Organizers optimistic about effort to recall Oakville councilman


Photo by Gloria Lloyd

Roughly 20 members of south county Republican groups waved signs in a show of support for 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville, at the intersection of South Lindbergh Boulevard and Tesson Ferry Road in 2017. Trakas himself made an appearance at the event with signs against a city-county merger. The councilman is pictured alongside supporter Paul Alvino of Oakville, right. Photo by Gloria Lloyd.

By Gloria Lloyd
Staff Reporter

Organizers of the campaign to recall 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville, say their signature drive is going so well that they believe they will collect enough signatures to spur an election on whether to recall the councilman.
“This is going to be on the ballot,” said Garrett Webb, an organizer with the Voices of District 6 political-action committee that has been working since July to place a recall petition on the ballot. “What ballot? This will be on a ballot very soon.”
Taking advantage of the better weather in late summer and early fall, Voices of District 6 has been busy with its petition drive at grocery stores, shops and strip malls throughout south county, campaign Treasurer Cameron Hartman said.
“We’re working the whole district, and the numbers are in the thousands,” said Hartman, who lives in Lemay. “This guy’s got to go — we’re going to do this till it’s done. People are actually standing in line waiting to sign these petitions, I’ve seen that myself.”
The group has to collect more than 14,000 signatures of registered 6th District voters to spur a recall election in which voters would decide whether or not to keep Trakas in office. The group is aiming to collect many more signatures, however, as it’s typical for signatures in a petition drive to be ruled invalid.
Trakas was elected last November and took office for a four-year term Jan. 1.
Under the county Charter, a recall election would have to take place between 30 and 90 days after a recall petition is filed, with a special election called if a primary or general election is not set during that time frame.
But Trakas doesn’t see that happening.
“My personal feeling is no, they won’t be successful,” Trakas said. “I just don’t think they will be.”
And if the petitioners do gather enough signatures to trigger a recall election, Trakas is philosophical about how he will approach their attempt to yank him from office.
“I think it’ll just be another election, and I’ll just have another chance to vote,” he said.
The PAC lists its primary reasons for opposing Trakas on its website, including allegations that he is wasting taxpayer money, preventing job growth, blocking good government and citizen involvement, and “brought Washington, D.C. obstructionism to St. Louis County.”
One of the group’s initial reasons for opposing Trakas was his effort to block McManus Construction’s move from Affton to the former Tee Time Family Fun Center in Oakville. But after delaying the rezoning for the company since March, Trakas agreed to an amended petition for rezoning in August.
Voices of District 6 organizers declined to tell the Call who or what is backing them, and said details would be revealed in the PAC’s first quarterly report, which is due Oct. 16. The full-time petitioners working on the campaign are funded by donations, which the PAC is actively seeking out, Hartman said.
“I know it’s going on and they’re being paid to do it, and I suppose that begs the question, who’s paying them? Where’s the money coming from?” Trakas said. “That should concern you and every one of your readers.”
Just like voters nationwide who choose not to accept the results of last fall’s election of President Donald Trump, Trakas said there are some people in the district who refuse to accept that he won last November. Just like those groups, they are working to undermine his tenure as councilman, he said.
“We’re at a place where people who don’t want to accept an election believe they should do everything to compromise the results,” Trakas said. “If you really oppose a candidate who has won, I think the proper thing to do is work to defeat that candidate in the next election. With respect to this election, the people have spoken.”
Voices of District 6 lists two permanent petition sites on its website, including the former Tee Time, now the new McManus headquarters on Lemay Ferry Road.
“It’s no secret who is the face of it,” Trakas said. “You have disgruntled people who didn’t get their way. And so let’s see what we can do, let’s compromise effectiveness, let’s see if we can remove the candidate that the people elected.”
Roughly two dozen members of Republican clubs in south county stood at the corner of Lindbergh and Tesson Ferry in August to wave signs in support of Trakas. Organizer Teresa Douglas of the Concord-Lemay GOP said, “I don’t want to leave anybody with the impression that Republicans don’t support Ernie. We fought hard to get him elected, and we want to keep him there.”
Former Republican election judge Hartman, who now calls himself an independent, also voted for Trakas. But his hope with the recall campaign is to “push the reset button on the election.”
The councilman disappointed Hartman soon after he took office when Trakas took a series of what Hartman sees as very confusing stances on the Great Rivers Greenway trail project in Cliff Cave Park in Oakville. Trakas halted construction of the trail, then said he supported it, then gave an ultimatum it could only go forward if the trail district built a pedestrian bridge over Telegraph Road. Finally, County Executive Steve Stenger went around Trakas to move forward with the trail.
“He almost wrecked $5 million worth of investment for south county,” Hartman said. “We need those things here. But Ernie is about obstruction.”
The petitioners’ biggest selling point so far is Trakas’ own actions, Hartman said. Signatures ramp up every time Trakas involves himself in another council issue.
Recent issues popular with those signing the petition have been Trakas’ support of the hiring of county Auditor Mark Tucker and the council’s recent resolution to stop construction of a new St. Louis Blues practice facility and ice arena in Creve Coeur Park, Hartman said. Stenger contends that Tucker is unqualified for the job and that the Creve Coeur ice arena, like the Cliff Cave trail, would bring in outside investment into a county park at no cost to taxpayers.
“Especially in the business community, we want to bring investment in and drive drugs and crime out,” Hartman said. “Obviously, I don’t think Ernie’s that guy.”
While Trakas has his share of supporters, those who don’t support him have shown their support for the signature drive in surprising ways, Hartman said. Petitioners going door-to-door on Labor Day were welcomed onto people’s back patios for barbecues when residents found out they were gathering signatures against Trakas.
“People are just tired of him obstructing county business,” Hartman said. “That’s a districtwide sentiment. People just don’t feel they’re being heard. That’s why we’re called the ‘Voices of District 6.’”