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Three Cottage Grove City Councilors facing recall

Cottage Grove Council Members Alex Dreher, left, Chalice Savage, center, and Mike Fleck, right, are facing a recall election this month.
City of Cottage Grove
Cottage Grove Council Members Alex Dreher, left, Chalice Savage, center, and Mike Fleck, right, are facing a recall election this month.

Voters in Cottage Grove will decide this month whether to recall three City Council members.

This is the second attempt in less than a year to recall a significant portion of the Cottage Grove City Council. The previous effort failed when petitioners failed to turn in enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

This time around, petitioners were able to gather enough signatures, triggering a recall election on July 30.

In the election filings, chief petitioner Michael Borke argued the council has let the homeless take over public spaces and has done a poor job managing city finances.

“This has resulted in an influx of homeless people into our community and with it, more concerns for rampant drug use, personal safety, sanitation issues, and crime,” he wrote.

Chalice Savage, one of the council members up for recall, said Cottage Grove followed state law and federal court rulings - which required them to offer a place for people to go before penalizing them.

"It's been hard for us to do that. We just don't have the funds for it,” she said. “We've been trying to make noise at all the different levels. This is an unfunded mandate."

Council Member Mike Fleck, who is also up for recall, said he is concerned the effort is undemocratic. Turnout is typically far lower in special elections, which could mean a sliver of the electorate could remake the city council.

“The recall is supposed to be used when someone has done something wrong, corrupt or inept,” he said. “That’s not the case (here).”

His concerns were echoed by the third council member named in the recall, Alex Dreher, who in an email to KLCC described it as “bullying.”

“This reckless recall diverts our time and energy,” she said. “Trust me, if resigning would do anything to address homelessness in our community, all three of us would do it in a heartbeat. But that is just a gross oversimplification of the nationwide crisis.”

In an interview with KLCC, Borke said the recall came after he repeatedly asked for the city council to address problems caused by encampments of unhoused people.

"They all blame it on that bill that was passed, which I understand," he said. "But, they need to have some rules."

He said the camps have caused an increase of crime and hygiene issues in his neighborhood.

"They have done nothing but create a situation that has brought more unhoused people into our community," he said.

Ballots will go out Thursday for the July 30 election, according to the Lane County Elections Office.

This story was updated on July 9 to include comment from Michael Borke.

Rebecca Hansen-White joined the KLCC News Department in November, 2023. Her journalism career has included stops at Spokane Public Radio, The Spokesman-Review, and The Columbia Basin Herald.
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