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Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. is the son of a firefighter and a mother who had his older sister as a high school freshman. Frank Scott Jr. often reminds voters that he was “born, raised and still resides in Southwest Little Rock.” Scott believes he could be "dead, in jail or not on the right path," like some of the people he grew up with, if it wasn't for the opportunities he's had.
Scott credits his mother, Brenda, for making sure he got the most of his educational opportunities. He remembers her waking at 4 a.m. to wait in line to apply for him to attend Horace Mann, then a magnet junior high, and later making sure that he applied to attend Parkview Arts and Sciences Magnet High School where he played tight end and defensive end in football and studied modern dance and ballet in junior high and high school.
Scott's first political experience came from volunteering for Tennessee legislator Lois DeBerry's campaign while a student at the University of Memphis. After graduating, his job as a Target distribution manager had him working nights and weekends, so when looking for things to do during the day, he got involved with another political campaign -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe's in 2006.
Morril Harriman, who headed Beebe's transition team when he got elected and served as his chief of staff, said Scott was one of the first people he hired in the administration. Though Scott was in his twenties and didn't have a background working in government, Harriman said he got "this impression of a young man who wanted to learn, who wanted to be committed, who wanted to make a difference."
A banker, pastor, former state Highway Commissioner and former senior policy adviser to Gov. Mike Beebe, Scott, at 34, is Little Rock’s youngest Mayor.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[00:00:09] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider's view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk taking. Connect with Kerry through her candid, funny, informative and always encouraging weekly blog. And now it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[00:00:34] KM: Thank you son, Gray. It is with great pleasure I welcome to the table the ambitious, hardworking, visionary, mayor of Little Rock, Arkansas. Before we talk about your soon to be voted on 1% sales tax increase called Left Little Rock Sales Tax Initiative, and before we talk about the Coronavirus, and how it has affected your first term in office, let's let our listeners get to know you for a minute. Your parents played a big part in your development. Tell us about your family and growing up in Southwest Little Rock.
[00:01:08] KM: Well, being born and raised and still residing in Southwest Little Rock, you definitely understand the differences particularly when I was a banker as well, leaving Southwest Little Rock, driving down to Ranch Drive and seeing um the differences in how development had erupted amongst our city and the need for a greater focus on development in every area of our city. To ensure that there were no haves and have-nots. And so that's been a uniting vision, a vision of growth and transformation for the entire city as we all grow together. I’m excited that I’ve had the roots of both my parents to play a large role in my development and seeing how their journeys in life have helped me become the first college graduate in our family on both sides of the family. And so coming from modest means is truly by God's grace and mercy that I stand here today as the state's capital city mayor.
[00:02:06] KM: Your father was a firefighter?
[00:02:07] FS: He was a retired firefighter.
[00:02:09] KM: I thought he was a Baptist preacher?
[00:02:11] FS: No. That's me.
[00:02:13] KM: I thought that came down through the family.
[00:02:15] FS: No, not at all. I’m the only one in the family.
[00:02:21] KM: You said my mother is definitely the backbone of our family with what she has persevered in life. What do you mean by that?
[00:02:28] FS: Well, she was a young teenage mother when she had my older sister. And I came shortly after that, and so if you understand the sacrifices that she's made for our entire family. It's unbelievable. And the things that she's persevered through and she's truly demonstrated not only work ethic but reliability, dependability that has poured into not only my life, but my siblings’ life. And without her, and of course my father, I wouldn't be the man I am today. But I definitely key into a young single mother and what she was able to do and persevere through has truly built the character in my life.
[00:03:06] KM: How much is teenage pregnancy a problem in Little Rock?
[00:03:10] FS: Well, I think it's not just necessarily a problem in Little Rock. It's something that we're seeing across the nation when we're having children having children. And many times when you see different things, we want to do our best to ensure that there are wraparound services for everyone to ensure that they have the positive movement.
[00:03:28] KM: Wraparound services. I like that term. Did you make that word up?
[00:03:32] FS: No.
[00:03:32] KM: You said on your website – I read your whole website.
[00:03:35] FS: I can tell.
[00:03:36] KM: I’ve got a million quotes from your website. You said that speaking about your parents, they sacrificed to raise you and your siblings with values of faith, hard work, community and self-determination. And that this foundation helped you, like you just said, become the first person in your family to graduate college. You went to college at the University of Memphis. And you also said on your website it really changed your life. And what do you have to do that?
[00:04:00] FS: Many people who know me and some who don't know that I’m an introvert, that knows how to turn it on from time to time. But I’m clearly an introvert. And so I was a shy kid, young teenager at the time. And I really kind of came into my own and understanding myself in college. And that really kind of expounded upon the public service that was inside me that I wasn't aware of when I would go in all of the church community services that I would go. My mother would drag me to it as a young kid growing up in Little Rock when we were at Greater Second Baptist Church.
And so when you see that and you know that, I didn't know I had it in me until I got into college. And really, I figured out what I was most passionate about, and that was to give back and to give to others. And so that played a large role in me understanding and having that confidence that I didn't know was there.
[00:04:53] KM: It empowered you.
[00:04:54] FS: It did.
[00:04:56] KM: So Kristen Lynch called you an old soul. And your classmates called you Mr. University of Memphis.
[00:05:05] FS: Where'd you get that from?
[00:05:06] KM: I don't know. I found it somewhere online where she quoted calling you an old soul.
[00:05:11] FS: I am.
[00:05:14] KM: You got master's from Fayetteville.
[00:05:16] FS: University of Arkansas at Little rock.
[00:05:18] KM: Oh, Little Rock. I messed that up. I thought it was from Fayetteville. And I’d love this part about you when I read about you. This is when you became endeared to me, because I love ballet. You took ballet from Michael Tisdale.
[00:05:32] FS: Tidwell. Yeah, I took it seven. And I’ve been known uh to understand ballet, and jazz, and hip-hop, and modern dance. And I know the difference between Isadora Duncan, and Jenski, and [inaudible 00:05:45].
[00:05:48] GM: Yeah, you've won us over now.
[00:05:50] KM: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:05:51] FS: I know what a plié and a fondu, fondu and everything.
[00:05:54] KM: Oh, I cannot believe it.
[00:05:55] FS: First, second, third and fourth position.
[00:05:57] KM: Oh, you still live and preach in Southwest Little Rock and attended church there. Why si that important to you?
[00:06:02] FS: It’ my personal calling, is to preach and teach the gospel.
[00:06:07] KM: I love it. So this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with Little Rock, Arkansas’ mayor, Mr. Frank Scott Jr. We will dissect his vision called Lift Little Rock Sales Tax Initiative, where he is promoting a 1% sales tax to improve quality of life, infrastructure, economic development and early childhood education. We will also list his accomplishments and hear how he managed the unprecedented predicament brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic of 2020. We'll be right back.
[00:06:39] GM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed along with Kerry's experience and leadership knowledge. In 1995, she embraced the Internet and rebranded her company as simply flagandbanner.com. In 2004, she became an early blogger. Since then, she has founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland Ballroom. Began publishing her magazine, Brave. And in 2016, branched out into this very radio show, YouTube channel and podcast. In 2020, Kerry McCoy Enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage and memorials for over 20 years. If you'd like to sponsor this show, or get involved with any of Kerry McCoy's enterprises, send an email to me, Gray, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbanner.com. Back to you, Kerry.
[00:07:50] KM: Thank you, Gray. You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Little Rock Arkansas’ mayor, Frank Scott Jr., who was sworn in January of 2019. And before the break, I called the initiative, the Lift Little Rock Sales Tax Initiative. But it's really Rebuild the Rock, which I like so much better. When did you decide to change the name?
[00:08:13] FS: Well, initially, see, it goes back again to – I know we'll talk a little bit about COVID 19. We initially wanted to pursue the Lift Little Rock Penny Replacement Initiative in 2020. And we made that announcement early on, I believe January at our 2020 state of the city. And then, as you know, on March 11th, 2020, everything changed. And so we suspended that Penny Replacement Initiative that we were going to – Actually, we were planning to move forward with it in 2020. So we suspended it because we had to deal with COVID like everyone else in America. And that being stated, we've now changed it to Rebuild the Rock.
[00:08:53] KM: I like that. You and I had – We’re actually supposed to meet. This is our second time we've tried to meet for this interview. The very first time was in March of 2020. Two hours before we were to go on the air to talk about what it was then called the Lift Little Rock Sales Initiatives, which I guess these notes are left over from then, you called up and said we've had our first case of COVID in the hospital. And Asa Hutchinson has –
[00:09:18] GM: Talk about surreal. It was so weird. It was so weird.
[00:09:22] FS: I’ll never forget March 11. Because on March 12th, that's when we decided to start our kind of modified shelter-in-place to really take care of our protective measures for our residents. And as you know, we'll talk a little bit more about that. It's hard to believe that it's now been a year and a half, a year and a half, close to 18 months.
[00:09:43] KM: So you're the first elected African-American mayor to the city of Little Rock. And I put the emphasis on elected because I didn't realized this, but Jefferson Botsford was the first black mayor, but he was appointed in 1871 because we used to appoint our mayors and not elect them.
[00:10:00] FS: Along with mayor, former Mayor Lottie Shackleford.
[00:10:05] KM: Oh, I forgot about Lottie. Yeah! How could I forget Lottie?
[00:10:08] FS: And Charles Bussey as well. And so those were all appointed. And we were blessed to be elected. But you went back to 1886 when we were appointing. Yes. Yes.
[00:10:19] KM: Yeah. I thought that was really interesting that it goes back that far.
[00:10:22] FS: Oh yeah.
[00:10:23] KM: But you don’t want that to be your claim to fame. I read where you said, “Once I realized, I was being invited to the table as the check box when I was trying to make changes and wasn't necessarily being listened to. It frustrated me. After reaching that frustration point, I decided to run for mayor.” And when you told your parents, they asked, “Are you serious!?!” What did you say to them?
[00:10:48] FS: I said, “Yes, I’m very serious. And wanted to give back to the city that helped raise me,” and to focus on how we could build bridges in the city and truly focus on unity, and growth, and transformation.
[00:11:00] KM: I mean, really, I’ve got a lot of quotes. Probably more quotes on you than –
[00:11:04] FS: I mean, you've found a lot of quotes. That means you did your research.
[00:11:08] KM: Yes. This is another one I really like about you. I didn't want to go another election cycle where we didn't at least have a voice of the voiceless being heard. One of the things I love to say is the voices of the voiceless will eventually be heard loud and clear. And don't you see that all the time all over the world and all through history? That is very true. So in the 2018 election, failing to secure 40% of the votes, you were in a runoff for mayor with Mr. Baker Kurrus.
[00:11:36] FS: Yes.
[00:11:36] KM: Tell us about that election night and elation, and then the disappointment.
[00:11:41] FS: On the 1st of November. Well, one, I just want to share just superb kind words to not only Mr. Baker Kurrus, but former State Representative Warwick Saban, Glen Schwarz and Vincent Tolliver. Yeah. And so when you understand that you have those five quality candidates all who love Little Rock. I know Vincent Tolliver loves Little Rock. I know Glen Schwarz loves Little Rock, and former State Representative Warwick Saban, and Mrister Superintendent Baker Kurrus. And so when we know all of them love our city. And I can tell you, we announced our exploratory campaign September 12th of 2017. And then of course it transitioned from exploratory to the actual campaign. And then the first election was on November the six rather.
And so when you go back and understand that we were just ready to have it over with. And so it was one of those situations where we're five and we were able to get 38% of the vote. And you need 40% plus one to win outright. It was a moment of excitement, a moment of relief, joy. And then you just feel utterly like, “Oh, I got to do this all over again.”
And I’ll tell you, I even cried that night because you got to do it all over because you put it all on the line. But as we said that night, it's not over. And so we had to start all over again the next day. And we did. And by the grace of God we were able to win on December the 4th of 2018.
[00:13:33] KM: So you had to do it again for another full month.
[00:13:36] FS: We had to, mm-hmm.
[00:13:38] KM: Once you were sworn in, what was the first thing you noticed? Was everything as you thought it would be? Was there a big surprise?
[00:13:45] FS: Well, I would say, when we first walked into office, there were no big surprises. We clearly did not think or know down the road that we would experience a historic flood. We didn't think we’d experience a global pandemic. We didn't think we experienced social and civil unrest. We didn't think we would experience as a result of George Floyd across the nation. We didn't think we would experience a historic snowstorm. All of that has happened over the past two and a half years. As I often tell people, I’m just waiting for locusts and flies to come.
[00:14:25] KM: It does feel like we're getting close. So what was the first thing that you decided to do? Well, I do know what it. Just weeks into office, you made some big decisions. You implemented a new organizational structure to city hall that seems risky. And why did you feel that was the right thing to do?
[00:14:41] FS: Well, the city yearned to have a mayor to operate within its legal law, the Mayor's Chief Executive Officer of the City of Little Rock. And so for quite some time, that had not been implemented. And so we campaigned. And every candidate that campaigned in 2018 campaigned that the mayor would adhere to its ordinance that was passed in 2007 where the mayor was chief executive officer. And so within the first couple weeks we implemented that plan. We also implemented our ACT Plan, which means to be accountable, clear and transparent in all things that we do.
And so we wanted to focus on organizational change so we can obtain transformation. And so we wanted to ensure that city hall operated with performance management, but also to ensure that residents received great customer service communications, and that we had the ability to advocate and execute on change management.
[00:15:37] KM: If you weren't the commander-in-chief, so to speak, of the city of Little Rock, what were you doing before 2007? What were the mayors doing before 2007?
[00:15:47] FS: Well, I wouldn't say what the mayors were doing in 2007. They were just operating on their different structure. And so we –
[00:15:55] KM: What did you call yourself after you became mayor?
[00:15:57] FS: Chief Executive Officer.
[00:15:59] KM: So what were they before that?
[00:16:00] FS: Well, they were just the Chief Elected Officer, and so where they weren't operating within true operation management and leadership. And it's nothing against them. It's just how the law was spelled out at that period in time. And so there were certain changes that had taken place. And so we implemented those changes that have been put on the books back in 2007.
[00:16:21] KM: You said one of your most important decisions was the hiring of police Chief Keith Humphrey from Norman, Oklahoma. Why was that so important?
[00:16:29] FS: Well, public safety is a top priority. You can't be a mayor of any city and public safety is not a top priority. So back in that period of time, because that was one of the first decisions I had to make, and I believe in April 2020. And so we wanted to ensure that we hired a police chief that was going to be focused not only on public safety, but also community-oriented policing. And so when we made that decision, we wanted to ensure that we built trust back with the community, but also demonstrated accountability, and on both ways. And so that's where we've seen a number of different things that have changed within the police department to take us to the 21st century, and 21st century community police. And I’m very excited about that.
[00:17:09] KM: Like what? Like the no knock – You got rid of the no knock warrants, right?
[00:17:12] FS: So one of the things is that, as you recall, the city was under a lot of different investigations and had made national news in 2017 because of the kind of arbitrary uses of no knock warrants. And some, I would say, just got us on a lot of litigious issues. And so we implemented a no knock warrant policy that significantly reduced the arbitrary usage of those. And then secondly, it included a threat matrix as well, which became one of the top tier community-oriented policing models that have been modeled across the nation now. And then secondly –
[00:17:49] KM: What's a threat matrix?
[00:17:51] FS: It's a matrix that determines when you should use it and when you should not. And so kind of certain things have to be done to kind of dictate the usage of it.
[00:17:58] KM: Of?
[00:17:59] FS: Of the no knock warrant. And so those kind of boundaries were put in place to protect against the litigious nature of some of the lawsuits we were receiving from the community on how they were being used. But then secondly, we were able to implement from our accountable, clear and transplant plan, Little Rock became the first city in Arkansas to obtain body-worn cameras. And so it's hard to believe that other cities didn't have it. And it's even harder to believe that the state capitol city didn't have it either. And so we were able to implement that, and then a host of other policies that have been put in place that focus on 21st century community-oriented policing.
[00:18:38] KM: Unlike prior mayors, since your election, you've had threats and have been advised to travel with a security detail. Are you concerned?
[00:18:48] FS: I’m always concerned. But there's been – As you have you stated, there have been security reasons why we have and made that decision.
[00:18:55] KM: so it's time to talk about Build the Rock Sales Tax Initiative. Many people don't realize, a 1.5% sales tax is about to expire in 2021. When is it expiring?
[00:19:05] FS: It expires December 31st 2021.
[00:19:09] KM: And a lot of people don't realize Little Rock has the lowest city tax of all the surrounding cities. I heard you say that when you spoke one time at Rotary.
[00:19:15] FS: Yeah. So Little Rock, right now, ours is the lowest among all the other cities here, one of the lowest cities here in the State of Arkansas. And so we will lose if we don't pass this Rebuild the Rock Penny Replacement Tax three-eighths of a cent. And so if we’d lose it, it'll take us down from 9% to 8.625%. And so what we're asking is to not only replace the penny. That's three-eighths that's already on the books. But also have a modded increase of five-eighths of a cent.
[00:19:48] KM: So it's not a 1% penny increase. It’s a five-eighths percent. So I’m going to quit saying 1%. I’m going to start saying a five-eighths percent sales tax increase.
[00:19:56] FS: Yes. But it's kind of hard to make that explanation.
[00:19:59] KM: Well, that’s because they wouldn’t understand fractions.
[00:20:03] FS: It's really a 5/8 cent, and it's really a 5/8 cents or 0.625% to be exact percentage.
[00:20:10] KM: Oh, now you’re really going percentages. Don’t start that.
[00:20:12] FS: But just to keep it simple, we just wanted to be – And also, it's an effort to not only to keep it simple, but also to be overly transparent. Because even if you do the math and you understand right now it's nine percent. On December 31st it goes to 8.625%. If Lord willing we pass, it then goes to 9.6. So it's technically a penny. But if you do it in real time, it really is 5/8 cents. But you got it.
[00:20:38] KM: I got it. All right, you bulleted these areas to target with your initiative, Build the Rock. And we're going to talk about them after the break. But before we go to break, I want to tell the listeners what they are. They are improve the quality of life, infrastructure, economic development, early childhood education, my favorite, recreation and parks, public safety and crime. But we're going to go to a quick break, and when we come back we're going to continue our conversation with Little Rock Arkansas’ mayor, Mr. Frank Scott. Still to come, Build the Rock, dissecting this plan and the aforementioned topics for improving the city and the citizens he has vowed his allegiance to. List of Mayor Scott's accomplishments. What he thinks his biggest strength is. And hear how he managed the unprecedented predicament of the 2020 COVID 19 pandemic. We might even talk about the snowstorm, the flood, and the locusts that are coming. We'll be back after the break big.
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[00:22:35] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with the city of Little Rock Arkansas’ mayor, Frank Scott Jr., who was sworn in January of 2019. Before the break, we talked about at the very beginning about his life growing up in Southwest Little Rock, about him going to Memphis. And I was shocked to hear he calls himself an introvert, because I’ve seen you preach and speak. And it is good. But a lot of really – I guess speaking is kind of theatrical. A lot of theatrical people are introverts. And then they get on stage or they turn it on and they're able to.
So let's talk about the goal of Rebuild the Rock and how we're going to get this money? And why this money is coming from the sales tax, which I think we just did, because it's about to go away. And so that's a great place to get sales tax from. And let's kind of dissect what each one of these are. Improve the quality of life is the first one I have on the list. How do you want to do that?
[00:23:36] FS: So let me just kind of give – Here's the reason why that we're asking residents of Little Rock to invest in itself. We all know Little Rock is a great city. We want to be a greater city. Two weeks ago we announced that Little Rock experienced over the last 10 years 5% of growth. So close to ten thousand people decided to move to Little Rock as it relates to the US Census. And we, finally, first time in the history of Little Rock, we finally eclipsed 200,000 in population. So today we're now 202,000.
[00:24:09] KM: In city proper.
[00:24:10] FS: In city proper. We're 202591.
[00:24:13] KM: And it grew by how many?
[00:24:15] FS: Close to 5%, ten thousand people.
[00:24:17] KM: That's a lot.
[00:24:17] FS: It's a lot.
[00:24:19] KM: Over how many years?
[00:24:20] FS: Over ten years.
[00:24:21] KM: Well, maybe that's not so much.
[00:24:25] GM: It’s kind of a lot.
[00:24:25] FS: It’s a lot. Yeah. Close to 5% over ten years. But six thousand of those ten thousand came in 2019 and 2020. And so we're excited. It opens up the doors for greater economic development as we pitch to companies who are deciding to come here and grow here as we take care of the existing small businesses who are here who are the backbone of our economic development strategy. It's exciting times. And so we're excited to have that increase in our population. But many people also have to understand that while we're the state's largest city, or the most traversed city, but even from Monday to Friday, from 7am to 7pm, our population increases to the size of Nashville.
And so we have many responsibilities from infrastructure, to quality life in place, to public safety, to early childhood education, the parks and recs. And so one of the reasons why we're focused on being a greater city is by ensuring that we have to rebuild out the pandemic. We have to invest in ourselves so we can have a city that our generation's coming behind. Gray and I are probably in the millennial generation. We're deciding where we want to live first based on quality and life in place, and then our career, same as Generation Z. But our brothers and sisters that are aging friendly and deciding to retire, they're deciding where they want to retire first based on the quality and life in place amenities.
So there's this interesting nexus between our older season brothers and sisters and millennial generation, as well as Generation Z, who are converging. Everybody's focused on quality and life in place. That's the new economic development model. And we know that our city has 63 parks. Our city makes up about 124 square miles. We're larger than San Francisco. And we have 63 parks. And many of those parks have not increased its maintenance funds since I was a kid growing up in Southwest Little Rock. And so it hasn't kept up with inflation, and construction, and things of that nature. And we need to give our parks some TLC and take care of what we already have. But also, we want to spend time and money to revitalize War Memorial Park where it can become our own Central Park. If you've been to Central Park in New York City, or Piedmont Park in Atlanta, a smaller gathering place that we know of in Oklahoma City, or in the parks that we see in Tulsa, to really bring a unifier for all people to come to Little Rock at War Memorial Park, but as well as revitalize Hammond Park. We know that our season brothers and sisters desire to have its own Senior Citizen Center this side of the river and not have to drive to across the other side of the river to have their own –
[00:27:07] KM: We don't have a senior center?
[00:27:08] FS: We don't have a senior center here in the state's capital city. And then we want to expand Rabsamen Golf. We want to expand first tee golf from nine holes to ten holes. Have an indoor tennis court complex. And then also, we know many young families and new grandparents, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they're taking their children to Bryant, to Benton, to, Conway, to Tulsa, to Oklahoma City, to Memphis, to all these other cities to participate in new sports. So in this Rebuild the Rock proposal, we also want to include an indoor and outdoor youth sports complex so we can become a regional draw for youth sports. And so that's the quality and life in place enhancements that we have. We also want to take time. Our city has the only zoo in the state, and we need to renew the zoo. We need to renovate our zoo because we have to keep up with its national accreditation. And so there's a large investment to keep our zoo, which is a state attraction and a tourist attraction. And we're competing against the St. Louis Zoo, the Memphis Zoo, the Tulsa Zoo, the Atlanta Zoo, all these zoos that are around us. And we got to continue to stay – We got to move from being great to greater.
So that's the reason why we are investing in Rebuild the Rock. So that's the quality and life in place. But with everything, you got to have your nuts and bolts. And so we have to fund our public infrastructure. So we're pouring in an additional $80 million of infrastructure to focus on street resurfacing. The focus on street resurfacing, drainage, roads, all of those infrastructure improvements, because we know that infrastructure is the foundation to economic development.
And then when it comes to public safety and crime, your money is where your mouth is. And you know what's true and important to anyone by looking at their budget. So the city of Little Rock has a $280 million budget. A little over half of our budget goes to police and fire. And so we're going to put an additional $80 million for police and fire in this Rebuild the Rock proposal.
And so what does that money go towards? Out of that additional 80 million that's already on top – Will be on top of 140 million because we understand that public safety is a top priority. We're going to spend close to 10 million of the 80 million towards community-oriented policing. We're going to purchase public safety vehicles for both police and fire. We're going to add new fire apparatus. West Little Rock is going to get a Fire Station 25 to reduce the response time, because we know how much West Little Rock is growing.
In addition to that, we're going to have added dollars for police technology and operations. And we're also going to fund our own real-time crime center. So if you've ever watched CSI, we're going to have a big center that has eyes on everyone to help us be smarter on crime.
[00:29:43] KM: What does that mean? You’re going to have cameras on every corner?
[00:29:45] FS: Well, not necessarily. No.
[00:29:47] KM: Eyes on everyone. What does that mean?
[00:29:49] FS: Well, it's just to be smarter on crime. And so real time crime centers, every major city has one.
[00:29:52] KM: What is that?
[00:29:53] FS: It's basically like a criminal technology center that we can be smarter on crime. When we hear, whether it's gunshots, or visuals in high-frequency areas of high-crime, we can uh respond quicker. And so that's from the public safety standpoint. As you talked about, what's near and dear to you, is early childhood education. We know we have to give our children, particularly zero to two, a head start.
[00:30:18] KM: Oh, please do that.
[00:30:19] FS: We have to.
[00:30:20] KM: You have to do that.
[00:30:22] FS: I tell people, we’re paying twenty six thousand dollars per inmate, twenty six thousand dollars per inmate. So either we pay for it now or we pay for it later. And I choose that we need to invest in our children now to prevent them to being products going to jail. And so we have to stop that cycle, stop that process. And so that's the public safety portion of it. We also have a new downtown park as well. That will be close to the I30 construction area where that green space will be.
And so there's just so many things that – But it's focusing on quality and life in place, public infrastructure –
[00:30:57] KM: I love that. Focus on quality life and place enhancement. You're right. That is why people move places.
[00:31:05] FS: That's why. But you also got to have infrastructure, your nuts and bolts. You got to have public safety, because you can't have a growing city unless it's a secure city.
[00:31:14] KM: What about parks? Parks are scary. I’m not going to Bull Park by myself. I’m not even running down at War Memorial by myself. I’m a chick. You know?
[00:31:23] FS: And so that's the reason why we have to have the public safety as well.
[00:31:25] KM: How are you getting enough police to patrol all that?
[00:31:27] FS: Well, right now we have about 594 police officers. So we believe we have the number that we need. And we're always working to grow. And so one of the things that we want to do is continue to keep our parks safe because we're enhancing them. And we've got to continue to keep them safe as well.
But again, I think it's time that we make investments that you've already shared. That we got to make those investments, because many people choose to leave because they don't have these quality and life in place enhancements.
[00:31:53] KM: Economic development.
[00:31:54] FS: Yes. And even with the economic development, we're pouring in close to $40 million, economic development for port expansion at the Little Rock Port Authority. And so one of the things that we talk about in spite of all of the challenges that we've experienced that whether it was the historic snowstorm, flood, the global pandemic. This administration, we've announced and recruited close to 5,000 new jobs in the midst of all of the things that we've discussed earlier. And so that's been historic because it has not happened before here in the city of Little Rock at that level.
[00:32:28] KM: Are you talking about Amazon?
[00:32:30] FS: Oh, not just Amazon. So we have Amazon and Southwest Little Rock to open up last summer where there're about 500 jobs.
[00:32:36] KM: Is that why we've grown? Our city has grown in the last –
[00:32:38] FS: Oh, it's growing everywhere. It's Amazon 1 that’s in Southwest Little Rock. Amazon 2, which is close to two to three thousand new jobs opens this August. It's Costco that has 200 jobs. It's Trader Joe's, and that what we call destination retail.
[00:32:53] KM: And why do you think they're coming here?
[00:32:55] FS: Because we're growing. We're a growing city. We're a dynamic city. We have great parks and trails. We have some of the best dynamic cyclist trails here in the state and in this region. But not only is it Amazon, Costco, Trader Joe's. It's also HMS Manufacturing, which is a women owned manufacturing arm here in the Little Rock Port. It's also Alleviant Health. It's so many jobs that have come because we've been very deliberate of doing business development and recruiting people as we are operating as the Chief Growth Officer here in our city, because we want to see our city grow. And we're hoping to double that by the end of 2022.
[00:33:31] KM: So, everybody, when I tell them that you're coming on the radio, they all say, “Ask him about homelessness and pandering on the corners.” They don't like it.
[00:33:39] FS: No. Neither do – One, here's the thing. We love our brothers and sisters that are experiencing homelessness. We understand that we have to figure out opportunities to transition our brothers and sisters experiencing homelessness to receive the wraparound services that they need that they can exit homelessness.
And so a part of this Rebuild the Rock Sales Tax Proposal is to understand that we have to address homelessness. And so we address in the Rebuild Rock proposal because it has dollars for affordable housing where we will work with local developers to acquire dilapidated homes, single-family homes in the city of Little Rock that have become havens for crime in dangerous homeless encampments. And so our goal is to revitalize those homes and then partner individuals who are qualified for housing urban development vouchers to get them in the home. So that's affordable housing.
Then we address homelessness by providing a tiny home infrastructure and also wraparound services for our homeless brothers and sisters. We respect the First Amendment right. I know you may call it pandering, but there is a First Amendment right that they can ask. But we also understand that we have to help our homeless brothers and sisters move from making the requests that they're in need of to partnering with our existing homeless services and coordinated entry, whether it's Jericho Way, whether it's Saint Francis House, whether it's Our House, whether it's understanding – The Van it's another great organization. They're a part of our homelessness coalition. So we're working with them. And so I try to steer away from – And we know there's some frustration with the community with what they, one, may call pandering. And what I say is it's not pandering. It's just seeking a need to be filled. And it's the city's job to work to help transition our brothers and sisters. And I’m very deliberate when I say that, because we all are a blessing away from being homeless. We all are a blessing away from being dead and in jail. And so we want to always make sure – Well, I know it creates some frustration, and I understand that. But we also have to have the same frustration of figuring out why a certain individual got to that level and how do we help them get out.
[00:35:56] KM: Yeah. I don’t think anybody can argue with anything that you have said, except for maybe some people are mad that like to play golf and they're upset about the War Memorial Golf Course. That is really about the only thing I have heard.
[00:36:08] FS: Well, we understand that. Historically, one, we have to understand it's not War Memorial golf course. It’s War Memorial Park that happens to have a golf course on it.
[00:36:20] KM: That's not the way they see it.
[00:36:23] FS: So we made some very conscious decisions in 2019, my first few months in office. I looked at the financial books and we knew there were certain things that it needed to be changed from a financial standpoint. And I’m glad we did. We cut the budget my first quarter in office five million dollars. And since I’ve been in office, we've cut the budget close to 20 million dollars. So we've been great. We wouldn't ask to replace this penny and replace this 5/8ths if we were not good stewards of the dollar. And so we made those cuts in 2019.
And thank God that we did, because we did not know we will be experiencing a global pandemic and we would have to navigate those financial waters. So we were doing good by right-sizing and right-aligning, realigning our finances and being good fiscal stewards. And so I’m happy to say that we've increased, when I walked into office, our reserve fund that you have to use for emergencies. We increased it from 13 million to close to 35, 37 million because of good financial practices. And I’m thankful for our finance team and listening to the direction that we wanted to go to. Again, we've been great fiscal stewards, but we have to focus on investment for the future.
[00:37:31] KM: Spoken like a true banker. You are listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with the city of Little Rock Arkansas’ mayor, Frank Scott Jr. Now we want to talk about his accomplishments. Funding for body-worn cameras for the police officers, you talked about that in the very beginning. I cannot believe that nobody in Arkansas, no city was doing that, especially the capital city. You improved police relations.
[00:38:00] FS: Now, they do have – And there are a lot of citizens that do have them now. I want to make sure that’s clear now. But we kind of help lead that way.
[00:38:06] KM: That’s great. Improved police relations and new Chief of Police, Keith Humphrey. You’re satisfied with everything he's doing, right?
[00:38:13] FS: I am.
[00:38:15] KM: New organizational structure of city hall, which we talked about. The earliest balanced budget in decades.
[00:38:23] FS: That's true.
[00:38:25] KM: Tell us again what our surplus is. It was. Our reserve, rather.
[00:38:29] FS: Well, our reserve. Our reserve. We were able to do good financial practices, increase our reserve from 13 million 2019 to 37 million. So we can be able to respond to another pandemic.
[00:38:43] KM: I mean, I’d put that on my headstone. There will be something. I mean, being a businesswoman, there will be something.
[00:38:51] FS: There will be something. You got to have the rainy day fund.
[00:38:52] KM: You've got to.
[00:38:54] GM: Or the river flood.
[00:38:55] FS: Or the pandemic fund.
[00:38:56] GM: Or the pandemic [inaudible 00:38:57] 100-year snowstorm.
[00:39:00] KM: The 5% increase in sales tax collections resulting in four million more to the city treasury. No. Wait. What am I saying here? A five percent increase in – Oh! This is another one you did. You did a 5% increase in sales tax collections resulting in 4 million more in the city treasury. You did collections on sales tax. Look, he's nodding. It's the radio. You can't nod.
[00:39:30] FS: Well, exactly. We responded with more growth through the economic growth. And so with more jobs means more sales tax revenue. And more jobs means more discretionary income for our residents to provide for their families and to provide for the businesses that they are serving.
[00:39:47] KM: Yeah. We've got a surplus in sales tax. Not nearly enough. What is this one?
[00:39:52] FS: We've seen growth in sales tax. I want to make sure when we use that word it's not a surplus of money. It's showing that we've increased services through jobs and more purchases have been made because more people have jobs to go out and make purchases.
[00:40:05] KM: Gotcha. You know, I think a lot of people go out of the city of Little Rock also to purchase. They used to always come to the city of Little Rock. And so everybody would drive in to Park Plaza or to shop in Little Rock.
[00:40:21] FS: And I think what's really happened now is more online purchases is what we're seeing everywhere. But we're keeping a steady growth. Because as I shared earlier, our population increases another hundred thousand almost the size of Nashville.
[00:40:35] KM: Isn't that crazy?
[00:40:37] GM: I had no idea it got that big just doing the work day.
[00:40:39] FS: Just doing the work day.
[00:40:40] GM: Yeah, that's crazy.
[00:40:41] KM: So I want to tell the listeners. If they missed the second segment, they should go and listen to it. When you spout off – I was trying to take notes, but it was going so fast. You spouted off all these statistics that I thought were really fascinating that I heard you say one time in another speech. And I think, everybody, if you missed the second segment, they need to go back and they need to listen to all the things that you were just saying.
[00:41:03] FS: Or you can go to rebuildtherock21.com.
[00:41:06] KM: There you go.
[00:41:07] FS: Rebuildtherock21.com. And then there's a full – Just follow us on social media. We can definitely get you all that information as well.
[00:41:17] KM: Plans for a national opportunity zone conference to highlight Little Rock. What does that mean?
[00:41:22] FS: The federal government issued opportunity zones. Opportunity zones is the simplest way for those in the business world. It's an expanded 1031 exchange.
[00:41:32] KM: it’s kind of what the hud zone used to be.
[00:41:34] FS: Exactly, or empowerment zones. And so that happened in August of 2019. And so we were able to start opportunities on task force to increase development in opportunity zones. And that was kind of the precursor to our Asher Avenue Revitalization plan, as well as our south of 630 east of 30 economic incentive packages to increase growth in those low to moderate income census track areas.
And so we're trying to make sure that we grow in every area of our city, whether it's College Station or Chenal Valley, Pankey or Pleasant Valley. We want to make sure that it's happening. And so that opportunity – I think you're referring, that happened in August of 2019. And that was the precursor to our announcement in August of 2020 for the Asher Avenue Revitalization Plan. We actually – I know you're familiar [inaudible 00:42:20] Arkansas was one of the first organizations to take advantage of that plan. They recently just opened on Asher Avenue. We're getting ready to demolish the old Advanced Auto on Asher Avenue, which has been a haven for crime. And so we're making sure that we're seeing growth in every area. And just like what we've seen with the Costco in West Little Rock. We want to see growth on Asher. We want to see growth –
[00:42:45] KM: Banks don't want to go down there.
[00:42:46] FS: Well, that's the reason why we have the opportunity zones and we're making sure that we've been working with banks. So that's the reason why we have banks and bankers on our opportunities on task force. And that's the reason why you're starting to see more development. So I wouldn't say banks don't want to go there, because there are a number of different banks that are now super focused on empowerment zones, opportunity zones. And also what they call CRA. And so there's a lot of investment that's going on. So there's more work to be done. And that's the reason why we've been so focused on investment in every area, but also the particular areas of low to moderate income.
[00:43:20] KM: Gray, who's the guy that ran for president that I liked that was the mayor of New York City that was a businessman, which is why I liked him running for the – He was running for presidency.
[00:43:30] GM: Not Bloomberg.
[00:43:30] KM: Yeah, Bloomberg. In one of those debates he said one of the reasons that these lower income areas don't grow as entrepreneurs, because he's a business person like me, he says because they don't have access to banks and to bankers to get to as a –
[00:43:43] GM: Financial services.
[00:43:45] KM: Yes.
[00:43:45] FS: And that's the reason why we recently installed our BUILD Academy, which stands for business uniting and leadership development, where we just recently have gotten 76 applicants where we will focus on existing and starting entrepreneurs on helping them understand financial excellence, operational excellence. Connecting them with banks and bankers as well.
[00:44:08] KM: I have never thought about that until that presidential debate. And I thought, “Well, that is a big deal.
[00:44:14] FS: And that's the reason why we've been working on that.
[00:44:16] KM: That's good. You appointed the first Chief Education Officer, Dr. Jay Barth. What are you wanting him to do?
[00:44:22] FS: Well, what he's been doing, that happened back in May of 2019 when we appointed him. He helped play a large role in working on our literacy program in Little Rock School District to help children be able to read by that time they’re in the third grade, because we know if a child is not be able to read by the time they’re in third grade, the downstream ripple effects are pretty negative. So he implemented that a literacy program with LRSD. He also, along with our city board, implemented a community schools model that provides wraparound services for our most at-risk youth, our most at-risk schools within the Little Rock School District which helped usher at the time when our local school board was under state control, helped them get out of state control by the city stepping up with a financial strategic partnership. Putting our money where our mouth is, which is with this community schools model. So we're excited. That's been going on.
[00:45:12] KM: Do you ask yourself why you do all this sometimes? Do you like lay in bed and go, “What am I doing? Why am I doing all this?”
[00:45:18] FS: It's a passion. It's a passion and a labor of love.
[00:45:23] KM: All right. We're almost to the end. But what do you think? Pertaining to the coronavirus, what do you think the future looks like? What are we in for?
[00:45:29] FS: I think as long as we get vaccinated and we wear a mask when you can't maintain social distance, because we're in the middle of a third surge. We got to be serious about it if we want to get back to a sense of normalcy.
[00:45:44] KM: Is there ever going to be normalcy?
[00:45:45] FS: I think so. I think right now, Little Rock and Pulaski County is doing a good job with our vaccination rates. We're right now at 50%. We need to be somewhere closer to 65% to 70%, and I think the closer we get to that. I think it's also helpful too that Pfizer just obtained its FDA approval. I know a lot of people were on the fence because of the FDA approval. They now have it. So there's no excuse. So get the vaccine so we can get out of this situation. And in the meantime, for those who have not, we got to continue to wear the mask as we can get to the next level.
[00:46:17] KM: What do you think your biggest strength is?
[00:46:19] FS: My biggest strength?
[00:46:19] KM: I know what it is. But you tell me what you think your biggest strength.
[00:46:22] FS: I don't know.
[00:46:22] KM: Come on. What do you think it is?
[00:46:24] FS: Oh, I don't know what my biggest strength is. But what I try to do is to work very hard.
[00:46:30] KM: Yes, exactly what it. Passion and hard work. You are hard work – What do you think your weakest link is?
[00:46:37] FS: I think my weakest link is that sometimes I work too hard. And I think sometimes we got to have – In this day and age, leaders need to take time to dial back for self-care.
[00:46:50] KM: What do you want your citizens to take away from this interview?
[00:46:53] FS: First and foremost, as your mayor, I’m asking that you strongly consider to vote for the Rebuild of the Rock Penny Replacement Initiative on September the 14th. But more importantly is that we all continue to take pride in our city, and we want to focus on unity, growth and transformation.
[00:47:14] KM: You said earlier uh what the preferred way is to connect with your citizens. You have social media. And what'd you say your social media was?
[00:47:22] FS: Social media, on Twitter @frankscottjr. Instagram @frankscottjrlr. Facebook at Frank Scott Jr. Linkedin at Frank Scott Jr. If you send the smoke signal, we'll respond.
[00:47:35] KM: And then if they want to learn about the Rebuild the Rock Initiative.
[00:47:38] FS: The Rebuild the Rock Initiative online is at rebuildtherock21.com.
[00:47:43] KM: Great interview. Thank you so much for coming on. Gosh! I always enjoy – I can talk to you forever.
[00:47:50] FS: I’ll send you again, hopefully, one day at Trinity.
[00:47:51] KM: Oh, yeah. I’ll see you again. Yeah, I tell our listeners, I saw you preach at Trinity. He didn't have one note. He never looked down at a note. And it was off the chart good. I’ve seen you speak a lot. You're really good. I brought you a gift.
[00:48:04] FS: Oh wow!
[00:48:05] KM: Now, I don't know if I’m being a traitor to Arkansas, but this is a Tennessee flag because you went to Memphis State. So it’s a US flag, and an Arkansas flag, and a Tennessee flag desk set for you to take.
[00:48:16] FS: Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.
[00:48:17] KM: You're welcome.
In closing, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening, and that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I’ll see you next time on Up in Your Business, until then, be brave and keep it up.
[00:48:35] GM: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today’s show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio show and choose today’s guest. If you’d like to sponsor this show or any show, email me, that’s email@example.com. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stayed informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast wherever you like to listen. Kerry’s goal is simple, to help you live the American dream.