LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Since the start of 2021, 22 people have been killed in Little Rock as reported via the City’s data portal.
As neighbors continue to beg leaders to put aside their differences and act on the violence, city directors are looking at how the mayor’s proposed sales tax could come into play, and what needs to change for that to happen.
A quadruple shooting set the tone for Tuesday’s board meeting as the City of Little Rock tried to wrap its head around two more children caught in the crosshairs.
Neighbors flipped the focus from the mayor’s sales tax proposal, now awaiting its third and final reading, to violence and called out leaders for their inaction.
Kimberly Allen – the mother of the man killed in Sunday’s shooting, Devontay Allen – took to the podium during public comments.
“Y’all should pray about it,” Allen begged directors, “but Little Rock will be done if you all do nothing about it.”
After it seemed the discussion around the tax itself would be saved for another day, directors opened the floodgates, airing grievances after weeks of a lack of debate.
Vice-Mayor Lance Hines responded to questions surrounding the board’s lack of conversation, saying.
“Our silence should have been deafening.” Director B.J. Wyrick, Ward 7, also voiced her concern for the tax proposal as written, adding, “for me, there’s not enough nuts and bolts.”
The biggest issue leaders had with the initiative was the lack of allotted funding for public safety. Director Kathy Webb, Ward 3, commented that certain fundamentals needed to be tackled first before other issues.
“It starts with functionality and safety,” Webb explained, “and then we move on to the quality-of-life issues.”
One idea thrown around was increased development into COP officers and specialized patrols.
“Everybody I hear when we talk about policing and 21st century policing,” Hines said, “is COPP.” Director Dean Kumpuris agreed, saying, “what Lance said about COP officers is critical to what we’re doing.”
But others believed it isn’t a policing issue, but a community one, with development and intervention being key.
Director Antwan Phillips said, “we need investment into the communities,” and added that stricter policing won’t solve the violence.
Director Ken Richardson, Ward 2, chimed in, “we need to develop the will to address these things in another way.”
By the end of the almost four-hour meeting, Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. agreed to keep the board’s ideas in mind, and to pick up the conversation next week. The proposal will have its final reading and vote on May 4th.