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Focus on: Jesse Mason

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Jesse Mason

Age: 67

Lives: Chenal Valley

Campaign website:

Campaign financing: Over $100,000 in commitments.

Career/experience: Director of Cooperative Education at UALR and member of the Little Rock Port Authority Board of Directors since 1999. Former Little Rock City Board director from 1992-96, and vice mayor from 1993-94. Former commissioner of the Little Rock Housing Authority from 1989-92, and former chairman of the Little Rock Education Commission from 1994-97.

Why he is running: “I have a passion and with my experience I think it’s a natural. I served on the board before, as well as the Chamber of Commerce’s education committee and the Port Authority for seven years.”

Mayoral powers/Form of government: “At the end of the day, we’re running for the form of government we have now. When I was elected to the board, it was a city-wide election. All seven positions were at-large. In the Future Little Rock study, citizens expressed an interest in expanding the board for more representation for neighborhoods. We unanimously decided to expand the board by four members to create an eleven-member board. Seven of the eleven were wards, and three were at-large, including the mayor.

“I think there are pros and cons for both forms of government. I’m more than willing to put that back in the hands of the populace and let them decide what form of government they want.

“I have questions when people say ‘we need a strong mayor,’ or ‘the mayor needs veto power.’ Where will we get the revenue for the mayor’s salary, the mayor’s staff and the mayor’s car? What about the 10 members of the board? What if they want a car and staff? These are real issues and questions, and I’m not sure whether they’ve been thought through thoroughly.”

How would you govern?: “I would make sure citizens know that the mayor is the face of the city. But when reality sets in, we have 10 other members on the board. I see it as a challenge and honor to work cooperatively with my fellow board members and to understand as a board our different duties and roles. As a leader, I would respect every board member, but we have to come up with a plan and goals and objectives that are measurable. I have done that as vice mayor, when I took a leadership role on issues and made things happen. I feel excited about that challenge. There are many mayors, but each ward and each director that serves a ward has an agenda that should be considered and should gel with the agenda of the rest of the directors.”

Impact fees: “I would really like to take a look at that. I would want to study other cities where they have been implemented. Were they citizen-driven? What about equity? But it’s something we need to look at.”

Summit Mall: “I was against the Summit Mall because I felt Little Rock at that point in time was not ready for a mall of that magnitude. The citizens had made clear they were not in favor of it. I also felt that existing malls, like University Mall and Park Plaza, that a lot could be done to enhance them. The environmental issue also — I felt it was a little too much.”

County jail tax: “There are short-term needs and long-term needs. I’m a strong supporter of prevention, intervention and treatment. We’re now in a situation where it’s widely known by the bad guys that there is no room in the jail, so there is not much of a penalty to pay for committing a crime. Will [more jail space] solve the problem? No. But I do think, from what I’m hearing, that the citizens don’t care what it costs, they just want to feel safe and secure. I don’t think this is the type of climate our city should have to endure.”

Smoking ordinances: “At this point in time, that needs to be studied. I think we need to listen to what is being said by citizens and restaurant owners. It’s probably not necessary to go all out, but I would take another look at it.”

Biggest personal weakness or criticism: “Where I live. … We fought for a long time to live wherever we chose. That’s where we chose to live. … I don’t feel my residence should play a role in my leadership abilities or my love of the city. It’s just where I have chosen to reside.”

Race as a campaign factor: “I don’t think it plays a role at all. If you look at the composition of the city, you have African-Americans, Latinos, all races all over the city. The diversity is amazing. It says a lot about the city that we have embraced the diversity issue. People understand we can live together. I don’t think race will play a part in this particular race.”

Other priorities: “I want to have a financial literacy initiative. We as a city should equip citizens with a financial education, so they are informed of its significance and are prepared to deal with basic needs. Destroyed credit leads to diminished job opportunities and prospects. The African-Americans who come before the courts don’t have jobs because they don’t have skills, and that’s because of decisions they made that put them on a different track. Individuals without skills are going to be in a sad state of affairs.

“I would enhance the positive impact of prevention, intervention and treatment through increased accountability. We have to hold individuals accountable.”

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