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Focus on: Barbara Graves

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Barbara Graves

Age: 58

Lives: Pleasant Valley

Campaign website:

Campaign financing: $130,000+

Career/experience: Founder/owner of Barbara Graves Intimate Fashions. Little Rock city director (at-large) since 2000, and vice mayor since 2005. Former president of the Downtown Little Rock Rotary Club.

Why she is running: “I love public service. It’s been a rewarding journey these last six years, and I want the opportunity to continue that service.”

Mayoral powers/Form of government: “I’m hearing people in Little Rock would like a stronger mayoral form of government, whether it’s enacting the Vision Little Rock recommendations of veto and appointment power, or whether it’s taking it back to the people for a vote to change the form of government. If so, they should be given the opportunity to vote on it again.”

How would you govern: “A new mayor will bring a different style. There are 11 directors and it takes six votes to pass something. That is the only form of government we have right now. I’m prepared to work with what’s given to me, in either form. As far as going back and revisiting what Vision Little Rock recommended, I certainly would want to do that and I would ask my fellow directors to do that. That would be step one.”

“I would look at all seven wards and what they want individually, and work with each director to see how we can strengthen each ward. I don’t view the mayoral position as a bully pulpit at all. I view it as an opportunity to work together. It’s a team, it’s not me browbeating 10 people to get what I want.”

Impact fees: “I’m very interested in the study that will look at that. In 15 years, the city has only had 6 percent growth. The city has spread out, and there are costs associated with that. I’m very interested to see what the study says. It’s too early to say if I’m in favor or not in favor. What about housing incentives? Are there ways to get people to move back to Little Rock? Is there another way to grow our dollars to give the city what it needs?”

Summit Mall: “It’s been reinvented. We’re in a whole different stage, and there is almost no controversy. We will never know if, by not permitting Summit Mall, do we have more retail spread throughout Little Rock than if we had one megacenter on the freeway. There are numerous retail centers percolating and more coming. When there is enough, I guess we’ll know it. I supported their right to build a shopping center on that land. I thought the location on the freeway was suitable for a giant mall. What about the traffic? I don’t know.”

County jail tax: “I’m absolutely for it. The jail is just a tool that we need to use. … It’s a quality of life issue, an economic development issue and a safety issue. It’s a mushroom issue, because if it doesn’t pass, we’ll feel the problems even more. Right now we’re writing tickets and citations for very serious crimes. Unless I kill you, they will just write me a ticket. We don’t have that tool in our toolbox.”

Smoking ordinance: “I’m OK with the state smoking law. My business has been non-smoking since 1985. The law puts all cities on the same playing field. That’s the benefit of a state law over a city law.”

Biggest personal weakness or criticism: “I’m close to the business community. Are there developers in the business community? Of course. Are there ones who don’t like me? Of course. Over the last six years, I have attempted to develop patience and listen more than I talk. I cannot please all of the people all of the time. I’m just me, with the baggage, strengths and weaknesses I bring to the job. One of my strengths is my independence. I’m very independent. … Do I have friends who are developers? Yes. My friends are diverse.”

Race as a campaign factor: “I hope not. I hope being a female is not an issue. Stereotypes do exist, and we all carry them around with us. I’m really convinced that Little Rock has come a long way. Do we have a ways to go? Yes — for women and African-Americans. I think there is a willingness to accept people for who and what they are.”

Other priorities: “The three main issues are public safety, education and economic development and job creation. If the jail tax passes, the money the city spent on the jail should be redirected toward programs aimed at males age 14 to 21 who need a first chance, encouraging them to stay in school. We should focus prevention, intervention and treatment dollars there. I would want to have a serious planning session with the schools and pick the one thing we want to mutually accomplish. I want to be focused on establishing priorities, limiting priorities so things can be accomplished in three to four years.”

“There is legislation proposed, and I would be a strong advocate of shortening the time from seven to three years to turn vacant properties into something productive.”

“Education and jobs are so intertwined. We need to get public schools out of the court system. It would open up Little Rock and Pulaski County for more good business opportunities.”

“We need to interface with existing businesses and the Chamber of Commerce. We’ve got to turn the corner on Main Street and work with the Downtown Partnership. We need significant gathering places throughout the city. What about a sports complex out west? What can we do to develop Fourche Creek? How do we make sure each ward has something strong going for it to give people a sense of place and pride?”

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