At a candidate forum put on Saturday morning by the Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods, one person in the audience offered to lend Warwick Sabin a bicycle.
The state representative and mayoral candidate had been talking about canvassing on foot as he spoke during an informal question-and-answer session at the Willie L. Hinton Neighborhood Resource Center. Sabin said his shoe-leather campaigning has given him hope for the city.
"Everywhere I go, I hear the same concerns. We're not as divided as people think we are," he said. "And people desire to be included in the conversation."
Sabin is one of four candidates running to replace Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola in November. The city Board of Directors seats for Wards 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 are also are on the Nov. 6 ballot.
"As you can see, we're going to have splendid democracy in the city of Little Rock this season," Coalition of Little Rock Neighborhoods President Kathy Wells said at Saturday's forum.
Vincent Tolliver, Baker Kurrus and Frank Scott Jr. also are running for mayor. Stodola said in May that he would not seek re-election because of a family member's illness. C.E. Williams also has picked up an election packet for the mayoral race.
Scott is scheduled to speak at the neighborhood coalition's Aug. 11 meeting, along with candidates for the Ward 1 seat. Kurrus addressed the group on June 9.
The deadline to file for a municipal position is Aug. 17, and candidates can start submitting completed petitions July 27.
On Saturday, Sabin outlined his positions on public safety, education, economic development and infrastructure. The 40-year-old Democrat fielded questions on proposed changes to the city's government structure, preservation of historic buildings and small-business development.
The group also discussed concerns about increased traffic on Fourth and Ninth streets from the planned 30 Crossing project that will remake the downtown Interstate 30 corridor. Sabin has been vocally opposed to the project's design.
In his remarks he also noted that Little Rock has fallen "woefully behind" other cities in the United States because expertise is untapped and good ideas rarely turn into policies. He also emphasized transparency and accountability in decision-making in local government.
Three people intending to run for the Ward 2 seat also spoke Saturday: Valerie Tatum, Rohn Muse and Shalonda Michelle.
Incumbent Ken Richardson, who has served on the board since 2007, attended Saturday's forum but had to leave before the time came for Ward 2 candidates to speak. He said he would send his platform to the coalition by email and briefly mentioned his commitment to neighborhood programs.
Ward 2 covers an area of Little Rock south of Interstate 630 that stretches down to the Baseline Road area and includes the 12th Street corridor as well as parts of Asher Avenue, Fair Park Boulevard and the Geyer Springs area. It is bordered to the west by South University Avenue.
Attendees asked the candidates to support inmate re-entry programs, public transportation, revitalizing old buildings and redrawing ward boundaries. They also urged candidates to address the lack of access to healthful foods in some neighborhoods.
Muse, a 65-year-old neighborhood activist and professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, emphasized his experience on various boards and commissions, including six years on the city Planning Commission and his efforts with the Jump Start 12th Street Committee. He described himself as a human-rights advocate and a "well-seasoned observer and listener" who could act as a liaison between the city and the university.
Tatum, 54, is the executive director of Covenant Keepers Charter School and has been an educator for more than 30 years.
She said her platform focuses on improving education and programs for disenfranchised youths, two key points that she said relate to a plethora of other issues, including poverty and mental health.
"Whatever you do for children is never, ever wasted," she said. "We talk about so many things, but we cannot forget our youth."
Michelle, who has also gone by Shalonda Riley, grew up in a housing project in Ward 2 and has worked as an actress, model and motivational speaker, according to her LinkedIn page. She highlighted her firsthand experience with violence, poverty and homelessness.
The 39-year-old also has been involved with fundraising efforts for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
She said she hoped to see the area undergo a revitalization similar to the South Main neighborhood, but "tailored to fit the culture of Ward 2."
City board members serve four-year terms and are paid $18,000 annually.
Edmond Davis, who is challenging incumbent B.J. Wyrick for the Ward 7 seat, and Hunter Windle, who is running for justice of the peace for District 4 in Pulaski County, also attended the meeting.
Metro on 07/15/2018