Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. says he plans to name a new police chief “soon,” will advocate for state parole reforms to address city crime, and wants to “reset” relations with the board of a directors in a second term.
On Tuesday, Scott received 48.65% of the vote in a four-way race between Steve Landers, Greg Henderson and Glen Schwarz. For cities of a certain size in Arkansas, the candidate leading with more than 40% of the vote is declared the winner.
In a wide-ranging interview on this week’s Capitol View, Scott reflected on his tough re-election campaign and discussed his goals in a second term.
“I think the main focus in the second term is to continue the work that we’ve been doing, but do some new things. Clearly, we have to focus and collaborate with our city board to ensure that the vision and mission is inclusive, that we focus on unity and growth and transformation for the city. The top priority on my mind right now is hiring our next police chief,” he said.
Scott said there is a pool of applicants he’s considering, including internal candidates, and he hopes to have a finalist in the near future. He declined to provide a timetable on the decision, but emphasized it would be soon.
“It’s been a top priority to get that done quick, fast, in a hurry. But we want to make sure that we make the right decision,” he said.
Crime was a major issue in the capital city mayor’s race. Little Rock has set a record for homicides in one year with 75 murders so far. Scott said in addition to hiring the new police chief, he wants to continue a long-term, holistic approach to addressing crime, but there are more short-term fixes in process.
“Our recently announced real-time crime center that adds additional eyes on the streets, that helps with crime prevention. We want to focus on making sure that our officers have raises and make some pay adjustments,” he said.
“When I say additional eyes on the streets, there are additional cameras that you can’t know about or where they’re located, but it helps us. It does not have any artificial imaging or facial recognition, but it does helps us really key on suspects that are out and about that need to be captured, helps us if the crime incident actually happens, helps us garner more evidence to capture the respective individuals who’ve committed that crime,” Scott said. “It’s been very successful. It’s only been going for right at a month now, I believe, and we’ve already had some successful captures and arrests already. So we think that’s going to be very prominent in our holistic approach on how we focus on fighting crime.”
Scott, who is an associate minister that works with prison re-entry programs, said parole reform is an issue that he hopes to see addressed at the state legislature in January. He plans on asking lawmakers and Gov.-elect Sarah Sanders to make it a priority.
“One of the things that the city of Little Rock experiences is an enormous number of parolees that are paroled to the city of Little Rock who aren’t from Little Rock. While we know that many times our brothers and sisters are in need of second and third chances, we also know that the city of Little Rock shares a brunt of many of the parolees and it’s not reflected in a very equitable fashion across the state,” he said.
RESET BOARD RELATIONS, FOIA CONCERNS
The newly re-elected mayor said another second term goal is to find better ways to work with city board members. His first term was saddled with contentious board fights. Scott said he wants to “reset” relations.
“In leadership, you can’t be a good leader if you can’t reflect and look inward and figure out how there are areas of opportunity for improvement. And so one of the things that I want to do is ensure that I improve board relations because a mayor can’t get anything done without six votes,” he said.
“I’m grateful that we were able to get a lot done with six votes over the past four years, but I wouldn’t be totally honest with myself if I said that we got it done very easily. There were definitely some challenges. I learned a lot of lessons. I want to make sure that I share that with the members of the city board that there’s been some lessons learned. I look at this next second term as a complete reset,” Scott added.
In recent weeks, Little Rock officials admitted to problems complying with the state’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by not providing public records requested by blogger Matt Campbell of The Blue Hog Report. Campbell has reported on the city’s cancelled LITFest contract with ThinkRubix, which hired Scott’s former chief of staff, Charles Blake. The city claims that it has not been able to provide some of the records requested because ThinkRubix has not provided documentation.
Scott will have to testify in a Nov. 16 hearing in Pulaski County Circuit Court on the issue. When asked to explain why FOIA compliance could not be met and how he will correct problems in this area, Scott was limited in his response.
“I can’t give all the details. As you know, it is currently under litigation, and so I can’t share too much. What I can share to the public is that the city of Little Rock is inundated with a number of different requests. We’ve had some staff allocation issues that need to be corrected and they will be corrected. I just want to continue to focus on that because we want to be and we will be accountable, clear and transparent, and we’ll get it corrected,” he said.
You can watch Scott’s full interview from this week’s Capitol View in the video below.