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Vincent Tolliver: running a 'people's campaign 

The Little Rock mayoral candidate wants to move Little Rock's City Hall away from operating like a 'private club.'

click to enlarge 'NOT HERE TO PEDDLE FEAR': Candidate Vincent Tollver says crime in Little Rock has been overhyped. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • 'NOT HERE TO PEDDLE FEAR': Candidate Vincent Tollver says crime in Little Rock has been overhyped.

When Vincent Tolliver was growing up in the Southeast Arkansas town of Lake Village in the 1970s, he learned by example from a caring but tough grandmother what it takes to stand up for yourself and for others.

He observed "verbal battles" in which his grandfather would make "thinly veiled threats," only to be put in his place by his grandmother.

"She advocated for herself and I saw it in action," Tolliver recalled. "My granddaddy would be chopping wood, and I'd take his ax and hide it. 'Did you move my ax, Scamp?' They called me 'Scamp.' He'd get frustrated, and I'd get my grandmother and hide behind her. My grandfather would get his switch, and she'd say, 'Leave that boy alone.' My granddaddy would stop and go back outside."

Such childhood lessons are "very important" and meaningful today, Tolliver said.

"I want to bring to this city a culture where people are treated with respect," Tolliver said. "People in the city of Little Rock have been disenfranchised by the current leadership. City hall operates more like a private club than the people's house. Hubris is commonplace in city hall. We need to reclaim city hall for the people."

Tolliver, 51, a writer who lives in the Dunbar neighborhood, is one of five candidates seeking to replace retiring Mayor Mark Stodola in the Nov. 6 election.

He's branding his campaign "the people's campaign" because he was taught to "treat people the way you want to be treated and make sure city hall does the same thing." He's running an all-volunteer campaign, has no website and just recently initiated a social media presence. Before an interview, he provided a 20-point list of issues and topics focal to his campaign.

But one thing he doesn't want to talk about is crime.

"I'm not one to peddle fear," Tolliver said. "We continue to talk about crime, but crime is not as bad as we're purporting it to be. There are people who benefit financially from peddling fear. I don't want to get into [who benefits]."

Tolliver, who ran track and played football, graduated from Lakeside High School in Lake Village in 1985. He said he jumped around a few colleges, starting at Hendrix College in Conway. He transferred to the University of Southern California, then to Morehouse College in Atlanta, and finally to Langston University in Oklahoma City, where he said he is one biology credit short of a degree.

He worked at the Rose Law Firm in the early 1990s as a paralegal after he said he received a recommendation from firm partner Hillary Clinton. He said he met her during a March of Dimes event he was involved in during high school. He said he later worked for a time as executive director of the Korey Stringer Foundation in Atlanta, which works to prevent sudden deaths in football.

Last year, he was one of 11 candidates seeking the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. The Hill reported the DNC ousted Tolliver as a candidate after he was critical of one of his opponents, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. Tolliver said that Ellison's "being a Muslim is precisely why DNC voters should not vote for him. Muslims discriminate against gays."

But Tolliver said recently that the real reason he got booted was because he said publicly that Clinton lost the presidency in 2016 because Tim Kaine was a poor chose for her vice presidential nominee. "That pissed off people," Tolliver said.

He said he makes his living as a writer, and has authored a book called "Childhood Eyes" about growing up in the Delta. He's most proud of his screenplay adaptation of "The Idiot" by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

If elected, he wants to develop a program called "ART/ists" where artists of all kinds — such as musicians, drummers, skateboarders and writers — in each ward could showcase their works to people from other wards. This would promote "pride and communications" among different areas of the city, he said.

He opposes the city's electing at-large directors in addition to directors elected from a specific ward. He says this system "marginalizes minority communities."

He wants the city to partner with the Little Rock School District to add more "birth to pre-K" centers for childcare.

He wants to start a program called "Black Boys r Brilliant" to increase community engagement among young people. Under this plan, the city would provide all parents and ministers copies of the 2018 street index to allow boys the opportunity to find their street and ward. They will then be told the names of their ward director and the police chief.

To promote childcare, a livable wage and downtown business, he wants the city to incentivize businesses to pay their employees at least $15 an hour or to subsidize childcare costs. He said this would encourage daycares to sprout up in downtown Little Rock and lead to a more positive and productive work environment. He said he would determine later what type of incentives the city would offer.

To promote health, he would expand the sidewalk network and connecting neighborhoods with walking trails that would include a city meeting place at War Memorial Park.

To empower neighborhood associations, he would give them input on pots of money he would allocate to each city director to be spent in specific wards.

He opposes the state takeover of the Little Rock School District and would work to see local control returned. He also said the city somehow needs to be helping the district raises teacher salaries.

He wants to "reimagine" Rock Region Metro because many buses are "half-empty." Instead, he wants a "fleet of shorter buses" for neighborhood use.

He also wants to lead a ballot campaign for a strong-mayor form of government. He said city department heads should report to the mayor, not the city manager.

"We got around the city, and we broke bread and talked to people in restaurants to find out what is important to you," Tolliver said. "[As a baby], I was kicking and looking around. I'm still kicking and looking around."

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