Former Grand County Council member Chris Baird, who is running for a seat on the council this fall, drafted a petition that asks Grand County Clerk Diana Carroll to place a recall advisory question on this November’s election ballots.
In order to make it on to the ballot, Carroll’s office must certify at least 580 valid signatures — and perhaps as many as 595 signatures — by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 2, she said.
San Juan County resident Kiley Miller is one of an unknown number of people who are circulating the petitions. As she visits people’s homes and businesses, she keeps hearing the same thing over and over again, she said.
“Lynn Jackson has betrayed the public trust [and] abused his position as our representative,” she said.
In particular, Miller said that she and others believe that Jackson has limited the public’s involvement at county council meetings — a concern that local resident Bill Love shares.
“Lynn Jackson has tried every way possible to discourage the public from making comments on county issues,” Love told The Times-Independent.
Miller believes that Jackson hasn’t been forthright about his closed-door meetings with proponents of a seven-county economic development and infrastructure coalition. Nor does he want to share his agenda with the public, she said.
“People are very concerned because they feel that their welfare [and] economic investments are being threatened by his shortsightedness,” she said.
Jackson counters that his critics are speaking for a small number of people who don’t share his views on some issues.
“What they’re really saying is I’m not listening to them,” he said.
While he acknowledges that they represent a “sizable minority” of county residents, Jackson said he is standing up for many others in the community.
“There’s a whole ’nother group out there — perhaps just as many people, and maybe more — that I do speak for,” he said.
He believes his critics and political opponents are narrowing their focus on a few issues, instead of looking at his overall record.
Jackson, a former U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employee, has made no secret of his belief that the county needs to find a balance between conservation and natural resource development.
He points out that he has consistently said that energy development can help diversify the county’s economy beyond the tourist sector. But he’s been just as consistent in his support for proposals that would ask Congress to create more wilderness in Grand County.
Likewise, he noted that he has repeatedly — and publicly — voiced his support for greater protections of the La Sal Mountains watershed, as well as the area’s rivers.
Other council members have been less receptive to some of those proposals, but Jackson said he has no control over how they might vote.
However, local resident Sue deVall believes that Jackson is pursuing an agenda that is limited to his own interests, and she said that’s why she signed the petition to get the recall question on the ballot.
“Jackson has demonstrated a refusal to listen to any ideas that do not agree with his own,” deVall told The Times-Independent.
Miller said Jackson demonstrated as much during an Aug. 5 county council meeting, when he initially said he would not allow audience members to comment on the seven-county coalition proposal. Jackson relented after Grand County Council vice chairwoman Elizabeth Tubbs urged him to open the item up to public comment.
Miller agrees that Jackson struck a more conciliatory tone at the following council meeting, when he said that everyone — including himself — should try to be more respectful of others.
“But it doesn’t change the fact that he has been trying to quell the public’s voice,” Miller said.
“It hasn’t been the only meeting where he’s been hostile or hasn’t wanted to hear the public,” she added.
Jackson told The Times-Independent that his move to limit public comment that afternoon was a “huge blunder.”
“It was a mistake on my part,” he said. “I’m not perfect.”
Jackson suggested that he would have likely opened the discussion to public comment once the council had a chance to weigh in on the proposal. In hindsight, however, that was not the right approach to take, he said:
“I should have just let them get up and have their say.”
However, he defends his decision to call Grand County Sheriff’s deputies to the council’s chambers that afternoon, as tempers in the room flared.
Jackson said he made the decision because he noticed that one unfamiliar person in the audience appeared to be wearing a knife sheath around one of his legs. He wasn’t sure if the man was actually carrying a knife, he said, but he didn’t want to take any chances.
“I didn’t know what this kid was capable of,” he said. “I felt physically threatened.”
Both Miller and Love, however, see the deputies’ presence in the room as a form of intimidation.
Love has been attending council meetings off and on for the last 18 years, and during that time, he’s only seen sheriff’s deputies on three occasions, he said. Jackson presided over two of those three meetings, according to Love.
“He is using the [Grand County] Sheriff’s Office to intimidate the citizens of Grand County who want to speak at meetings,” Love said.
Jackson said he deserves some of the criticism that has come his way. But he said he wishes the comments weren’t so “personal,” “mean” and “hateful.”
“In a town this small, your family tends to get caught up in this, too,” Jackson said.
His daughter, Andrea Jackson, said she’s tried to separate herself from Moab’s small-town politics. But the self-described liberal environmentalist said she just can’t do it anymore, she said.
“I feel like it has become a personal attack more than it has a critique on how he has chosen to represent himself,” she said.
In the long run, Lynn Jackson said he hopes that everyone will make more of an effort to be respectful toward each other.
“We all live here, we all love this area and we all want to see what we believe is best for our area,” he said. “Let’s get on with it.”
However, Jackson said he won’t back down.
If the recall measure makes it on to the ballot, Jackson said he will fight to serve out the remainder of his term. If need be, he said, he’ll run again for another seat on the council.