After five years of inaction, the Little Rock Board of Directors has begun talk about making some changes in city governance. This coincidentally follows the announcement of the Committee for Accountability and Equal Representation's petition drive to put an initiative on the ballot to produce a stronger mayor and ward representation on the city board.
I have a little development today, but I'm going to keep it fairly short. The committee has sent a memo by its lawyer, H. Clay Robinson to Mayor Mark Stodola and the city board. It takes exception to some legal advice City Attorney Tom Carpenter has offered on ways to increase the powers of the mayor. The memo also serves, more or less, as a justification of the initiative campaign as the only clear way to make the desired changes.
1) Robinson's analysis concludes that the board lacks clear power to grant the mayor power to appoint city officers, such as the city manager.
2) The only certain way to give the mayor a veto (because of various state laws) is to also eliminate at-large directors. (There are now three on the 10-member board).
3) It would be easy (not hard as Carpenter has suggested) to change to ward-only government simply by dropping the at-large members at the end of their terms. All three are up in 2008. The remaining seven directors would simply continue to represent the wards they were elected to represent.
If I can get a digital copy, I'll post the whole analysis. You can expect a comeback on what is a legally complicated topic from the city attorney. And the initiative drive will continue.