The following is a rush transcript and has been lightly edited to correct transcription errors and has been formatted for publication.
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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.