Candidate forum draws a crowd
Neal Moore's take, Video and transcripts for each race, Early voting starts Monday plus headlines and sports
Many thanks to everyone who attended Tuesday night’s Candidate Forum either in person or virtually and also thank you to First Baptist Church for hosting such an important event. It was a lively night of conversation moderated by Neal Moore and Maumelle is blessed to have such quality candidates. Also of note, rush transcripts for each race are in this week’s newsletter. They’re long but it is important to the community for people to be able to read where the candidates stand on the issues. If you missed the forum, there’s links to it on the ArkansasNewsroom.com YouTube channel.
It was a good night for Maumelle.
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Monday, Oct. 24: Early voting begins: Early voting begins at 10 a.m. at locations across Pulaski County. Polling sites in Maumelle and North Little Rock include the Jess Odom Community Center, the main branch of Laman Library at 2801 Orange St., and the Glenview Community Center. Polls close at 6 p.m. during the week. Saturday voting is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Early voting ends on Saturday, Nov. 5 at those locations. You can still vote early on Monday, Nov. 7 at the Pulaski County Regional Building downtown.
Nov. 8: Election Day
Death toll drops
The total number of dead Arkansans this past week was 62.
Last week, it was 99 and the week before that it was 104.
The total number of dead Arkansans is now at 12,396.
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If you don’t want to get sick and die, there’s some things you can do:
Wear a mask
ICYMI: Time for leaf peeping
Upcoming meetings: The North Little Rock School Board meets tonight. The North Little Rock City Council will meet next Monday and the North Little Rock A&P Commission will meet next Tuesday.
Upcoming events: The Arkansas State Fair continues this week and to read more click here and to buy tickets.
BEST FESTIVAL EVER: The Greek Food Festival is this Friday and Saturday and you can order food now for pickup either day. Click the logo below for more information or to order ahead.
MOORE ON MAUMELLE: Politics as Usual
It’s almost time to decide who you would like to see run your government. On Nov. 8, you can and should cast your vote for the candidates of your choice. (Early voting begins Monday.) Many interested Maumellians, around 200 in person and thousands more on the livestream, got a glimpse of races important to Maumelle by attending the Candidate Forum sponsored by ArkansasNewsroom.com held Tuesday, Oct. 18 at First Baptist Church in Maumelle.
It can be viewed in its entirety on Youtube by clicking the link below:
The candidates who appeared were:
Maumelle Mayor: Incumbent Caleb Norris vs. Jodie Mahony
Maumelle City Council - Ward 1 - Position 1: David Cole vs. Christine Gronwald
State Representative, District 71: Republican Brandon Achor and Democrat John J. Pack. Libertarian Aaron Raatz did not attend.
Pulaski County Sheriff: Incumbent Democrat Eric Higgins and Republican Paul “Blue” Keller
Unfortunately, three of our City Council members are unopposed: Chad Gardner, Jess Holt and Michael Tierney. The dog debate alone is enough to make it undesirable to run.
Maumelle resident and State Representative Mark Lowery is running for state treasurer. Pam Whitaker, the Democrat running against Lowery, seems to have given up and has not campaigned, raised money, or done anything. Not sure why she ran, but like many Democrats, she doesn’t seem motivated to run anything but a half-assed, underfunded campaign with a few Facebook posts.
Related to Maumelle is the race for State Senate District 13 pitting incumbent Republican Jane English, 81, against Democratic candidate Allison Sweatman, 32, and Libertarian candidate Noah Jones, age unknown. English will most likely win reelection. All three candidates are from North Little Rock.
I predict a Republican sweep for every state office, including governor. Norris should win reelection as mayor, Achor will easily be your new state representative and Higgins will most likely win reelection as sheriff. Sarah Sanders will make her only debate appearance on Arkansas PBS this Friday.
We’ll vote on allowing adults to smoke marijuana without a medical pass. Polls say it will pass. It should. Compared to the ravages of alcohol consumption, it only makes sense to allow adults to make a choice with much less destructive pot. And it would add a massive influx of tax revenue. It’s not a perfect bill but it’s a beginning to decriminalize pot. Now, they need to expunge the records of those with a small possession marijuana on their record.
Maumelle is now home to Arkansas’ largest indoor car wash with the opening of the new Splash Car Wash located in the space once occupied by the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market. I guess I’m not their target customer. I wash my car every three to four months whether it needs it or not. But since they offered a free wash to everyone who responded to their text or direct-mail, I decided to check it out and used my freebie. It was a visually interesting journey as the sprays, soaps and giant brushes rotated all over my car.
Best I can figure, if you don’t sign up for their membership program, it’s about $10 a pop for the most basic wash and the vacuum is free. There’s a super-complicated pricing structure that I was going to share with you, but you’ll have to figure it out yourself. There’s an annual program that’s almost $400 a year and a lot of other options. More info at www.cleancarfast.com. I’ll go back in about three months for my basic 10-buck wash.
Get in My Belly
Maumellians get a taste of different restaurants on a fairly regular basis because they seem to come and go on a regular basis.
Goku Ramen opened recently and has gotten favorable notices on social media. I had a pleasant experience there and can highly recommend the Tonkotsu Ramen with braised pork. I only wish they had more toppings such as bean sprouts and jalapenos, but it is definitely a full meal. I do wish they would get higher quality paper towels on the tables. They occupy the space that briefly housed The Pizza House at 1900 Club Manor Drive. It seems to be doing a brisk business.
There’s also a new place with a Cajun theme, called Saps Creole Cuisine. It’s located next to Creole Cuisine next to the Shipley’s Donut shop. Their menu looks intriguing, and I hope to try it soon.
And speaking of car washes, the one near Wal-Mart has been leveled and will be a 7 Brew Drive-Through Coffee. 7 Brew is a franchise operation with 22 stands, according to their website. No food, just coffee drinks and flavored concoctions. Seems to me they are on the wrong side of the Boulevard to attract the morning commuters. At least it’s not a pizza or Mexican food joint.
The Tailgaters2 Go food truck has found a new home in the parking lot of a former church now occupied by an insurance company (behind Kroger and next door to the fire station at 4001 Club Manor). Their featured items are burgers and a Philly Cheesesteak. Gave it a try and the burgers are outstanding. You can find their menu on Facebook.
Foodie tip: If you’re a person of a certain age, over 50, you can get a bargain meal at The Maumelle Center on the Lake located near the fire station on 2 Club Manor Cove. The daily breakfast specials are $5.25, and lunch is $5.75. It’s always good and you can’t beat the price. They post their menus daily on their Facebook page. I think memberships are $35 a year and you also get access to a ton of classes, exercise equipment and a lot of friendly folks. More info at www.maumellecenteronthelake.com.
Show Me the Money
Money makes the world go around, especially in sports. There may not be any amateur sports in college with the exception of smaller schools. We’re paying the big-school coaches tons of money; we’re paying the top athletes big money, and the transfer portal has made college athletics a revolving door that leaves me and most fans not really sure who their players are and where they came from.
The money has changed everything, and I think for the worse in this case.
The dog debate continues in Maumelle after a citizen and his dog were attacked by two unleashed pit bulls. The dog died and the citizen suffered injuries, and the attack dogs have been euthanized. The City Council in its infinite wisdom has basically decided to do nothing since lifting the breed ban last year. I shall not join the debate of what is the right thing to do. We missed that opportunity when the Council decided to vote on the divisive issue without letting the voters decide. Now they have to deal with the aftermath and will continue to talk this thing to death. No wonder no one wants to run for City Council. It’s a doggone shame.
We mourn the passing of former Mayor Burch Johnson and former Maumelle Chamber of Commerce President, Al Canelli. I knew both men and would often get calls from Burch advising me on the topic for next week’s column. Both will be missed.
See you on the Boulevard.
Neal Moore is an award-winning columnist and public relations consultant and resident of Maumelle. Send your Maumelle news or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, PJ.
To read the the submitted biographical information for each candidate, click Meet the Candidates
The following are rush transcripts and they have been lightly edited to correct transcription errors and formatted for publication. You can also view the video on YouTube by clicking the link below.
Maumelle Mayor: Incumbent Caleb Norris vs. Jodie Mahony
Good evening. I'm Jody Mahony. Let me share with you some reasons I'm running for mayor. Maumelle needs to do a better job of tracking business and retail. We continue to lose opportunities to surrounding areas. As mayor, I will mirror what our neighboring communities are doing and provide tax incentives to entice businesses to locate in Maumelle. When business and industry grows, in Maumelle, so does Ira me. As mayor, I will work to resolve the issues of compensation at city hall. Many city workers and police officials and those within the fire department are forced to live outside Maumelle due to the cost of living here. We need to work on retaining our firefighters and police officers. Their institutional knowledge is vital to our city. Our police officers know who's doing what, where they're doing it, and when they're doing it. This is critical in the knowledge for fighting crime Maumelle needs to hire additional firefighters and police officers. At our present rate of the increase in rooftops, we are outstripping our fighting, firefighting, and police officers coverage. just feedback. I will work hard to also build a fire training facility within the city of Maumelle. As your mayor, I promise to bring integrity to the office of mayor. I'm frequently asked, why will I take a twenty percent pay cut in compensation? The answer is simple. I'm not in it for the money. I'm in it for our community as a 26-year resident. Current mayor's salary will be over 100,000 dollars starting next year. As your mayor, bring accountability to our office. In regards to upgrading, improving the bike and pedestrian trails, I've been researching what other communities in Arkansas are doing and surrounding states have accomplished. We need to improve our current pathways and determine the best approach for adding additional pathways. Specifically, the Club Manor Drive. In order to maximize the coming Central Arkansas Greenways Plan. Our city needs additional recreational opportunities and upgrades to current recreational facilities. Pickleball courts will be wonderful and a wonderful addition to the Jess Odom Community Center but we also need to upgrade the current complex such as resurfacing basketball courts and replacing gym equipment. In addition, I've been researching how surrounding communities have made it financially feasible to build an indoor pool in their community. When I'm mayor, citizens of Maumelle will be able to trust that I will keep my promises. Thank you.
Awesome. Thank you very much. Uh first of all, I want to thank First Baptist for allowing us to use this facility. I'd also like to thank Jeremy Peppis in Arkansas newsroom for hosting this and Neal, thank you for moderating, I think. We'll see what the questions turn out. More importantly than that, I want to thank each and everyone of y'all for coming out tonight. For those of you at home in your pajamas or eating dinner with your family, thank you for watching while streaming. Hi, mom. Hopefully, I got some brownie points for that. I pushed really hard to have this forum. In fact, I actually agreed to pay any cost that might be associated with putting it on and that is because it is critically vital that folks like you get interested and are able to make an informed decision and that is because the mayor's position is a working position. It isn't a ceremonial position. It isn't about merely attending ribbon cuttings or hopping in as many photographs as you can get into. It's about the work and doing the people's business. It's about making sure that the city is going in the right direction and that it's functioning and functioning properly. And I have the experience and the proven track record of doing just that. Despite the fact that we've had what some folks would call a plague of biblical proportions last number of years in terms of floods. icing roads, protester riots, COVID-19. The city has managed to not only maintain where we're at but actually make progress and move forward. And we did that in the face of supply shortages, rising costs, and labor shortages. Now, one of the things that makes Maumelle such an amazing place to live and the best place in my opinion in Central Arkansas is public safety. People move here because it's safe. They want the safe environment. Uh as mayor, I have been a champion of public safety here. As mayor, I have led the charge in giving our police officers and firefighters the largest raise that has been seen in decades. Which is why I'm proud to announce that I have received the endorsement from the Maumelle Fraternal Order of Police. Listen, you don't need to take my word for my stance on public safety. Listen to the men and women in uniform who strap on a bulletproof vest, 30. Those that kiss their family goodbye and put their lives on the line to keep Maumelle safe. Listen to who they think should be mayor if public safety is important to you. Also want to take a moment and make a big announcement that some of y'all may have heard it in last night’s city council meeting. We have reduced your property taxes for next year. The six 6 mills on your property tax that was used to pay back bond indebtedness is gone. This tax that was put into place originally in 1999 and has been renewed periodically is gone. That results in a savings to you property owners of $132 for each $100, 000 of home. Thank you. And for example, if you have a $300, 000 home, that's just under $400 a month or pardon me, a month would be nice, $400 a year that you have saved in taxes. Thank you.
Question: I think we want to hear more of why you're running for Mayor of Maumelle and why should voters favor your candidacy? And why are you qualified? And how does Maumelle benefit if you're elected?
Mahony: Alright, thank you, Neal. The reason I'm running for mayor is I want to change the way Maumelle does business. I think we need to attract, as I said in my opening statement, we need more businesses here. We need more options for our citizens. As you talked about earlier, we need something besides pizza restaurants and Mexican restaurants and I think Maumelle can support that. If we strive to increase our tax base and it in turn, attract more businesses here. Um like I said before, the economy of Maumelle will grow if we have more businesses. Therefore, we attract more people as our tax base grows. The reason I'm running is I want to change and I'll say this, I love Mike Watson. He was a wonderful mayor. I love that he was out in front of everybody and that's my style. I'm a lead from the front kind of person and I will be active in the community. Uh also, I'm a 26-year resident and I don't plan on leaving Maumelle. I'm on a third, we're on our third house here and so I'm concerned about the state of our city. I'm also concerned about retaining our police officers and firefighters. They cannot afford to live in the city at this point. Uh when I spoke with both of them, there were very few of them that could afford to live in the city. Some of them are driving 45 miles. We need to change that. I also was told that we need a fire training facility here. So, training out of town right now. And before long, we're going to outstrip the fire coverage and police coverage with the roofs were building. That's going to be a problem because it ultimately affects our insurance rights and that costs us money in the long run. I'm also concerned about our trail system. I live on Lake Willastein and I get many times that our trail system is dangerous. The trails need to be groomed. They need to be repaired and they need to be upgraded. These are just a few of the reasons I'm running for mayor. Thank you.
Question: Same question in a little bit different way since you have already been elected mayor once. Why are you running for Mayor of Maumelle and why should voters favor your candidacy and why do you deserve an additional term and how do Maumelle residents benefit from your reelection?
Norris: That is a whoa. That is a four-part question. I'll do the best I can. Uh you saw one of the reasons that I am running for Maumelle and that is my son, Joshua, who's four years old. I'm running because I want to improve this community so that he can grow up and live here in in this city for his entire life. Uh It is not something that I ever thought I'd do running for mayor. I never thought I'd run for mayor. I never thought I'd run for city attorney and I never thought I'd run for city council. Uh unfortunately, I have one of those personalities that gets involved and then wants to learn and get more involved and then learn more and then get more involved and learn more. Uh, which is why I started where most people should, which is learning about your government, learning about how to get involved, getting involved at the city council level, working on an understanding of how the government functions. Listen, I I said in the introduction. This is not about standing up here and repeating different things that people have told me they wanted. You have to know how to do it. You have to be able to understand the finances. You have to understand the way things work and then have a plan on how to do that. I think I've demonstrated that. Uh I have that knowledge that I have that experience in my first four years. Uh and I'm asking for another four years to complete some of the things that we've been talking about that we've been working on. Uh thank you for mentioning the bikes and trail system. You know, we're in the middle right now of a planning process to come up with a master bicycle and pedestrian plan. By the way, if you don't have anything going on on Thursday at 530, please stop by the community center. We've got a public hearing on that. Uh on learning about this trail system. Whether we're talking about pickleball courts, whether we're talking about things such as the farmers market and food truck park. We have started the planning process on a lot of different items. Uh the first part of my term was focused on finishing up and wrapping up some of the things that were going on in Mayor Watson's term and now we've started with some of the things that I'd like to accomplish and that the council would like to accomplish and those are things that we have heard time and time again from the residents. We've started the planning process. I'm asking for a chance to see those to fruition.
Neal Moore: Maumelle residents, we get in a tizzy when people get in our front yard. In recently, we've had a wave of fiber optic cable installations that have been going on that have just caused us to go crazy Where are we on infrastructure improvements or what do we need to do from an infrastructure standpoint particularly like the Crystal Hill Road and some of the roads that are that are under construction or should be under construction.
Question: What are your feelings on infrastructure?
Mahony: Well, let me address the AT&T problem first. Um I know we had some water mains busted. I know we had some people's yards severely torn up and not fixed to specifications and then that's on the city. We're the ones that issue those permits and so we should be the ones that take the lead on getting those fixed and getting our citizens happy because they are very angry. I've been out knocking on doors and that is a big deal. Um they're also unhappy about those green boxes that they have out in front of their houses. Um I think we could probably do something about that. Uh make a change. We start from the permitting system. Um, we can do those things differently. And as mayor, I will be out in front because Uh I will be the leader of the city. Therefore, it's on me to go fix those things and make sure that everyone is happy. Also, the infrastructure I talked about earlier was the path system, paths and trails. We have 30 miles of trails. I mean, that's a huge draw for the city of Maumelle and again, I've had complaints about the lighting on em. I've had complaints about the goose poop on em. Um, I've had complaints about people tripping and they can't put strollers on em because they're so bumpy. Um we actually have a groomer that will fix that. We have an asphalt thing because I know they've done it by my house before. Um that can, those can be fixed. and other infrastructure, I think our lake, Lake Willastein, is a jewel of Maumelle and that needs to stay clean. Um I know Phillip [Raborn, Parks & Rec Director] has been working on it lately and it's looking a lot better. So, we need to continue doing that. Uh can't tell you how many people come by my house on a daily basis, at least 300. Every day and on the weekends, probably 500. It's an expressway out there. Um so, I'd like to see those things happen and I think the buck stops here. Um at the mayor's office us. So, I'm responsible for what goes on in the city. I'll have an open-door policy. You can come see me anytime. I pass out cards that have my phone number on em. That phone number will still work when you elect me mayor.
Norris: So, I'm glad for this question. Uh one of the one of the issues that we have in Maumelle is who here has the internet? Everyone has the internet. Uh, what we have found is that the internet is being used more and more and more. You know, people are cutting their cable. You're using it for everything from turning up your refrigerator to streaming TV. If you're like me at my house, you can have multiple computers, the TV, kids with tablets, while everyone's asleep because no one turns it off. Listen, that means that we need this fiber optic installation. If I had a genie and I could rub the lamp and it would pop out and it would ask me what one of my wishes are. It would be that we could get that fiber optic in the ground without disturbing people's yards. Uh unfortunately, I've yet to find the genie's lamp and so what that means is that it's up to the city to figure out how we can monitor make sure that they're not causing undo damage when they install it and and coming up with ways that they can actually that we can enforce it so that they can come back. Let me give you a specific example of what we've done. When this process started with the fiber optics, it was a $25 permit fee. You filled out a form. We verified that you were licensed and bonded and then we sent you on the way, right? And so that's the sort of scenario you get in the mayor's office. What happens then is we start seeing excessive damage. Hey, we're thrilled they're putting fiber optic all over the city. If we can just get them to do it without damaging things, we're great. So, what do we do? Uh thank you Scott Grummer and his team who work very heavily on redeveloping a permit system. Now, before a contractor even puts a line in the ground, they've met with us. They've met with the other utilities. They've GIS mapped it. We're monitoring it bit by bit. Of course, that requires more permit fees. Listen, what the city has done in face of that problem is award winning, right? What we have done is actually to the point that 811, which is the the folks you're supposed to call before you dig had a conference up in Northwest Arkansas and they asked Scott Grummer to come teach other cities how we are responding in such a productive way that protects people's property, protects utilities from being damaged, and the whole nine yards, right? So, that's a specific thing. It's very if I were to just sit up here and say listen, what I'm going to do is make sure nothing bad happens and I'm going to, you know, improve this and improve that. I think it's important for y'all to understand that one can say that but it's really important that the mayor have an idea of what that means and how it needs to be done.
Q: What are the greatest challenges facing our community over the next 10 to 20 years and what will you do if elected to start working on those?
Mahony: I think our biggest challenge is growth. and how to grow effectively and how to grow responsibly. We need to grow our tax base. We need more businesses. We need more retail. But we need to attract those in a positive manner. We've got a whole industrial side over there that's full of lots that can be used. So, we need an ambassador. and if you like me, mayor, I'll be that ambassador and I will work hard. I will go personally to businesses and go personally to industrials, industrial companies working with the State Chamber of Commerce to try to attract new business to my mail. That's the main thing I see is our expansion. I know we've keep putting more roofs out here and we've got to accommodate that growth. Again, I said with the fire and police. We need more protection to accommodate that growth. I've been to city council meetings and we're constantly putting in more neighborhoods, hundreds and hundreds of houses, new roofs. We need to make sure that we're effectively putting in roads, infrastructure, and we also get feedback from our citizens. Uh see some people come here once in a while to the city council but they're not not really in droves and giving ideas. I think we need to reach out and find out what the citizens of Maumelle want, how they want our city to grow and how they want construction to be multifamily. Do they want townhouses? Do they want condominiums? Do they want all single family homes? We need to figure out a plan. We have a 2012 plan but that's a little outdated and we haven't followed it. Uh, recently. We need a new master plan and if I'm elected mayor, I will have a new master plan. I will work with the city council and I'll also work with the citizens of Maumelle. I want to know what y'all want. How do you all feel about the growth of our city? What's next for Maumelle? Um I will be the leader and I will address your concerns and I will listen. Thank you.
Norris: Probably the number one issue facing Maumelle and this is not in a state of crisis by any means but it's the most important thing that we need to be looking at for the next four years and that is public safety. We need to make sure that we are continuing to support our police officers. We've done a fairly decent job retaining officers in a time where where it is not popular to be a police officer unfortunately. Uh thankfully, we live in a community that supports our law enforcement officers that makes it easier to recruit and retain them. Now, we've been focusing on salaries and then the next step is to focus on increasing the number of police officers and firefighters but it's very important that we it's it's not just about adding an extra officer to officers each year or adding a new firefighter. It's about a strategic plan on how we're going to get from point A to point B. As mayor, I've had the opportunity of appointing Chief Cory Pickard after the retirement of Chief Sam Williams and then I had the opportunity of appointing Chief Beau Buford over the fire department after Chief [Gerald] Ezell left to take over the Joplin Fire Department. Both of these individuals are very strategic thinkers and it's my job not to tell them what to do but to help enable them to do what they're trying to do. The second most important issue and this isn't an issue so much as a principle that needs to be applied is we need to not make decisions on a case-by-case basis. We need to have a strategic plan from how we're getting to point A to point B to point C. I've been showing that that is my strategy whether it's through the pavement preservation program and analysis by which we are examining the current state of our streets, inventorying those, grading those streets, and then determining how we're strategically going to improve that. We saw some ruffled feathers when the city chose a new method for improving the roads that once it was said and done has been beneficial but we're also seeing strategic planning in forms of the Master Bike PED plan that we're working on or the planning phases for the planning phases for the, sorry my son just got back from football practice. Uh the planning phases for the Gateway Park which includes the food truck park and farmers market pavilion.
Neal Moore: It surprises me you both talked about you know, growth in business and so forth but nobody's talked about White Oak Crossing which voters allowed to happen. What, was that been 2 years? Or is that 4 years? Four years ago. And that road is there now. And that we certainly have tons of residential development. But when that was built, not neither one of you gentlemen made the promises, but many promises, you know, that was going to be the Panacea for Maumelle's economy. To, you know, Cracker Barrel, Walmart, they're all coming in. No more traffic. Yeah. Gotta have the exit. Anyway, so I'd like you. That's still there. Right. Like I said, the residential's there but I want to hear what what what can we do to develop it commercially and bring some of the business that we've we've all wanted to increase our tax base and bring other conveniences to the citizens.
Question: What is your plan to develop White Oak Crossing?
Mahony: Well, as I understand it, a lot of that road, unfortunately, is under the jurisdiction of North Little Rock and I think we made some mistakes in the past on an annexation. Um I I think we probably are now moving if I understand correctly, moving across I-40. To the other side over there to Marche and so I think that will provide some opportunities for us as a city of Maumelle to add some of the things that you were talking about because that will be a full-fledged exit. Um when we go ahead and go across 40. So, we can put some of the things that come on full-fledged interstate exits there like you're talking about Cracker Barrel and stuff like that but it's my understanding of the map is we only own half of the product but the other half is North Little Rock. I think that does open up some questions about how we want to grow out there and I think we need a good master plan to start that out because you've talked about the traffic problems that are created down there. I know I've talked to residents in the Country Club of Arkansas that are unhappy with the basic freeway that's coming down there from that new exit. Uh many many residents have talked to me about that. So, we need to make sure that we grow properly out there and also we need to look at the best tax base that we can find out there and also what the citizens want. I think we really can use some more restaurants again. That's what I keep getting and some retail. We have June's Hallmark and that's about it to shop out here. So, I think we need some new shopping areas out there. Thank you.
Norris: Well, I do understand it and I do understand what needs to be going on when you talk about White Oak Crossing. First of all, the parts of White Oak Crossing that are in North Little Rock aren't at the interchange. There's parts of Maumelle and Pulaski County. There's no city of North Little Rock over at that interchange area. The parts that we're seeing most of the residential development out on White Oak Crossing right now. Those are the areas that are in North Little Rock. The portions that are in Maumelle are the portions that you're right. Folks have that we still have that plan for retail for the commercial that we want. Now, the thing is we could do it fast or we can do it right. Fast development isn't necessarily the right sort of development. It's easy to throw up a whole bunch of strip malls and strip centers in a particular area. That's fast. But that's not what we're looking for. We've been working with the property owners in that area to really find the sort of development that people want. And that unfortunately is not fast and it's unfortunately outside of our hands as the city. The city doesn't own that property. We don't determine the price of it. We don't determine what precisely goes there. What the city does control and what the city can affect are the ordinances that we put in place, the regulations that are blocking their way. We can continue to improve our city code so that these areas are easier to develop with the sorts of developments that we want and that's one of the things I worked on really heavily. The city didn't have a grading permit. Now, what does that mean? That means that you can't go in and cut down trees until you have a building. Let me ask you this question. If you were coming in and you were wanting to quickly develop and build a business but I told you it will be about 12 to 18 months before we can take down the trees and level the dirt and before that can happen, you have to have already submitted your building plans for approval, right? And so, a lot of this job and this takes years of experience and knowledge to understand how these things work, to understand what you're reading in the code, figure out why that's wrong, and then come up with solutions on how to fix that. So, this grading permit has already started the path towards allowing people to get these properties and land ready for work to actually come in and be shovel-ready job work there.
Mahony: Alright and let me say one thing before closing. I would like to congratulate our police chief and fellow Catholic High graduate, Cory Pickard on his public service award from the Catholic High Alumni Association. So, give him a round of applause for that please. Thank you. As mayor, I will have an open-door policy to ensure all citizens' voices are heard and will work to maintain transparency in city hall. I intend to come to work early and stay as long as needed to complete the business of the Maumelle community. I have a lead from the front style and will continue to display that as mayor. I will complete the Crystal Hill Road project which has been going on for over three or almost 3 years now. I will be an ambassador that we need to recruit new business and industry to our community I have the tools to be an effective mayor including an accounting background for positive money management As a lobbyist, I gain knowledge of the inner workings of the state government and learned how to be an effective leader to get laws passed. I know how to work positively with others to achieve solutions to the problems of our city. What we need is change. We need to not only attack our problems but seize our opportunities. I believe Maumelle needs a change of culture at city hall and I believe Maumelle will have a brighter future with me as mayor. Thank you.
Norris: I'm asking for your vote for reelection so that we can continue the momentum that we've been building up here in Maumelle. I often times think back about one of the biggest mistakes that I've made over the last four years and there's plenty to choose from, right? There's plenty of mistakes that I've made and lessons that I've learned. Probably the biggest mistake and it really dawns on me during election time is I haven't jumped in front of the camera enough. I haven't got out there and stood in front of people and hammered over and over and over on what we are doing every day to make Maumelle a better place. That's what it is the way I think it should be but boy it bites you in the butt come election time. I'm running for reelection for those two little boys over there so that they have a place that they can grow up. They can come back to after college, Harvard and Yale maybe? I don't know. Uh and that they'll want to live here as a young adult and they want to stay here throughout their professional lives that they want to retire here. That they'll find that Maumelle is a place that's welcoming for them. That has the right housing options for them to live in. All throughout their life and that it's a place that they want to be and are proud to be. So again, I'm asking for your vote for reelection here on November 8. Thank you.
Maumelle City Council- Ward 1 - Position 1: David Cole vs. Christine Gronwald
David Cole: Neal, Arkansas newsroom, thank you for putting us together this evening. Uh appreciate all of you showing up. Honestly, I didn't know we'd have this many people tonight but I know there's some more important people here than I am so they're probably here to see them. Uh again, my name is David Cole. I'm married with three kids. Uh we're busy with them. We are active participants in the home school community here with coops and with homeschooling our kids. Uh my wife and I do own a small business down the road that provides books and classes and whatnot to the homeschool community. Myself, I do work in the insurance industry Uh originally in the oil and gas industry in Texas. Kinda tanked a few years ago and moved to Arkansas. It was the best decision of our lives and specifically to Maumelle. Uh we love the city. Uh we love the people here. Um I want to serve the people here and the city. Uh work with you, listen to you. Um and maintain an independent platform, a conservative platform, a consistent platform. Um I look forward to speaking to you throughout the rest of the campaign and tonight. Thank you.
Christine Gronwald: Thank you, Neal and thank you to Arkansas Newsroom for sponsoring this event as well as this beautiful First Baptist Church for hosting the forum this evening. Hello, I'm Christine Gronwald. Thank you all for being here. Um that's really important and we hope that you can learn a little bit more about David and myself. I am asking for your vote for Maumelle City Council. John F. Kennedy once said, efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction. I hope to do my part on the City Council to bring purpose and direction to everything we hope to see for Maumelle. My husband and I have lived in Maumelle for nearly two one decade. We wanted a safe, clean place to raise our family that also offered wonderful walking trails, beautiful parks, and lakes, a community center for everyone to enjoy and a true sense of community. My journey to run for city council actually began more than five years ago. As I saw to find ways to serve the city and give back to the community. We love so much. After many conversations with city officials, residents, and my family, I made the commitment to run for this position. As a resident, I have volunteered at Maumelle Charter Schools, attended many city council meetings, city groundbreakings, and dedications, and I participated in the committee to bring the splash pad to our community with an all-inclusive playground in the work it is vital that Ward 1 have someone sitting on the council who lives in the Country Club of Arkansas. There has not been a resident of CCOA on the council in more than a decade. During that time, our area has gone through many changes and expanded greatly. The residents of CCOA deserve to have a representative who walks the same paths, drives the same streets, navigates the same intersections, and looks for solutions to challenges that we face every day. Safety for our city in order to continue the high standard of safety we enjoy in Maumelle we have an obligation to support our first responders. This year, police officers and firefighters received the highest salary increase in many years. The city is in a far better position to offer that because our balance, our budget has been balanced this year. Our revenue has exceeded expenditures and I want to ensure that this fiscal responsibility continues. I will bring all the voices of Ward 1 to the council. Whether it's been on my campaign, Facebook page, in person, a letter, brochure, Emails. I will continue to communicate with the residents of Ward 1. I hope you will support me as early voting begins October 24.
Question: Should there be a limit on apartment construction in Maumelle?
Cole: That's not a hot topic. Yeah. Or with a hot topic, I thought we were talking about dogs tonight. Here's the deal. High-density housing is important but studies that go along with those high-density housing units are even more important to determine what they bring into the community, how the tax dollars that are brought in by those identity units affect our traffic, affect our revenue, and affect our businesses. I'm not against all high-density housing. Um you know, medium low density, mixed use is probably where I would lean towards what we need to look at next. Uh I think the biggest thing we have going on right now is we are in a great spot financially. Uh I do commend the council over the last few years for getting us in that spot. Um and we need to keep at it. Um at this point, we need to move forward as far as high-density housing. I'm not opposed to looking at it but it needs to be studied. It does need to just be approved. Uh like I said, I'm not being as Neal said in my opening statements. I'm not being supported financially by any of the developers or the you know, high-density marketers or you know, the builders in this area. So, I'll maintain an independent platform. I'm open to feedback and that's where I stand on it.
Gronwald: That's a great question. I actually agree with David on much of what he said. I think a lot of what you're going to hear me say today is that we want to listen to the voices of Ward one. Um this particularly affects once again, the Country Club of Arkansas. We're the closest to I think what we're referring to and the high density apartments. Um we also have townhouses. Those are not considered high density. I would definitely be open to discussion. Um but we really want to find out what the residents really want. Uh do we really need anymore, especially in our area or anywhere in the city? I think that's why we have and it's important to have such a diverse group on the city council to bring different ideas, conversation, talk to some of the developers, talk to the residents, be aware of where the planning area would be and find out what the residents really want. I agree with David that it would definitely bring in some tax money but I think there are other ways to do that. I'm not opposed to high-density complexes but I just would want to have a plan, look through it, talk through it, and study it a little bit before I decide with the council. Thank you.
Neal Moore: The next question is, should we build more pizza places or Mexican? No, I'm just kidding. Pizza.
Q: You both attended, I'm sure, either, in person or virtually, city council meetings, and I I want you to talk about your, your time spent doing that, and then I also want you to share with us after observing the chemistry that we have on the city council, what needs to be different? What energy can you bring to that council in in what kind of ideas does that council need to hear,
Cole: I have watched a lot of the city council members and interactions with and between the city council members during the meetings. I gotta say, like I said, I think they've been pretty responsible the last few years. They've done a good job. Uh fiscally and keeping stuff lower. I did see last night that we had paid off our bond debt and which would save I guess at taxpayers, homeowners about $100 per hundred thousand worth of the house worth of house which is awesome. Um as far as the level of decorum, if that's what we're speaking to, I would suggest, I guess, if what I've seen is that they maintain a standard level of decorum across the board, at times, there is a little too much banter. Uh you know, Robert's Rules of Order is what I'm used to. Uh stick to it and go forth and do your vote and we can talk about it afterwards. So, that's where I stand as far as you know, I guess the level of quorum. That's what you're speaking of.
Gronwald: I love this question. Uh so, we have, whoever sent it in, thank you. Um I think for a long time, we've had a city council that does not reflect the demographic of Maumelle. That's another thing that I would love to change. Uh the demographic of Maumelle, I've studied this. You don't see that reflected on the council and I think that That needs to change. Uh when people look at the council, they need to see a reflection of themselves. Um so, I would love to see more women on the council right now. They have just one. Um I've also looked at other cities, you know, Conway, Bryant, North Little Rock, Sherwood, and all of their councils are more 50/50 men to women and I think that's important because as we all know, men and women have very different perspectives and approaches to things and I think the more diversity that we can bring to thought process and have that open discussion as long as we listen to each other and I think overall, the council does a pretty good job with that but I think need some new perspectives and some new voices. So, I would love to see it more diverse and to reflect the demographic. Um, I think that they have done a good job. I've attended many council meetings over the past several years both in person and online. Um as I also mentioned before, I've gone to City Groundbreakings where the council is in attendance. Um and I think that everybody does a really good job of listening to each other whether we agree or not and I think that continues but I think the key element there is having a more balanced representation of men to women and particularly with word one, not having any representation from CCOA in more than a decade.
Q: What are the issues that you see facing us in the years to come and as a council member, that certainly would be your responsibility to look forward. Not backwards as many people do. But to look forward to what are those issues that we face, and what are the priorities that we must establish going forward?
Cole: Like I stated before, we've done a good job bringing in businesses particularly larger businesses on the industrial side of Maumelle which has brought a lot of money into Maumelle and it's awesome. Money, jobs, that's good for everyone. As far as the revenue for Maumelle, I think as far as moving forward, what I would look forward to and I think some of you would do is more business, more opportunity for small business and retailers. Um this is a we we look into retail locations for our small business here in Maumelle. It wasn't feasible at the time. Uh it may be in the future and I hope it is. Uh, giving those incentives to small businesses, restaurants, retail, I think should be a priority. Uh you know, if we can give them incentives by lowering their, you know, taxable moneys on the front end for however long, that'd be great. I'm open to talking to the council about that. Uh as far as our growth and power obviously facilities some need to be updated. Uh if it's in the cards, let's get it done. I'd love to see. I'd love to see an indoor pool. Just me personally. Uh some of you have spoken about wanting to have what North Little Rock has in the leaf cleanup. I love to see it too. Not sure if it's financially going to be on the table anytime soon but it becomes available and it's not going to put a burden on the citizens. Let's go for it.
Gronwald: So, I just want to say I agree with everything that mister Cole just said. So, I'll just go sit down. Um no, but he has a lot of really good points that I would like to kind of reiterate. As far as bringing business into our city, the industrial area has just boomed with the Amazon distribution. That's amazing. Not only is that amazing but that attracts a lot of attention from other cities. Um and so, it makes us look great. Um also, the Tractor Supply distribution that's exciting. So, on the industrial side, we're doing well as David said for commercial growth. I think there's lots of opportunities going on with new walking trails. If you attended the meeting the other day, the planning for some of these new walking trails. I think the more we develop that activity, we could see some opportunities for outdoor sport, sports shops, and tournaments. If we go the pickleball route or the tennis court multi Functional Um so, I think there are opportunities. I did speak with a city official one time who explained to me the reason we don't have more restaurants is because everybody commutes out of Maumelle and they can't survive on just dinner alone and I thought what a great point. So, how do we bring more people and keep more people doing business and working in Maumelle to bring more restaurants. So, I think there's an opportunity. Um, I think we need to study it a little bit more. We've made advances. Can't wait to see what happens next.
Cole: I’d just like to say thank you to everybody that attended tonight. I love to speak to some of you afterwards if you're available. Um again, just to reiterate, I'm an independent person. I have nobody funding my campaign. I won't be accepting moneys from the city if elected at any time and I'll let you read into that what you'd like. Um Maumelle's an awesome city and I want to keep it an awesome city. I want to be here for a long time. We've made a long-term investment here personally. My wife and I ended up with our family and we don't plan on going anywhere. Uh, our move from Texas directly to Maumelle is probably the best thing we've ever done. Uh we don't want to leave Arkansas. We love this state. Um and the citizens of Maumelle are are really really great. Um I'll leave it at that. Uh if you want to talk about dogs, I'll be down here later on. I don't want to but if you want to, we can. So, anyways, I thank you all for putting this together and thanks to Christine for putting up with me tonight too.
Gronwald: Thank you. I think we can all agree by a lot of what has already been said, what's going to be said following David and I and just looking around the room and how many of you have come because you're invested in Maumelle that every Maumelle resident is passionate about our city. And with that, we can do no wrong. As long as we keep that open conversation going. We all want to see Maumelle continue to flourish. Um in a responsible business growth way. Um and that the needs and the wants of Maumelle citizens. With a council member who lives in the Country Club of Arkansas, Ward 1 will have a more equitable representation of those needs. On the council, I will work to maintain safety in our city, continue responsible business growth, fiscal responsibility, and increased support for small businesses. For the residents of Ward one, I will strive to listen to concerns and respond in a timely manner. I will do my best to ensure all the voices of all of Ward one are heard. As the city evolves, so must the city council. The members of the council should be more accurately reflective of the demographic of Maumelle. Together, we can make this happen. It's long overdue. I am asking for your vote for Maumelle City Council. Thank you all for coming and again, thank you mister Cole. Um we met and we agree on most things. So, I look forward to working with him whether it's on the council or a committee in the future. Thank you all for being here.
State Representative, District 71: Brandon Achor (R), John J. Pack (D) and Aaron Raatz (L)
NOTE: Aaron Raatz, a commercial pilot, was flying the night of the forum and was unable to attend.
Well, thank you very much and given that only at Arkansas Baptist, there are only eight of us on the football team in total. It wasn't really difficult to remain a standout but I want to thank Arkansas Newsroom for putting this on and all of you for donating your time because as someone who has a political hopeful, it's encouraging to see this level of interest and this level of engagement because I think anyone who gets up here and says that they know all the answers. Well, that's you're talking to someone who's not engaged and who's not really feeding off the feedback of those that they're called to serve and that's really why I'm here today. As Neal said, my name is Brandon Achor. I'm the owner of Achor Family Pharmacy along with my wife, Kaley, not KC and we have a daughter who will be turning two at the end of this month. It's pretty serendipitous to be standing here. I was a four-year-old myself next door when I started school and so, my lifelong roots are truly our lifelong roots in this community. Um it's been incredibly humbling to see a city idea move into a city powerhouse to be able to pull the level of interest that it has and that's in no short part to the great leadership that the city has fostered and I honored to be considered as someone who can carry that torch to the capitol on behalf of my hometown. You know, the challenges that come across our state are in no small part Um something that you have to be able to adapt to. You have to be able to understand that there isn't a one-size-fit all and as a business owner, that's something I deal with every day. You know, it's very challenging to wake up and be responsible for the payroll for your staff. It's very challenging to be responsible for, you know, the patients that come in there every day and recognize the needs that they need and be able to adapt to the individuality that they themselves carry. Um and it's something that I've been blessed with the opportunity to see day in and day out and take those opportunities to learn and apply those in other settings. In the political realm is one that I hope to be able to apply that level of attention and accessibility and transparency that being an independent pharmacist allows us to do. When people ask me a lot of times they say, why would you want to do this? Don't you get yelled at enough in your day job? And I'm like, yes. Typically, people are not too thrilled to come see me because most of them are sick or they're getting a shot and typically, people are not too thrilled. Um but I say that my job and my staff's job is to make sure people know that they're not alone. I'm not going to be able to fix every single issue. I'm not going to be able to solve every sort of illness but I tell my staff, if you make your customers believe and see that you're on their side, that they're with you, that they don't have to do whatever it is by themselves. Then, you've got not only a customer for life but you're actually making a real impact and that's the type of individual that I am, that's the type of perspective that I bring and that's the filter that I'll be running through every piece of legislation is how can I make sure that my Arkansas know that they're not alone. So, thank you very much. I appreciate your vote.
How's everybody doing? I'm John Pack. Um, I'm not really good at the whole talking part. This January will be 13 years with the Arkansas National Guard like him. I get yelled at enough there. I just can't get enough of it. So, I chose to do this as well. I think I bring a unique perspective to what I can do being in charge of multi-million dollars worth of equipment and assets with a fortune 500 company and the military has also given me a unique perspective on things. That's about all I got. I said, I’d keep it short. So, I think that’s it.
Question: if elected, what will you do to ensure our public school teachers receive pay increases.
Achor: I think that's a question that people are very impassioned about. I don't think there's anyone that believes that any educator is not worth more than what they're currently valued at by the dollar. Um and so as a legislator who has the capacity to work with the governor's office and the different committees. Um my job is to review that and make sure that the state is fiscally sound. If the state is physically sound, then a priority will have to be ensuring that teachers are compensated. Um You look at that and you say, base salaries, you try and build incentives. Um the whole idea that people want is they want equality on the return on their investment. Whether that is in their education system, whether that's in their pharmacy, whether that's in their grocery store, wherever that is, they want to see a return in quality on their investment and I believe that their incentives that can be implemented and I believe that the governor has already governors to be have both listed that that is a number one priority and so, it will be our duty to stand there and make sure that that happens. To say that I have a full proof plan on how I can guarantee that teachers will receive pay increases. Uh that's something that any legislator would not be able to promise. What I can promise is that I won't be a barrier.
Pack: Teachers are definitely don't get the recognition they deserve. Especially if they have kids like I was in school. they're, in my opinion, very underpaid and because I don't know everything that goes into that. It would, I would take on the responsibility of pouring into everything available to see how we could go about getting teachers pay raises because they definitely deserve it and I can't say enough about teachers, okay? So, yeah.
Q: How will you work with other elected officials in Pulaski County and the state to make sure that this region that you represent is best served.
Achor: So, I believe that the beauty of our legislative system is that it requires teamwork for anyone to be effective, that no person can rule it with iron fist, and that you have to be willing to integrate and to network. Um, I saw this firsthand. I serve as a board member for the Arkansas Pharmacist Association and in that capacity, it is my job to represent the needs of the entire state's independent pharmacist and if you're going to represent you have to know needs and to know needs, you have to engage, you have to engage in Piggott, Arkansas, you have to engage in Stuttgart, Arkansas, you have to engage in Clarendon, and Des Arc, and Texarkana, and that experience of trauma into those different areas, and engaging with people of my peers, collating a list of priorities, and then finding a way to educate legislators and present that to them in a digestible format, that actually produced real tangible results, and why which are most of you probably don't know this but Arkansas is the largest independently dominated pharmacy state in the nation. Um we outnumber chain stores three to one and that is in no small part due to the activism of the Arkansas Pharmacist Association and the constituents that they serve. Um so, that experience allows me to not just have the tools to do so but recognize the value of what it takes to network and work with legislators. We have been blessed to help open 13 pharmacies across the state and so I have 13 real touchpoints. Um some of those I mentioned whether it's Piggott or Nashville or Texarkana or Maumelle or Cabot. Um and meeting the needs of those communities are not one and the same. And that experience shows me that the real results are out there. That there are people who want to be heard and that fortunately one of the byproducts of just doing what I love and serving people in the pharmacy world is that I now have these touchpoints to pull resources for and so I plan to pull on those resources from real people in real communities that we serve.
Pack: Other elected officials in Pulaski County and the state to make sure that this region is best served. So, I believe it's very important to work with the mayor and all the elected officials to get their ideas on what can better the community but also believe it's important to get ideas from the people of the community which is why I'm running anyway because I don't think the people are first in politics anymore. but working with all them, coming up with ideas, getting budgets set aside, and It's about all I got on that one because I have to do a little more research on the that answer
Q: What's the first thing you want to do as a legislator?
Achor: So, my number one priority and it's kind of basis for how I filter politics is to put the dollar
back in the end user which is the community which is the individual, the family. Um I believe that being more competitive with the states around us when it comes to state income taxes is something that has to be a priority. And people often say, well, where are you going to make that money up for? And I say that there are other states that have found a way and I'm willing to put the dollar back in the hand and give them the authority to decide how that's spent rather than take it beforehand and I think that in order to invest in a community, you have to truly invest in a community and give the dollar back to the individual. So, lowering the state income tax will be my number one priority. Assuming that as a freshman legislator with no private experience, gets to have an agenda.
Pack: So. we're going to agree on this one. State income taxes need to be lowered. Uh Arkansas came out with a 1. 6 billion dollar surplus I think it was. And with that amount of surplus, I mean that should tell everybody that, you know, taxes are incredibly too high. So, my goal will be digging into everything that taxes are coming in from, figuring out where we can make cuts. And get the tax rate dropped. That would be mine.
Achor: Well, I just want to say that I've want to reiterate how encouraging it is to see the number of people in this room. Um like I said, that's a writer who would want feedback. We, I believe everyone up here is here to serve regardless of what side of the aisle they stand on. They stand there for you and I just want to encourage all of you to reach out to us. The level of accessibility and transparency that we offer at our low pharmacy is the same level of access and transparency that I want to offer as your representative Um and while you may not have a prescription to bring to me like you do at the pharmacy, you do have a concern and you do have a voice And I am here to fill it.
Pack: So as I said earlier, I think the people have become an afterthought and politics in general. I want to bring a level of integrity, same transparency, to the capitol where people can actually learn to actually start trusting their legislators again and just get everything going right in this state again. I just want to put the people back where they belong.
Pulaski County Sheriff: Incumbent Eric Higgins vs. Paul “Blue” Keller
Thank you everyone for being here. I know it's been a long night. I appreciate you standing here with us for a little bit longer. Uh you know, four years ago, I ran for Pulaski County Sheriff and there were some things I wanted to accomplish. You know, I realized that the county and the sheriff's office did not have in-car cameras or body cameras in their vehicles. Didn't have GPS in their vehicles. So, that was something I wanted to address was to get the body cameras and I can say we have body cameras. We have body cameras even in the detention center. We're the first agency to have body cameras in the detention center. The thing I was looking at is increasing our response time or or improving our response time and we've been able to do that. Um unfortunately, when I took office at the sheriff's office, we weren't we weren't tracking crime or response times at that time but we were able to increase the technology to be able to do that. Uh you know, one thing I wanted to do was look at and embrace the history of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office. I don't know if and if you remember that the sheriff's office has what we call the Junior Deputy Program that was started by Sheriff [Tom] Gulley and it's 1947 when he started that. That program kind of went away from the sheriff's office. So, I would embrace the history of the sheriff's office and we brought back the Junior Deputy Mentoring Program for our kids because it's very important that we invest in our kids and help them to follow in the right direction. Also, what I want to do is implement a re-entry program at the detention center. You know, some would say, what is the detention center? What does a county detention center have to do with reentry? I tell you, it has everything to do with with reentry because 75, 80% of the people booked into the Pulaski County Jail are released to our community and therefore, we need to try to address that issue and we've put together a program, a reentry program to help those who are in our facility, who want help to come out and and not reoffend and currently, we have about a 17% recidivism rate in our facility. Uh if you compare that to the state, the state has about a 47% recidivism rate and that means most people in our programs are coming out and are successful. Um we also when we look at the sheriff's office, you know, we have to have a holistic approach to dealing with crime. Now, we're going to arrest people. We're going to put people in jail. We do those things. We write tickets but we have to have a holistic approach that means looking at the issues in our community, building strong relationships in the community. That's why we have a neighborhood coordinator, a person who is a civilian person, works with us that works in our community. We have a citizens advisory group that we establish as people coming to the sheriff's office and we meet on a regular basis to talk about issues in our community and how we can address those issues in our community. In the sheriff's office, what I've tried to do is ensure that we are 21st century policing with technology. It's been mentioned. You know, and I can say it was mentioned at $2 million dollars a grant. We just got another $1. 6 million dollars in grants received this year. So, over $4 million dollars, approximately $4 million dollars in grants and three and a half years to address equipment in the facility to make it safer, to work with our youth in the community, and also work with our reentry and and what we're doing is trying to make a safer community and I can say in Pulaski County, in our area, we cover violent crime is 13% because what we're doing as a team. Appreciate your vote. Thank you.
Paul “Blue” Keller
Thank you, Neal. Thank you all that set this up. Uh we really appreciate it. I appreciate y'all sticking around while others left because we found throughout the campaign that a lot of folks don't even understand that if they live in the cities, that they vote in the county. We want you to know that you are part of the county and that we very very much value y'all just like the folks in the unincorporated areas. As Neal said, I'm from Arkansas, went to school up at [Arkansas] Tech, went straight in the army, infantry, airborne, ranger, special forces qualified. I was in there for 23 and a half years. I obtained Lieutenant Colonel and while I was there, I actually got to participate in what was called a crisis in Rwanda. And I think that's important for y'all to know because what we saw over there was the worst that men had for his fellow man but then we came together. We came with military. We came with law enforcement. We came together with NGOs, non-governmental organizations. We came in touch with the different groups in the area. And we sat down at the table and we started hammering things out. And within about 2 months, we had completely turned it around. And if you go back and you and you go YouTube or whatever you want and look at the Rwanda crisis and look at what they've got going over there now. It's fantastic. The love for each other. They've got, they've got past the hate. They got past the different racisms and they're doing very very well. I believe that we're getting close to the worst that we're doing for our fellow man right here in the county right now. We've got way too much crime. Crime is rising. Crime is rising. And here's the thing. If you look out the window, you're you're you're living here in the city. Folks are out in the county. You look out the window and your neighbor's house is burning down. Are you going to sit there in the chair and wait till it gets to your house? Or are you going to get up and go out and do something about it? And help your neighbor. We in the county and in the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, I see us as being the epoxy that brings the PDs together. I have been endorsed by the Maumelle PD, the Little Rock PD, the Jacksonville PD, the Sherwood PD, the African American coalition of Arkansas the chapter 49 of the Special Forces Association I intend to work with all of these agencies to bring it together to make your streets, your homes, your areas safer for you and your families.
Question: Pulaski County, we'll have a new prosecutor next year How do you plan on working with that office to ensure law enforcement goals are met?
Higgins: You know, as sheriff, I work with the current prosecutor and I've already met with mister Jones, the new prosecutor and we've discussed some of his ideas. Um things are going to continue as always. We have to work together with the prosecutor's office to ensure that we are addressing crime and and when we are working with them as far as we prosecute individuals but also when you look at the detention center. Um we work with the prosecutor's office and the sheriff's office has worked with the prosecutor's office for a number of years during the Doc Hales administration dealing with the people coming into the facility. The number of people being arrested and those who are being released by authority, the prosecutor's office. That there is a list that's been going on for years and the current prosecutor works through. We've worked through a list with them. We've discussed that with the current prosecutor and we'll sit down with him and discuss ways we can continue to work together. Thank you.
Keller: Yes, sir. It's critical that that we work with the prosecutors I was speaking with Tim Griffin [Arkansas Attorney General candidate] not too long ago and I think everybody here understands if you've if you've been reading the papers, there's sentencing guides and matrices that determine how long a person has to stay in jail based on the crimes that they're committing on. I think that we would all agree because you read in the paper routinely that individuals who have gotten out of jail are back and they're doing things. They should still be in jail. So, Griffin is saying that what he's going to do is he's going to work with the legislature to try to change the sentencing matrices so that people spend more time in the jail if they need to and these are we're talking about violent criminals obviously. So, we've got to work with them and our capacity now as a director of the Criminal Investigation Division for the Insurance Department. We work all around the state. Uh we had lawyers today to go all the way down in El Dorado. Uh we see how important the local elected prosecutors are and they are the ones that actually decide whether to file a case or not. So, what we do is we investigate it. we present it to em, and then we have to live with what they decide to do. So, that is a very, very important part of the sheriff's office.
Neal Moore: This is a topic that's always hard to deal with, hard to talk about, hard to solve, who's ever going to solve it. I don't know. But would you support and and what ideas do you have for the possibility of the expansion of a second jail or a building in North Pulaski County and what do we need to do to get our jail to where it needs to be?
Q: Would you support jail expansion or a second detention facility?
Higgins: You know great, that's a great question talking about the detention center, expansion of detention. Is it necessary? Uh in some ways, there is some need for a new building. The current building we have was built in 1994 and when the county passed the tax to build that facility, there was no money to maintain the facility and when you're dealing with with a facility, you've gotta have the maintenance to to support that facility and we've had to spend in in this last two years spending over $3 million dollars just preparing the facility from locks that that can be compromised by detainees to replacing those locks to other systems in the facility. We've gotta correct those. You know, when you when you look at the capacity, I think we also have to look at what are we doing to get people out of that jail that won't reoffend and I think we can we can look at a reentry program that that we allow more people to be involved in the program. You need more space for that. Do you need more space to house more people? We do need more space to house some of the violent criminals. But that's the decision that the county's going to have to we as citizens are going to have to decide. Do we want to have more bed space in a county jail? But also it's not just having bed space but it's also reentry programs. How do we get people out of our facility that won't reoffend? But sometimes people are dealing with their primary issue. They're dealing with this drug addiction. And if somebody's dealing drug addiction and they're breaking into our houses. They're going to do 10 to 15 burglaries for any law enforcement agency. Uh arrest them and that those ten burglaries represents 30 victims in our community. That's people living in a home. That's neighbors, people at work. And so we have to address that. We have to address the underlying issue of why people commit crime. And try to address that. So they don't reoffend and become more serious create more serious crime. We have to address that. It's not just building more prisons to house more people or more jails to house more people. We have to look at what we are doing to help those who want those who are coming out of our facility. Maybe what the real issue is mental health issues, or drug addiction issues. We gotta address that at the same time. Thank you.
Keller: Agree with a lot that the sheriff had to say. Um we have to keep in mind that when it comes down at the end of the day, so much of it is determined by how much money is available. Uh you have to be able to make a case to go to the court, to go to the residence of the county to see. So, what we intend to do, what I intend to do right off the bat is make better use of the space that we have to make better operations of the facility so that folks can move in, move through, and move out as necessary. We believe that there's a greater value to education and motivation of personnel than it is to the incarceration of those personnel. So, what we do want to do is we want to work with programs that will identify working back again with the prosecutors as we were talking about and identifying the violent people and identifying those others that really don't need to be in jail that are probably going to learn from their first bad experience. We're looking at weekend jails. We want to be able to talk. We want to be able to get people in. People that have maybe written a lot of hot checks. That's the only way they see that they can feed their family. We bring em into jail on Friday night. They work with the work service on Saturday, Sunday, Sunday night. They go back home, get a good shower, and spend some time with their families. They're back to their jobs on Monday. We get them out of the way. We need to look at more electronic monitoring. We need to be able to get people out where we know you can keep an eye on em, get em out of the jail, make more space in the jail so that we can expand with what we've got as opposed to having to bill more.
Question: This is obviously a nationwide problem. How do you plan to attract and keep qualified deputies?
Higgins: As you mentioned, it is a nationwide problem trying to get people into law enforcement. You know, you have to look at salaries, you have to look at benefits, retirement issues are at play. But it's trying to attract the right people. Um because you don't just want anyone wanting to be in law enforcement. You have to have quality people to be in the profession. So, we are working toward that. We've established the sheriff's office under my administration to establish our own recruit school. Uh, authorized by the state and so we're able to recruit More people on our enforcement side. Uh I'm happy to say we're about three deputies short on enforcement and and so while you look at a lot of agencies in Pulaski County are struggling to fill this position. But it is a nationwide issue. We have to continue to try to improve the environment, improve the equipment, improve the training that we provide, and we've gone from 16 hours of training to 48 hours of annual training at the sheriff's office. Um you know, we have to look at work with the quorum court. Look at salaries. We compete with the surrounding agencies. You've heard today, you've heard people talking about the Maumelle Police Department. Uh we need to increase the salaries in Maumelle. That means that's a competition for the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office and so we have to look at that retirement system. I think we have to look at longevity pay. Those kinds of things to bring people in but you also have to help people realize it's a career, not just a job. It's a career and gets people who understand that this is about our community. It's about our safety and our community and so we have to continue to push that we continue to look for ways we've worked with the Quorum Court. We've got a $5, 000 bonus for new hires and I think that has significantly helped us where we, like I said, we have about three vacancies in our enforcement site. Detention was still struggling. Try to fill those positions. Most people who want to be in law enforcement don't want to be in the detention center and a lot of people come to work in the detention center. They're looking for the opportunity to move forward and go work in the enforcement side. So, we have to improve that environment and that's what we're doing, improving our environment in the detention center. Like I mentioned earlier, the locks failed. We hired new people and inmates were able to pop the lock on the cell and come out of their cell. Uh and you have one deputy in that unit with all those inmates. We've replaced all those locks. Thanks to Quorum Court giving us money to do that. It's about almost $2 million dollars to replace all those locks. We've done that. We're increasing the safety of the facility and I believe by doing that, we're going to see a change where we'll be able to retain more people. We're replacing the central control systems. That's what the systems that open up the doors. We are replacing the metal detectors with body scanners that can detect drugs and cellphones and other things. So, we're making a safer facility and and I think by doing that, we're going to be able to retain more people but it's a continuation of trying to recruit, recruit, recruit, and share people about the opportunity to come work at the sheriff's office to looking at the opportunities they have to move up and rank and have an impact to improve the quality life of people in our community. Thank you.
Keller: The way you recruit people is you provide a working environment that they feel comfortable in, they feel like they're well led, they feel like they're cared for. You have got to make sure that your people know that you are going to take care of their personal and their professional needs, both. We intend to do that by going out and recruiting veterans. We have already talked with the two sixteen. military police, battalion over in Arkansas Guard. We have relations there. We are going to these people whose jobs and their military training is police work. We're going to recruit them. We're going to bring them in. We're already working in the high schools with some high schools talking to them. Um and with other organizations in the Hispanic community. We've been talking to them because we need Spanish speakers. We need to be able to get into the communities because if you recruit from the communities, those officers will be able to go back down into that community and they will be able to relate and it will be safer for them. It will be safer for the community. It is about trust. It's about confidence. It's about training. We will train them so that they have the faith in themselves, the people around them, their leadership and they know that they will be taken care of. The salaries are not great but they're not that bad. When I went to the county, I took an $11, 000 a year pay cut because I wanted to be out there with the men and the women of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office. We provide the environment, they'll feel the same.
Neal Moore: You know, we all wish that law enforcement officers could solve, could stop crime. Impossible. What you see is the, you know, it's a, we have a, we have a society many who are living in hopelessness which is, oftentimes, law enforcement has to deal with that. What do you see as the greatest challenges of local law enforcement in the next decade And how can we, how can we get into the community and what ideas do you have to, to reach into the community and and try to establish trust and good relationships?
Q: How would you build relationships in the community?
Higgins: So, it's so important that we build relationships in the community. We are not an occupying force. It is not just about going and making an arrest. We will do those things but it's about building relationships in the community. It's about going into the community, going to the neighborhood meetings, and talking to them, having presentations with them. You know, we partner with the food bank, the Arkansas Food Bank. We partnered with AT&T Arkansas, providing food packs three days worth of non-perishable foods in the trunk of police cars and our deputies when they come across a need in the community, you can meet those needs. If we're going to build relationships, we're in the community. We are driving down the streets, We're interacting with people in the community. We're seeing the need. So, we have to build partnerships with other organizations like the food bank, like City Serve, and other churches that provide tangible needs and when we see that, then, we can relate the information and they can meet the tangible needs but sometimes people get in kids getting in criminal activity but they're trying to meet they're trying to meet needs in the community. Trying to keep the lights on. They're helping grandmother keep the lights on. They're doing those kind of things. So, we have to do that. We have to build a strong relationship in the community. What we do, we have what we call a supper with the sheriff's office. When we go into the different parts of the community, we bring members of the sheriff's office and we sit down, we have a meal together, but the Sheriff's office doesn't pay for it. The neighborhood organization has to pay for it but we bring different people. Mechanic out of the jail. We bring other people there to sit down and build relationships because that's how you address crime in the community is building relationships in the community. That's how you also recruit in the community by building those relationships in the community.
Keller: Uh we cannot just be focused on making arrests. We have to build relationships and we have to see the needs in the community and work with various organizations to help meet that need and when the community sees us as a resource to the community. Then, we end up with a stronger and we'll end up with a safer community. the first thing that we've got to do if we want to be able to get down in the communities and work is we have got to get back to the basics. We have got to take control of our streets and our communities back from those that don't respect your rights, your property, your lives. As I said earlier, we are a county. There are five major municipalities in the county but none of us can bring the security back to where it needs to be by ourselves. We've got to come together. We have got to show those that would do harm to anybody else that the days, their days are limited. They need to go somewhere else. Once we do that, then, we get down into the communities and we as we said, we're going to recruit out of em. We're going to work with them. We're going to work through em and then, what we're going to do is we're going to show the people in those communities that the uniform that we wear and the badge that we carry and that the weapon that we carry is what we do for a living but that's not who we are. We are husbands. We are fathers. We're grandfathers. We're mothers. And when they understand that and when they see that and they see our deputies out there doing and doing and doing and a lot of times they see them by themselves because it's not like Little Rock. We don't have the manpower. They're going to see them as individuals and as individuals, we will be able to talk to them. They will be able to talk to us. We will be able to develop an understanding that will allow us to then even take security and policing missions to the next level.
Higgins: You know, it has been a pleasure to serve you as Pulaski County Sheriff. Uh we've accomplished a lot in three and a half years. You know, we look at the budget, the county budget. There's only so much resources we can get from the county. They have limited resources. So, we've looked at grants. And we've given, we got over $3 million dollars in grants to help fund the things that we do at the sheriff's office. We also had someone establish a foundation. Uh Pulaski County Prevention and Reentry Foundation to bring resources from the private sector to support our youth program and to support our re-entry program. You know, we believe in a holistic approach to dealing with crime in our community. You know, we believe in having partnerships and we partner, we were contacted by Advance Auto. They want to partner with us. They give us a $25 gift card. So, if we stop a vehicle that has a bulb out or tail light out instead of issuing a citation, we can give them a gift card so they can get that fixed. We're moving forward in the sheriff's department. We can't go backwards. We have to continue to move forward. 21st century policing and and you know, continue to make repairs in the sheriff's office. We look at the data that we've been able to collect. I know that 70% of the time, deputies don't have a backup on a call and I'm only two deputies short in enforcement and so we're looking at bringing more people in. We work with the Quorum Court and they're going to do a study. I believe we need about 22 more deputies in patrol but we're doing a study. So, we're working with the Quorum Court. I think it's very important that as a sheriff that you're able to work with the quorum court, work with the community, look at the issues in our community, and address those issues. Come together and address those issues. Have a holistic approach. We are community focused. So, we're part of the community. We're empowered by the community. And so we have to be part of the community. We're safety driven, not risk driven. We're going to make arrests but we have to look at the issues in our community that create an unsafe environment for our citizens. An integrity base. We're going to do what's right which means we're also going to hold people accountable. We're going to hold deputies accountable. We're going to hold our administration accountable. We're going to do what's right. We continue to do what's right and we want to continue to serve this community. We are moving forward. There's so much more need to be done and I look forward to continue to serve you as Pulaski County Sheriff. Thank you.
Keller: I also would like to thank you for coming out tonight. Uh You are the people that we serve. You are the people that we answer to. We will need your feedback routinely. I hope that this time to come together tonight will let you know that I will be accessible to you. I am the only candidate on the stage that has been a Pulaski County deputy. I know what it's like to be out there. I can remember when Pulaski County was the premier enforcement agency in this state. I remember the leadership, I remember the butt chewings just as well as the pats on the back. But at the end of the day, I knew that we were a family. And I knew that I could go to them, my superiors with any question, with any problem, with any situation, and if it was personal or professional, they were going to help me out. We got to go back to those days. We have got to make the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, the premier law enforcement agency in this state, and we can do it. There is no doubt in my mind I have served my country and the communities that I live in for five decades. I have enjoyed just about every bit of it. The lord has blessed me with those experiences. I want to take those experiences now to turn this sheriff's office around to serve you.
Football: Maumelle, CAC looking for home wins this week, North Little Rock on the road
It wasn’t a good week on the road for North of the River football teams as Maumelle and Central Arkansas Christian both lost last Friday night at Morrilton and Clinton, while North Little Rock won at Jonesboro to spoil the Hurricane homecoming.
Maumelle and CAC will both be at home this week hosting, respectively, Watson Chapel and Dover while the ‘Cats are headed to Fort Smith Northside.
With six teams getting in from the 7A-Central, North Little Rock has already qualified for the playoffs, while Maumelle and CAC would need to win all the remaining games on their respective schedules and get some help around the conferences to make it in.
Both the Hornets and Mustangs have winnable games this week as their opponents are a combined 3-12.
Watson Chapel at Maumelle
Records: Maumelle (2-5), Watson Chapel (1-7)
Streamer: Natural State Sports
Hootens.com Rankings: Maumelle stays at No. 22 in 5A while Watson Chapel is No. 27.
Last week: Morrilton never trailed as the Devil Dogs ran off to a 35-14 win at home against Maumelle. Quarterback Weston Pierce passed for 132 yards and a touchdown. Pierce has now thrown for 967 yards and seven touchdowns this season despite missing playing time due to injury. Pierce’s top target is Alan Timmons, who 9 catches for 97 yards last Friday and leads the team with 22 catches for 334 yards.
For highlights click here.
Aug. 26: Maumelle 28, Sylvan Hills 27 (OT)
Sept. 1: Maumelle 35, Batesville 0
Sept. 9: White Hall 44, Maumelle 24
Sept. 23: Pine Bluff 26, Maumelle 0
Sept. 30: Mills 30, Maumelle 0
Oct. 7: Robinson 35, Maumelle 30
Oct. 14: At Morrilton 35, Maumelle 14
Friday: Watson Chapel at Maumelle ... 7 p.m. ... Conference
Oct. 28: At Vilonia ... 7 p.m. ... Conference
Nov. 4: At Beebe ... 7 p.m. ... Conference
For the roster, click here.
Dover at CAC
Records: CAC (1-7), Dover (2-5)
Hootens.com Rankings: CAC drops to No. 38 in 4A, while Dover is No. 43.
Last week: The Mustangs didn’t have any trouble of offense against Pottsville as quarterback Grayson Wilson passed for 292 yards and four touchdowns, while freshman sensation Jacob Henry had 166 yards receiving on seven catches and five of those were touchdowns. It was just the Pottsville offense also had its way in the 63-45 win.
Aug. 26: Lonoke 41, CAC 13
Sept. 2: Perryville 35, CAC 31
Sept. 9: Bauxite 37, CAC 14
Sept. 16 Harmony Grove 35, CAC 14
Sept. 23: CAC 21, Little Rock Hall 19
Sept. 30: Mayflower 33, CAC 14
Oct. 7: Pottsville 35, CAC 34
Oct. 14 Clinton 63, CAC 45
Friday: Dover at CAC ... 7 p.m. ... Conference
Nov. 4: At Lamar ... 7 p.m. ... Conference
For the roster, click here
North Little Rock at Fort Smith Northside
Records: North Little Rock (4-3), Northside (3-4
Hootens.com Rankings: North Little Rock stays at No. 8 in Class 7A, while Northside is right behind at No. 9.
Last week: Running back Javonte Harris led the North Little Rock offense with 138 rushing yards and a touchdown. As a team, the 'Cats had 291 yards on the ground and North Little Rock never trailed in the win. Worth noting Jonesboro and Little Rock Southwest play this week, with the winner being the likely No. 6 seed from the 7A-Central.
For stats, click here.
Aug. 26: Little Rock Catholic 23, North Little Rock 6
Sept. 2: Fayetteville 28, North Little Rock 10
Sept. 16: North Little Rock 28, Little Rock Parkview 27 (2 OT)
Sept. 23: North Little Rock 53, Little Rock Central 8
Sept. 30: At Conway 35, North Little Rock 0
Oct. 7: North Little Rock 50, Little Rock Southwest 8
Oct. 14: North Little Rock 28, Jonesboro 14
Friday: At Fort Smith Northside... 7 p.m. ... Conference
Oct. 28: Bryant at North Little Rock ... 7 p.m. ... Conference
Nov. 4: Cabot at North Little Rock ... 7 p.m. ... Conference
For the roster, click here.