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Group wants to change area city's government

Group wants to change area city's government

Hope's 'Citizens for Change' hopes to switch to a mayor-council system

March 13th, 2018 by Jim Williamson in Texarkana Region

The "Citizens for Change" wants the City of Hope to eliminate the city manager position and become a mayor-council form of government to improve the local economics, according to Hope attorney Blake Montgomery.

The proposal was discussed during a called meeting of the Board of Directors Monday at noon in city hall.

Signed petitions requesting a May 22 election to consider changing the city's form of government from city manager form to mayor-council form were submitted to the mayor late Thursday afternoon, according to a press release from the city.

"The election is going to be between the upper class in Hope and the rest of us," said Montgomery, one of the people seeking the change.

"Hope has been struggling for 20 years. The wealthy have become wealthier and the poor have become poorer," he said.

Census reports show Hope's population has declined from 10,800 in the year 2000 to 9,600, he said.

"People have been dying, moving away and not coming back. We're having population shrinkage. The poverty level is out of control. The city of Hope has 27 percent of the population living in poverty. The state average is 17 percent. We're going in the wrong direction," said Montgomery.

"We're driving down the wrong road and at some point in time, we need to look at the warning signs and our economics indicators. The city of Hope can do better and I believe the city deserves better," he said.

Hope's form of government has been the city manager since 1958, said Hope Mayor Steve Montgomery, who is not related to Blake Montgomery.

The city's mayor believes Hope needs a professionally trained city manager.

Steve Montgomery says Hope manages a public municipal utility with Hope Power & Light and a landfill and the town also has 12 departments directed by the city manager.

Steve Montgomery said the utility company increased the rates and it angered citizens, contributing to circulating the petition.

The mayor wants the residents to educate themselves about the type of government and listen to all sides of the issue.

The city clerk will check the submitted petitions requesting the election to verify signatures.

"If there are sufficient valid signatures (60) to call for an election, the mayor would issue an election proclamation setting the election date. After that election is conducted , if the citizens vote to retain the current form of government, nothing further on that question would happen," states the news release.

If the citizens vote to change to mayor—council government, then another election would be conducted to elect a mayor, city council, city attorney and city clerk, according to the news release.

Under the current form of government, Hope's mayor is appointed by the board of directors and not voted on by the public. The positions of mayor and board of directors receive no pay.

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