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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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.