Consultant, Writer, Former U.S. Congressional Nominee
How do you view the role of mayor in a citylike Little Rock, which also has a city manager?
First, it’s important to establish the fact that the City of Little Rock has what’s called a weak-mayor form of city government. This means all 14 department heads, including the chief of police, report to City Manager Bruce Moore, and not Mayor Stodola. This form is antiquated, and I’d work to change it immediately, which of course requires a ballot initiative. My platform calls for a strong-mayor form of city government where all department heads report to the mayor. So, in its present form, the mayor of Little Rock is no more than a figure head – cutting ribbons and presiding over the city directors’ board meetings. This is, of course, nonsense. When I’m elected in November, a top priority of my administration will be ushering the City of Little Rock into the 21st century with a strong-mayor form of city government.
What do you consider to be the biggest issue facingLittle Rock today? What about five years from now?
The biggest issue facing Little Rock is the organized and nefarious stealth assault on the Little Rock School District by the Walton Family Foundation, Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key. Five years from now: Transportation.
How will you meet these challenges?
As a progressive mayor of Little Rock, I will continue to be a ferocious advocate of returning LRSD to local control, seek an immediate moratorium on new charter schools, fight to close existing failing charter schools and take the Walton Family Foundation, Gov. Hutchinson and Commissioner Key – who, by the way, wasn’t qualified for the position so the Republican controlled legislature changed Arkansas law so he could be hired – to task for continuing to undermine Little Rock public schools.
In the area of transportation, there is one exciting solution and we’ve already begun the work. As a staunch supporter of public transportation, we will certainly work with my friend Allie Freeman and other Rock Region Metro leadership to determine if there’s an interest in exploring a potential partnership with the company that would deliver this particular transportation solution. The company, Bird, is in the scooter business and based in southern California. Bird scooters are wildly popular with millennials who, in cities across the country, fly around town on them. Our initial conversation with representatives from Bird was terribly exciting and extremely promising. The concept is simple: App-based and $1 lets you fly. And it’s 15 cents a minute after that. As for speed, it goes up to 15 mph. They’d be perfect for the existing bike lanes in Little Rock, which I’d like to eventually expand to the airport and develop a plan to connect neighborhoods and all 7 Wards.
How will you attract both new businesses and new residents?
Organically, yet aggressively. We’ll highlight the natural resources of Little Rock and the extraordinary quality of life in our city. In addition, my administration would target and recruit companies like Apple, Gap and Banana Republic to fill retail voids downtown and in other parts of the city.
What are some ways in which you will improve infrastructure?
Recently, I had a conversation with Director of Public Works Jon Honeywell. I asked him how he would rank the wards according to infrastructure needs. We agreed that Ward 1, where I happen to live, had the greatest need. The next Ward with the greatest need we disagreed. I think it’s Ward 2; Jon said Ward 3. The Street Fund budget is approximately $20 million. This is problematic because the salaries of the 200 plus Public Works employees comes from this budget. As mayor, I’d propose we seek additional infrastructure funds from the existing $175 million Capital Fund budget which is set to expire in 2021-2022. This way we could properly prioritize the current infrastructure needs ward by ward and proceed accordingly and diligently.
What is your vision for Little Rock?
My vision for Little Rock is a city that works for everyone and puts people first, always remembering there are 7 Wards in the city – not just a cherry-picked few. City Hall currently operates like a private club, granting access to a selected few. City Hall is not a private club; it’s the People’s House. As the next mayor of Little Rock, I will insist on a people-first culture. This means when a resident of the city of Little Rock wakes up in the morning, he or she will know and feel that the city is rooting for him or her. Elect Vincent Tolliver in November and I promise one thing: I got your back!