Focus on: Mark Stodola 


Mark Stodola

Age: 57

Lives: Heights

Campaign website: www.markforlittlerock.com

Campaign financing: $300,000

Career/experience: Partner in Catlett & Stodola law firm. Former prosecuting attorney for the Sixth Judicial District of Arkansas from 1991-96 and former Little Rock city attorney from 1985-90. Candidate for the Democratic nomination to U.S. Congress in the 2nd district of Arkansas in 1996.

Why he is running: “Because I believe I am the most qualified and experienced to take the city to the next level. We’re on the verge of becoming the next great city in the South, but it will take a new brand of leadership style. I believe I’m the best suited for that out of all the candidates in the race. I’m the one with the background, qualifications and understanding of the issues that make the city great.

“Quality of life issues are the key to economic development. If we can create communities where quality of life issues are paramount, it is those things that will make the difference.

“There are people who make things happen, who let things happen, and who ask what happened. I’m a make-it-happen person.

“Solving the crime issue is paramount to creating the quality of life to make the next great community. When I was city attorney, existing laws did not allow the city to act aggressively to combat drug crime. I wrote the drug abatement act, and as city attorney I shut down 20 drug houses in one day. I made absentee landlords responsible.

“The main issue people are concerned about is crime. Not just violent crime, but also burglary, breaking and entering, that is affecting all parts of the city.”

Mayoral powers/Form of government: “I think the current form of government provides too much insulation between the people and the government. I believe the mayor/council form is the best form to be responsive to the people. I want the issue to be explored. I would be happy to step up to the plate and work in a strong mayor form of government. Accountability is important. It’s distressing that there is too much insulation between the people elected and the voters. I’m hopeful that the city and the government will be able to make a decision, and I’d like to see a task force created to look at the Vision Little Rock recommendation for a strong mayor form of government. As mayor I would do that. I hear the people and feel they want it, and I will explore the idea once elected.” [Stodola is also in favor of mayoral veto power.]

How would you govern?: “We haven’t had a hotly contested race for mayor in 12 years. I do think the dialogue and dynamic of this race will focus what are important issues that will translate to the board and the budget. I will advance issues to my fellow board members and find six votes to get it done.”

Impact fees: “We have impact fees. We’ve had them for 40 to 50 years. Developers pay fees for sewer, water, sidewalks sized to anticipate future capacities. The question is how to spread the costs to developments not yet realized. I think the idea of trying to spread the responsibility out is something that merits review. The issue is one of fairness. A developer shouldn’t have to bear all of the costs if a future developer benefits. I don’t think it is fair now, and I would like to see that discussion more earnestly in Little Rock. We need to look at that issue and how to fairly assess the fees.

“As the city grows, we also need to try to create incentives for redevelopment, including infill and increased density in more established areas. But I don’t believe in arbitrary barriers for things like annexation, either.”

Summit Mall: “First of all, there won’t be a Summit Mall. Second, it was totally appropriate for the developers to pay for the exit ramps that access Shackleford Road. The new development there is even more appropriate, because Summit Mall would have been the death knell for the University Avenue corridor. We have to be smart in our planning.”

County jail tax: “I wish we were doing it differently. I do believe we need more beds for violent felons, recidivists and those who are flagrantly disobeying court orders. When there is no consequence to violating court orders, you undermine the legitimacy of the criminal justice system. Is the county running it right? I don’t know. In the end, we have a situation where a task force came down with a quarter-penny. I’m willing to pay a quarter on a hundred dollars to be safer. We know if we do that, the crime rate will go down.

“The real thing the city needs to take a leadership role in is prevention, intervention and treatment. We need to do an audit to see how effective it is, and then commit the money and get accountability. We should work with the schools to reduce juvenile crime and partner with the business community to create jobs. Often it’s only through teachers that you can teach and instill respect for people and property.”

Smoking ordinances: “The state addressed the issue. We need to let the law work. It’s not on my agenda to push the issue to the forefront. It seems to be working. I’m hopeful that the fears [of lost business revenues] do not materialize. I don’t want to put the city at a disadvantage to its neighbors and the rest of the state. I applaud the people who got the legislation passed. A state law is better than a city ordinance.”

Biggest personal weakness
or criticism: “People ask me ‘why do you want to do this?’ ”

Do you mean people think you ran only because this year is the last chance for you to use carryover campaign funds from your 1996 congressional race?: That is a ludicrous statement that is shallow in analysis. That amount of money is a small amount, only $44,000. When you look at how much money it will take, that amount would not motivate someone to get into the race. I could set up a foundation and give the money away.

“Some people say I’m using this as a springboard to higher office. That’s a desperation attempt to get people not to vote for me. I’m 57 years old. There are more opportunities to accomplish as mayor of Little Rock than any other position in the state absent governor, even under the current form of government.”

Race as a campaign factor: “I hope not. I don’t think so. I do think race is an issue for the city, and I don’t think we have done enough to address it as a city. … I want to have a race relations roundtable. We need to sit hand-in-hand in a circle to discuss the issues affecting the city today. I intend to use the bully pulpit to move the city along, and that includes race relations as well.”

Other priorities: “Crime is number one. We need a police substation in midtown. We need to make “Quiet Nights” permanent. We need more mobile COPP units, and more non-certified officers to coordinate misdemeanor community service projects. We need more aggressive code enforcement, using eminent domain in a grid to create a visual real change in neighborhoods.

“We also need more parks, including a soccer complex and more ballfields in West Little Rock.”


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