Discussion of a plan to restructure how Fayetteville City Council members are elected has been removed from the agenda for Monday’s (June 27) council meeting.
The proposal, which supporters hope will go to voters in a referendum in November, calls for five single-district seats on the council, four elected at-large members and the elected mayor at-large.
Currently, the mayor is elected citywide and the nine council members are elected by district.
Proponents of the new plan say it will give voters greater representation on the city council, as each voter would help choose the mayor, four general council members and a district representative.
Mayor Mitch Colvin and others who oppose the plan say it would dilute representation by increasing the size of districts.
“I’ve served as both district rep and mayor, and I think the district rep model focuses on the specific issues of district residents,” Colvin told CityView TODAY earlier this month. . “It is unrealistic to believe that we get better quality education by increasing the size of the classroom.
It is the same concept as the Vote Yes (plan).
Vote Yes Fayetteville is one organization supporting the new plan. Tony Chavonne, publisher of CityView TODAY, is one of many former board members who launched the Vote Yes initiative.
Regardless of when the issue is discussed by the council, Colvin said it will end up before voters in a referendum.
“So ultimately voters are going to decide whether or not to approve of that. It’s not a political question,” Colvin said Thursday. “The statute is pretty clear, and it says the board will. We are in compliance as far as I know.
The issue was originally on Monday’s city council agenda, the last regular meeting until August, City Clerk Pamela Megill said.
Megill said City Attorney Karen McDonald emailed her on Wednesday, June 22, asking her to remove it from Monday’s agenda and move it to the August 8 meeting.
On Friday afternoon, McDonald said she didn’t think it would be accurate to say the issue was on Monday’s agenda. She said the city manager, city clerk and city attorney are evaluating what will be on the meeting agenda and determining what should be taken up at a later date.
“There are a number of items on the agenda,” McDonald said. “The decision was made not to put it on the agenda and to put it on a later agenda. It’s just a matter (that the agenda) was loaded, and there were a few things that needed to be on that agenda. We try to balance the agenda with the priorities – what should go against what will go another time.”
Freddie Delacruz, Colvin’s challenger for re-election as mayor, said he heard it was the mayor’s decision to remove the issue from Monday’s agenda.
McDonald said Colvin was not involved in the decision and dismissed the idea that it was tied to the upcoming election.
The municipal election and the second round of the primaries are set for July 26.
“I don’t necessarily characterize it that way,” McDonald said. “When we look at the agenda, it’s really what I would call a group decision – the clerk, the manager and me.”
Megill said removing items from the city council agenda “happens all the time.”
Colvin said he doesn’t think the proximity of the election has anything to do with Monday’s changed agenda.
A petition calling for a referendum on the new voting plan has received the necessary 5,000 signatures from registered voters in the city, meaning the referendum could take place during the Nov. 8 ballot.
Angie Amaro, acting director of the Cumberland County Board of Elections, informed the city that the petition had enough signatures.
Amaro said Thursday that the last she heard the issue would be on Monday’s board meeting.
If a decision was not made by August, Amaro said, there would still be plenty of time to hold a referendum on the November ballot.
“Because the filing for the Board of Education doesn’t end until August,” she noted. “You can’t cast ballots until all filing is complete.”
But the city council must pass a resolution to put the issue to the November ballot if it is to take place.
Vote Yes Fayetteville says on its website that the new structure would give voters six council members who would report directly to them from the current two.
“Most cities in North Carolina have a number of at-large members in their council structure, including nine of the 12 largest cities in the state,” the Vote Yes website says.
Other elected councils, including the Cumberland County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education and the town councils of Hope Mills and Spring Lake, all have at-large representatives, the website notes. This offers more responsibility, he adds.
Mayoral challenger Delacruz said he helped move the Vote Yes Fayetteville initiative forward, convincing 50 people to sign the petition.
“It all boils down to: do you want six people to represent you on city council or do you want two? It’s a no-brainer,” he said. “People read it as if it were
sort of conspiracy going on. It’s equal on both sides.
“It actually streamlines the districts better,” he said. “That’s really the bottom line.”