MARCH 26, 2021 By Matt Richardsonin FAYETTEVILLE POLITICS
A website advocating a change in the makeup of the Fayetteville City Council is making rounds on social media.
From the homepage:
Today, a local group of concerned citizens announces that they have formed a new group, VoteYesFayetteville (VoteYesFayetteville.com), to organize a citizen-led petition to add a referendum on an upcoming election to improve the structure of the City Council from its current nine single member districts and mayor to a structure of five single member districts and four at large members and mayor elected by the entire city.
They’ve even created stick-figure graphics to get their point across:
Before I give you my opinion on this, here’s a breakdown of the law:
In North Carolina, if you want to change the way your city council is elected, you have two options.
1. Get the city council to make the change; or
2. Force the city council to make the change.
#1 is extremely rare. Why change the political mechanisms that put you in office?
As to #2, here’s relevant portions of a relevant statute:
§ 160A-104. Initiative petitions for charter amendments. The people may initiate a referendum on proposed charter amendments. An initiative petition shall bear the signatures and resident addresses of a number of qualified voters of the city equal to at least ten percent (10%)
of the whole number of voters who are registered to vote in city elections according to the most recent figures certified by the State Board of Elections or 5,000, whichever is less.
Upon receipt of a valid initiative petition, the council shall call a special election on the question of adopting the charter amendments proposed therein, and shall give public notice thereof in accordance with G.S. 163-287. The date of the special election shall be fixed on a date permitted by G.S. 163-287. If a majority of the votes cast in the special election shall be in favor of the proposed changes, the council shall adopt an ordinance amending the charter to put them into effect.
I love the way that statute starts: “The people…” That’s rare in law.
It appears that the purpose of the voteyesfayetteville.com website is to get a whole bunch of people to sign their petition. They need 10% of the registered voters in Fayetteville to sign. If they get them, the issue of at-large seats will be put on the ballot.
Put Your Name On It
As to where I stand, I wrote a post on this site two years ago called: The Case for At-Large Seats – Fayetteville City Council. Read it. I also remember going on the “Good Morning Fayetteville” radio program and promoting at-large seats shortly thereafter. My opinion hasn’t changed in the past two years. Our current system is awful, and at-large seats would be a good for Fayetteville.
Note: A previous version of this post criticized the website for not identifying the individuals behind it. A few hours after this post, a reader pointed me to the bottom of the “What’s At Stake” portion of the website. It lists the following supporters:
Tony Chavonne, Mayor 2005-2013 Nat Robertson, Mayor 2013 – 2017 Bobby Hurst, Council Member 2007 – 2017 Ted Mohn, Council Member Dec 2007-Dec 2011 and Dec 2013-Dec 2019 Wade Fowler, Council Member Dec 2011 – Dec 2013 Wesley Meredith, Council Member Dec 2005 – Jan 2011 Jim Arp, Council Member Jan 2011 – Dec 2019 Chalmers McDougald, Council Member Dec 2013 – Dec 2017