May 142013

(After-election remarks regarding the May 14, 2013 Hot Springs, Arkansas Special Election for city residents to vote FOR or AGAINST return to the aldermanic form of city government:  The organized opposition representing a coalition of the entrenched “powers that be” in Hot Springs, employed a marketing professional to head their campaign to get out the vote AGAINST the proposed change. Their activity included a get-out-the vote rally the day before early voting opened, an opposition website, emails, newspaper, radio, and even television advertising. Despite their very substantial advertising effort, only about 10% of the city electorate turned out to decide this important issue. But they were, nevertheless, successful as most of the small number who bothered to vote cast a ballot AGAINST the proposed change.)

1) The petition effort that brought about this election and the run-up to the election has surprisingly served to unite former political and philosophical enemies. Six months ago, who would have ever thought that Oaklawn, the A&P Commission, Fifty for the Future, and the Chamber leadership would unite to fight for the preservation of Mayor Carney’s position, and choose her as Chairman of their collective effort to defeat a return to aldermanic government in Hot Springs?

What else could have done that, and how much is that worth? It will be interesting to see if the Mayor’s former antagonists resume their prior antipathy toward her now that the election is over.

2) A primary purpose of the petition effort and of the election, win or lose, was to dramatically raise public awareness of the ETJ problem. We have accomplished that and feel very satisfied that the hard work served that good purpose. We continue to look forward with hopeful anticipation to total elimination of municipal extra-territorial jurisdictions, perhaps by way of a State or Federal judicial ruling of ETJ’s as unconstitutional violations of property rights.

3) Today’s election leaves Hot Springs as one of only four cities in Arkansas (15 or so tried city manager government beginning in the 1950’s and most later went back to aldermanic), retaining the city manager form of government. Obviously we are not keeping up with the trend, but now in accordance with state law will have to wait out another four years of “government by task forces, studies, and consultants” for another opportunity to return to the more responsive and accountable aldermanic form, joining the vast majority of the approximately 500 other Arkansas towns and cities who retain or have returned to aldermanic government.

Thanks to each one who cared enough to exercise your right to vote in this election, regardless of whether your vote was FOR or AGAINST.


Clay Herrmann

 Posted by at 11:00 pm

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