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With a vote one week away on two ordinances about altering Little Rock's form of government, city directors on Tuesday questioned the effect of switching from at-large directors to regional ones, as well as the process that produced the proposed changes.

After a 2018 ordinance mandating that the city again study its form of government, a study group spent several months in 2019 developing recommendations on the best form of government for Little Rock. Members presented their findings to the city board in October.

Two of those recommendations -- to change the city board's at-large director seats to regional ones and to give the mayor additional authority relating to the hiring, review and dismissal of the city attorney and city manager -- have been consolidated into ordinances that the city board is scheduled to vote on at its meeting next Tuesday.

If the ordinance dealing with at-large directors is approved by the city board, then Little Rock voters in November's election will answer whether they want to be represented by at-large directors or by directors from three regional districts that overlap with the city's seven wards.

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Ward 1 City Director Erma Hendrix, who appointed her daughter Loretta Hendrix to the group, was critical of the process, citing low turnout at the community meetings that the study group hosted to receive public input.

"Even though my daughter was on it, I thought it was a waste of time," Erma Hendrix said. "I can tell you now I'm not voting for this."

The Ward 1 city director said she intends to circulate a petition that would put all-ward representation, with no at-large director seats, on the November ballot, which she also did in 2018.

"I look forward to moving toward getting signatures," Hendrix said. "My constituents will pursue this."

At-large City Director Joan Adcock said she didn't see how electing regional directors would be much different from at-large directors, though study group chairman Rick Campbell defended the ordinance as a way to keep the best aspects of at-large and ward representation.

"We felt like we could retain the best of what we've got right now and could do so in a way that would promote the best interests of the city of Little Rock on a going-forward basis," Campbell said.

Ward 6 City Director Doris Wright said she found the idea confusing.

"I've listened to this, I've read this, and to me this is just going to make and cause confusion," she said. "If you had come back with a recommendation -- 'Well, let's just make everyone a ward director and make the wards smaller' -- then that would have made a lot more sense to me. If people don't understand what we've got, I don't see how they're going to understand this."

At-large City Director Dean Kumpuris and Ward 4 City Director Capi Peck said the low turnout at community meetings wasn't the fault of the study group, and they thanked members for their work.

Mayor Frank Scott Jr. pointed out that multiple mayoral candidates in 2018 had publicly made statements about repurposing at-large directors.

"If the recommendations fail, the next alternative at least for this administration is to consider what we campaigned on," Scott said. "You keep your campaign promises or die trying."

Metro on 02/12/2020

Print Headline: LR board questions representation idea


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