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Little Rock City Director Erma Hendrix is circulating a petition to allow voters to decide whether to end at-large representation on the city's Board of Directors.

If the organizers gather 8,000 valid signatures, the measure will appear on November's ballot.

An earlier proposal by Hendrix calling for the Board of Directors to put the issue on the ballot was voted down at the board's June 19 meeting.

Eight board members -- Doris Wright, Joan Adcock, Lance Hines, B.J. Wyrick, Kathy Webb, Gene Fortson, Capi Peck and Dean Kumpuris -- voted against the measure.

Ken Richardson voted in favor. Hendrix said she voted in favor but had her hand over her mouth so her vote was not heard.

The initiative would reduce the board's makeup from 10 members to seven, removing the three positions elected at large.

Richardson, who represents Ward 2, said he was neutral on the matter, but he believed it should be put before voters.

"I think it's unfair not to give the people of Little Rock a chance to decide," he said.

He said he also believes at-large representation can have a negative effect in some cases, by giving certain wards or interests more clout than others.

Hendrix, who represents Ward 1, previously said at board meetings that she would sue the city if the proposal didn't pass, but she did not give further details.

Adcock, who holds an at-large seat and is the longest-serving member of the board, has said people have overlooked the contributions of at-large directors. The other at-large directors are Kumpuris and Fortson.

Critics have said it takes more money to run for an at-large seat, making it more difficult to run for the positions.

Neil Sealy, the director of Arkansas Community Organizations, said he helped put together the petition Hendrix is circulating and that his group supports it. Sealy said some members worked on a similar initiative decades earlier.

Little Rock has twice embarked on a mission to study its form of government. In 1993, a group called Future Little Rock recommended moving from an all at-large board to the current format of seven ward representatives, three at-large representatives and the mayor, who presides over meetings and votes in the event of a tie.

Hendrix was first elected to the board in November 1993, one year after Adcock.

In 2000, the Vision Little Rock group was formed and ultimately recommended no change to the board setup.

The petition requires 8,000 signatures, because that figure is 15 percent of the number of people who voted in the previous mayoral election, City Attorney Tom Carpenter said. The city clerk's office will check to make sure everyone who signs is registered to vote in Little Rock.

Six of the board's ward seats are up for election in November. Ward 4 and the three at-large positions are not.

Information for this article was contributed by Chelsea Boozer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Metro on 07/11/2018

Print Headline: LR petition aims for November vote on at-large seats

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