Benton Harbor Mayor to face recall election in May - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Benton Harbor Mayor to face recall election in May

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Some political drama up in Benton Harbor right when over 400 people signed a petition to throw out Mayor James Hightower. The Clerks office says enough of those signatures are valid, so Hightower will now have to fight to keep his job in a special election on May 6th.

Benton Harbor Mayor James Hightower told the media a firm "NO!" when asked if he was stepping down at a news conference Thursday outside City Hall. His response, "I'm still the Mayor for the City of Benton Harbor, Michigan." As Hightower responded to a recall petition that was filed Tuesday at the Berrien County Clerks office, he read word for word at a news conference Thursday why residents want him out, "For voting No to allow the city income tax to be placed on the ballot on the November 5th, 2013, ballot."

While hundreds of people say that's reason enough to kick him out, he says he had plenty of good reasons to say no the income tax increase. He says, "Our citizens couldn't afford it. We already pay the highest water bills, the highest taxes, and the highest insurance rates for Berrien County."

Here's how the special election will work. It'll be held on Tuesday May 6th where Hightower's name will automatically be on a ballot along with anyone else who comes up with just four signatures to run against him. Hightower says his campaigning starts immediately.

The man spearheading the effort to recall Hightower is Reverend Edward Pinkney. He says the mayor should have voted yes to the income tax increase. Pinkney says, "Anytime that you know you have the opportunity to bring in revenue, and you have a mayor that rejects that, then it's time to have him removed." The media asked him why not just wait it out, seeing that Hightower only has one year left in office. His response, "It's better to do it now than to wait later and lose more money. At the rate we're going, if we continue to have this mayor in office, we will continue to lose money."

Hightower says Benton Harbor can't afford to spend thousands of dollars, saying this recall election is a waste of time and money. There will be an unscheduled, unbudgeted election on May 6th that will cost the citizens of Benton Harbor a minimum of $7,000.

Hightowers opponents say voters will be eager to go to the polls. But not everyone agrees, like Louis Joseph, who lives in Benton Township. "They'll refuse to go because it's a waste of the taxpayers money," he says. Joseph says Hightower should just finish out his term, and leave the rest for the next election, saying, "If you just keep changing the horse in the middle of the stream, you'll never get any place!"

Opponents looking to run against Hightower in the May 6th special election have till Friday, February 21st to file signatures with the Benton Harbor clerk's office. As of Thursday, the clerk's office says no one has filed. Pinkney says an opponent will be announced Wednesday, February 19th at 4pm outside Benton Harbor City Hall.

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