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Realtors quiz Little Rock mayoral candidates

Five hopefuls pushed for views on public safety, better schools, job growth by Rachel Herzog | August 17, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

Five men vying to be the next mayor of Little Rock shared their platforms with the city's real estate professionals on Thursday afternoon.

At a forum held at the Little Rock Realtors Association's monthly meeting, Lucas Hargraves of Hargraves Consulting served as a moderator and asked candidates to address the group's top priorities. Those included public safety, economic growth and public schools -- all of which have been popular discussion points over the past several weeks of campaigning.

Baker Kurrus, Warwick Sabin, Glen Schwarz, Frank Scott Jr. and Vincent Tolliver have all formally filed to run to succeed Mayor Mark Stodola in the Nov. 6 election. With January's inauguration, Little Rock will welcome a new mayor for the first time since 2007.

Concerns about public safety are an obstacle to selling homes in Little Rock and a reason why residents might leave for surrounding communities, Hargraves said. Kurrus, Sabin, Scott and Tolliver favor attacking recidivism and ramping up community policing. Schwarz, the 64-year-old executive director of the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, supports the decriminalization of marijuana and some other nonviolent crimes to free up resources to take violent criminals off the streets.

In response to a question about how Little Rock can catch up to faster-growing metro areas, Tolliver, a 51-year-old writer and activist who now works as a consultant for the Little Rock School District, recommends promoting the arts and neighborhood-based businesses. Sabin, a 41-year-old state representative (D-Little Rock) and the senior director of U.S. programs for Winrock International, said the city should focus on supporting local entrepreneurial ventures.

Kurrus also said the city should fight for more state support of existing institutions such as the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, as well as revitalize neighborhoods and increase walkability. Scott, the 34-year-old vice president of First Security Bank, recommends creating a corporation chaired by the mayor to recruit companies to Little Rock and support employers already operating in the city. Schwarz said Little Rock should be prepared to handle an influx of growth in the future and develop westward, connecting the city with public transportation.

When asked about policies concerning property rights, candidates noted their concerns about holding property owners accountable in making neighborhoods well-kept and safe. Schwarz, a Libertarian, noted his support for property rights, while Kurrus pointed to his expertise in real estate law, which he practiced for about two decades.

A key factor in encouraging people to buy homes in Little Rock is public school quality, according to Hargraves. Kurrus, the 64-year-old former state-appointed superintendent of the Little Rock School District, expressed support for returning the schools to local control, as did Sabin, Scott and Tolliver. Schwarz said every school should have an accessible bike path.

Candidates were asked about Little Rock's mayor-city manager form of government, with seven Board of Directors members elected from wards and three elected at-large. Sabin, Scott and Tolliver said the at-large positions dilute other voices. Kurrus expressed support for keeping the at-large positions, but said he would allow a review of the system with community input.

Schwarz said the at-large positions bolster representation of southwest Little Rock, but said he would serve as mayor for one-third of the current full-time schedule and for one-third of the salary.

The mayoral position pays $160,000 a year. The mayor serves a four-year term, has an office in City Hall, presides over Board of Directors meetings, and has veto and appointment powers.

Metro on 08/17/2018

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