The Fort Smith Board of Directors reviewed proposed amendments for how initiatives and referendums are handled within the city on Tuesday (Sept. 11) during a study session at the Main Library branch on Rogers Ave.
The item, brought to the Board’s attention by Fort Smith Director Kevin Settle, was added to the Sept. 18 agenda, and stemmed from a 6-1 vote on Sept. 4 to confirm citywide automated curbside solid waste collection for the November ballot.
At that time, Fort Smith Director Steve Tyler was the only dissenting vote, telling The City Wire after the meeting, “I just thought it was redundant. I don’t know why the citizens have to vote on it when the board already (did).”
The board vote Tyler referred to, which occurred on Aug. 23, was unanimous, but only after an abrupt switch from four of the directors. Tyler and Directors George Catsavis, Philip Merry, and Pam Weber made the call after close to nine months of public opposition.
Petitioner Joel Culberson moved forward with the initiative in spite of the board switch, and won approval for the item to November ballots, but had to jump the last hurdle of board confirmation last Tuesday.
That prompted Settle to add the item for discussion at the Tuesday study session.
“Any future board should never have to vote on something the citizens initiated,” Settle said.
Still, questions persisted. Merry raised the point that if an initiative were later voted down by the citizens, then not bothering with confirmation “would not make us look responsive” to the citizens’ wishes.
Tyler added, “What if there is something just bizarre, and someone goes out and gets 3,000 signatures, and the board does not think that’s good for the citizens of Fort Smith?”
Gosack reminded the directors that an initiative can be overridden with five or more votes, but that “if an initiative is constitutional, we have no ability to stop it.”
“That’s a right our state constitution reserves to the people: to initiate legislation at both the state level and the local level,” Gosack said, adding that “if an initiative were asking us to do something that was unconstitutional,” the board could address the issue with the circuit court.
The above item will join eight others on the Sept. 18 agenda, including:
• Public hearing and ordinance to close, vacate, and abandon a portion of public right-of-way at North J Street;
• Resolution adopting annual audit requirements;
• Resolution accepting a bid for the replacement of rail crossing on Navy Road and South 7th Street, which was budgeted in the Sales Tax Program Contingency Fund;
• Resolution authorizing the Mayor to execute an agreement with Morrison Shipley Engineers for the design of the Lift Stations 15 (HP01), 16 (D001), and 17 (HR01);
• Resolution authorizing the Mayor to execute Authorization No. 3 to the agreement with Hawkins-Weir, Inc., for engineering services for the Zero Street Pump Station Wet Weather Improvements—Site Remediation, budgeted from the 2012 Sales Tax Bonds;
• Resolution accepting the bid of and authorizing the Mayor to execute a contract for the Zero Street Pump Station Wet Weather Improvements—Site Remediation, budgeted from the 2012 Sales Tax Bonds;
• Resolution accepting a gift and exchange agreement with a special warranty deed with William H. Hanna for property located at Carol Ann Cross Park; and,
• Resolution approving an architectural service agreement with MAHG Architecture, Inc., for architectural services related to upgrades in the city’s 10 existing fire stations.