The North Little Rock run off election for mayor is heating up. Early voting for the runoff between Tracy Steele and Terry Hartwick began on Tuesday, Nov. 23.
Steele led the general election with 45 percent of the vote, while Hartwick gained about 33 percent of the vote on Nov. 3. Candidates must win at least 40 percent of the vote and lead by 20 percent in order to win in the general election, according to Pulaski County Election Commissioner Kristi M. Stahl. North Little Rock’s current mayor, Joe Smith, chose not to run for reelection.
Early voting continued on Wednesday, Nov. 24, and will resume on Mon. Nov. 30 after the Thanksgiving holiday. The early voting centers are the Pulaski County Regional Building, the William F. Laman Library, the Sidney S. McMath Library and the Hillary Clinton Children’s Library.
Election Day is Tuesday, Dec. 1 from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Laman Library will be open as a voting center for anyone in Pulaski County. If you need to find your polling place, please go to this link. The Pulaski County Election Commission will meet on Dec. 1 at 9 p.m, and anyone can go to observe as long as they wear a mask and social distance. The meeting will also be live streamed on YouTube.
Although the general election saw record turnout in Pulaski County, Stahl noted that runoff elections historically receive low voter turnout. She expects early voting to be particularly negatively affected by both the holiday break and concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Turnout for runoff elections is generally 4-6 percent, and I would be surprised if it was even 8 percent,” said Stahl.
Stahl did state that everyone who received an absentee ballot in the general election should have also received a ballot for the runoff election. Absentee ballots should be received by the Pulaski County Clerk by 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1.
Arkansas Money and Politics talked to Steele about the issues concerning North Little Rock.
AMP: As mayor, how will you promote economic growth in North Little Rock, particularly after a challenging year for business owners and workers?
TS: First we should eliminate any fees or taxes that are unnecessary for small businesses. We should provide incentives for small businesses and make a commitment that they will be supported by the city before we go outside of our city network. Once someone decides to start a business in North Little Rock, we should do everything we can to help them succeed including providing training resources and assistance with small business financing and or grants.
As mayor I will recruit industry to our city and bring in good higher-paying jobs. I will also work closer and more cooperatively with our neighboring cities and recruit business by using more of a regional concept that has been proven to be successful in areas like Northwest Arkansas.
AMP: What changes, if any, do you plan on making to the North Little Rock Police Department’s operations and structure? For example, many other police departments have announced the introduction of social workers and therapists onto their staff, along with updates to equipment and arrest techniques.
TS: We already have a wonderful police department; however, I would advocate for improving technology and providing more cultural and sensitivity training that includes role-playing and de-escalation training. I will help establish better relationships with communities in our city. I would also want to see our department focus more on small or commonly referred to as petty crimes. Intervention in the early stages of criminal activity will often deter and redirect a person from a life of crime.
AMP: North Little Rock has been marked in the past with historic floods, due to both manmade failures and climate change. What do you plan to do to combat environmental crises, such as floods? What do you plan to do in terms of beautification of North Little Rock?
TS: The past few administrations have simply ignored the decay and structural problems with the redwood tunnel which is the major reason for most of our flooding problems. The tunnel is almost a hundred years old and if we don’t provide some major repairs it could be devastating. We need an updated evaluation and plan working with the corps of engineers, our legislators and Congressional delegation.
AMP: How do you plan to continue educational development in the North Little Rock School District? What seems to be doing well, and what could use improvement? Do you plan to increase the success of Pulaski Tech and Shorter College?
TS: From day one, I have been advocating the importance of the city and the North Little Rock School District working closer together. The school district is the largest employer in the entire city. We have a wonderful school district but our student numbers are declining. This presents an opportunity for our city to help support the marketing and promotion of our district. Our city is a great place to live and also a great place to educate your children.
The renovation of the Ole Main school building will require collaboration between the district and the City.
As mayor, I would initiate a partnership between the city, the district, Shorter College and Pulaski Technical College to help prepare a skilled workforce that will assist with recruiting industry to our city.
AMP: The topic of geographically unifying the city has come up several times in the last few weeks. What are your plans to make all areas of North Little Rock feel included, including areas like Rose City and Lakewood?
TS: The unification of our city has been our hallmark issue for our entire campaign. It is the number one issue I feel that the Mayor of North Little Rock needs to engage in. The reason it’s so critical is because they are areas of the city that have been neglected and ignored for far too long.
I will establish a one North Little Rock committee that will be represented by citizens from every neighborhood of our city. The committee will have a very ambitious agenda including developing ways to improve race relations in our city