompted his action. He said those include the city's decision to withdraw from a plan to help fund overpasses on Zac Lentz Parkway and its indecision on the hike-and-bike trail crossing at John Stockbauer Drive, both of which he considers safety issues.

He said he would like to see downtown Victoria revitalized as much as anyone, but the city needs to be more judicious in when and how much money it spends for that.

Heiling said he would also hold the staff more accountable in answering council questions about spending tax dollars. He said too many times the staff gives estimated figures, and he wants more precise numbers.

He said he would also freeze all expenditures until they could be reviewed based on the community's values and he'd seek more public input on changes needed for the city charter and ordinances.

"Our budget is out of control, and there's been poor planning," Heiling said. Armstrong was just re-elected to office in May, and Heiling said he can't wait until May 2013 to get new council leadership, which is why he's pushing for the recall.

"It's time to take the head off the snake, and then you can work with what's left," he said.

This would be at least the third threat to recall Armstrong, and the previous two efforts never resulted in an election.

Armstrong said as far as he knows, Heiling has never attended a council meeting.

"I think he would better understand my position and the council's position if he had been a longtime attender of our meetings," Armstrong said.

The mayor said Heiling did call him to complain about the city budget and the convention and visitors bureau. Despite a lengthy discussion, they were unable to agree on the issues.

"He claimed in the newspaper I was rude," Armstrong said. "He's probably right because I can be provoked into being rude."

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