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Frank Scott Jr.: Little Rock mayoral candidate

(Photo courtesy: Frank Scott, Jr.)

Frank Scott Jr. is a candidate for Little Rock mayor. Below are his answers to KATV's questionnaire.

In your opinion, what is the greatest concern for the City of Little Rock?

Little Rock’s greatest concern is the inability to develop our local economy and sustain job growth, which has become commonplace in other parts of the state, particularly Northwest Arkansas. Our job growth has been bleak and largely stagnant for over a decade. When companies contemplate relocating to Arkansas, Springdale, Rogers and Jonesboro have become favored destinations – not Little Rock. We have got to get back into the conversation, and on the top of mind for companies.

That is why I’ve proposed several measures to spur job growth, such as the creation of the Little Rock Economic Development Corporation (LREDC) that I would chair if elected mayor. Cities around the country have EDCs – led by the mayor and key stakeholders – that drive economic development strategy. We have not had a single, clear voice from City Hall on all economic development strategy, relocation incentives, and workforce development, and the LREDC would change that. The LREDC’s leadership would include key economic stakeholder like UALR, UAMS, and the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. The LREDC’s board would also include respected business leaders like the Stephens family to help lead a comprehensive growth strategy that is transparent and accountable to voters.

To compete with Austin, Houston, Nashville and Huntsville, we must get serious about closing the skills gap. Creating a skilled workforce that attracts business starts with a mayor who has a visible role in leading our Little Rock Workforce Development Board (LRWDB).

As mayor, I will work with Little Rock School District (LRSD) leadership, our local higher education community, and the LRWDB to better align the skills of our workforce and those that our employers seek but currently can’t fill. This means working with LRWDB leadership to repurpose community centers in Southwest and East Little Rock as “Opportunity Centers” where we invite job placement and training specialists to the residents having the most difficult time finding work. This means ensuring that our summer youth employment program actually provides our LRSD high school students with meaningful skills. And this means connecting the dots between the LRWDB, local industry, and Pulaski Technical College to ensure that we have a ready pipeline of skilled talent to support our local industries.

A large part of economic development is making sure that City Hall gets out of the way of local entrepreneurs looking to create jobs In Little Rock. So, as a part of my transition, I will create the “Red Tape Commission” that will identify various sources of red tape that our small businesses encounter while starting or running their business. The commission will make a set of recommendations around every touchpoint City Hall has with our small businesses that will cut the red tape to submit to the Board of Directors for an up or down vote within the first 100 days of my administration.

What is your plan to fight the increasing violence in the city?

Violent crime is a symptom of a lack of economic opportunity. Targeting workforce development resources in areas like Southwest and East Little Rock through “Opportunity Centers” where we urge residents to put the guns down and pick up an application for local jobs vacancies is where I think we start. We must increase investments in returning citizens who have previously been incarcerated, and be intentional about how we get them into the workforce and off the streets.

We also must build our capacity to fight violent crime. That starts with expanding our police force to 700 sworn officers as soon as possible. We must exercise a zero-tolerance policy for repeat violent offenders, where we work with our state delegation to advocate for changes in the state law that prevent bail for repeat violent offenders and increase penalties for witness intimidation.

We need to work more closely with our County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and county leadership to create specialized gun courts that will expeditiously process gun crimes. And we must deepen our relationship with our local U.S. Attorney’s Office through the Prosecutor-to-Prosecutor program where our county prosecutors and federal prosecutors work together to prosecute repeat, violent offenders in federal court.

Lastly, we must build more trust between law enforcement and our communities. This starts with reimagining what community policing in Little Rock looks like, because it is clear that the current approach doesn’t work. Community policing means recruiting more Spanish-speaking officers who can engage our growing Latino community. Little Rock needs an independent citizen oversight board that includes residents and law enforcement dedicated solely to providing a venue for residents to air out their differences with law enforcement. We also need to increase recruiting efforts at Philander Smith and Arkansas Baptist so that our force more closely reflects an increasingly diverse city. We must also reprioritize our cadet program, in partnership with LRSD and Pulaski Tech, to attract more homegrown talent to the police force.

Training is also essential. We need more officers who can meet the needs of mentally ill residents, and intervene in cases of domestic violence by serving domestic violence liaison officers. And given the upward trend of reported crimes against the LGBT community in Little Rock, we must be more intentional about recruiting from and engaging with our LGBT community through an LGBT liaison that would be a part of our revamped community policing division within LRPD.

What is the role of the Mayor as it pertains to the Little Rock School District?

I am a proud product of LRSD, and I have absolute faith in Superintendent Poore’s ability to lead our schools. But he needs our help. The mayor does not have direct control over LRSD, but there is a clear role I will play to better advocate for student and families.

As mayor, I will augment the instruction that happens in our classrooms through partnerships with the Central Arkansas Library System by creating summer academies for students not reading at grade level. I will also replicate Washington, D.C.’s “Books for Babies” program where every child born in Little Rock is eligible to receive free books every month to encourage parents to read to our children.

I will leverage my experience from the Beebe administration by working with our state delegation to expand the number of Pre-K slots in LRSD so that more of our students are ready to thrive by age five. And for our middle and high school students, I will push STEM and arts summer academies and revamp our summer youth employment program so that students can gain meaningful skills for the workforce. We must also do our part to regain control of our schools with targeted support for the students and parents at our three schools that remain under state control– Cloverdale Middle, Henderson Middle, and Hall High.

As a product of LRSD, I intend to be a “cradle-to-career” Mayor. LRSD believed in me and invested in my success, and I look to pay it forward to the next generation as mayor.

Recently, I shared an ambitious “Opportunity Agenda” for our students and schools that outlines how I plan to support LRSD as your next Mayor. It’s not enough to simply want our schools back from the state – we need a comprehensive plan for supporting our students and schools.

On the proposed Interstate 30 Crossing, do you support the expansion?

Yes. As Highway Commissioner, I worked closely with neighborhoods across Little Rock on this matter to ensure that the project’s design met its intended purpose – relieving congestion, making commutes from work to school less stressful for parents, moving goods through Little Rock quicker, and ensuring that no one would be displaced.

I am proud of that work and look forward to seeing the project be completed. However, I think my support of Interstate 30 has unfortunately been taken as disapproval of other modes of transportation in Little Rock. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As Mayor, I will support our BikePed program that enhances Little Rock’s bikeability and walkability. I intend to complete their pending projects and identify additional programs to repair our sidewalks and construct more walking trails. I support our Complete Streets Ordinance which encourages more bike riders, and I will identify firms that want to bring scooter and bikeshares to Little Rock. I also support MetRock, and I will personally lobby our federal delegation to bring more federal dollars home to expand service lines and transit-oriented development around MetRock stops to promote ridership.

Unfortunately, many have turned the Interstate 30 debate into false choices – either you’re for Interstate 30 or somehow you’re opposed to comprehensive transportation planning. Little Rock deserves a mayor that believes an all-of-the-above mobility agenda, and that supports all modes of transportation.

Should teachers and/or other school employees that are not law enforcement be armed?

Absolutely not. We already have too many guns in our communities now as is. The support our teachers need is higher pay, support from parents and our communities, and resources to pay for supplies so that they don’t have to go into their own pockets. As Mayor, I will work with our Department of Community Programs to engage our philanthropic, civic, and faith communities to sponsor regular supply drives where instead of guns, we all chip in across Little Rock to give our teachers classroom supplies. I will also find resources in our budget to increase allocation of the Central Arkansas Library System to support reading academies hosted at our libraries that would support our students who need reading help.

That’s the kind of support our teachers need, not guns.

How would you bring better, higher paying jobs to Little Rock?

We will bring higher paying jobs to Little Rock by taking many of the steps outlined above. When companies look to relocate, they look at crime rates and the quality of local public schools. So, as mayor, I will ultimately serve as Little Rock’s chief growth officer by supporting our public schools and fighting violent crime.

But the top order of businesses – beyond closing the skills gap locally and supporting our small businesses – is getting the Little Rock Economic Development Corporation off the ground and putting our full support behind METROCK 2020’s economic development strategic plan for growing Little Rock’s Growth Sectors. The roadmap for growing our economy is there. All we need is the right infrastructure in place like LREDC to execute on the plan. And most important, we need the right leadership to see it through and to be held accountable for it.

I believe that I have the right combination of public and private sector experience, and the fresh vision to see these action items through.

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