Petition Circulates to Unseat Garland Council Member After Controversial Demolition

It’s the latest chapter in a drama that’s been swirling in Garland since the city council approved the demolition of a long standing armory in a 6-2 vote last month.

More than two weeks after Mayor Douglas Athas announced he’d resign in response to that decision, a petition has started circulating for the recall of Councilwoman Anita Goebel.

“Our petition is asking to unseat Anita Goebel and open up an election for a city council representative who will represent the district and the citizens here,” said organizer Deborah Morris.

Morris and a handful of neighbors started that petition. Saturday they had 16 volunteers circulating it door to door across their district.

“The only way to stop a city council who’s kind of gone off into the direction of doing what this one’s doing is a citizen recall district by district, which is why we’re starting here because this is ground zero,” said Morris.

Morris and others believe their petition will inspire similar moves in other districts.

Athas, who says his resignation will take place sometime early next year before a May election, expects it will.

“We’ll have all new elected officials next year. That’s my prediction, and it’s almost 100 percent sure,” said Athas.

Those opposed said they’re upset demolition took place almost immediately after the vote. They said there was no notice.

“There’s a lot of hurt feelings here. I’m hurt seeing a history landmark torn down,” said Nolan C. Blount.

Some living nearby were hoping the armory, which has sat vacant for several years, would be turned into a proposed makers’ space where the community could gather to create. However, it was unanimously supported.

“I always felt that as long as that building remained, they were going to try to figure out a way to go ahead with the makers’ space concept. And as I said, I’m the first one who would use a makers’ space. Just not at that location where you’re pinned up against two neighborhoods and up against a park,” said Eric Stuyvesant.

Stuyvesant is not among the 200 signatures collected so far to recall Goebel.

“I believe right now emotions are running high. In talking to the city manager, Mrs. Goebel has always been very committed to serving the citizenry, almost to a laser point,” said Stuyvesant.

While some focus on changing their elected officials, Stuyvesant said neighbors need to come together, especially after a Saturday morning meeting ended abruptly when emotions ran high.

“We need to listen to each other and understand each other’s positions. Because there’s been demolition of the armory already, there’s a group of people who feel they’ve been alienated from that conversation. I don’t know how to rectify that at this point,” said Stuyvesant.

Some insist a change in leadership’s the only way.

“I don’t think the council’s realized they’ve kicked a hornet’s nest. The citizens in Garland, we’re a sleeping dragon. A lot of us especially who are older, we put up with a lot and we don’t complain. We just roll with it, but this crossed the line,” said Morris.

The volunteers have 30 days to collect 800 signatures from registered voters in district two to call for a special election. Then voters would have to go to the polls to decide whether to unseat Anita Goebel.

NBC 5 did reach out to Anita Goebel for comment. She has yet to respond.

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