Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola ticked off a list of the city's accomplishments in the past year, but also warned of threats including an "alarming" increase in violent black-on-black crime and a proposed change in bond tax policy that he said could prove "catastrophic."
Stodola spoke Monday at the Centre at University Park in his seventh State of the City address.
Stodola told several dozen city officials and guests in attendance that the "disproportionate and increasing existence of violence and deaths among young men and boys of color" is a "real threat." He noted that of the 11 homicides so far in 2014, all of the victims have been black and all of the suspects arrested have been black men.
Stodola called on the city to form a task force and to analyze all city programs, determining which work and which fall short. And he called on community members to step up and help too.
"A lot must change to stop the shooting, to stop the violence," Stodola said. "So it is time to marshal every resource — federal, state and local, private, faith-based and not-for-profit — to turn the tide."
Stodola also called on citizens to voice their opposition to tax proposals being floated in Congress that would place a 28 percent cap on or eliminate altogether the existing tax exemption on interest that is earned from tax-exempt municipal bonds.
"The impact ... would be absolutely catastrophic," Stodola said, noting that between 2011 and 2013 Little Rock residents would have paid nearly $14 million more if the cap had been in place or $40 million more if the exemption were gone entirely. "Where would this money come from? Yes, you the taxpayer, or the streets, hospitals, renovations and schools would never be built."
Stodola also called on Little Rock residents to support an act that would allow the city to collect sales tax on Internet purchases, which he said is only fair to "brick-and-mortar" stores.
He also heralded the "booming" investment in Little Rock's Main Street, said he has joined an initiative to end veteran homelessness by 2015 and wants to complete new portions of the Arkansas River Trail in the Riverdale area by the end of the year.