According to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the Fayetteville City Attorney has proposed a change to the city’s code governing local option petitions.

The proposal comes on the heels of a vote last month that repealed the city’s contentious “nondiscrimination” ordinance. Local residents were able to repeal the ordinance because state law and Fayetteville City Code allow voters to circulate petitions calling for a special election to keep or repeal any ordinance passed by the city council.

But now the attorney for the City of Fayetteville is proposing a change to the way that local petition process works.

Under his proposal, residents seeking to repeal a city ordinance would submit a copy of their petition to the City Attorney’s Office before collecting signatures. The City Attorney would then have two days to approve or change the petition’s wording.

The problem with this proposal is that as soon as a city ordinance passes, residents only have 31 days during which to collect thousands of signatures calling for a special election. Two days may not sound like much, but collecting so many signatures from registered voters in just 31 days is no small task, and waiting an additional two days for approval from City Hall simply adds another obstacle to that process.

City officials claim the change is necessary to address ambiguities about how local petitions ought to be worded. If that’s their concern, however, why not pass an ordinance that simply clarifies those ambiguities? Why bring the City Attorney into the petition process?

As it stands, this proposal doesn’t sound like it will actually fix any problems with the local petition process. Rather, it seems it will encumber the peoples’ right to govern themselves at the local level.

Photo Credit: “Old Main from the northwest, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas (autumn)” by Brandonrush – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported.