Mark Stodola graduated from the University of Iowa with a double major in Political Science and Journalism, and received his law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.
Prior to becoming Little Rock’s Mayor, he served as a senior partner in the Little Rock Law Firm Catlett & Stodola, PLC. Having previously served the City of Little Rock as its City Attorney for six years, he was elected as Prosecuting Attorney for the 6th District in 1990 and was re-elected again in 1992 and 1994.
During his tenure as Prosecuting Attorney, he focused on gang violence, and developed the first Domestic Violence Unit in the State and created a Gang Prosecution Team. He was recognized nationally by the Department of Justice for creating an innovative juvenile diversion program and drafted several successful pieces of legislation.
In 2006 and 2007, Mayor Stodola was named to the Mid-South Super Lawyers List in the practice areas of General Litigation and Government/Cities/Municipalities and has served as General Counsel to the Little Rock Airport Commission.
Stodola was elected Mayor for the City of Little Rock, and began his first term in January 2007. He was re-elected to a 2nd term, capturing 84% of the vote. Under his tenure as Mayor, the City’s homicide rate has fallen more than 50% with the violent crime rate falling 34%.
The Mayor has partnered with the State Arkansas Economic Development Commission and the Chamber of Commerce to bring over $1 billion in new capital investment to the City and more than 4,100 new jobs since taking office. In 2009, he crafted a major bond initiative that resulted in $6.9 million dollars in improvements to the City's park system.
Mayor Stodola has been key in promoting the revitalization of Little Rock's Main Street and serves on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Task Force of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Advocacy Committee of the National League of Cities. Mayor Stodola has served as Vice-President of the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), as well serving as a lecturer for the NDAA in Argentina and Russia. Mayor Stodola is Past President of the Arkansas Prosecuting Attorneys Association and Arkansas City Attorneys Association, as well as Past Chair of the Municipal Operations Section of the International Municipal Lawyers Association.
Currently, Mayor Stodola serves the U.S. Conference of Mayors as Vice-Chair of the Task Force on Immigration Reform and as a member of the Advisory Council, the Community Development and Housing Committee and the International Affairs Committee, the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Advocacy Committee of the National League of Cities. In addition, he is a member of various State, regional and national legal and professional associations.
Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
[0:00:03.2] TB: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Be sure to stay tuned till the end of the show to hear how you can get a copy of this program and other helpful documents.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:17.1] KC: Thank you Tim, like Tim said, I’m Kerry McCoy and it’s time for me to get up in your business. For the next hour, my guest, Little Rock Arkansas Mayor Mark Stodola, who walked in five seconds ago, and I will be getting up in the business of running a city, being a Mayor and Little Rock’s accomplishments, which are a lot, and challenges.
Since he took office. We hope, through our conversations and storytelling, you will learn something, want to get involved or be inspired to take action in your own life and we’ll be answering questions via phone and email. For me, the taking action began over 40 years ago when I founded Arkansas Flag and Banner, during the last four decades, Arkansas Flag and Banner has grown and morphed from door to door sales to telemarketing, to mail order and catalog sales and now relies heavily on the internet.
Each change in sales strategy required a change in the company thinking and procedures. My confidence, leadership knowledge and my company grew. My initial $400 investment now produces nearly four million in annual sales.
Each week on this show, you’ll hear candid conversations between me and my guest about real world experiences on a variety of business and topics that I hope you’ll find interesting.
Starting and running a business, or organization, or a city is like so many things. It takes persistence, perseverance and patience. I worked part time jobs for nine years before Arkansas Flag and Banner grew enough to support just me. Today, we have 10 departments and 25 coworkers.
Thus reminding us all small businesses are the fuel of our country’s economic engine and empower people’s lives. Before we start, I want to introduce you to the people at the table, we have my technician Tim, who will be running the board and taking your calls. Say hello Tim.
[0:01:59.3]] TB: Hello Tim.
[0:02:00.6] KM: My guest today is the Mayor of Little Rock Arkansas, Mark Stodola who in 2007 was elected to his first term. He was reelected in 2011 capturing 84% of the votes and again in 2014 without opposition. In 2006 and 2007, right before becoming the Mayor, he was named to the mid-south super lawyer’s list.
Since Mayor Stodola took office, some of his accomplishments have been reduction and homicide rate, revitalization of downtown, creation of over 4,000 new jobs and one billion dollars in new capital investments to Little Rock Arkansas.
Prior to being elected Mayor, Mark served three terms as the Little Rock’s prosecuting attorney of the sixth judicial district. While there, he created a gang, prosecution team and developed the first domestic violence unit in the state. I love that.
He was recognized nationally by the department of justice for creating an innovative juvenile diversion program and drafted several successful pieces of legislation including the Arkansas Safe Schools Act, the Arkansas Gang Organization and Enterprise Act and the Arkansas Drug Abatement Act. Mark Stodola graduated from the University of Iowa, was a double major in Political Science and Journalism. He received his law degree from the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville.
Welcome to the table, my friend, the ambitious Mayor of Little Rock Arkansas, Mark Stodola.
[0:03:28.5] MS: Thank you Kerry, glad to be here.
[0:03:30.4] KM: Barely here, I wish everybody was on Facebook live so they could watch, you know we were doing Facebook live when you came running in the door.
[0:03:36.9] MS: Good, perfect timing.
[0:03:38.4] KM: Really was perfect timing, down within seconds. I gather from your double major choices in Journalism and Political Science that you always wanted to be in politics, am I right?
[0:03:51.4] MS: Well, I think public service is probably a more appropriate way to characterize that. I’m not sure that politics is the first definition I’d give to it but certainly, you have an opportunity in public service to do it through elected politics. I’ve been fortunate to be involved and to serve in a couple of different capacities in elected position.
I’ve been excited to do that. I think public service is a great honor and I’m so very thankful to the citizens for giving me the opportunity to try and hopefully use some of my leadership skills to move this city forward. And really, my desire has always been to make Little Rock the next great American city in the south and that requires facing problems head on and facing challenges and also recognizing successes.
I think we’ve had – we certainly have all of the above and we always will as a city, any big urban city has all of those kinds of things, they have great successes, they have challenge, they have problems that need to be solved. And so I’m just fortunate to be in a position where hopefully I can lend some talent and some direction to try and take us forward.
[0:05:00.9] KM: You’re very ambitious. You went to be, I mean not only have a double major but you then went and got a law degree. Why?
[0:05:09.7] MS: Yes, you know, when you look back at that, I only think of the favorable fun things. I don’t, you know, somehow you block all of the horrible all night studies, all of those stresses of the one exam that your whole grade rests on.
The bar exam that you got to pass, which thankfully I passed the first occasion. Yeah, you don’t remember all of those stresses that were there. But they certainly were. Yeah, I think the law was a great vehicle to understand our system of democracy.
Not everybody does and certainly in this climate, political climate. I’m not sure how much people pay attention to what the law really is, but the rule of law is very important, it provides a framework of discipline for responsibility and for making sure that hopefully everybody’s on equal playing field. I know, whether it’s on issues of race, whether it’s issues of poverty or income.
A lot of people are not on the same level of opportunity. Part of our job as public servants is to try and do what we can to keep some doors open or make sure those doors stay open, to give people an opportunity to maximize their own talents.
[0:06:25.9] KM: Were your parents civic minded?
[0:06:29.4] MS: My mother’s a school teacher so certainly yes, absolutely. My father was actually in sales most of his life, so he was a great communicator.
[0:06:39.7] KM: When you got out of high school or college I mean, out of law school, you went – you started, you went into law, private practice and you became the senior partner at what was it? Cut Let and Stodle?
[0:06:50.6] MS: That was a while back. I’ve done a lot of things professionally. When I first – I moved from Fayetteville to Little Rock and I wanted to be a deputy prosecutor. I wanted to be a trial lawyer and those positions are pretty coveted, I didn’t grow up in Little Rock so I didn’t have anybody opening any doors for me and…
[0:07:11.2] KM: Where did you grow up?
[0:07:12.3] MS: I grew up in Cedar Rapids Iowa when I was –
[0:07:15.2] KM: That’s why you went to college there.
[0:07:16.1] MS: The Minnesota Raiders are in Iowa and when I got old enough to make decisions, I moved to Arkansas.
[0:07:20.8] KM: You’re kidding me. You came to Arkansas for the first time when you were in Fayetteville? Why did you choose Fayetteville?
[0:07:28.4] MS: Well, get the history lesson here. While I was at the University of Iowa and I was in air force ROTC, I wanted to be a pilot, I even wanted to be an astronaut. I was a congressional nominee to the air force academy. My senior year in high school and I had been a foreign exchange student through the American field service program and lived in Istanbul Turkey, which was really a wonderful, eye opening experience as a 17 year old, you can imagine.
When I came back, I was a congressional nominee and went to offer their four space tech physical, passed the physical but they said well, I got mononucleosis because my system was weak. You know, in my senior year I was out for I guess two or three weeks and they said, “Well, we’d love to take you at the air force academy but we can’t because you’ve had mono and you got to wait at least a year.”
I thought, “Well, okay.” I went on to the University of Iowa and I was in the air force ROTC there and I was in my flight – I was a flight nominee to the air force academy.
I went and took the exam again and they said, “Well, we’d love to take you but we can’t make you a pilot, you’ve got 20/20 in one eye and 20/25.” I had an astigmatism in my right eye.
Of course I could see perfectly and I said, “What do you mean? What’s an astigmatism?” They said, “Well, I’m sorry but you know, you got to have perfect eyesight to fly. So, you can’t be a pilot but by golly, you knocked it out on navigation. I mean, you got 99.9 on navigation, we want you to be a navigator.”
I said, “Well, where does a navigator sit?” They said, “Well, a navigator sits right behind the pilot.” I said, “Well, if I can’t fly the plane, I’m not going to do that.” I went in to the third category which were all social sciences and things like that.
I’d been thinking about being a lawyer anyway and I just knew that that probably meant I was going to make it a career. I went in there and thought if I’m going to be involved in this and I don’t want to be on the ground, I want to be in the air force so that if I – it’s harder to shoot you down if you’re in the air. I thought being an officer, being a jag officer was a better option as well.
The first letter of acceptance I happened to get was form the University of Arkansas and I sent my – I’ve worked my way through college so I sent my money in to reserve my seat and then I took off and worked at a resort in upstate New York.
I had a girlfriend who unfortunately broke up with me and so I was ready to kind of get out of Iowa anyway. I worked in upstate New York and then –
[0:10:24.0] KM: Then came to Arkansas. You never went into the air force?
[0:10:26.4] MS: Yeah, I was in the air force reserves for six years.
[0:10:28.5] KM: For six years. During that time is when you applied to the University of Arkansas? I got lost in their –
[0:10:35.3] MS: Yeah, my junior and senior year at Iowa were two of my reserves.
[0:10:40.7] KM: I see.
[0:10:41.8] MS: I had reserves while I was in law school and then one additional year.
[0:10:45.6] KM: I see, I thought one.
[0:10:47.8] MS: I graduated and decided to move to Little Rock and wanted to be a trial lawyer who didn’t have any positions. I went to work for Art Gibbons who needed a lock art for some research, he was a state representative at the time and took the bar exam pass and then he said, you know, “I can’t pay you what you should be making.” So he helped me get a job and I became a public defender.
I got the trial experience and I became a public defender. That’s when I first met you by the way.
[0:11:21.8] KM: Where? At Studebakers?
[0:11:23.2] MS: No.
[0:11:24.6] KM: That’s where I thought we first met.
[0:11:26.3] MS: No, when you had your flag shop over on Main Street in north Little Rock.
[0:11:31.9] KM: Yeah.
[0:11:36.2] MS: I was a public defender in north Little Rock.
[0:11:37.8] KM: I thought you worked in the private sector before you were a public defender?
[0:11:41.5] MS: Well, very briefly with Gibbons and Busby and then I became a public defender and I had a law firm as well while I was doing that.
[0:11:50.9] KM: I see.
[0:11:51.3] MS: Part time job.
[0:11:52.7] KM: I see, that’s how they work together.
[0:11:56.0] MS: Fast forward and I thought well, if you’re not going to hire me as a deputy, I’ll just run for prosecutor. I ran actually against my friend, Chris PIesa who he and I graduated from law school together, he grew up here and we ran each other ragged all across the county and he – the beginning of the night I was ahead 51/49 and at the end of the night, his neighborhood boxed his game in and he won 51/49.
I went back to being a public defender for a brief period of time and then applied to be the City Attorney in Little Rock and was very fortunate to get that job. Six years later, Chris called me and said “Mark, I think we need some fresh blood in the prosecutor’s office and I’m going to run for judge, so thought I’d let you know in case you want to run.” And that’s how I got to the end of the prosecutor’s office.
I ran and got elected and then reelected to three terms there and then thought I wanted to go to congress and that was another one of those races where I wound up with 48% of the vote in a three way primary and three weeks later I got 49% of the vote. And that will get you a new job and a free cup of coffee and Vic Snider became ultimately the congressman.
[0:13:06.2] KM: I think this is a great place to take a break. When we come back.
[0:13:09.4] MS: That’s my history.
[0:13:10.8] KM: No it’s not, we’re going to get more, when we come back, we’re going to learn more about Mayor, Mark Stodola, and the business of running a city. We’ll ask him what he believes to be the most challenging issue facing the city of Little Rock, is it crime, jobs, education? And find out what he sees for the future.
[0:13:25.1] TB: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, we’ll be right back.
[0:13:42.6] KM: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I’m speaking today with Little Rock Arkansa’s Mayor, Mark Stodola. Okay Mayor, after leaving private practice and before becoming the Mayor, you had an impressive three term career as Little Rock’s prosecuting attorney for the sixth judicial district.
The department of justice recognized you nationally for your innovative juvenile diversion program, what was that?
[0:14:10.6] MS: Well, it was a program where we would actually take kids that were in trouble and as a prosecutor, I’d make a decision on deferring their charges so that they did not have a record. But they would come before a juvenile peer panel of kids of similar age who had been in trouble themselves and so it was a process where you didn’t admit you were guilty but you had to accept the responsibility for the conduct that brought you before the panel.
[0:14:43.3] KM: You were judged by your peers?
[0:14:45.6] MS: They would listen to the story, they would listen to what happened which is actually a criminal activity. You usually have a police officer who testified by it as well and then that peer panel would fashion a punishment. And usually, the fascinating thing is they usually were tougher than the juvenile judges were in many respects.
They’d come forward to some sort of probationary process where they do community service work, they do those kinds of things. We had the panels at watershed, we had a couple of the schools and things like that.
But the secret to it all was that the panel was made up of people who have been on the other side before. They had done that, they’d done something wrong, they’d gone before the panel, they did their community service work. And then the one requirement that everyone absolutely had is they had to also then sit on a panel and judge a kid that was going to come before them.
[0:15:43.4] KM: And pay forward what they learned.
[0:15:45.6] MS: It really put a level of responsibility and understanding that they never ever would have appreciated otherwise. It was pretty successful and the Department of Justice recognized it as a really innovative, creative way to try and deal with –
[0:16:01.7] KM: It’s kind of like the AA program when you start to get well, they make you go and help somebody else after you become sober then you have to pay it forward, you know? Like you said, if it makes them feel good about themselves. You also drafted the legislation for Arkansas Safe Schools Act, Arkansas Gang Organization and Enterprise Act, Arkansas drug abatement act and you’re known for being tough on crime and a friend of the police. What was the Arkansas Safe Schools Act?
[0:16:29.9] MS: Well, we recognized that there was too much selective decision making at the local level on who got referred to the police and who didn’t, out of the schools. I felt it was discriminatory, felt it was over –
[0:16:43.1] KM: What do you mean?
[0:16:44.9] MS: Well, we felt that they were discriminating African American students that were getting referred, as supposed to Caucasian students and that they were – the administrators were actually substituting their decision on whether or not the criminal activity had occurred or not, instead of the prosecutor.
We restricted them, if there was a criminal activity that occurred, they had to refer it to the police and refer it to the prosecutor who would then make a proper decision on whether or not there should be charges filed.
[0:17:15.2] KM: They can’t ignore one and then turn one in.
[0:17:17.8] MS: Right, exactly.
[0:17:18.3] KM: They turn them all.
[0:17:19.4] MS: Selective decision making about who to refer and who not to refer.
[0:17:23.2] KM: Is it hard to get that kind of legislation through?
[0:17:24.9] MS: It was, I thought the school administrators were successful in getting it done but you know, I mean, you’re talking about some history here. I mean, certainly back then we had a big gang issue and so we needed some additional legislation there.
[0:17:39.5] KM: Was that about the time the documentary about Little Rock came out?
[0:17:43.5] MS: Well, back in 1993 and we had all of the gang – you know, we had a big gang issue, much different than today by the way but still, using the word gang is the common vernacular between the two timelines. But then it was much different, it was based on colors, geography, criminal activity.
[0:18:06.2] KM: Crips and the bloods, folks, glass lords, you name it. You know, I had a gang prosecution unit, they had to learn gang language, gang signs, the territories, you know, we had a – biggest challenge was trying to keep our witnesses alive between the time incident occurred to when they had to testify.
[0:18:25.0] MS: That’s still an issue isn’t it?
[0:18:26.4] KM: Can be, although nobody’s in many instances in some of the cases that we have opened right now. They were retaliatory shootings and things of that nature, people were really not talking much at all.
[0:18:39.7] MS: I know, I had the Police Chief in, Kent Butner a few weeks ago. He said, the code of silence is really, you know.
[0:18:48.3] KM: I can tell you, as a prosecutor, you got to have cooperation from the community and if you can’t get that cooperation between you, you can’t solve the crimes. Now, let me just say, we’ve been working very hard. I came out with a very expansive program called Little Rock For Life, about trying to stop the violence, improving our criminal justice system.
Strengthening our police department. That’s on the law enforcement end of things and then on the community building side of things, prevention and intervention strategies that we’re doing and spending a ton of money on a five and a half million dollars to jobs, opportunity and education. We got a program in place right now through my workforce development board, we spent 1.2 million dollars for felony reentry. We’re going to have 150 people that are released within 180 days and get them into intensive training and skill building so that they can go out and get a job and to locate them.
[0:19:43.7] KM: That seems to be a big issue, you get out –
[0:19:46.0] MS: Well, there are jobs out there but people got to show up for work and they got to be drug free.
[0:19:49.7] KM: But they don’t have a place to live, they come out and they don’t have safety net or a place to go live, what do they do?
[0:19:55.6] MS: Well, that’s true. I mean, you know, we got a lot of different levels of government that are in the system. When a person gets out of the penitentiary, they get $140 and a bus ticket.
[0:20:10.0] KM: That’s it?
[0:20:09.4] MS: And a pat on the back that said, “Don’t commit anymore crimes.” Now, our Department of Community Corrections is doing a really good job trying to do a good job. But they need more help, they need more parole officers.
You know, we have double the case load here, there are 5,000 people on probation or parole, right now in the city of Little Rock.
[0:20:27.6] KM: How many will go back?
[0:20:29.8] MS: The average is 53%.
[0:20:32.9] KM: That’s lower than I thought.
[0:20:35.2] MS: It hadn’t changed much in 50 years. And I’ll tell you that our violent crime apprehension team, that we’ve had in place since February have arrested – I want to get my numbers right. 675 people on over a thousand felony charges just this February. When you want to talk about –
[0:21:01.0] KM: Say that, how many?
[0:21:02.3] MS: Society.
[0:21:03.2] KM: 600.
[0:21:04.4] MS: Over 670 individuals.
[0:21:06.4] KM: Felony.
[0:21:09.5] MS: I think a little over a thousand felony charges. You just add that together with 5,000 people that are on probation and parole and you say, “Well I think maybe you know, state of Arkansas, maybe you need to give us some more parole officers.”
These people, when they want to get out of the penitentiary and they’re eligible for release, do they want to go to Ryzen or Hayzen or Stuttgart or you know –
[0:21:34.5] KM: Where do you get –
[0:21:35.3] MS: Where do they want to go? They want to go into the big city and hide in the shadows of the big buildings. That’s a real challenge for us as an urban community. I have beat the drum talking about our citizens to contact their legislators and ask for more help and to really demand that.
It’s just part of the system you know? We all have a part to do and so you know, we’ve seen an uptick in violent crime this year but we’re still, and you know, facts –
[0:22:04.8] KM: Most of those came from one incident, didn’t we? Doesn’t that skew the shooting?
[0:22:10.6] MS: Much of it did, yeah.
[0:22:11.4] KM: What was the name of that club?
[0:22:12.4] MS: The Power Ultra-Lounge.
[0:22:14.0] KM: What was the name of the rapper?
[0:22:17.3] MS: Finesse Two Time.
[0:22:18.7] KM: Yeah, most of those shootings came from that incident and that which skews our numbers.
[0:22:23.7] MS: 25 of the batteries came from that one incident is yes. My point that I want to make is that, you know, you want to be honest with your citizens. We have been working very hard over the last several months to make a change and so I’ve told you how many people we’ve arrested.
We’ve got a Little Rock cease fire program in place where we’ve got people with street credibility which means they’ve got felony records typically and they’re out here in the streets talking to these people and lo and behold –
[0:23:00.9] KM: They’re talking about how to stay –
[0:23:02.4] MS: We haven’t had a homicide in almost two months.
[0:23:03.6] KM: They’re talking about how to stay straight.
[0:23:05.9] MS: Well, they’re talking about you know, the consequences of the activity and trying to ease the intensity of the anger and the potential for violence with these young people.
[0:23:15.6] KM: Why do these –
[0:23:15.8] MS: Then we’re referring them or referring them into a variety of things. Whether they also want a job, they don’t have a job so we’re trying to get them, we’re doing assessments and we’re getting them in to referrals for jobs.
If school’s the name of the game, we’re trying to get them back into school if they don’t have a high school degree, we’re looking at each one of these individually. I’m trying to figure out how we can help them to break that cycle.
[0:23:40.7] KM: What a big job.
[0:23:42.8] MS: That looks like it’s working, I mean, we got all these arrests going on, we’ve had a cease in the violence. I just announced today, it will be – hopefully it will be on the news tonight, I’m sure it will be, a neighborhood safety core. So I received a big grant nationally from the corporation for national community service called the Americore folks and we’re going to have 30 Americore kids in our most troubled, challenged, hot spot neighborhoods – we’ve got seven of them that we’ve identified.
They’re going to be working all year long helping those neighborhood, they’re going to be helping improve the houses that people live in, they’re going to be doing energy efficiency, they’re going to do improved safety checks, they’re going to be trying to create neighborhood watch programs. I mean, working with our housing and our COPP officers.
Really trying to transform those neighborhoods. That’s a big deal and I think it’s really going to be – no, it’s 30.
[0:24:36.9] KM: 30 kids.
[0:24:37.6] MS: 30. We got 10 full time and 20 part time and we have still job openings. For those of you out there listening, come get hired by the city of Little Rock.
[0:24:45.3] KM: Where do they go?
[0:24:48.1] MS: If you’ll call 371-4510 and ask for the Personnel Department, the Human Resources Department, they’ll put you in touch with the people that are doing the interviewing. 371-4510. And the one nice thing about that is that these Americore kids and it’s not just kids, we’ve got a couple of older people that are in there too. So your listeners need to know, we don’t have an age limit on this program. Butit gives them the opportunity for a $5,000 college or extra educational attainment type certificate if they want to a college, to Pulaski Tech or to whatever trade school they might want to go to. A $5,000 stipend to go with that if you complete your year of work in Americore. That’s a big, big opportunity.
[0:25:42.4] KM: That is a big opportunity and you get paid a little bit too when you do it.
[0:25:44.3] MS: Then you get paid as well, yeah. You do get paid.
[0:25:46.4] KM: So I heard that you put in a bid for Little Rock to become an Amazon distribution center, is that a rumor? Is that true?
[0:25:53.2] MS: Well we’re talking about it. We don’t meet the technical requirements of the request and everybody is tripping over themselves about this and spending a lot of money and a lot of time on it. We’re going to approach this in a unique way, let me put it like that.
[0:26:09.7] KM: What does that mean?
[0:26:10.1] MS: I am not going to tell you.
[0:26:11.3] KM: Oh it’s a secret.
[0:26:13.3] MS: Oh you know, we’ve looked at it. We’ve put a group of about 20 people together to talk about it and to really look at it and –
[0:26:20.5] KM: When is the grant application do?
[0:26:23.5] MS: Oh it’s due the 20th. I think the response to the RP’s due the 20th.
[0:26:28.2] KM: Well we are in a great location. We are centrally located for a distribution center but we don’t have an airport.
[0:26:33.6] MS: Well we don’t have transit, we don’t have an international airport but I mean if you have an Amazon – we have plans for an international airport.
[0:26:41.0] KM: We do?
[0:26:41.4] MS: Yeah, we do.
[0:26:43.1] KM: Since when?
[0:26:44.3] MS: Well you can have Ron Mathew on and he can tell you all about it, our airport director but yeah, we’ve got plans. They can build it, they just need to have the airlines that want to come here and fly to these foreign cities. So I suspect if Amazon for some reason decides they want to come to Little Rock Arkansas you can bet for sure that we will have an international airport.
[0:27:05.2] KM: I don’t know if that makes me happy or sad because I love coming to the Little Rock Airport and just walking straight to the gate but then again, I hate all the – you have to have it layover everywhere you go.
[0:27:16.4] MS: You know when you look at the request for proposal is a little incongruent. They want the 24/7 walkability, kind of thing that you talk about downtown but they also want to build out on a 100 acres. Well you are not going to find a 100 acres in downtown Little Rock. You are not going to find that. The only way you are going to find that is on a green field site and they’ve mentioned that they will be looking at a green field sites too but we’ve got a lot of qualities.
[0:27:44.7] KM: What do you mean by green field site, one that needs to be demolished?
[0:27:49.3] MS: One that didn’t have anything on it. One that’s ready but don’t have any buildings on it. So we understand that we don’t need the technical requirements but it’s an exercise. It is an opportunity for us to pull together for businesses like an Amazon. These businesses are the future, for us to pull together what our real talent base is. And it’s been really exciting for me to get the emails and the information from UA Little Rock, from UCA.
From a lot of our technology businesses and the talent pool that we’ve got. So when you begin to see these kinds of things, it opens up the door probably for many, many other opportunities for economic development. So there is a real salutatory benefit above and beyond whether Amazon would ever think to come here or not.
[0:28:36.3] KM: That’s right, you are putting it all together and making you think you’re getting your creative vibes together and then you can start looking for more grants or opportunities for other people. Now you’ve put together a technology park downtown. I went to it not too long ago when you were given an award for something, I can’t remember. I can’t remember what you’re given an award for.
[0:28:49.5] MS: Well I receive a National Honour from the US Conference of Mayors on my support for small businesses like yours and like others. I’ve really been I think a leader in the technology area. I hosted the Mayor summit on entrepreneurship about a year and a half ago and brought in over a 125 people from all over the state and other states to come in and talk about entrepreneurship and the jobs of the future and really how small businesses can thrive and it was not just the high tech people.
But it was the other stuff too as just the – you know the Kaufman Foundation is really the leader on entrepreneurship of Kansas City and he was a pharmacist. So it’s really an exercise on looking about how small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are a real backbone of the economy here in Little Rock. We hold and in fact we had 32 different graduations in two years. So we have been doing it for a long time.
That’s over 15 years of a small business program. It’s really based on a Kaufman formula and one that we do with the SPA and with the UA Little Rock Small Business Development office. People can sign up for it and go through a 12 week program on really how to be an entrepreneur and really how to develop their small business.
[0:30:18.3] KM: I didn’t realize that you’ve been doing that for 15 years. So is it at the technology park?
[0:30:22.9] MS: No that was done at the community center.
[0:30:25.0] KM: Which community center?
[0:30:26.3] MS: Our neighbourhood community, our neighbourhood resource center over on 12th street.
[0:30:30.7] KM: Oh okay, so you can go there and sign up to get?
[0:30:34.9] MS: Yeah we do it twice a year and we have –
[0:30:36.2] KM: What’s it called exactly?
[0:30:37.2] MS: The City’s Entrepreneurship Program.
[0:30:41.2] KM: Okay and it last’s for a year?
[0:30:43.7] MS: No, I said I think 12 lessons –
[0:30:45.6] KM: You said twice a year.
[0:30:46.0] MS: 12 lessons I think it’s 12 weeks.
[0:30:47.5] KM: And then you graduate with a diploma?
[0:30:50.4] MS: You graduate with a certificate, yeah. A certificate, a graduation certificate but you know the important thing is it talks about business plans, it talks about financing. It talks about product, it talks about logistics, delivery, all of the kind of things that are so very important in a small business that you’ve had to learn probably on your own.
[0:31:07.4] KM: I learned this from the Small Business Development Center, SPA, taught me how to write a business plan when I had to buy the Taborian Hall 25 years ago.
[0:31:16.1] MS: Yeah, I remember when you did that. I thought you were crazy but I am very proud of you for doing it. Number one, I love historic preservation and you saved a building that by now would have been torn down and it’s a wonderful reflection particularly of African-American small business on 9th Street. My only love and desire would be to see if we could repopulate 9th Street with more businesses that really would pull in that character that 9th Street used to have.
[0:31:47.5] KM: You know my building needs an elevator, we’re writing a grant with the National Park Service. We’ve got a civil rights grant and since my building was a civil rights building, we’ve got a grant we were applying for October the 8th.
[0:32:02.1] MS: Good, good luck.
[0:32:03.5] KM: I know, thank you very much. Alright this is a good place to take a break. Let me see, when we come back we’re going to learn more from the Little Rock, Arkansas Mayor Mark Stodola about – probably talk some more about the challenges that you are facing and what it’s like to be the Mayor and how you managed to do it all.
[0:32:20.7] TB: You are listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. We’ll be right back.
[0:32:38.9] KM: You’re listening to Up In Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. My guest today is Little Rock Mayor, Mark Stodola. If you’ve got questions or comments for my guest or for me, this is your chance. You can send an email to me and I’ll be checking my emails to:
[0:32:51.5] TB: email@example.com.
[0:32:53.9] KM: And that’s questions with an S and I am tweeting. So if you want to tweet me a question, you can tweet me @askkerrymccoy we’re using the #upyourbusiness. Alright, I am going to recap some of the great stuff that you’ve done. The homicide rate has fallen.
[0:33:08.7] MS: It has historically fallen. I want our listeners to know that we’ve seen an uptick in this last year. We hit a low at 24 in I believe it was in 2012 and the year before I took office we had 60 homicides and people don’t realize that because social media has changed the way the world finds out about information. And so if it’s somebody that’s in a neighbourhood and they’re lifting a latch on car doors to try and open them up and somebody hears about it.
And those cars are riffled through, they are going to put it on social media and everybody is going to know about it. And so the knowledge base on it and then in all honesty, your television stations are pretty much if it leads it bleeds, or if it bleeds it leads. I guess that’s the way you say it and so that’s what the first thing people have and it creates an apprehension but there’s no denying that we have seen it uptick in violence.
I was looking at the numbers yesterday and our violent crime is up about 4%. Some people would say, “Oh golly I would have thought it was a little higher than that. We have seen a reduction over the last eight weeks of about 4.19%, almost 4.02%, over the last eight weeks. So we’re going down. I don’t know where we are going to end up at the end of the year. Hopefully we are not going to tap out anywhere close to that 60 number but we still got another quarter to go. I’ve got former gang members working on the streets.
I have been in the neighborhoods myself. I am talking to the families of these gang members, I have been visiting with them in their homes. Talking to some of the gang members themselves, how to prevent retaliation and so far we are having some real success so far for the last few weeks. So I want to say that we are doing everything humanly possible. We’ve got the officers shortage. I’ve been, frankly I have been screaming at the Police Chief and our City Manager about it.
“We want to do more, we’ve got to be aggressive.” So we are going to do an advertising campaign to try and recruit already certified officers. We’ve got 32 in the class right now, so we’re down to about 55 that we are short.
[0:35:47.0] KM: Oh we are? We’re short of officers.
[0:35:49.0] MS: Well that’s been for fraying, yeah we were down more but hopefully he’s committed to me that he’s going to get at least 60 in these last two classes. So we’ve got 32 now, he needs to get 28 in the next class to meet my goal, or at least what he promised me.
[0:36:03.8] KM: Well Kenton says it’s hard to get officers because the family members don’t want them to become police officers.
[0:36:08.9] MS: Well it’s not easy to be a police officer anymore. It’s really not and it never was easy but certainly what’s going on in a national level is really affected the whole issue. You want to know about challenges and I really like to talk about that because well, I think people say what is your biggest challenge Mark and I tell them. “It’s the issues of race is still our biggest challenge. It’s the perceptions of race, the perceptions of equality or inequality.”
It’s the haves and have not’s, it’s what are you doing, how much, how come you’re not doing more. For example, I will give you a couple of ideas and a couple of instances. When you look at this City and you look at our tax base, we take care of 200,000 plus citizens on a pretty skimpy budget and what I mean – and let me compare the City of Providence, Rhode Island. The City of Providence, Rhode Island is 175,000, we are a little bit bigger than they are.
Their operational budget was 350 million when ours was about 184 million so yeah. I guess my point is that you know we make them developers who choose to develop out west. We make them build the streets, the gutters, the drainage, the detention piles, we don’t build that. They build that and dedicated to the city. So we’ve got in the older neighborhoods which often times are more challenged neighborhoods, we’ve got infrastructure that is obviously simply older and it needs to be replaced.
So we’ve got very little money for capital improvements passed as a sales tax back in 2011. 38% of it is dedicated to capital and a large portion of a 172 million dollars of that, for streets and drainage and we’ve divided that up equally between all the seven wards and with the 10% set aside so that when we do have emergencies and often times those are in more of our downtown wards, wards one and ward two, we spend money there.
I mean we’ve got $8 billion in the recovery act from the Obama administration. We’ve built a 100 homes down in these areas, the neighborhood safety core that I mentioned. They are working in these neighborhoods. So a lot of people don’t realize that they think that there’s unequal play there and that’s a challenge. The issues of race and trying to get –
[0:38:43.2] KM: So you are saying the inner city doesn’t have money for infrastructure?
[0:38:47.6] MS: They do. They’ve got money it’s just that we don’t have enough money for any – I mean the reality is we’ve got a $1 billion worth of needs and a $172 million worth of revenue.
[0:38:56.9] KM: And does that come from the millage text.
[0:38:57.9] MS: Part of it is coming from millage and part of it is coming from the capital portion of the sales tax.
[0:39:02.2] KM: The capital portion of your sales tax. Do you think we have low sales tax?
[0:39:06.9] MS: Not particularly. I think we’re probably in the middle of the pack. Ours is lower than – is now lower and that is now lower than north Little Rock’s. It’s lower than most of the cities in northwest Arkansas. All the cities in northwest Arkansas.
[0:39:21.4] KM: Wow that’s good. So the biggest challenge you think facing our city –
[0:39:25.2] MS: I still think it is, yeah overall and trying to make sure. You know we are working on economic mobility issues. We do an earn income tax credit opportunity that we had tried to educate people that they can actually receive money back from the federal government on their taxes.
[0:39:44.1] KM: You have to do so much, I mean we’ve talked about crime. We’ve talked about jobs, we’ve talked about education, we’ve talked about infrastructure, we’ve talked about economic development. Everywhere I go to any event in the city you’re there. You work I don’t know how many hours a day but you’re everywhere. How do you on a personal level, handle all of those different pressures and jobs? I’m serious, how do you keep it all going?
[0:40:12.2] MS: Well, I think you have to love what you do, number one. I don’t really consider it work, I consider it a passion and that really makes a difference number one. You know, you get a little bit of downtime. I’m usually about 11:00 at night and I try to get to watch the news, although I get it on my phone now, so it’s not like I can’t watch it.
You know, I either watch one of the late night comedians or I kind of like American Pickers.
[0:40:47.8] KM: Do you really?
[0:40:51.1] MS: Yeah, and so, sometimes I watch that. I’ve got a bike, I got actually two bicycles so I like to get on a bike, I’m not on it as much as I’d like to be. I need to get on it more frequently.
[0:41:03.0] KM: have you been watching the Vietnam War Special on AETN?
[0:41:06.2] MS: Yeah, the Ken Burns.
[0:41:10.0] KM: You were too young for that weren’t you?
[0:41:12.3] MS: No, actually I was not.
[0:41:13.6] KM: But you weren’t drafted?
[0:41:16.4] MS: I was in the air force.
[0:41:17.6] KM: But you didn’t have to go to Vietnam, did you?
[0:41:19.6] MS: No, I mean, I was – well, I got out of the air force about the time, a year before the fall of Saigon. I got out in ‘74 and I believe that was what? ‘75?
[0:41:34.8] KM: We’ve got to go.
[0:41:36.5] MS: The war was over. Pretty much over with by then.
[0:41:39.7] KM: One really quick question, there’s this reoccurring surprising theme with all of my guest and that is the heart of a teacher. I mean, today was a perfect example, you have taught everybody so much and we’re not going to talk about this but you also taught Political Science at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
You taught MBA program at UALR, at UALR Bowen School of Law and you’ve taught at the Clinton School of Public Service and Webster University. How do you do all that?
[0:42:11.2] MS: It keeps you academically fresh and stimulated number one and so right now, I’m teaching a Contemporary Urbanism course at the Clinton school of public service.
[0:42:19.5] KM: I just – you just blow me away.
[0:42:21.4] MS: Well, I only teach it once a year and then in the spring so it’s not like I’m doing that every day.
[0:42:29.5] KM: I know, you are amazing. Thank you for coming on and as a gift, look what I got you?
[0:42:34.6] MS: I get a flag?
[0:42:35.5] KM: You get a desk set.
[0:42:36.8] MS: A desk set of flags.
[0:42:38.3] KM: Yeah, and, there’s Arkansas and what’s that? It’s Iowa.
[0:42:45.2] MS: I went back there for a reunion the other day, I did not recognize anyone and needless to say, I’m sure they didn’t recognize me.
[0:42:51.2] KM: I don’t know about that. Thank you, Mark, will you come back?
[0:42:54.1] MS: You bet Kerry. It’s good to see you again of course and thanks to all of your technical help here, they did a great job as well.
[0:43:00.2] KM: They did do a good job. When’s your next election?
[0:43:03.5] MS: Next year, November of 18th.
[0:43:04.6] KM: November 3rd 2018. What day would it be? I don’t’ know. Second Tuesday?
[0:43:07.5] MS: Second Tuesday in November.
[0:43:10.3] KM: Who’s my guest next week.
[0:43:12.5] TB: We’re going to have Marla from Aristotle.
[0:43:15.5] MS: Marla Johnston.
[0:43:16.3] KM: Marla Johnson, you know, she’s the one who told me about this new type of business called the internet. I was at UALR, one of those continuing education luncheons that you’ve been talking about Mark, about how everybody needs to do this stuff.
I think it was through the SPA and I sat at a round table with her and they were talking about this newfangled thing called the internet. She actually named Flag and Banner, flagandbanner.com. She said, “You have to drop the Arkansas.” We go way back.
[0:43:48.2] MS: I bet that increased your sales or did it not? I don’t know.
[0:43:51.9] KM: What? Dropping Arkansas? Yes.
[0:43:54.1] MS: Did it?
[0:43:54.3] KM: Yes, she made my first website and it almost bankrupt me because nobody believed –
[0:43:58.2] MS: Only because people had access to it nationally as supposed to regionally.
[0:44:02.3] KM: She was right on and who can spell Arkansas? Nobody.
[0:44:07.4] MS: Well, Parker would use the possessive as an E.
[0:44:11.1] KM: Yes, he would.
[0:44:11.5] MS: The apostrophe s after it.
[0:44:13.9] KM: Yes, he would. Alright, if you’ve got a great entrepreneurial story you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. Send a brief bio and your contact info to?
[0:44:23.8] TB: Questions@upyourbusiness.org.
[0:44:26.1] KM: And somebody will be in touch. Finally, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program has been about you, you’re right but it’s also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny.
My hope today is that 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.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[0:44:54.6] TB: You’ve been listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy. Want to hear today’s program again or want someone else to benefit from it, jot this down. Next week, a podcast will be available at flagandbanner.com. Click the tab labelled, “radio show”, there you’ll find today’s segment with links to resources you’ve heard discussed on this program. Kerry’s goal: To help you live the American Dream.