When Stuart Kiehl, who lives in a neighborhood near the homeless encampment on the Joe Rodota Trail, announced plans to mount a recall effort against popular Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, social media and bulletin boards across west county lit up in outrage, with the vast majority of respondents coming to Hopkins’ defense.
“Lynda is great, and your recall is just hindering progress,” Christopher Norberg wrote on Kiehl’s Facebook page.
“Lynda has been one of the best supervisors for that district in years,” Allen Jerabeck wrote in response. “She’s out there on the front lines day after day working her a-- off.”
Kiehl sees thing differently. He feels Hopkins should be recalled because she has failed at what he sees as her primary job: public safety in her jurisdiction, or at least in his corner of her jurisdiction — Roseland near the Joe Rodota Trail.
“She has allowed an invasion and an occupation of our neighborhood,” said Kiehl, speaking of the homeless encampment on the trail.
He detailed the neighborhood’s complaints about the encampment, such as an uptick in crime, an increase in vermin, the visual blight, the health hazards from human waste and needles, and a general sense of being under seige — all of which, he said, was basically ignored by county officials as the encampment grew to historic proportions.
And all of which he seems to lay almost solely at Hopkins’ door.
“She was in charge,” he said. “If she didn’t know what was going on on the trail in her jurisdiction, that’s dereliction of duty. If she knew what was going and let it happen, that’s also dereliction of duty.”
Kiehl, a charter boat captain with a military background, served Hopkins with his letter of intent to pursue a recall petition at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 7.
Hopkins now has seven days to respond in writing. Kiehl’s complaint and Hopkins’ response will share space on the petition.
According to Sonoma County Registrar of Voters Deva Marie Proto, Kiehl has 160 days to gather approximately 8,220 signatures on the recall petition — that’s 15% of the registered voters in the Fifth District. It’s a Herculean task.
Kiehl says he has neither an army of volunteer signature gatherers (yet) or big money behind his recall effort, but he isn’t dissuaded by this.
“I’m just doing it step by step,” he said.
Hopkins couldn’t be reached for comment, but she hit back hard on social media, posting a long response on Facebook.
“I’m struggling not to see this recall effort through a lens of sexism because I spent nearly an hour on the phone with the recall instigator, Mr. Stuart Kiehl, on Friday night. He accused me of being ‘weak.’ He explained to me that politics is about ‘fistfights’ and that I might not be ‘cut out’ for fistfights.”
Kiehl responds that these are not gendered statements, but merely accurate remarks about Hopkins’ job performance.
He accused her of personally attacking him for both his gender and his age — he’s 73.
Meanwhile, supportive posts are piling up on Hopkins’ Facebook page — 530 comments, as of press time — and Kiehl is recieving hate mail and some support, especially from those in neighborhoods along the trail.
“She (Hopkins) and her supporters seem to be inclined to interpret this as something personal against her,” Kiehl wrote to Sonoma West. He said it’s not personal.
It may be geographic and class-based, though.
“It is her ignoring the problem in our area, not hers or her troops’. It is where we live,” Kiehl wrote, suggesting that Hopkins’ main base of support comes from more affluent west county. (River residents may quibble with that description.)
“I asked her a simple question,” Kiehl said. “How far does she live from the nearest homeless encampment? She wouldn’t answer.”
Hopkins, meanwhile, is working on solving the problem on the trail. She is having a neighborhood meeting at the Roseland Library on Friday, Jan. 10, at 6 p.m. She invites residents to come learn about plans to move campers off the trail by the end of the month and to share their questions, concerns and ideas.