Flag Debate Continues as Mayor Faces Recall Petition

Jamie Gadette
El Vaquero Staff Writer

On Oct. 4, as the GCC community reveled in festivities marking Armenian Independence Day, controversy at city hall provided a darker aspect to the celebration of culture. The fate of Gus Gomez’s position as Mayor of Glendale has been called into question with a petition for his recall currently in circulation.

Efforts to remove Gomez from office are a result of his decision to lower the American flag at city hall April 24 in recognition of Armenian genocide, although Gomez suspects other motives.
Gomez wonders why he was singled out for ordering the lowering the flag when former mayors Dave Weaver and Ginger Bremberg before him ordered the flag lowered April 24 without protest.
“Four out of five the council members voted for me to make the proclamation,” Gomez said. “Mandoky [Joe Mandoky, the force behind the recall drive] was first targeting everyone. Then he shifted gears and was just going after me.”

Gomez’s actions generated strong opinions among the citizens of Glendale, as evidenced by letters to the News-Press. Some claimed that lowering the flag in honor of one ethnic group simply alienates others. However, there are also a number of people who agree with the mayor’s decision.
“It’s a touchy subject,” said Tanya Gregorian, a former member of ASGCC. “I think it’s important to recognize what happened to our (Armenian) people, and that lowering the flag is a good way to do so. However, it’s also important to embrace all ethnicities by opening our minds to their histories as well.”

Joe Mandoky, who ran unsuccessfully against Gomez for city council two years ago, said his recall drive was fueled by his belief that government officials in particular have a responsibility to uphold values inherent in the American flag.

In April, Mandoky sent a letter to the editor of the News-Press threatening to take action against Gomez if he ordered the flag to be lowered. On April 24, the flag at city hall was lowered, and, shortly thereafter, Mandoky stood on the corner of Isabelle and Broadway, collecting signatures for the recall.

“I had a hard time doing this,” said Mandoky. “I support recognition of the genocide. In fact, I think it’s a disgrace that the U.S. government continues to ignore it. But the flag isn’t a good representation of these crimes against humanity.”

Many members of the community are unclear about Mandoky’s motivations. His opponents are certain that he is simply trying to gain entry into council and eventually take over as mayor.
Gomez doesn’t think flag-lowering is the issue. “I don’t know why he is targeting me,” he said. “But he ran for council against me and eight other candidates in 1999, and came in nearly last.”
The recall process in California originated to deal with corrupt public officials, Gomez said. “He’s not alleging corruption. He’s abusing the law voters put into place in the state.”

If the recall does go on the ballot next spring it would cost voters $200,000 for a special election. “I would rather spend that money on police, the parks, or on kids,” Gomez said.

But critics of Gomez share Mandoky’s opinion that if the flag is lowered for one ethnic group, then other ethnic groups are going to want recognition as well.

“If we lowered the flag for every struggle against cultural bias, the flag would never be up,” said Mandoky.

According to Glendale City Clerk Doris Tweet, if Mandoky wants to achieve his goal on time, volunteers must obtain a total of approximately 13,500 signatures by Dec. 26.
It’s uncertain how many names the petitioners now have. The signatures must belong to registered voters living within Glendale.