Past Treasure of the Month – July 2018

Galveston’s July 1987 Recall Vote
'C.A.R.E. (Citizens Against the Recall Election)' fully supported the work of the mayor and city council in 1987. The group placed signs like these throughout the city.

“C.A.R.E. (Citizens Against the Recall Election)” fully supported the work of the mayor and city council in 1987. The group placed signs like these throughout the city.

During the month of July, Rosenberg Library exhibited two political signs from the recall vote which took place in Galveston in July 1987. The signs were collected and donated to the Library by Lise Darst.

In the spring of 1987, a group of Galveston residents organized a committee, “We the People,” in reaction to the city’s adoption of a new trolley car system. These individuals contended that the trolley primarily benefited tourists, not tax-paying residents. Further, they questioned the decision to focus on the trolley project rather than hiring additional police officers and improving local roads. “We the People” created a petition to recall the Mayor of Galveston (Jan Coggeshall) and four members of the City Council (Barbara Crews, Steve Greenberg, Sonny Nelson, and John Sullivan). The group successfully secured enough signatures to schedule a formal vote in which citizens could cast their ballots for or against removing the mayor and council members from office, each on an individual basis.

'We the People' urged Galveston residents to recall the mayor and council members. An example of one of their signs is shown here.

“We the People” urged Galveston residents to recall the mayor and council members. An example of one of their signs is shown here.

An opposing group, “C.A.R.E.” (Citizens Against the Recall Election), urged Galveston residents to go to the polls to vote against recalling any of the city’s leaders. “C.A.R.E.” argued that citizens had not spoken out against the trolley project when it was first proposed, and that the city leaders were justified in moving forward with a project that had initially been supported by residents. They were also concerned with the costs and disruption associated with a recall vote.

The recall vote was held on July 11, 1987. More than 8,600 residents showed up to the polls to cast their votes for or against recalling the mayor and individual council members. In the end, all five city leaders retained their positions, as the majority of voters opposed their removal from office.

The Galveston recall vote of 1987 garnered national attention, with both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times covering the local story.