by Clay Herrmann
A petition initiative resulting in a special election to return Hot Springs to Alermanic Government was attempted twice in the History of Hot Springs, first in 1990 and again in 2013. The City Manager form of government survived both of those elections, the most recent on May 14, 2013. Despite the best efforts of partisans on both sides, low voter turnout characterized both elections (as is typical for off-calendar special elections). Success in getting out the vote is obviously key to winning for either side, and because voter turnout is almost always a small percentage of eligible voters in Special Elections, a small and motivated minority often decides the question being voted on, while most eligible voters are either apathetic no-shows or are else simply unaware of the voting opportunity.
The Arkansas statute governing the process requires a four year wait after a failure before another election for the purpose of returning to the aldermanic form of government can be called. That waiting period is nearly up. In the current political climate with inflamed passions regarding multiple forced annexations, water and sewer connection policies, lawsuits upon lawsuits, disputes about the eligibility of some City Directors to hold office, and other issues of heated contention, will 2017 be the year for Hot Springs to retire all city directors and bid farewell to the city manager form of government adopted in 1986?
Looking back at the last effort may be instructive for interested parties on both sides of the question. The following video is of a “get-out-the-early-vote rally” by 2013 opponents of a return to Aldermanic Government:
Opponents spent thousands on newspaper ads, mail-outs, radio, and television advertising. Following is a 30 second TV commercial:
The following video is a presentation by Hot Springs City Clerk and Historian, Lance Spicer, about the possibility of a return to the aldermanic form of government.
In advance of the May 14, 2013 election, the Hot Springs City Attorney declared that all but six of the initial petition signatures turned in were invalid … but the Arkansas Attorney General, in an official AG Opinion, disagreed.
A Brief History
- April 8, 1986: In a vote of 4,018 “FOR” to 2,663 “AGAINST” the city adopted the City Manager Form Of Government in a Special Election called as a result of a petition for that purpose.
- December 4, 1990: In a Special Election called as result of a “PETITION FOR ALDERMANIC GOVERNMENT”, the result was no change in the form of government with a vote of 4,292 (44%) “FOR” to 5,554 (56%) “AGAINST”.
- May 14, 2013: A second attempt to return Hot Springs to the Aldermanic Form of Government failed, with only 242 citizens casting ballots “FOR” to 2,962 “AGAINST”. Total turnout for the Special Election was 2,962, or 10.68% of the registered Hot Springs voters.