SOMERSET -- Aug. 20, 2019 may come to be a date Village of Somerset residents revere or regret depending on what happens in a recall election scheduled for Jan. 7, 2020.
An ordinance amending sections 7-10-1(a), 7-10-1(c)(1), and 12-1-1(b) of the Village Code was perceived by a number of business owners and residents as an effort to shut down two of four local tubing businesses, an industry with a long and contentious history.
The ordinance, approved unanimously by village trustees Aug. 20 meeting, would prevent people tubing on the Apple River from exiting the river at Village Park.
The new ordinance was the fuse that ignited the We Are Somerset / Somerset Strong movement.
“Following a heated confrontation with trustees over an ordinance designed to prevent people tubing on the Apple River from exiting the river at Village Park, angry residents regrouped and formed a new grassroots organization whose first goal is to recall and unseat half the trustees on the Village Board," the paper reported from that historic night.
On Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019, We Are Somerset held its inaugural meeting at Steve Kaufman’s River’s Edge Event Center.
Advisory Board member Scott Gates created the Facebook page WeAreSomerset and was the first to address the audience:
“What I tried to do with this is create a new town square. It’s a place where the community can get its voice back, to have its voice and to use that voice to take back control of the community so the village becomes responsive to the community’s wishes.”
Roughly 150 people attended the meeting to consider a mission statement, listen to recall candidates and participate in an open forum in which community members were invited to share their views and concerns.
Following a dedicated effort by members of We Are Somerset, the group filed three recall petitions with the required 220 signatures each with the Village Clerk's Office. The clerk certified the petitions on Nov. 26, 2019.
At a special board meeting Dec. 5, trustees set the recall election for Jan. 7, 2020.
According to the We Are Somerset website, as of Dec. 12, candidates Brandon Koziol, Chris Moreno, and Julie Lange have emerged to contest the seats held by Trustees Bartt Palmer, Ken Putz and James Chandler.
Back in September, We Are Somerset reported it had recruited 1,887 members on its Facebook page. Of that group, 815 are Somerset residents, 289 reside in New Richmond and the balance reside in surrounding communities.
The measure of residents’ discontent or of We Are Somerset’s conviction will be revealed Jan. 7, 2020 when the community learns if they have the votes to start enacting the change some people desire.