Southwest Little Rock Mayor’s Forum touches on a bit of everything

The November election is approaching and four candidates are vying for mayor of Little Rock. Three of the candidates — incumbent Frank Scott Jr.real estate agent and food blogger Greg Henderson and local activist Glen Schwarz attended a forum Wednesday night in Southwest Little Rock.

Brian Chilson
FORUM: Mayor Frank Scott Jr. discusses his plans to continue “intentionality” if he is re-elected in November.

Former car dealership Steve Lander is also running for mayor of Little Rock, but was absent on Wednesday. Kimberly Lee, one of the forum speakers, said Landers was confirmed to come to the event starting Monday. After the event, Landers told the Arkansas Times that he chose to attend a different event — one at TAG Church, he said — after what he described as a “circus” at a previous mayor’s forum in Southwest Little Rock. He said he would attend Monday’s at the Ron Robinson Theatre. Landers also said that if elected mayor he would serve all of the townspeople and said he was “in their [the residents of Southwest Little Rock] corner.”

Lawyer Brenda Stallings moderated the forum, which Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and other organizations presented. Stallings led an organized discussion focused on the nominees’ top priorities, how they plan to interact with the board, youth-focused programs, and efforts that would be directed specifically to Little Rock Southwest. when it comes to improvements, business and job growth and affordable home ownership.

Crowd cheers are an unscientific and totally subjective form of measurement, but the packed forum crowd seemed to lean in favor of Scott, but were sensitive to Henderson’s ideas and actually laughed at some of Schwarz’s ideas. (His campaign slogan is “Mayor Schwarz be with you!”)

Photo by Glen SchwarzBrian Chilson
GLEN SCHWARZ: Is back and running for mayor of Little Rock again.

Asked to name his top three priorities in what would be the first 90 days of his second term, Scott named seven. He promised to appoint a new police chief and focus on infrastructure and community schools. He said he would continue to clean up the city and improve city parks, increase resources for the homeless population and increase job growth. He described his work in office over the past nearly four years as “intentional,” particularly through the development of long, underserved areas south of I-630 and east of I-30.

Throughout the evening, Henderson shifted his focus to relationship building. If elected, he said he would first work to build connections and build trust, then develop a policy of transparency for city government. He also said he wanted to get involved in each neighborhood by interacting with associations and visiting those who didn’t have one to “work together on problems”.

Schwarz, the non-ironic comic relief of the evening, named his top priorities as stopping global warming, legalizing marijuana, and getting a space program in Little Rock.

Discussions about board interactions were similar between Henderson and Scott. Henderson said board members serve as “eyes and ears in the community” and while there are sometimes disagreements, he said he will work to “find common ground in order to move forward”.

Photo by Greg HendersonBrian Chilson
GREG HENDERSON: This real estate agent and food blogger says he’s focusing on relationships first if he’s elected mayor of Little Rock.

Scott, whose communication with the board has been regularly sticky and quite strained at times, said nothing he does as mayor can be done alone. Although he wields more “strong mayor” executive powers than have been wielded in the recent past, Scott said, “We can’t govern without working with each other.”

Schwarz likened board members and citywide managers to a House of Representatives and Senate model, and he said he favors keeping the general positions. However, he later said he would be a “part-time mayor” of sorts.

For the crime talks, Henderson and Scott again had similar points. Henderson said he wanted to build on what the Scott administration had put in place with its “holistic” approach to involving young people. Scott noted his “intentionality” to work with the Little Rock Police Department to understand cultural diversity. Representation is important and it is important to understand before acting, he said.

Scott said that with each homicide he received a phone call and spoke with all the families involved – including several he knew personally. “Every time I get a call, it not only pierces my mind, but also my heart and it brings me to tears,” Scott said. As homicides largely occur between people who know each other, Scott said it was important to move forward with the holistic approach and targeted patrols.

Photo of Frank Scott Jr.Brian Chilson
CRIME PREVENTION: Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has spent time investing in a “holistic” approach to crime that extends to youth.

Henderson said he wants to work specifically to increase community policing so that when officers enter a neighborhood, people aren’t afraid of being arrested, but build meaningful relationships with people.

Henderson took a hit as the absent Landers crime approached. “What’s going to kill that momentum is if we try to run the police through fear,” he said. “We can’t scare people into being safe.”

Schwarz said he would “make it easier for the police” to end the war on drugs. This change would focus directly on violent crime, he said.

Schwarz had no idea about specific business or job growth at Southwest Little Rock, other than he said he planned to bring in a space program with a large observatory to “see the rings of Saturn. “. He said affordable housing in the area was important and made a point of not forgetting renters as well. His take on youth-focused programs like after-school programs and summer jobs was that it’s not the city’s job to help bored children. He said boredom doesn’t cause crime and kids have phones to keep them busy.

Photo by Glen SchwarzBrian Chilson
FOCUS: Candidate Glen Schwarz is focusing on global warming, marijuana legalization and a space program for his mayoral campaign.

The other candidates had more thoughtful responses.

Henderson said he wanted to focus on improving the quality of life in the area first, because people “move first, then they find jobs.” He said he wanted to work on a business retention and expansion plan to advance the community through growth.

“We’ve made great progress here,” Henderson said. “There are a lot more businesses here than I have ever seen in my 40 years of life, but now we need to make sure those businesses grow and want to be here.”

He said there should be more affordable housing options in southwest Little Rock and suggested working on vacant lots by infill, which would fill the city from the inside out instead. than outward. If people bought those lots, he proposed that they could get 10-year property tax relief. He also recommended changing city codes so lots can be easily divided for affordable housing, just as they can be easily combined.

Photo by Greg HendersonBrian Chilson
MOVING FORWARD: Henderson said he wants to continue the work the Scott administration started with youth programs and long-term solutions to crime.

For youth-focused programs, Henderson pointed out that focusing on future generations helps stop the cycle of crime by 10 to 15 years. He said he would like to work closely with the Little Rock School District provide the support and work needed to define community schools so that everyone, especially parents, understands the programs.

Scott noted that it is a “byproduct” of Southwest Little Rock, and is one of the city’s targeted areas for community development. He noted job growth with Amazon and mentioned that 14 new lots have been purchased and are being developed specifically for affordable housing. In terms of homeownership, he stressed the importance of teaching financial literacy and knowing how credit works, so people in homes understand how to be successful, he said.

“Why are we so focused on home ownership? Because it closes the wealth gaps,” Scott said. “It closes racial wealth gaps; it bridges gender gaps. He also said that home ownership, along with a job, are the “best crime prevention strategies.”

Photo of Frank Scott Jr.Brian Chilson
PROGRAMS: Mayor Frank Scott Jr. mentioned midnight basketball and summer job programs as things young people enjoyed.

Crime prevention also featured in Scott’s strategies for youth programs. “It’s about saving our generation – instilling hope in them,” he said. “If we don’t provide them with something to do, they will find something to do.”

The Central Arkansas Library System will host a Forum of Mayors on Monday, October 10 at the Ron Robinson Theater. It starts at 6:30 p.m. and is free to the public, although rregistration is required.

The last day to register to vote in Arkansas is October 11, and early voting begins October 24. Election day is November 8.

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