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Candidates for mayor of Little Rock: incumbent Frank Scott Jr.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. is seeking a second term. This year he will face three challengers.
Michael Hibblen
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. is seeking a second term. So far three people have announced their candidacies.

So far, four candidates are running for mayor of Little Rock, including incumbent Frank Scott Jr.

KUAR News has reached out to each of the candidates, speaking with all but Loretta Hendrix, who declined to be a part of the series. Additional interviews will be broadcast and posted online in subsequent days.

KUAR NEWS: Many Little Rock residents have said they are worried about crime, what are you doing to address the problem?

MAYOR FRANK SCOTT JR.: First and foremost, Little Rock clearly is experiencing a rise in crime. That's not unique to Little Rock and something that we're seeing across the nation. We understand that it's unacceptable, whether it is a violent crime, property crime or breaking and entering. Being a mayor that lives in a neighborhood that has experienced many of the crimes, I can tell you that it's unacceptable. It's something that we have to continue to focus on. And so here's what we are doing. We're taking a dual approach. One is proactive policing where we have increased patrols and targeted presence in high crime areas of our city. You can literally draw a box of where the high crime areas in our city are located, many of which are south of 630 East divide, which is where I live. We have continued to increase the presence of officers. We also have a street crimes unit of about 25 additional officers to additional patrols that are focused on those high crime areas as well as those particular criminals that we have targeted. And so again, that street crimes unit is in addition to what we already do with our increased patrols, so that's proactive policing. Secondly, our dual approach has a lot to do with prevention and intervention treatment.

When we interviewed two of your opponents, both said they agree with your multi-faceted approach to crime. However, they both criticized the implementation. Steve Landers said the plan should have been implemented sooner. And Greg Henderson said your plan focuses too much on the long term and not the short term. Do you believe this is a valid criticism from both of them?

Well, I don't necessarily know whether it's valid or not. I can share with you our plan. We've been working on this plan, it’s nothing that just happened. We all know the COVID-19 happened on March 11, 2020. We began to see many of the impacts of it really beginning the summer of 2020, but even more 2021. We announced our first phase of addressing community violence was our community violence reduction plan in the summer of 2021. We saw in the summer of 2021 violent crime had seen an uptick. We implemented this community violence reduction plan, and that particular plan was solely focused on proactive policing. It was solely focused on that, and we saw violent crime again from the summer of 2021 to the end of 2021 be driven down from upwards from my belief at that point in time 22% and it was driven down to somewhere to 12%.

One of the issues nationally and in Little Rock is retaining and recruiting police officers. In an effort to address this you have raised officer salaries by 2% but inflation is up 8% Given the rise in inflation, do you think the raise was enough? If reelected, would you try to increase that amount?

Well, as you know, I'm a former banker. And so we always have to be fiscally responsible. One of the things I think is good to know is that this administration has definitely resourced the men and women of the Little Rock Police Department. Public safety represents close to 54% to 55% of a $282 million budget here in the city of Little Rock. Whenever they are in need of something, I've always found a way to get it done.

In 2021 the Rebuild the Rock sales tax initiative was voted down by voters. If you win reelection, would you try to get that plan or similar plan passed, if you're reelected?

Yes. I tell people all the time that while I am a politician, I tend to do things just because it's the right thing to do. Whether it's political or not, I don't go off political whims. I state that from the standpoint that we have a bold vision for Little Rock. Little Rock is the largest city in a small state, it is the most urban and most populous city. And we have similar realities to other larger cities across the nation and so we have to be bold. I'm a millennial mayor, I understand that there's a great nexus in our generation of millennials and generations before us that are deciding where they live next, based on amenities in place. As you know, millennials and generation z, we decide where we want to live first and then we figure out a career.

For swing voters and people who are still unsure whether to give you a second term, what is your main pitch to those voters?

Our main pitch is we're growing forward here in the city of Little Rock. We're going forward economically, we're going forward as relates to affordable housing and neighborhood safety. We have a bold and dynamic vision for our city. We truly want to unite, grow and transform it. And we're taking our city to the next level. We truly are working to be the catalyst for the new South.

Ronak Patel is a reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.
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