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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 24th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 17 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 17

Citizens begin effort to recall Solvang council member

By Zac Ezzone

Less than two years after being elected, Solvang Councilmember Chris Djernaes is facing a citizen-led recall attempt.

Solvang residents recently announced that they’d filed a notice to recall City Councilmember Chris Djernaes.

Lammy Johnstone, who is leading the effort, recently filed a recall notice with the city that states, among other claims, that Djernaes isn’t respectful to residents and disregards the wishes of the voters. 

During the Solvang City Council meeting on June 22, Johnstone said it’d be in the city’s best interest if Djernaes was no longer on the council.

“Chris, if you care about Solvang, if you really care about Solvang, for goodness sake, resign,” Johnstone said. “That would do more to help our city come together than anything else.”

According to state law, in cities with 1,000 to 10,000 registered voters, such as Solvang, at least 25 percent of those registered must sign a petition to place the recall proposition on the November ballot. 

In the event that this effort is successful, at least one resident has already announced plans to take Djernaes’ place on dais. On the SYV Strong Facebook page, former Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Thomas said he is beginning to campaign for the potentially vacant seat.

“I guess this is the trendy way to make an announcement, but I intend to run for Solvang City Councilman Chris Djernaes’ seat should he be recalled,” Thomas said in the post. “As a good friend recently said, ‘We need to maintain the special essence of Solvang.’ I agree and together, we can do that.”

Over the last year and a half, the council has focused on reshaping the city’s economy that relies heavily on tourists. The council has made decisions to try to cater less to the day-trippers who visit Solvang and to attract more of a higher-spending demographic that stays multiple nights in the city’s hotels. 

The council has faced backlash on some of the decisions it’s made or has considered making to begin this transition. During a public meeting in May, many residents voiced opposition to a proposed mixed-use development that would replace the city’s Veterans Memorial Building with hotels, apartments, and businesses. Following outcry from the community at a meeting in May on this topic, the city scheduled a series of public workshops for June 27 where residents can weigh in on these plans.

Djernaes responded to this recall effort at the end of the June 22 meeting by stating that the residents behind this effort have been against him since he announced his candidacy. He said he’s being targeted for campaigning to “clean up corruption and scandal” within the city.

“I made enemies because I campaigned on this, and I led the movement to get rid of four married couples that straddled the council, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Architectural review,” Djernaes said. 

He added that the recall notice amounts to residents perceiving him to be rude.

“Really, that’s all they got?” Djernaes said. 

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