Hardeeville citizens voice concern over at-large city council elections

Some Hardeeville citizens think their city council is not a fair representation of their community, and voiced those concerns in a city forum on Tuesday night. Those NEWS 3 spoke with say the at large form of electing council members should be changed, to elect council from districts of Hardeeville.

 

“We call it the 278 corridor,” Hardeeville neighbor and former city council member Sal Arzillo says, “and those folks live in a gated community, they’ve just moved here, and they’ve been able to get elected through their own populations and run the city.”

Behind the gates of Sun City, on the edge of Hardeeville, live three of the five Hardeeville council members, Michael Sweeney, David Spisso, and Harry Williams. Another councilman, Scott Ready, lives in a neighborhood down the highway, Hilton Head Lakes. Mayor Bronco Bostick is the only one who resides in older Hardeeville. Fore some, like Arzillo, that’s a problem.

“It’s distressing for us,” he says. “Nobody’s represented. Here in the old Hardeeville, businesses, not represented…some of the communities, certainly not represented…and if you want to find these folks, you have to get a pass to get in there, and you have to be invited.”

Councilman Michael Sweeney says he prefers the at-large form, since he says few candidates come out of other areas. He says he’s heard no opposition from constituents.

“They have no qualms about Sun City councilmen I should say, Hardeeville councilmen, being from Sun City,” Sweeney says.

On Tuesday, citizens had the chance to voice their opinions to council on the matter. City Attorney Prina Maines read the five forms of electing council members the public could voice support for, suggesting the council add them to the referendum in May or November.

“One option is to put a nonbinding referendum, we have an election in May, kind of an advisory opinion, saying would you like to change the method of election and here’s a series of different types of elections that could be appropriate, so that’s one option,” City Manager Michael Czymbor says, “or, they could wait til the November general election and pose that same question.”

Those forms of electing council are:

  1. Members of the council area elected from the municipality at large.
  2. One member is elected from each ward of the municipality by the qualified electors of the ward. Candidates seeking office from a particular ward shall be residents of the ward during their entire terms of office.
  3. Some members are elected from wards as provided for in (2) and the remainder are elected from the municipality at large.
  4. Members are required to be residents of particular wards but will be elected from the municipality at large.
  5. Some members may be required to be residents of particular wards and others may be residents of the municipality without regard to a particular ward and all members shall be elected from the municipality at large.

Regardless of the form adopted, the mayor will always be elected at large.

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