The status of a tumultuous referendum question came to a close this afternoon when a recount reversed the outcome of a decision on whether to sell a portion of to the .
The recount placed the final tally at 2,098 votes against the sale and 2,079 votes for it. Election Day results erroneously reported . The majority of the shift came from absentee ballots, which dropped from 210 in favor of the sale to 169 and 159 against the sale to 149.
Barbara Major, Republican registrar of voters, said there was human error in the counting of the absentee ballots. She said several ballots were counted by the machine, but were accidentally counted a second time after they fell into an auxiliary bin in the machine.
In the voting districts, the tallies showed a net increase of only one “no” vote. In net totals, District 1 gained one “yes” vote while District 2 and 3 each gained one “no” vote as compared with the Nov. 8 results.
The question and recount process
The proposal to for $2.9 million was one of the most discussed issues of the election. The City Council approved the sale in September of 2010, but a petition effort brought the question before voters in this election. Opponents argued that the remaining 9.44 acres would not be suitable for a park and that the sale would be a disservice to the surrounding neighborhood. Proponents said the proceeds would help to revitalize the park.
Opponents on Sunday, and Mayor-elect Daryl Finizio said on Tuesday that the sale was moot because the . Finizio, who opposed the sale, said that since the closing date could not take place before the recount the contract was null and void.
Finizio said he supports the revitalization of the park, and hopes to start that effort in the spring and follow it with a series of summer events. He said he was pleased that the result proved to be against the sale, and that the issue of the closing date had itself become moot.
“I think it is good that the ‘no’ vote is clarified, and it negates any concerns about the fact that the contract has also expired,” he said.
Election workers dominated the City Council chambers from this morning into the early afternoon. Major said that although ballot instructions ask voters to fill in circles on the ballot, some votes were recorded by a mark such as a line or check. She said these signify voter intent and can be counted, but were separated out for hand counting since they may have been missed by the ballot-counting machines.
The process grouped the clear “yes” and “no” votes and ran them through the machine by district. The ballots with incorrect marks were then tallied for the new totals for each district.
Coast Guard reaction
Kim Smith, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard Academy, said she was glad that the recount process had clarified the outcome but disappointed by the result. She said the academy, which intended to build a shipboard simulator and multicultural center on the purchased parcel of land, will now have to look to moving or cutting services that are not critical in order to meet the academy’s mission.
“Really all I can say is we’re disappointed in the outcome of the recount,” said Smith. “Purchasing Riverside Park would have allowed us to expand the academy and allowed us to have more impact on the local economy.”
Smith said the academy will now begin to see how it can meet its goals on its current campus. She said that while the academy could use eminent domain to take the parcel of land, it would not be a feasible choice.
“We at the Coast Guard are not looking at anything like that,” she said. “Our biggest concern throughout this process has been trying to keep everything above board.”
A number of opponents of the sale visited the chambers to view the recount process and await the result. Andrew Lockwood, a mayoral candidate in the election who opposed the sale, said during his campaign that if he lost the race he would still be happy if the Riverside Park sale was defeated.
“I’m ecstatic,” he said. “All the people who have worked hard through this deserve a pat on the back.”
Cecilia Baxter said she did not think the City Council used all available resources in making the decision to sell a portion of the park. She said she respects the Coast Guard and did not consider the result a vote against them.
“It’s not to do with them. It was an unreasonable sale,” she said. “You don’t sell a piece of property like that, leave the crust, and think you’re getting anything out of it.”
Results by district
Nov. 8 "Yes" count Nov. 16 "Yes" count Nov. 8 "No" count Nov. 16 "No Count" District 1 479 481 676 677 District 2 675 676 756 758 District 3 753 753 513 514 Absentee 210 169 159 149
The of the resulted in a reversal of the outcome, with the "no" votes coming out on top.
The new tallies are 2,098 against the sale and 2,079 in favor.
The issue in the recount was that it was discovered that some ballots had been counted twice. In the recount, 41 yes votes were rejected and 10 no votes were rejected.
The story will be updated.
On Tuesday, because the contract between the city and the Coast Guard Academy had expired.