Up & Coming Weekly

September 06, 2022

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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6 UCW SEPTEMBER 7 - 13, 2022 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM For several years, I have been extremely disturbed by various ac- tions of our city council. However, the Council's 6-4 vote on Aug. 22 not to authorize a referendum on the Vote Yes Fayetteville petition has sent my disgust and distrust to a level beyond description. In my estimation, the six council members who voted not to put this referendum on the ballot simply fol- lowed the pattern of recent councils. Dictatorship governments must be peacefully challenged. at is, they are and — if not challenged — will continue to be a dictatorship government. An unat- tributed online definition says this is "a type of government in which a single person — the dictator — or party has absolute power. is means that the ruler or party has complete control. e rights of the people are typically suppressed in a dictatorship, sometimes to a great degree." I forthrightly contend that this is an accurate description of the recent past and current majority of Council, in general, and relat- ing to the handling of the Vote Yes Fayetteville petition in particular. In a CityView TODAY article headlined "City Council votes 6-4 against referendum on Vote Yes Ini- tiative," Michael Futch explains the Vote Yes effort as follows: e Vote Yes initiative would restructure the election process for City Council members. Instead of electing all nine members by district, four members would be elected at large and five would be elected from districts. e mayor would continue to be elected citywide. Against that backdrop, consider how this council processed the ref- erendum petition. e decision as to whether the issue would appear on the November ballot as a refer- endum rested with the Council and their decision had to be made no later than Aug. 22. e matter was tabled in two earlier meetings because there was a question as to whether the group leading the petition drive had done all the required steps. e final sticking point was whether General Statute 163-218 applies to this type of petition. e statute is copied below: Article 19. Petitions for Elec- tions and Referenda. § 163-218. Registration of notice of circula- tion of petition. From and after July 1, 1957, notice of circulation of a petition calling for any election or referendum shall be registered with the county board of elections with which the petition is to be filed, and the date of registration of the notice shall be the date of issuance and commencement of circulation of the petition. (1957, c. 1239, s. 1; 1967, c. 775, s. 1; 2017-6, s. 3; 2018-146, s. 3.1(a), (b).) In their Aug. 8 meeting, Council tasked City Attorney Karen McDon- ald with getting clarification regard- ing the Statute 163-218 question. In the Aug. 22 meeting, McDonald reported that she had written to the Cumberland County Board of Elec- tions regarding this issue. Copied below is the section of her letter that shows what information was requested: I have been directed by the city Council to formally request (1) a copy of the filed notice of circula- tion and the date of registration as required in General Statute 163-218 and (2) whether the citizen-initiated petition is a valid petition since the provisions of 163-218 have not been met. After stating that she had writ- ten to the Board of Elections and received a response, Attorney Mc- Donald said, "At this point, Mayor, it appears, particularly based on the response, that there remains a ques- tion regarding the validity of the petition that was submitted to the City Council for consideration." Immediately after that statement, Council member Mario Benavente made a motion that the City Coun- cil not put the referendum on the November ballot. e motion was seconded by Council member Der- rick ompson. Before the vote, Mayor Pro Tem Johnny Dawkins asked some ques- tions of the attorney. At the end of their exchange, Dawkins said, "So, we don't know that the statute applies to the petition. Is that your guidance?" Attorney McDonald responded by saying, "No, my guidance is that when you look at 163-218, it says that …." (She quotes the statute as it appears above.) After quoting the statute, McDonald says, "Be- cause we have not received that, the Council has not received that, it appears to me to be a legitimate question as to the validity of the petition." e vote was taken and the Be- navente motion carried 6-4. Voting in favor was Mayor Mitch Colvin, Council members Shakeyla Ingram, Mario Benavente, D.J. Haire, Derrick ompson and Courtney Banks- McLaughin. Voting in opposition to the mo- tion, and wanting a referendum, were Council members Deno Hon- dros, Brenda McNair, Kathy Jensen and Johnny Dawkins. e letter from Angie Amaro, Interim Director of Elections, does say that a notice of circulation was not received by her office; however, the letter goes beyond that acknowl- edgement. What she writes makes it crystal clear, in my estimation, that she does not believe that this petition required a notice of circulation and she contends that the Fayetteville City Council has sole responsibility for determining the validity of the OPINION Majority of Fayetteville City Council ... Acting like a dictatorship government by KARL MERRITT "e bottom line is that everything here points to a majority of the most recent and present Fayetteville City Councils intentionally man- aging the petition process in a fashion that achieved their desired outcome of defeating it." Photo image by Dawson Jarman.

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