BOWIE – Bowie District 2 Councilwoman Diane Polangin has served in her post since 2007. Now, what officials believe to be the first recall election in the city’s history may determine her fate. Residents in Bowie’s District 2 will decide whether their councilmember will remain in office on Dec. 19.
Voters will answer a single “yes or no” question: “Do you vote to recall from her city elective office District 2 Councilmember Diane Polangin?”
If a majority of voters decide to answer “yes,” the city will hold a special election 30-60 days later. Polangin would be eligible to run in the special election, though she is not yet sure whether she would want to do so.
The petition for the recall vote received about 3,000 signatures, well over the 25 percent of registered voters threshold required for a recall vote.
“We just felt that there was a lack of leadership from the city council and we got sick and tired of our representatives failing to listen to the needs and concerns of the Bowie residents,” said Fiona Moodie, a member of Bowie Citizens for Accountable Government.
According to their website, the organization’s mission “is to ensure that the city of Bowie’s government is accountable to us…We are for responsible growth with infrastructure that meets the needs of current Bowie residents, while attracting new residents to the city.”
The group, which started in January, initiated the recall effort. They tried to recall Polangin in the spring, but fell short of the required number of signatures for the petition.
Moodie said the organization does not oppose development in general, but are concerned about projects such as the Melford Village development project and the Marketplace Apartments that they believe would cause an inflation in the city’s population. She described the Marketplace Apartments as “the final straw for the community when that was approved.”
In January, the council approved an apartment complex behind the new marketplace shopping center, a move that produced passionate responses from residents.
Polangin, who voted in favor of the apartment complex, said the development plan was put in motion before she was elected to the council, and emphasized that she worked with the developer to reduce the number of apartments in the complex from more than 400 to 225.
“If anybody says I’m not listening to them, I don’t know,” Polangin said. “I worked with (the developer) to bring down the amount of apartments. I was upholding the law. If I had voted no, that we’re not going to approve any apartments here, they could have gone back to the county and said the city won’t work with me, and the county would have allowed those 488 apartments.”
Polangin said she “absolutely” was surprised by the recall petition.
Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said he supports Polangin’s vote for the Marketplace Apartments, and noted she was part of a majority vote.
“Diane took what I thought was a courageous vote,” Robinson said. “She looked at the options, she looked at the alternatives, and she figured what was best for the city.”
Robinson said a motivating factor for the retail developers to come to the marketplace was because there would be residential options there as well.
“I certainly don’t support the recall,” Robinson said, and added he’s going to try to help with outreach in support of Polangin.
“She’s an incredible asset to the city. She is a strong fiscal conservative,” Robinson said. “She’s an incredible advocate for children and women and families. She’s an incredible ally on the city council, and I think she’s totally committed to the city. She’s the most honest and sincere person that I know.”
Moodie said the recall effort is not only about the Marketplace Apartments.
“Where Councilmember Diane Polangin is wrong, is she thinks it’s just about marketplace. It’s not,” Moodie said. “It’s failure of leadership and ignoring your constituents for too long. There have been multiple projects around the city that she has voted in favor of and situations that she has ignored for too long, and that’s how democracy works.”
She said there are numerous issues they are unhappy with Polangin about, including brown water in the city and traffic lights that need to go up.
When asked to respond to that statement, Polangin said, “I refuse to dignify that with a response. I have 200 emails today. I answer every email and telephone (call) I get. If you have a domestic violence situation, who do you think you call? You call me.
“I’m not unresponsive to the residents. I’m the most responsive to the residents.”
She said she’s been focusing on these issues, such as brown water, for years.
Polangin raised concerns about how the people involved with the recall effort advertised the petition. She said she has heard stories from residents who signed the petition, who say they were misled in regards to what the petition was for.
“I had people crying, telling me, ‘Oh my God, I signed the petition because they told me it was to recall the vote on the apartments,’” Polangin said. “Had I known that was going on, I would have taken steps to stop that. But I didn’t know that was going on until now. I don’t know what to say about that. It’s unfortunate that people have to spin a tale the way it makes them sound good and makes another person sound bad.”
A letter by Bowie resident John Forehand published in the Bowie Blade-Gazette reflects this experience.
“My wife and I were told that the petition was ‘to stop the apartments from going forward at marketplace,’” he wrote. “I now know their statements to be false.”
A representative from Bowie Citizens for Accountable Government did not respond to a request for comment on this matter in time for publication.
Members of Bowie Citizens for Accountable Government also hope to recall At-Large Councilman James Marcos and Robinson. Moodie said their group started with Polangin because they only needed 25 percent of the voters in District 2 to sign the petition, rather than 25 percent of the whole city for an at-large seat or the mayor.