Recall Petitions Initiated against Two City Councilors

An effort to recall two Canby city councilors is underway after a local businesswoman filed recall petitions this week against Sarah Spoon and Chris Bangs, both of whom were elected in November.

Chief petitioner Stephanie Boyce, owner of the Vitamin Plaza in downtown Canby and herself an unsuccessful candidate for Canby City Council in 2010, criticized Spoon, a second-term councilor, for what she termed her “repeated public displays of vulgarity via social media.”

“Her participation in productions of inappropriate and sexually demeaning videos and her posted video appearing to be impaired and using profanity attacking a sitting president makes her a poor choice to represent the city that values civility and good examples for the young people in our community,” Boyce wrote in the recall petition.

Spoon’s husband, Chris Waffle, moonlights as a musical comedy writer and is co-founder of the nerd rock duo Megathruster, whose material — as its name suggests — features the occasional innuendo. Spoon has provided vocals on several tracks, as has fellow Councilor Greg Parker.

Reached Tuesday, Spoon said she has not appeared in any “sexually demeaning videos” of which she’s aware.

“I have no idea what this accusation is based upon,” Spoon said in a statement to The Canby Current. “I have never participated in anything of the sort. The only thing I can think of is that this citizen is upset about my support of my husband’s comedy music career, in which I briefly appeared on a silly joke song and music video he wrote about the weather.”

The tune in question, “The Weather Turns Me On,” is a parody song about, well, being turned on by extreme weather events.

“The truth is, extreme weather events make me anxious,” Waffle explains in the song description. “I was discussing this with Sarah during the ice storm that hit our town in 2021. Wishing I could ease my anxieties about it, I wondered what it would be like to feel the exact opposite; EXCITED about these crazy weather events. And thus, here we are, a joke song about getting turned on by the weather.”

“The entire production was just a project to bring laughter to a difficult time,” Spoon said. “It is pretty surreal that someone would suggest that I am not fit for office because of my participation in a comedy song.

“I am proud that my husband strives every day to create art through comedy, and I’m not going to stop supporting my husband’s ambitions or his constitutional right to expression because someone didn’t get the joke or like a song he wrote.”

The other claim by Boyce appears to refer to a video clip posted to her teenage daughter’s Instagram account last November, in which Spoon was recorded saying, “Hi, Instagram followers. I just want you to know that your vote matters, and also, [expletive] Trump.”

Her daughter, a minor, removed the video shortly after posting it, but not before it had been copied and shared in several Canby Facebook groups. It was also picked up by the right-leaning Northwest Observer.

In the statement, Spoon said she was “shocked” to hear about the recall initially and even more so when she learned the reasons have “absolutely nothing to do” with her performance as an elected official.

“All of the accusations appear to be about things I have done in my personal life and, particularly, things I have said during personal time with my family while enjoying and exercising my First Amendment rights,” she said in the statement.

Parker, another city councilor and a close friend of Spoon’s, said he also provided vocals in the same musical comedy video that some deemed so inappropriate as to merit a recall.

“This is a misuse of the recall process,” he told the Current. “Why would Sarah be targeted and not me? I was also in the video. If artistic expression is a political crime, then shouldn’t I be included as well?”

As for Bangs, Boyce called out what she described as “extreme hostility toward the rights and civil liberties of the people as evidenced by his acerbic and insulting comments made on May 5, 2021, during a City Council meeting.”

In that meeting, councilors had verbally sparred over a proposed symbolic resolution calling on the governor to end pandemic-related business closures and other restrictions, and Bangs had led the charge in opposing the measure.

At the time, he’d argued the proposal was political theater, unnecessary (since the indoor dining shutdown that prompted the resolution and similar measures from other cities in Oregon had already been reversed earlier that day) and rife with unverified claims and dubious statements.

The measure passed 4-3 after a protracted debate, with Mayor Brian Hodson, who had been unable to provide evidence or data to support many of the claims he’d made in the resolution, casting the tie-breaking vote.

But the council later unanimously adopted another resolution introduced by those who had voted against that measure, pledging to present only “truthful and verifiable information from reputable sources to the public, regardless of political or personal opinion.”

In a statement to the Current, Bangs said he had many reasons for opposing the resolution back in May.

“These include the large number of false statements upon which the resolution was based and the lack of clarity in regards to which restrictions were at issue,” he wrote. “Another problem is that the resolution was supposed to protect our businesses, but there was not an upwelling of support for this by our business community.

“On the contrary, numerous restaurant and bar owners around town have told me their biggest problem isn’t the restrictions but simply a lack of employees. The people behind the recall petition did not agree with me on these points.”

During perhaps the most heated exchange of that May 5 meeting, Bangs had appeared to press several of his colleagues on their Christian faith, challenging, “What would Jesus do in this situation? Would Jesus approve this?,” prompting Council President Traci Hensley to shout, “Oh, come on!”

In his statement, Bangs admitted that was a “considerable tactical error,” one that he said wound up sending the opposite message of what he’d intended.

“Rather than help change their minds, it seemed all I did was inflame the very people I was trying to persuade,” he wrote. “That was a rookie mistake on my part, but to characterize that as an attack on Christians or Christianity is both unfair and absurd. Rather than criticizing Christianity, I was actually asking folks to follow Christianity.”

Bangs said he was attempting to find common ground with his fellow councilors on the basis of faith, but now recognizes it was wrong to bring it up in such a charged context.

“I don’t think any of Canby’s Christian communities believe it is OK to turn one’s back on the sick and vulnerable; doing so is simply incompatible with the faith,” he said. “At least that’s what my family’s church teaches, and I believe it’s the same in every other church in Canby.

“That was my point, but it was obviously lost on some people, and part of that is my own fault for foolishly bringing it up in the first place.”

Bangs said he understands the resistance many Americans feel at “being told what to do” by a seemingly authoritarian government, and he believes “a degree of distrust of the government is a healthy thing for society.”

“Meanwhile, I have zero role in passing down those restrictions, and nothing the City Council can do will have any effect on those rules whatsoever,” he said. “But it is true that I have supported doing whatever we can to help end this pandemic as soon as possible.

“Medical researchers tell us the best way to do that is with masks and vaccines, so that is what I think we should do. I don’t apologize for opposing that resolution. Frankly, I believe most of our citizens would agree with me if they just read that resolution. I certainly encourage our voters to do that.”

Spoon said she believes the petitions to recall her and Bangs are part of a larger, politically motivated campaign.

“This was an orchestrated effort to try and undo the fair election of councilors that a certain segment of the city disagrees with politically,” she said. “If this becomes the wave of the future, then every member of the City Council is at risk of being recalled.

“I want this city to continue to strive to reach its potential and I want Canby to know that I will continue to do that and work together with my colleagues despite this distraction.”

The petitioners must collect at least 1,151 verified signatures from Canby residents by 5 p.m. Nov. 29 to initiate a recall election. If either or both councilors are successfully recalled from office, the remaining council members will appoint a replacement or replacements until the next general election.

The recall effort has, evidently, been in the works for some time. Though the petitions were turned in just this week to start the 90-day clock and formally initiate the recall campaigns, Boyce dated her signature on both documents as July 17.

Under Oregon law, a recall campaign cannot be initiated until the elected official is at least six months into their current term of office. Both Spoon and Bangs were sworn into office in January.

The Current reached out to Boyce, but she declined further comment at this time. Asked how residents can sign her petition, or if events or other outreach a planned, Boyce said, “I will have to get back to you on that.”

Canby has not seen a successful recall effort of a sitting public official since 1993, when councilors Maureen Miltenberger and Joe Driggers were voted out of office for opposing an anti-gay-rights measure that 56% of the city’s voters had approved.

Miltenberger and Driggers had publicly stated they felt the measure was unconstitutional and unenforceable — and even signed onto a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against the city — which some Canbyites saw as an act of betrayal.

Their stance was later vindicated when the Legislature passed a new law prohibiting such local ordinances from taking effect, but the debate in Canby boiled on and eventually resulted in the recall of both council members by narrow margins.

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