LIFE SURE is full of wacky coincidences.

On the very night that a residents group planned to serve Hercules Mayor Ed Balico with a letter of intent to recall him from office -- in fact, minutes before it was to be slapped on his desk -- he announced he was stepping down from the City Council.

What are the odds of those events intersecting?

It's like a man deciding to step off a roadway just before a cement truck runs over him.

It was a lifestyle decision, Balico said. His many years in office, as a planning commissioner and council member, had made him a stranger to his wife and kids. Dinners were missed, vacations postponed. He'd even forgotten that his daughter plans to marry in May. (That should make for a fun family conversation.)

"I have made the city my first priority for the past 16 years," he said, "and now it's time for me to put my wife and family first."

Ah, yes, an old refrain but a classic. A politician under fire decides to spend more time with the family. It's like the sailor on a sinking boat who decided to spend more time on land.

You have to at least give Balico his due for reading the tides. The same couldn't be said of council cohorts Joanne Ward and Don Kuehne, who were searching for bailing buckets when their notices were served moments later by resident Dan Romero.


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Romero, speaking before a standing-room crowd in the council chamber on Tuesday night, articulated a long list of reasons why the Hercules Recall group wanted them removed. Not to oversimplify a sterling condemnation, but it boiled down to this: Irresponsible approval of no-bid contracts, questionable development deals and financial mismanagement have put the city in fiscal peril. Time for the scoundrels to go.

Balico, who had extricated himself from the firestorm only minutes earlier, sat passively through the presentation, except for stopping Romero when his three-minute time-limit expired. (It's difficult to summarize months of ineptitude in three minutes.)

It was the contrast in reactions of the two council members under attack that added entertainment value to the theatrics.

Ward looked flush-faced stunned, as if she had just walked into a wall. She sat motionless, her lower lip hanging open as the charges were read. If a teleporter were available, she would have beamed herself anywhere else.

Kuehne glared from his seat, a smirk peeking out from beneath his mustache, then tore apart the notice he'd been handed and tossed it over his shoulder. If he was trying to score style points for arrogance, he knocked this one out of the park.

For all of the obvious ire in the room, the participants were remarkably restrained. Residents who spoke during public comment expressed their displeasure in measured tones, even if some of their words cut like a razor knife.

Cindy Rasmussen wielded hers especially well.

"I continue to be shocked, appalled and, frankly, very incensed at the continual revelations of failures of leadership in this city by the long-term members of this City Council," she began, warming up slowly.

By the time she concluded, she had found her pace: "We intend to take our city back and ensure that this pattern of corruption, lies and mismanagement will stop, and that you will answer for putting this wonderful city in horrendous financial jeopardy with your arrogance, your incompetence and your egregious lack of integrity."

Balico had to be impressed. She didn't even need the full three minutes.

Contact Tom Barnidge at tbarnidge@bayareanewsgroup.com.