A CLOSER LOOK: NWA city leaders discuss non-citizens in city government

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NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KFTA) — Fayetteville leaders passed a resolution to allow legal non-citizens to be part of advisory committees, and officials in neighboring cities have varying opinions on whether their city should do the same.

The Fayetteville City Council on Monday approved a resolution to allow non-citizens who are legal residents to participate in city committees and boards.

“It only applies to committees that are purely advisory, and the city council can take their advice or not,” said Kit Williams, Fayetteville’s city attorney.

State law prohibits non-citizens from being members of the City Council or commissions that make decisions for the city, such as the Planning Commission, Williams said.

Legal non-citizens can be members of committees such as Fayetteville’s Environmental Action Committee and Active Transportation Committee.

“They make recommendations, but they don’t make decisions,” Williams said.

Springdale City Councilman Brian Powell said he would support Springdale allowing legal non-citizens to be placed on advisory committees.

“They bring a lot of good ideas to the table to help us help them,” Powell said. “For advisory (roles) I don’t see that being a problem at all. It is beneficial to the city.”

Springdale Councilwoman Kathy Jaycox said she has invited several members of her community to participate in various boards and never asked them the status of their citizenship.

“I’ve never thought to ask them about their citizenship,” Jaycox said. “I don’t think that’s ever come up in conversation. Never once would it occur to me to ask what their status is. I don’t even understand why a city or municipality would have to legislate that.”

Jaycox said one of her city’s greatest strengths is inclusivity.

Powell said advisory roles are ideal for legal non-citizens.

“I think advisory roles would be great, and we do have individuals who give comments and help — help the mayor, help city government, help with discussions with the Hispanic and Marshallese communities and their needs,” Powell said.

Powell added that he thinks anyone who is a legal citizen should run for political office.

Cindy Acree is a member of the Bentonville City Council. Acree said while she believes that legal non-citizens should be able to participate in their community, she thinks that board and committee seats should be reserved for registered voters.

A staff member with the Rogers mayor’s office said the City of Rogers currently does not have any committees.

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