August 14, 2001 11:00 pm

In the history of American politics, recalling an elected official has been used successfully to remove individuals who have been convicted of crimes. But today the idea of recalling an elected official is being used more and more to threaten those officials when they are not seen as following the mainstream.

Two examples come to mind here in Oregon, one in Portland and the other in Baker City, where groups are obsessed with removing an elected official because he or she does not fit into the political correctness mode of the community. Those who would seek the recall of an elected official for something less than a crime conviction or outright incompetency in office are creating an atmosphere that is destructive to our political system.

Derry Jackson is a black member of the Portland School Board. Jackson was elected to the school board at-large. He is a strong proponent of minority student programs and has been an outspoken supporter of allowing the military to be allowed back into Portland schools to recruit students. Jackson believes the military offers an opportunity to minority students that many cannot find elsewhere. At the same time, Marc Abrams, a Jewish member of the school board, has stridently disagreed with Jackson on this and other issues, which led to vocal discord between the two.

Jackson openly criticized Abrams and other members of the school board when he lashed out at Jews who are in some of Portlands prominent political positions. After Jacksons comments were aired in an article printed in The Oregonian, numerous individuals called for Jackson to apologize and either resign from the school board or face a recall.

Oregon law does not allow a recall of someone who has been elected to office during his or her first six months in office. Jacksons remarks were viewed by many as appalling. As The Observer pointed out in a previous editorial, Jackson should not have used a generality to paint the Jewish people in a particular way. We were happy to see him apologize twice for his remark.

But at what point are First Amendment speech freedoms being shoved aside when the politically-correct squad comes rushing in calling for a resignation or recall? The group-think mentality has overtaken our country and is doing a disservice to the free exchange of ideas. Jacksons comments on Jews in leadership will have to stand the test of any re-election bid he makes.

The other example is that of Baker City Councilor Gary Dielman, who has been an outspoken critic of Baker Citys practice of opening council meetings with prayer. Dielman contends the prayers are unconstitutional and should be stopped. The majority of the council disagrees with him. Now a Baker man, John DeShiro, has filed a petition to remove Dielman from the council.

Doesnt Dielman have a right to his opinion? He shouldnt have to feel threatened by a recall simply because he is standing against the majority. Our government, whether school boards or city councils, needs to have the broad representation of society. Recall efforts should be reserved for particular circumstances that involve heinous crime or incompetency, and should not be used in the flippant ways we are seeing today.