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The mayor's race in Little Rock isn't until next year and would have been interesting even without Frank Scott's entering it.

But it's even more interesting now, owing to Scott's race, religion, government background and business background--not to mention what he thinks of Mayor Mark Stodola's pressuring at the last minute to cancel the rapper Moneybagg Yo's concert Friday night at the iHeart Media Metroplex Live on Colonel Glenn Road.

Scott defies conventional political packaging, which is encouraging, considering the polarizing nonsense of current political packaging.

An African American preacher with certain religious-conservative views, he is a stout advocate for the city's neglected black communities. But he also exudes the business establishment as an MBA-owning banker. He also exudes the political establishment with a background as a top aide to the centrist Democratic governor, Mike Beebe, who put him on the state Highway Commission.

That's how Scott came to advocate the big interstate expansion through downtown Little Rock that the business establishment favors and that environmental liberals and general progressives detest.

I'm not saying Scott builds his own bridge connecting the Chamber of Commerce with black people in eastern and southern Little Rock. I'm just saying I'm not sure I've ever encountered quite the political smorgasbord he presents.

So perhaps you heard about that rap concert that the promoter canceled a day ahead of Friday's scheduled presentation after Stodola and the city Board of Directors became apoplectic.

The board was at a budget workshop when, toward the end, it was presented with a letter that Police Chief Kenton Buckner had written the promoter a week before. The chief referred to violence at some of the rapper's concerts and to the performer's rivalry with a Memphis gang that had played some role in the crossfire horror occurring at the late-night Memphis rapper's concert in downtown Little Rock during the summer.

Buckner's letter found the promoter's initial security precautions inadequate, particularly considering the city's simultaneous policing needs that night at the Arkansas State Fair. But the chief subsequently seemed to accept the promoter's response to add additional off-duty policemen, dozens of security guards and metal detection.

That letter, it seemed, was the first Stodola and the board had heard about the event. That was jarring, suggesting Memphis-based gang concerns at a late-night concert, thus invoking obvious comparisons with the summer incident that led to wide public criticism of Stodola and city police.

Stodola began raising holy hell. The city board scheduled an emergency meeting perhaps to seek an injunction.

The promoter canceled the event altogether.

The first and glaring problem is that the mayor hadn't known anything about the event until the day before it was to take place. The obvious indictment is of the accountability-defying hybrid form of city government by which the police chief reported to the city manager and not the mayor.

Scott's complaint, on which he elaborated by phone Tuesday, is that Little Rock ought to be a great-enough city with competent-enough governance to be proactive about security at public events. It ought, he said, to be able to handle a rap concert, a state fair and a country-western concert on the same night.

After Buckner became satisfied with the enhanced security plan, "This was a non-issue that was made into an issue," Scott told me.

"In a Scott administration," he said, "I'd like to think the mayor and the city manager would have talked at least once during the week for a briefing about community events and any security issues."

He told me the city can't stop crime by removing all opportunity for crime. Instead, he said, it must assess security needs and plan for them, as, he said, the chief had admirably done.

Scott said the city should come to understand that crime is not a disease, but a symptom. The disease, he said, is not paying attention to the root causes, which are a lack of educational and economic opportunity.

"We need to move from a disconnected community to a connected one," he said.

Did he see this rap-concert brouhaha as a race issue? "I sure hope not," he said, reiterating that his point was that a great city would be able to accommodate diverse entertainment events while handling security concerns rather than freaking out over them.

Stodola vigorously defends his reaction and believes the community is behind him.

The third declared candidate, state Rep. Warwick Sabin, has not engaged in this debate, which is probably politically wise.

There's plenty of time to flesh all this out politically--more than a year, in fact, until the election. But Scott might argue that time is wasting for Little Rock to become again a functioning city.

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John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, was inducted into the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame in 2014. Email him at jbrummett@arkansasonline.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

Editorial on 10/19/2017

Print Headline: It's getting interesting

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