Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola has announced he’ll seek a third four-year term as mayor.
To date, little has been heard about serious potential opposition. Benny Johnson, a former Central High security officer and the leader of an inner city group that has worked to get the city more aggressively focused on crime in their neighborhoods, has told me he’s thinking about running.
Perhaps the onset of a campaign will encourage more boldness on the part of Stodola, who’s paid $160,000. He could, for example, say his appointed Planning Commissioners were wrong to approve a gas station and beer store just down the way from a $70 million Robinson Auditorium renovation. He could, for example, say Brett Morgan should resign from the Little Rock Civil Service Commission, given questions about his residency. He could say he’s appalled his Civil Service Commission appointees thought no punishment was in order for a police lieutenant who beat a bar customer repeatedly while working private security. He could champion equal treatment of all people in the city, including domestic partner benefits for city workers and a non-discrimination ordinance such as Fayetteville is considering.
UPDATE: I heard from Benny Johnson, who said he’s still evaluating the race. But he’s certain about one thing: He thinks the special deployment of 50 police officers to Movies in the Park last night amounted to “total disregard” to the toll of crime in Little Rock.
There have been 29 homicides in Little Rock this year and not once, said Johnson, have police undertaken a “special deployment” in response. But one shot gets fired in the River Market and all hands are on deck.
City Director Ken Richardson also happened to pass me on the street at lunch and noted my remark hoping for a quiet night in the city with such a concentration of forces in one place. “Maybe we all ought to spend the night in the River Market,” he said.
“Strong Mayor,” to date, has been more a concept of Little Rock government than a working reality.
Stodola sees it differently, naturally. What follows is his campaign press release tout sheet: It includes taking credit for private investment in the city and new jobs.
STODOLA NEWS RELEASE
Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola has officially announced his plans to run for re-election as mayor this November. “The city of Little Rock is quickly moving in a direction I am proud to be a part of,” Mayor Stodola said. “And I hope to be there to continue to steer our city into further areas of progress and growth in the future.”
During Stodola‘s tenure as Mayor, he has focused on areas of economic development and quality of life for the people of our city. “We have made tremendous progress, but I hope, going into my next term as mayor, to push Little Rock forward even further,” he said.
This past year Stodola cited the redevelopment of Main Street; increased tourism with the development of the lighting of 3 bridges over the Arkansas River; the renovation of Robinson Auditorium which is currently underway; and the establishment of a day resource center for the homeless as just a few examples of challenges he has successfully tackled.
The development of the “Creative Corridor “ on Main Street, a project the mayor has been working on for the last 5 years, has received 8 state, national and international awards. Most recently the plan, which is under development, has resulted in over $76 million dollars in private sector development. Recently announced projects include offices, restaurants, the relocation of arts organizations and the construction of dozens of apartments being developed up and down Main Street making the area a destination for both residents and tourists.
Noting the economic growth of the city since he became mayor, Stodola said over 5000 new jobs, $200 million in new annual payroll, and new capital investment exceeding $1 Billion has been created. Stodola also stressed his leadership in the city’s efforts to develop new revenue streams to repair Little Rock’s streets and drainage issues. Over the next several years $177 million has been dedicated to repair the city’s infrastructure.
Quality of life issues focused on improved parks and bicycling trails along with programs directed toward tackling the childhood obesity epidemic and improving neighborhoods through the city’s “Love Your Block” grant program have all contributed to Kiplinger’s Research Service naming Little Rock as the “ #1 Most Livable City in the U.S.” for populations under a million. “The future of our city and the nation depends on safe, healthy and prosperous communities where everyone has an opportunity to succeed and everyone’s life matters.” Stodola said.
On the public safety front, Mayor Stodola has added 52 new police officers, the police department has reorganized its operational structure all the while emphasizing crime prevention and reduction with the purpose of developing safe neighborhoods throughout the city. Even with the creation of a new police substation on 12th and Cedar streets and the creation of a police substation in the old Pankey Center on Highway 10 in west Little Rock, Stodola stressed there is still much more to be done which is why the Mayor has joined “Cities United” a coalition of 56 mayors from Philadelphia to New Orleans to cut down of the disproportionate amount of violence among young men and boys of color.
“By showing our collective experience and wisdom, the coalition will help us succeed through prevention instead of just prosecution, and intervention rather than just incarceration,” said Stodola.