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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Local groups petition to return Magnolia Recreation District to voters


Dr. Scott White and Elvis Griffin filed a referendum petition with the city of Magnolia on Tuesday seeking a vote on the city’s recent decision to create a recreation district.

The entertainment district ordinance allows licensed businesses to serve alcoholic beverages to customers in prescribed cups that may be carried throughout the district, including on downtown streets, and to any business entering the district.

White and Griffin are part of Magnolia Votes, which they describe as “a group of citizens who simply exercise their civil rights and contribute constructively to the checks and balances that are an integral part of the system of government in our democratic republic. “

White said the group was formed shortly after the city council passed the ordinance on May 22. Since then, he said they have been working with the Arkansas Ethics Commission to draft the petition and get the necessary signatures.

Within 12 days, Magnolia Votes gathered 494 signatures on the petition, White said.

“The petition is not asking if anyone supports or opposes the ordinance, it’s asking if you want citizens to have the opportunity to vote on it,” White said.

“About 40 families asked me why the city council didn’t put it to the referendum in the first place,” Griffin said.

White added, “We’re not after people. City councils do their jobs with the resources they have. It’s part of the checks and balances of a democratic republic.”

The Arkansas Secretary of State Initiative and Referendum Handbook states that the ordinance will not go into effect until the referendum is accepted or rejected because it was not passed using emergency measures.

According to the Arkansas League of Municipalities, the referendum requires signatures equivalent to at least 15 percent of the vote in the last mayoral election. According to the Columbia County Clerk’s Office, during the last Magnolia mayoral election, 3,889 people voted, meaning any referendum petition would need 583 valid signatures from registered voters to be accepted.

Under Magnolia City regulations, the City Council must issue a notice of the hearing, allowing all residents who wish to be heard to speak on the topic. After the hearing, if the City Council finds that the petition has been signed by the requisite number of registered voters, a special election will be held within 10 days.

According to the Arkansas Secretary of State’s Handbook on Initiatives and Referendums, if an insufficient number of signatures are submitted and verified, the petition will be declared insufficient and fail.

If the ordinance is passed, it will take effect 30 days after the vote confirms it, according to the Arkansas League of Municipalities.

Magnolia City Clerk Candy Meeler said she will speak Wednesday morning with Columbia County Elections Coordinator Mary Rogers and City Attorney Jennifer Jameson McKendree ) to make sure this is all in compliance with city and state regulations.


Dr. Scott White handed the referendum to Magnolia City Clerk Candy Meeler. (Joshua Turner/Banner News)


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