A citizens petition seeking to change the governance structure of the City of Hope was presented Thursday to Mayor Steve Montgomery — as the Friday print edition of the Hope Star was preparing for press - and in breaking news Sunday, the Hope Star has learned of a special called meeting of the Hope Board of Directors on Monday, March 12, at 12 noon at City Hall.

A citizens petition seeking to change the governance structure of the City of Hope was presented Thursday to Mayor Steve Montgomery — as he was attending a Tourism Board meeting and the Hope Star was preparing for press - for inclusion on the May 22 ballot, and prior to the City of Hope Board elections later this year.

**** In a breaking news development, on Sunday, the Hope Star has learned of a special called meeting of the Hope Board of Directors on Monday, March 12, at 12 noon at City Hall. *****
The petition, presented by a group called “Citizens For Change,” compels Steve Montgomery as the current Mayor to place before the voters a ballot on May 22 with a basic proposition: Shall the City of Hope reorganize from its current form of government to an elected Mayor/Council form?
Spokesperson Blake Montgomery, not related to Steve Montgomery, said, “Citizens for Change believes we, the citizens of Hope, need to have a voice in city government, and we believe citizens deserve to have that voice heard every four years, and not just the existing seven members of City Board of Directors.”
The initiative petition process is cited under Arkansas Code Ann. 14-38-113, Reorganization under different form of government.
Blake Montgomery said that the ballot initiative calls for an elected Mayor, elected City Clerk, elected City Attorney, and all seven existing directors would be placed on the ballot again as an elected “City Council.”
If Hope voters should approve the measure, then elections for the newly established positions would commence in the November 6 General Election, along with the existing candidates for Governor, County Judge, and other elected offices in this election cycle.
The City of Hope is one of only five in Arkansas that operates under a City Manager with a Board of Directors; the others being Little Rock, Arkadelphia, Hot Springs, and Texarkana. In recent years, other cities have voted to return to the Mayor/Council form, including Fayetteville, Maumelle, Benton, Malvern, Camden and Newport.
In Hope, the Board of Directors are voted on from seven mostly geographic based wards throughout the city limits of Hope and are elected in staggered elections.
Kiffany Talley, Reginald Easter, and Trevor Coffee were three directors elected in 2016; under the current system, up for reelection later in 2018 are Mark Ross, Steve Montgomery, and Don Still.
The Mayor’s title, currently Steve Montgomery, is named from the seven directors at the start of each new year; the Mayor of Hope is not a citywide popularly-elected Mayor.
The Board of Directors oversees a hired professional City Manager to run the city government.  City Manager Catherine Cook has held that post since the 1990s, in a long series of reappointments by the sitting directors.
The presentation of the petition to Mayor Steve Montgomery and City Manager Catherine Cook was made by Blake Montgomery at the end of a Hope Tourism meeting as the Hope Star was already in its press preparation cycle.
Additional comments and updates to this story will online at hopestar.com and be included in the Wednesday, May 14 edition.