Fayetteville broadens who can volunteer on city council

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — People in Fayetteville who are not registered voters can now serve on city boards, commissions, and committees.

The Fayetteville City Council approved council member Kyle Smith’s ordinance on Tuesday, July 2, and it has been getting a lot of attention.

Being a registered voter is a baseline requirement to join any of the resident-led panels but now, all Fayetteville residents who are legally authorized to live or work in the United States can volunteer on Fayetteville advisory boards.

“We just broadened the category of people who are eligible to volunteer and give advice to the city council,” Fayetteville Council Member, Ward 4, Position 2, Kyle Smith said.

A category of people that now includes non-citizens.

“These people (non-citizens) are already engaged and invested in our community in many many ways and this is just giving them the opportunity to taking that next step in having a say,” he said.

The ordinance reads in part, “All Fayetteville residents who are legally authorized to live or work in the United States shall be entitled to apply or serve on a city board, commission, or committee.”

Smith said he doesn’t expect to have a rush of non-registered voters suddenly showing up to volunteer, but feels this is a step in the right direction.

“Sometimes a policy like this is about stating our values rather than rushing in a radical change,” he said.

Washington County Republican Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Deakins doesn’t think non-citizens have the right to make choices for the city.

“We believe that peer group is one of the foundations and one of the requirements of that is to be a citizen of the United States and have those rights and privileges bestowed in you,” Deakins said.

Smith said in a diverse community like Fayetteville, this is something he expected.

“We can agree to disagree on a lot of things and hopefully work together on the next big issue,” Smith said.

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