Trash petition effort submits 3,338 signatures

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 27 views 

Fort Smith residents Joel Culberson, Cecil Greene, and Judith Moran, were joined by Ward 1 Fort Smith Director candidate Keith Lau, in delivering 3,338 signatures to City Clerk Sherri Gard on Wednesday (Aug. 8).

In doing so, the Vote for Automated campaign has leapt its first major hurdle in placing city-wide automated curbside solid waste collection on the Nov. 6 ballot.

To add the ballot initiative, the Vote for Automated campaign needed 2,822 signatures. Culberson launched the effort in June following a 4-3 vote by the Fort Smith Board of Directors to suspend the program and keep manual collection to alleyways.

Canvassers Greene and Moran agreed that they felt confident “at least 90% of the signatures” will hold up for review, which begins on Thursday (Aug. 9) when Gard will forward a copy of the filed petition to the city attorney.

“As soon as I receive a certified listing of all registered voters within the city of Fort Smith from the Sebastian County Clerk’s Office, which has been requested and anticipated in the morning, my office will initiate verifying signatures,” Gard said in a Wednesday night memo.

Culberson shares Greene and Moran’s belief that the effort is on firm footing “statistically speaking,” but he’s not ready to declare victory just yet.

“If it isn’t (confirmed), we will go and do the 10-day sufficiency thing. Our first goal was to get the 2,822. We knew if you don’t get that, it’s game over. We were pleasantly surprised to see this last push.”

For the “last push,” the Vote for Automated campaign employed temp workers, who helped canvassers elevate the numbers from 800 on Aug. 2 to its final tally Wednesday evening.

Should the City Clerk determine that petitioners do not have the signatures of 2,822 registered voters, the “10-day sufficiency thing” would allow the Vote for Automated campaign a 10-day window to collect additional signatures.

Culberson said the last six days have been “hectic, trying to juggle a full-time job and get all the pieces accomplished that needed to be done, but some of the people I met, and the relationships that were made — it’s a great life experience, a great learning experience.”

Culberson estimated that he’d put in “at least 100 hours” since taking on the effort.

“If someone did this alone, I’d bow down to them.”

Despite the frantic pace, however, he’s quick to point out that the effort “is completely worth it.”

“We have competent department heads that should be allowed to run their departments, and the board getting involved on the micromanagement level and making decisions based on personal relationships rather than what was best for the entire city,” were motivating factors for Culberson.

But the effort was also about “voter education and getting people to realize they should get involved in what goes on in the city and understand the people they elect actually do make decisions that affect them on a day-to-day basis.”

Culberson continued: “This is not about trash. It’s really not. It’s about bigger things and decisions that are being made, and it just manifested itself in automated trash.”