The Little Rock City Board has more than a sales tax to discuss Tuesday. It also will meet in a session to schedule items for consideration at the May 18 city board meeting. There’s controversy there.
First, City Director Ken Richardson will continue his push to de-emphasize enforcement of minor marijuana offenses.
He proposes an ordinance to “declare it the policy of the City of Little Rock, Arkansas, that the investigation, citation, arrest, seizure or prosecution of Misdemeanor Marijuana Offenses by adults its lowest law enforcement and prosecutorial priority.” He’s failed on this idea twice before, losing on a 4-5 vote in 2019 with Director Dean Kumpuris absent. One of the no votes, Gene Fortson, has been replaced by Antwan Phillips. Should Phillips vote aye vote to lift the total to five, that could put a decision in the hands of the mayor.
Then, there’s this proposed ordinance:
To amend Little Rock, Ark., Rev. Code § 22-34 (1988), to clarify when a child must be accompanied by an adult in a public restroom facility;
You might wonder why this is necessary. The working part of the proposal says, in full:
Little Rock, Ark., Rev. Code § 22-34 (1988) is hereby amended to read as follows: Any child under the age of six (6) years may use any restroom facility within the City if accompanied by a parent, guardian, or person designated by a parent or guardian to do so.
The back story on this proposed change: It arises from a comment by a careful reader of city ordinances who noted what Sec. 22-34 of city code currently says. Here it is, with emphasis supplied on words that would no longer appear in code:
No person shall use restrooms and washrooms designated for the opposite sex unless such person is under the age of six (6) years and is accompanied by his parent or guardian.
In other words, Little Rock had a “bathroom bill” for potential enforcement against transgender people (at least if you accept the legislature’s inflexible definition of gender) and didn’t even know it. This change would eliminate that. It is a good thing, in other words. As would be an expression of support for transgender people such as Fayetteville’s city council recently approved.
Another item that holds potential for more than routine discussion is City Director Doris Wright’s proposal to declare an emergency on account of youth violence and devote $5 million to a youth violence initiative. Her ordinance would dispense with bids for proposals and have the city work through a contract with an institute at Arkansas Baptist College.
This is part of targeted community development initiatives on which Wright has advocated spending some of new sales tax money. That broader topic is also listed on the Tuesday items for discussion.