I am a proud son of Little Rock. But like many of you, I often wonder why Little Rock has not experienced the same progress as so many other cities in the South.
We have watched friends and family--unwilling to believe that today's Little Rock can support their ambitions--migrate to cities like Dallas and Nashville. Northwest Arkansas, which is now home to 11 out of every 12 new jobs created in the state, has also surpassed us.
While the vast exodus from Little Rock is unfortunate, being labeled America's Most Dangerous Small City is even more disheartening. Last year was Little Rock's deadliest year in recent history. And even after enduring 55 homicides in 2017, our police department remains plagued by vacancies that limit our ability to fight crime.
Little Rock is better than the grim statistics and depressing headlines would have us believe. But there is growing concern amongst voters about the challenges facing the city, and our mayor's inability to solve them.
Practically every resident I have met--from Hillcrest to the South End--expressed that public safety is their top concern. While Mayor Mark Stodola promoted LR for Life to reduce violence in July, can anyone say that they feel any safer?
Many voters viewed the initiative as a public relations campaign in response to the Power Ultra Lounge shooting rather than a public safety strategy to safeguard neighborhoods. With gang activity on the rise, Little Rock must do better.
Job growth since Stodola took office has been equally disappointing. There were 96,703 jobs in Little Rock in 2007. After a decade in City Hall as mayor, that figure has dropped slightly to 96,032, raising legitimate concerns about the direction of our city's job creation and economic development efforts under Stodola.
As cities across the country vied for an opportunity to land Amazon's new headquarters and the estimated 50,000 jobs that come with it, Little Rock responded with yet another public relations campaign. This time, it was a full-page ad in the Washington Post, which, needless to say, won't create a single job in Little Rock.
Residents should be able to look to their mayor and find a blueprint for prosperity and a vision to move the city forward. Stodola has not provided either. Press releases and frivolous lawsuits do not create jobs, and five-point plans will not make families feel safe in their communities.
As a banker, I know what can be achieved when City Hall and our small businesses work together to grow local economy.
As an associate pastor at Greater Second Baptist Church, I sit at the intersection of hope and hardship in the community. I have prayed with church members enduring financial hardship, and offered spiritual comfort to grieving families. I have seen the devastating impact that unemployment and violent crime have on our families.
As a former Commissioner on the Arkansas State Highway Commission, I understand the infrastructure investments that our community needs to attract the next FedEx or Amazon.
And as a former senior adviser to Governor Mike Beebe, I know how to best position our city--in Washington and our state's Capitol--to attract the necessary resources needed to prevent crime, create jobs, and build the infrastructure we need to thrive.
Finally, as a product of Little Rock public schools, I understand the role that our next mayor will have to play in order to move beyond state control and reach our true potential for educating the skilled workforce, entrepreneurs, and business leaders of tomorrow.
Scripture teaches us that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. Simply put, actions speak much louder than words. And the public relations campaigns that Stodola has produced time and again will no longer suffice.
Over the next few months, I will continue sharing my vision with every Little Rock voter as I explore a run for mayor.
I look forward to learning more about the issues that matter to you and your families. And I hope to earn your support.