A Guide To The 2018 Little Rock Mayoral Race
The information in this guide is taken directly from the candidate’s answers to the moderator’s questions in five forums presented by The Central Arkansas Library System, The League of Women Voters of Pulaski County, American Association of University Women of Little Rock and KUAR 89.1 - UA Little Rock Public Radio.
October 22 is the start of early voting in Arkansas, and November 6 is when the residents of Little Rock will have a chance to elect a new mayor for the first time in 12 years.
Incumbent Mark Stodola, who has been in office since 2007, is not seeking re-election. KUAR teamed up with The Central Arkansas Library System, The League of Women Voters of Pulaski County and The American Association of University Women of Little Rock to introduce the city to its five candidates for mayor through a series of five forums covering economic opportunity, crime, infrastructure, education, and general topics.
If you missed any of the five mayoral forums and our airing of them on 89,1 here is a guide to see where each candidate stands on the issues. The five candidates are: Glen Schwarz, Frank Scott Jr., Warwick Sabin, Vincent Tolliver, and Baker Kurrus.
A quick take on each candidate:
Warwick Sabin has held three terms in the Arkansas House of Representatives and sponsored bills like the earned income tax credit. Sabin has also founded the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub, which is designed to help young people and adults get the resources they need to start a business.
Glen Schwarz has been a teacher, recycle center manager, and journalist with the Little Rock Free Press.
Frank Scott Jr. was born, raised, and still resides in southwest Little Rock. He is a product of Little Rock public schools, an associate pastor at Greater Second Baptist Church, a banker at First Security Bank, a former senior advisor to Gov. Mike Beebe, and a former state highway commissioner.
Vincent Tolliver is a writer from the southeast Arkansas town of Lake Village. “My mother was 15 years at the time when I was born. Four days later she turned 16. She taught me two things: one, I'm your mother and not your friend. Two, treat people the way you want to be treated.”
Baker Kurrus is the former Superintendent of the Little Rock School District. He’s also been a lawyer, practicing law for 18 years.
What is the city's biggest barriers to creating more economic opportunity and how can you as mayor overcome those barriers?
Warwick Sabin: “The biggest barrier is we have not done enough to emphasize small business and entrepreneurship.”
Here's Why: “We don't really acknowledge the fact that our legacy in Little Rock, all of the companies we're most proud of: the Alltels, the Acxioms, the Stephens, the Dillards, they all started as small businesses here in Little Rock… The problem is, those are 20th-century companies and we need to focus on the 21st-century economy, which means building the infrastructure, providing the resources, understanding how to help people start and grow small businesses in every part of the city in an equitable way.”
Glen Schwarz will be a part time mayor and will only accept a third of the mayor’s salary. “Leaving $60,000 in the Little Rock bank, and then $60,000 I'm going to use to contribute to balancing the federal budget.”
Here's Why: “I'm aware $60,000 used to balance the federal budget is a microcosm, but as a macrocosm, I will put the Congress on notice. If you don't deliver a balanced federal budget by 2020 I will call a constitutional convention to Little Rock and we will draft and pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution.”
Frank Scott Jr believes Little Rock needs diversity in the marketplace and educational achievement.
Here's Why: “As a banker, I understand that it's not always easy to do business in the city of Little Rock. We must have a more friendly business atmosphere and environment for the small business owners, for minority business owners, for all business owners. One of the things I plan to roll out as your next mayor is to have a cut the red tape commission to make certain we prevent certain policies that are not allowing pro-growth to happen.”
Vincent Tolliver said the primary barrier is city hall.
Here's Why: “City Hall for too long has operated as a private club only granting access to a select few. My campaign is about reclaiming city hall and turning it back over to the people…. So in the people's house, the economic opportunity would draw from all wards, all talent.”
Baker Kurrus said Little Rock needs to foster a welcoming community.
Here's Why: “Businesses grow in cities that are diverse, that are welcoming, that are engaging, and have opportunity for everyone. They also grow and spring up in cities that people want to live.”
What do you see as the next likely source of significant job growth in Little Rock and how will you position the city to nourish that growth and capitalize on it?
Warwick Sabin said small business and entrepreneurship is the next likely source.
Here's Why: “I think there's an opportunity to work with our public school system to emphasize vocational education to work with great two-year institutions like Pulaski Tech as well as our four-year institutions like UALR to prepare our job force. When we have our workforce in place, we're going to make sure we that we can attract the kinds of companies that are sustainable 21st-century economies to our city.”
Glen Schwarz wants to help Little Rock reduce its carbon footprint.
Here's Why: “When I tell you we might have exponential growth, I'm basing this on global warming, when sea levels rise… I have a plan, it's called the metropolitan village concept. Instead of spreading out in a suburb, we're going to do a village concept where you take the River Market where there's now 10,000 people living in a half square mile and build several villages that look like that.”
Frank Scott Jr. said the city needs to improve its infrastructure and have a vision for comprehensive urban planning, educational achievement and safe neighborhoods.
Here's Why: “Many people forget FedEx started right here in Little Rock. We have to make certain that we move forward, and make certain that when entrepreneurs have great ideas that we support those entrepreneurs so they can grow right here in our city bringing [transformational] change.”
Vincent Tolliver said the next big change is likely to come from the technology sector.
Here's Why: “We have to make sure we utilize the existing talent and all across the city. I don't think we've done a good job as a city in terms of this technology talent that exists within the city. I would make sure we seek out talent across the city and not just one stronghold of it.”
Baker Kurrus said Little Rock needs to cultivate what it already has.
Here's Why: “We have to support and enhance what we've already got. That's the low fruit, the easiest thing we can do. Our educational systems in this town our not being adequately supported by our state. We've got to change that, that's the mayor's job to advocate for major employers in our city. We have tremendous healthcare in our city but it's slipping away.”
What is your position on the I-30 Crossing?
Warwick Sabin said he’s been opposed to the project since the beginning.
Here’s Why: “People are looking for cities where they don’t have to have a car, enjoy a certain quality of life, where they can walk or bike and use public transit. What we’re talking about doing is expanding an interstate right through our downtown core, our biggest asset right between the River Market and East Village where the most revitalization is happening.”
Glen Schwarz said he’s an advocate of building much more advanced mass transit and referred back to his metropolitan village concept.
Frank Scott Jr. said he clearly supports I-30.
Here’s Why: “I wanted to make certain that [Interstate] 630 was not repeated with the 30 Crossing project. Safety is a priority. 125,000 people travel that system right now with a broken bridge we have to fix. The businesses that are located there right now are doing it because they are going to be directly located to an interstate. It’s the same reason why the Clintons did it in 2004 because of economic boom, direct access to the interstate.”
Vincent Tolliver said he is firmly against the expansion of I-30 in its current form.
Here’s Why: “I don’t think we need to spend almost $1 billion on anything when we have a crumbling infrastructure within Little Rock. I think also the expansion of I-30 boxes out businesses that are located in the area. How would those businesses survive during the expansion of I-30 when no one can get to them and they would have to move.”
Baker Kurrus said Little Rock is a member of Metroplan and that it’s a done deal.
Here’s Why: “Here’s what Metroplan says in their annual report, ‘while legal challenge by private parties remains possible, Metroplan and by extension the region’s local governments will have no further legally binding impact over 30 Crossing.’ Like it, don’t like it that’s where we are. A mayor can influence what happens next.”
What is the best way to police Little Rock?
Warwick Sabin said community policing.
Here’s Why: C.O.P.P (Community Oriented Police Person) presence in Sabin’s own neighborhood. Instituted after crime wave of early 1990s, but decrease in community policing has inversely affected crime rates.
Baker Kurrus said adequate staffing/funding is needed for the police force.
Here’s Why: Community policing has been a goal for the past two years, but vacancies in police force can’t work. “We’ve got to build a strong foundation,” and build community policing into city budget with a greater emphasis on interagency cooperation.
Frank Scott Jr. said he wants to increase the police force from 593 to 700.
Here’s Why: “We have to make certain that our police officers get outside of their vehicles,” to build greater trust with the community. Work with prosecuting attorney’s office to create a specialized gun violence court, and building career ladders within LRPD.
Vincent Tolliver said transparency and engagement with Little Rock’s neighborhoods.
Here’s Why: Pair police officers with existing staff at city’s 12 community resource centers. Hold mandatory town hall meetings with the 14 department heads in city government.
Glen Schwarz said Little Rock needs sensible laws.
Here’s Why: In favor of bicycle patrol officers, but not in favor of larger police force. Laws should concentrate on violent crime specifically.
Should Little Rock cooperate with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement)? If so, how and to what extent?
Glen Schwarz said yes.
Here’s Why: “I think people should be following the law when they try to emigrate to this country.” Little Rock should not be a sanctuary city.
Warwick Sabin said no.
Here’s Why: Little Rock Police “have enough on their plate.” Citizens shouldn’t be stopped and asked by police for immigration papers. Immigration is a federal issue.
Baker Kurrus said yes and no.
Here’s Why: Shouldn’t enforce federal immigration laws on a city level and should afford Fourth Amendment rights to every citizen of Little Rock. But police should comply with outstanding warrants from other agencies if a person is detained legally.
Frank Scott Jr. said no.
Here’s Why: “If there’s a need to be cooperative, that’s the need at that case point in time,” but Little Rock Police should focus on city issues.
Vincent Tolliver said no.
Here’s Why: “I think it’s inhumane, and I think it’s unconscionable,” and would adopt a similar directive to Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ executive order preventing jails from housing ICE detainees.
Are you in support of decriminalizing marijuana, and exonerating those with criminal charges related to this issue?
Frank Scott Jr. said yes.
Here’s Why: “We understand the disproportionate impact that marijuana has on African-Americans, Latinos and other people of color.” Sees medical marijuana as an entryway into recreational legalization
Vincent Tolliver said yes.
Here’s Why: “I will be terse. Yes, I would decriminalize marijuana, and yes, I would exonerate.”
Glen Schwarz said yes.
Here’s Why: “Well yeah, that’s my main issue, why I got into the race!” Schwarz cited a defeated city ordinance proposed by City Director Ken Richardson that would deprioritize marijuana arrests by the Little Rock Police Department.
Warwick Sabin said yes.
Here’s Why: Supported Richardson’s attempt at deprioritization. “It’s absolutely clear that the enforcement of these kinds of laws disproportionately affects communities of color.”
Baker Kurrus said it’s complicated.
Here’s Why: “I’m not going after marijuana usage but… we need federal guidance and federal leadership to conform all the laws so that it’s not illegal federally and legal in the local arena.”
Do you think War Memorial Park should be reimagined for other purposes than golf? If so, what's your vision? If not, what's your argument for keeping it the same?
Glen Schwarz said he wanted to install Faraday cages on golf courses and bus stops for people caught outside during a storm.
Vincent Tolliver said yes, “I don’t think we need a golf course there.”
Here’s Why: “I’d love to see the park reimagined as a green space for the community and city. I think we need walking trails and spaces families can come with their children.”
Frank Scott Jr. said yes, but he wants to repurpose the park.
Here’s Why: “Repurpose it from an 18 hole golf course to a nine holes. Also include a regional sports complex that’s going on in the new wave of sports entertainment… Focus more on sports and arts.”
Warwick Sabin said the city shouldn’t predetermine what should be there.
Here’s Why: “We should approach the citizens of Little Rock to find out what they want to use especially those within close proximity of War Memorial… I would say golf in general is one of the most inefficient uses of space and resources and sports that there is.”
Baker Kurrus said he doesn’t think it’s necessary to continue to play golf there.
Here’s Why: “The land is simply not conducive for some massive earth moving project. It’s ideally suited for a nice interactive park to have fun with your family, but it needs to be connected to neighborhoods… The thing we need to keep in mind is that there are people who have built their social lives and their support networks around that golf course, so I think the best way to deal with them is to talk to them earnestly and see if we can accomodate them at another course.”
What is the most important infrastructure improvement Little Rock can make?
Frank Scott Jr. said there are many different infrastructure improvement projects to consider in all parts of the city.
Here’s Why: “I go back to having a clear vision by having an infrastructure improvement plan that addresses each area of our city. In southwest Little Rock we have water, sewage and flooding issues. In west Little Rock there [is] a tremendous amount of road expanding issues. In the south and East End we need to have more sidewalks and a coordinated housing solution.”
Warwick Sabin said it’s a question of mobility.
Here’s Why: “One thing that holds our city back is that you have to own a car to live in this city, to get to a job, to take your kids to school. Wrapped up in that is the lack of sidewalks in so many neighborhoods. One way to bring a city together is addressing mobility and connecting neighborhoods.”
Baker Kurrus said the single most important thing related to infrastructure relates to financial management.
Here’s Why: “The needs are immense. We have a billion dollars worth of needs so I’m not going to be able to specifically [say] which little or big project is the most important… If we don’t build a better system of financing these projects, nothing matters. We’ll never get caught up.”
Glen Schwarz said it’s a basic change in attitude.
Here’s Why: “A change in attitude of how people are going to come to Little Rock, how this city is going to grow exponentially instead of going suburban sprawl.”
Vincent Tolliver said sidewalks.
Here’s Why: “Arkansas has been ranked as the third most obese state in the United States, and I think sidewalks go a long way in helping with that issue. If people have sidewalks they can get to and from their neighborhoods, and it cuts down on chronic diseases.”
Why is closing the loop on the Arkansas River Trail vital to the city’s development?
Warwick Sabin said the city needs to close the loop.
Here’s Why: “People are being sent over to North Little Rock because the trail is complete on that side. People go over there and they’re eating and drinking and shopping.”
Baker Kurrus said, “we have to close that loop.”
Here’s Why: “It’s very dangerous. That’s part of the problem. We’ve got all sorts of plans for this. If you live where you can get to the river, you’ve got all sorts of biking opportunities but if you live in the central city you don’t and that’s not fair, that’s not right.”
Glen Schwarz said , “I agree they need to close that loop.”
Here’s Why: “I want to see separate bike trails. A bike has no chance in any type of collision with a car… More than just the river loop I want to see them going everywhere to UALR and to every high school.”
Vincent Tolliver said, “it’s imperative we close the loop.”
Here’s Why: “People aren’t participating in that particular part because of safety reasons and we are also losing money. When tourists come to Little Rock they are being told to go to North Little Rock.”
Frank Scott Jr. said, yes “I support closing the loop.”
Here’s Why: “We need to show how it can be a huge economic development tool and a quality of life offering that we can increase more tourism to our city.”
Do you think the growth of charter schools has impacted education in Little Rock positively or negatively and what as mayor would you do to support the best educational options for young people in the Little Rock area?
Frank Scott Jr. said, “I believe it’s been an issue both positively and negatively, depending on who you talk to.”
Here’s Why: “I have dear friends that I grew up with in the school district where they are products of the LRSD but when they're looking for options and due to whatever reason due to the designation zones they choose to go to a charter school and that’s an issue. They want to put their child in a public school but they feel like that public school is not a benefit to their child. Here’s my issue with charter schools, they tend to cherry pick.”
Vincent Tolliver said charters schools have had a disastrous effect on the LRSD.
Here’s Why: “From the declining enrollment and also the ability to have monies to pay a lot of the staff. Also the Arkansas Department of Education has failed to hold charter schools to the same standards as they hold the Little Rock public schools. There are two charter schools that are known to be failing and the department has failed to close them.”
Baker Kurrus said the city needs a plan.
Here’s Why: “There’s evidence presented that 80 percent of the kids that left the LRSD for LISA and eStem were proficient and advanced in language arts. 79 percent were proficient in mathematics. At that moment [as superintendent] I asked for a pause and a plan.”
Warwick Sabin said, “when a student moves from a public school to a charter school, the money follows the student and we are hollowing out our public school system and that is hurting public education.”
Here’s Why: “Charter schools were meant to be laboratories of innovation for public schools. They were never meant to be seperate from the public school system in the first place. When I look at other cities around the country, I see them building collaborations between the charter schools and the public schools to bring them together.”
Glen Schwarz said “as mayor I will work with the public schools and charter schools as they may be.”
How can the prevention, intervention, and treatment dollars allocated by the city for initiatives like the Summer Youth Employment Program be altered to make more of an impact in the lives of young people?
Baker Kurrus said, “I know how to analyze systems, I know how to look for results, that’s how I ran the school district and that’s how I would run the city.”
Here’s Why: “The city doesn’t really need to get into after school reading during the summer. When I was superintendent, every single student who was below grade level in reading had an opportunity for a summer school program that was research based and taught be a certified teacher… We have to make data driven decisions.”
Warwick Sabin said the city needs to focus on job and workforce training for young people.
Here’s Why: “There are so many jobs available to young people that they’re unaware of and unprepared for. We can work with the private sector to provide apprenticeships and make sure that young people are exposed to these opportunities.”
Glen Schwarz said, “I’m not sure the city should be providing jobs for everyone that needs one during the summer time.”
Here’s Why: “What would be more relevant is to make sure the schools are teaching honesty.”
Frank Scott Jr. said, “we have to have our major employers more engaged in our summer youth program and move away from it being a glorified daycare system.”
Here’s Why: “We need to prepare our children for the jobs of today and the future.”
Vincent Tolliver wants to implement a program that is year long.
Here’s Why: “We have an initiative called Black Boys are Brilliant. What the program does is empower black boys ages 5 to 18 as residents of the city and engages them in democracy. Based on the street he lives we tell him what ward he is in. We also tell him the who the city director is, we tell them who the police officer is, and we also give him the name of a police officer who is a friend of the community.”
How will you ensure all students have equitable opportunities to quality education regardless of which ZIP code they live in?
Warwick Sabin said that is his number one goal on this issue.
Here’s Why: “I want to start by listening to every neighborhood and take the feedback we get and turn it into a plan that not only ensures great facilities but excellent teacher pay. If you don’t think that’s possible I point you to North Little Rock where they did exactly what I said a few years ago.”
Glen Schwarz said, “The city of Little Rock does not run the school district and whatever school system have, including the charter school, that’s what we got. It’s not going to be my job to degrade that… I want to try and make sure there are sidewalks bike paths leading to schools.”
Frank Scott Jr. said the best way to have influence is to become an investor into it.
Here’s Why: “If I’m the next mayor, I’m going to make certain I have a chief educational officer that creates collaboration between the resources in Little Rock.”
Vincent Tolliver said, “one of the best ways is to establish equity is to make sure all schools have a world class education.”
Here’s Why: “You do that by involving volunteers in churches, in the schools and their communities. There are a number of retired teachers, people in the grassroots community, and people in nonprofits that want to be involved in public school education. By offering those groups an opportunity to come on a volunteer basis in all the schools, you can make sure we have equity in the schools.”
Baker Kurrus said more money needs to be spent on schools with a greater need.
Here’s Why: “You can’t expect schools to perform on the same basis… The cost per pupil in schools like J.A. Fair was higher than in Central High… Until we desegregate our city and stop isolating kids who don’t speak English and have disabilities, we’re going to be grappling with this problem for a long time.”
The Washington Post published an article outlining questionable search warrant practices by Little Rock Police. In many instances, police have used information from informants to issue “no-knock warrants” to enter homes by force and search for drugs -- often using explosive charges to destroy the person’s door. Many of these raids have failed to turn up significant amounts of illegal drugs, or in many cases, any illegal substances whatsoever. What do you think should be done about these practices - if anything? And what can be done to reduce crime in Little Rock while protecting the constitutional rights of Little Rock citizens?
Frank Scott Jr. said he sent a letter to the Department of Justice.
Here’s Why: No-knock warrants are “disgusting,” and “as a black man, not necessarily new.” Has outlined a citizens’ review commission for addressing instances of police misconduct and brutality. Increasing staffing/budget of police department would be positive.
Baker Kurrus would like an internal review.
Here’s Why: Expects the matter to remain unresolved until the new mayor takes office. Have to make certain police tactics are completely legal, and that the process within the police department to address issues of misconduct is being utilized.
Warwick Sabin called for a transparent investigation and community outreach.
Here’s Why: “It’s clearly a violation of Fourth Amendment rights.” People around the country are losing faith in the fairness and equitability of law enforcement practices. Cases outlined in the Post left people with no redress for their complaints.
Glen Schwarz wants to prevent government overreach.
Here’s Why: Sentencing for all drug crimes should be shorter than violent crimes. Decriminalization of marijuana in the city would cut down on raids.
Vincent Tolliver said he plans to drain the swamp.
Here’s Why: “I don’t have to wait until I’m Mayor of Little Rock to call for an investigation.” City Manager Bruce Moore and Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner should be called into account for police misconduct. Targeting of people of color is “unconscionable.”
Little Rock’s organizational structure and board makeup seems bloated and out-of-date for the city. What changes would you propose for both the city’s organizational structure and the board? Would you keep the city manager and at-large board members?
Vincent Tolliver: No at-large directors.
Here’s Why: City Manager Bruce Moore has “done a good job,” but at-large board positions marginalize people of color. Platform calls for a strong-mayoral form of government, all department heads report to mayor not city manager.
Frank Scott Jr.: No at-large directors.
Here’s Why: “If I were king for a day…” Supports a change to a “true mayor-council form of government.” Says it only takes a petition or a majority vote by the city board of directors to change government structure.
Baker Kurrus: Change practices, not structure.
Here’s Why: Little Rock shifted to “strong mayor” form of government in 2007, but operating practices haven’t changed. Will chair meetings of city board of directors as mayor, function as Chief Executive Officer with City Manager as Chief Operating Officer.
Warwick Sabin: No at-large directors.
Here’s Why: "We’ve recognized the problem over and over again, and we haven’t had the will to really exert the true solution.” Supports strong mayor-council form of government with elected officials representing citizens.
Glen Schwarz said he will keep it as-is.
Here’s Why: If he doesn’t win the mayoral election, Schwarz plans to announce for an at-large board position. Supports the City Manager position as it allows a mayor to govern part-time.
Would you be willing to work with any of your opponents as advisors in your mayoral administration?
Baker Kurrus said yes.
Here’s Why: Tolliver has good ideas on art, Scott is a good friend. If not elected, will volunteer time to work with next mayor’s administration. “It would thrill me to work with these guys, and I want them to have bright political futures. Just not quite yet.”
Warwick Sabin said yes.
Here’s Why: He and Scott were both sued for forming exploratory committees early. Mayor’s race a “true free market competition that’s attracted talented people.”
Glen Schwarz said yes.
Here’s Why: Was incumbent Mayor Mark Stodola’s only opponent in 2010. Current race indicative of a healthy democracy.
Vincent Tolliver said yes.
Here’s Why: Candidates have good ideas, and voter’s choice is up to their conscience. “Some candidates’ ideas, I think, are better than others. But we won’t get into those specifics.”
Frank Scott Jr. said yes.
Here’s Why: Leaders like Abraham Lincoln drew on a wide variety of advisors to achieve greatness. Can’t truly unify Little Rock while not working with other mayoral candidates, but Little Rock needs a mayor who truly “knows the city.”
You can listen to audio of the full forums here:
Forum 1: Economic Opportunities
Forum 2: Crime
Forum 3: Infrastructure
Forum 4: Education
Forum 5: General Topics