Locals submit entertainment district referendum petition again

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Elvis Griffin turned in an amended version of a petition to refer the decision of whether or not to establish an entertainment drinking in Magnolia on Monday.

Griffin and Dr. Scott White first submitted the petition to the City of Magnolia on June 20 on behalf of Magnolia VOTES, with hopes to put the city’s decision to establish an entertainment district to a vote.

The entertainment district ordinance allows businesses with a license to serve alcohol to patrons in a regulated cup, which may be carried throughout the district — including onto downtown city streets — and into any businesses participating in the district.

The Magnolia City Council in May voted 5-3 to establish an entertainment district in the city.

On July 24, Candy Meeler, city clerk, announced that she could not certify the petition, which would move the referendum process forward, due to discrepancies between the entertainment district ordinance and the version that was circulated with the Magnolia VOTES petition.

The amended version seeks to correct these insufficiencies, according to Griffin.

“We tried to answer everything, all the objections, and we took (the ordinance) and put it back exactly how it was,” said Griffin.

Griffin said that Magnolia VOTES is now represented by attorney Brian Ratcliff, of Schackleford Phillips Ratcliff in El Dorado.

City Attorney Jennifer Jameson McKendree said during the Magnolia City Council’s July meeting that changes in the original referendum invalidated it.

“It is not the full and correct copy of that ordinance and unfortunately (that) calls into question all of the signatures. As the case law indicates, Arkansas Supreme Court has indicated that a petitioner is entitled to rely on the validity and veracity of what they are being presented in that petition when they are deciding whether or not to sign. The clearest way of knowing ‘Is this the ordinance?’ would be a literal duplication of the ordinance. To know that that is in fact what was passed… Without that, you do not know how folks would sign. The Supreme Court says it invalidates the whole thing. Start over if you have time,” said McKendree.

McKendree said she does not believe that Magnolia VOTES has any time for corrections.

Griffin said that from his understanding, the state constitution allows for 10 days for amendments following the city’s decision to not certify the petition .

According to Arkansas code, groups have 10 days after receiving notice of insufficiency to “solicit and add additional signatures, or to submit proof tending to show to that signatures rejected by the county clerk are correct and should be counted.”

“All we want… is to let the citizens have the right to vote on it themselves. We aren’t saying you can drink or can’t drink… However they vote, that’s how it will be,” said Griffin.

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