Recall election for Grants Pass Mayor Sara Bristol set for September 12th

GRANTS PASS, Ore. – An election to recall Grants Pass Mayor Sara Bristol is underway.

“We want leadership that actually controls and enforces the rules of all our parks,” Josephine County resident Bryan Welden said.

Welden is part of a grassroots effort to collect signatures to recall Mayor Bristol.

4,300 signatures were turned into the county clerk with 2,700 verified. 

It was enough to trigger a recall election on September 12.

The reason for the recall?

The homeless issues in the city parks.

“It has been a growing situation for the past three years, so I‘ve heard about it in a lot of different ways,” Grants Pass Mayor Sara Bristol said. “There’s not a single day that goes by that we’re not thinking about this situation.”

In 2018, a homeless woman filed a lawsuit against Grants Pass regarding the city’s anti-camping ordinance.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the woman, saying cities do violate the Eighth Amendment if they punish a person for sleeping outside.

The court also denied the city’s request for a rehearing earlier this year, with the case possibly headed to the Supreme Court.

Despite an injunction not allowing the city to remove homeless people from sleeping in parks, Welden and others believe Bristol isn’t doing enough.

“She’s not telling us the entire truth,” he said. “There are many other places inside Grants Pass that would be within those guidelines of the injunction for these homeless people to go live. And we could actually have our parks back.”

Bristol said her hands are tied.

“I think the public has a misunderstanding about what the mayor’s role is,” she said. “I think it’s important to note here in Grants Pass the city council is the legislative body and they’re able to establish policy and vote, and the mayor only votes to break a tie. But I can’t bring about the change people are wanting.”

In June, Grants Pass city council implemented a new ordinance called ‘buffer zones’ to limit where the homeless can use tents in city parks.

Weldon believes although it’s helped, those he’s talked to said Bristol is still to blame for the park issues.

“Sara cares more about enabling the homeless with nonprofit groups, feeding them and providing them with everything they need, then they do about listening to the citizens that pay for the parks,” he said.

The Josephine County Republican Party wrote a letter to Bristol.

It stated the party did not initiate the recall effort, nor is it a political issue.

That’s despite the petition requesting the recall stating Bristol “does not represent the conservative principals of the majority of her constituents.”

In the letter, the Republican Party requested she resign as mayor.

But Bristol said it’s not happening.

“I‘m supposed to represent the city as a whole, not just as a small group of people, so I‘m trying my best to do that,” she said. “I’m definitely not resigning. I was elected by the people here in Grants Pass and I understand that people have signed this petition and I do take that seriously but I think we need to see what all people have to say and not just a small number.”

Bristol said ballots will be sent out in the next 10 days.

It’s important to note, Bristol beat three other candidates for mayor in 2020, taking almost 47% of the vote.

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NBC5 News reporter Zachary Larsen grew up in Surprise, Arizona. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. At ASU, Zack interned at Arizona Sports 98.7FM and Softball America. During his Junior year, Zack joined the ASU Sports Bureau. He covered the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix Open and major basketball tournaments. Zack enjoys working out, creative writing, music, and rooting for his ASU Sun Devils.
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