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Glen Schwarz: a part-time mayor

That's the perennial candidate's goal.

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OUT OF THE OFFICE BY 2 P.M. VIA THE BANNISTER: Mayoral candidate Glen Schwarz says his bid for office isn't "dubious," and he'll win if his message "rings true with the voters."
  • OUT OF THE OFFICE BY 2 P.M. VIA THE BANNISTER: Mayoral candidate Glen Schwarz says his bid for office isn't "dubious," and he'll win if his message "rings true with the voters."

Glen Schwarz wants to be the next mayor of Little Rock, but he has a few conditions: He will be a "part-time mayor" and work maybe 20 hours a week, because, according to Schwarz, "it's a very ephemeral kind of position. The only real job of mayor is to run the city director meetings. I know I can do that."

When Schwarz leaves the office every day — at 2 p.m. — he plans on departing in style.

"You know what I'm going to do every day when I leave the office?" he asked a reporter.

"What will you do?" she replied.

"Ride down the bannister at City Hall," he said, laughing. "They've got the best bannister."

***

Schwarz travels with a small wooden gavel in his car to demonstrate that he can, in fact, run the meetings of the City Board of Directors. "I know parliamentary procedures from running the NORML chapter," he said.

Schwarz has been president of the Arkansas chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, for 25 of the last 30 years, and he helped establish the chapter here in the late '80s. Schwarz strongly advocates for marijuana law reform, and its decriminalization is one of the three major issues of his campaign. Others are giving all Little Rock residents access to recycling receptacles, and his plan to ensure that Little Rock, and Arkansas at large, is prepared for what he said will be "spectacular, exponential growth" over the next few decades as sea levels rise in Louisiana and Florida.

"I think in the next 30 years this city has the destiny to grow to a major metropolis of 4 to 5 million people," he said. "Why? Because if those sea levels rise, there will be tens of millions of American refugees. Not those poor refugees — these will be people that are on retirement and have bank accounts or jobs. If we wait for this to happen like a victim, we'll be looking at all these people we've got to assimilate and house and feed, but instead, we should look at it as an opportunity. Little Rock could grow to be a major metropolis, and we would assimilate them, and they'd become productive citizens in their new homes. The Louisiana and Florida coast are all going to be under water."

Schwarz's strategy to capitalize on this potential influx of wealthy, climate change refugees is his "metropolitan village plan." High-rise condos, office parks and supermarkets will form these villages, and each will occupy a single square mile.

"And here's the kicker," he said. "You build these every three miles ... and then you can connect them. My mass transit idea is to connect them with a roller coaster. Get on on the 60th floor, take a roller coaster over. People would come from all over the world to ride the roller coaster mass transit. If you build it, they will come."

As Schwarz explained this idea, he moved his hand through the air, mimicking the path of the mass transit roller coaster. When a reporter asked if he had any ideas for how to implement his metropolitan village plan, he said, "No, I don't have any experience in government. ... I would have to research that. It's urban planning."

***

Schwarz, 64, grew up in Cape Canaveral, Fla., where his father worked as a high-pressure-gas mechanic. He earned his bachelor's degree in physics at Florida State University, where he and a friend had a streak of luck successfully betting on 10 consecutive football games during their senior year. Upon graduation, Schwarz headed to Reno, Nev., to try and follow up that success.

"After about three years, I went broke there, so my mother sent me a ticket here," he said of how he ended up in Little Rock. "Compared to Reno and Las Vegas in Nevada, this is a beautiful city."

He arrived in Little Rock in 1982 and worked as a busboy at Slick Willy's and as a sales clerk at Ace Hardware. He's since worked as a recycle center manager and a professional petitioner.

Schwarz lives in the Wakefield neighborhood of Southwest Little Rock, and he said he hasn't been successful in running for election in the ward because the causes at the heart of his campaigns are "citywide issues."

Schwarz has run, unsuccessfully, for office nine times. He ran against Mayor Mark Stodola when Stodola sought re-election to his second term in 2010 because "I don't like people that are unopposed," he said. "That's what was so fun about 2010, and that's how I knew that the mayor's race will get you in a lot of debates. I like debates. I have messages for the people of Little Rock."

Schwarz continues to run for public office because he considers it to be "an honor and a privilege," but also because "I'm really focused on the future. ... I'm not the candidate of the future, I'm the candidate from the future," he said. "Sent here from the year 2055 to warn the people of Little Rock that your fate is not another 30 years of linear growth. It could very easily be exponential growth, even explosive growth. And we should be prepared for that."

So what if he doesn't win?

"Oh well," he said. "Ask the Florida State Seminoles in 1973."

He was referring to the 1973 football season at Florida State, when the Seminoles lost every single game. They did win in a later season.

"I can do this job," he said. "It's a four-year job. I'm 64 years old. If I need to serve as mayor, I need to do it now. And I'm going to continue to run for office as long as I'm healthy and breathing."

And, he added, "I might put some ideas in people's heads," he said. "Maybe I've planted some seeds."

Would running be enough?

"Well, no, I want to actually win one," Schwarz said. "I do want to win one before I get too old to run."

Given Schwarz's unusual approach to running a city, he acknowledged why some would call his effort a "dubious battle."

"Is it a dubious campaign? Am I in dubious battle?" he asked. "And the answer is no. In regard to the money, my spending of a couple hundred [dollars] compared to a quarter-million by the leading candidates, those cannot buy elections. If my message rings true with the voters, I will score a stunning upset."

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