Mark Stodola Seeks Justice
Community problems rarely stem from a single factor. The difficulty in tackling issues like crime or homelessness is that they have multiple sources contributing to their prevalence. Addressing societal ills across multiple disciplines can be the best way to ensure their end. Our DMO of the Month takes a holistic approach to creating justice in his city. Meet Mark Stodola, Mayor of Little Rock and DMO of the Month for May.
Cities nationwide face difficulty in effectively preventing homelessness. Veterans suffer a disproportionate rate of homelessness compared to other demographics. Service men and women often find too many barriers to access the resources that are already in place for them. Mark Stodola was an early adopter of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. The program employs a “housing first” approach to ensure that participants secure a stable housing situation as quickly as possible. Mayor Stodola also opened the Jericho Way day resource center in 2013, which today assists the homeless in becoming financially self-sufficient, improving their overall well-being, and ultimately finding a new place to call home. Overall homeless rates have dropped by almost half since Stodola took office. The opportunity to bring an individual back into society coupled with the obligation to fulfill our promise to veterans drive programs to end chronic homelessness in Little Rock.
Crime prevention is one of Mark Stodola’s primary concerns. Recognizing the need for a broad coalition, Mayor Stodola recently commissioned a Crime Prevention Task Force to review existing policies and improve public safety. The task force will examine pre-trial procedures, sanctions on parole violations, the use of drug courts, saturation patrols by police, and other strategies to prevent crime. Part of the hope is to develop new best practices for the justice system, and that together the group can determine how lawmakers, prosecutors, and police can better communicate with one another.
Mayor Stodola has also made a commitment to preventing criminal behavior among youth. His administration has taken a more data driven approach, including examining how truancy and problems at school can lead to higher juvenile crime rates. Additionally, the city focuses on how to resolve behavioral issues through the schools, instead of bringing children into the criminal justice system. The mayor’s multimodal approach to public safety has proven effective, with violent crime rates down by 34% since he was first elected.
Preventing recidivism goes hand in hand with reducing overall crime. Jobs programs are part of what enables a prior offender to get their life on track, rather than fall back into familiar patterns. Mayor Stodola encourages local businesses to Ban the Box: removing the box on application forms inquiring about previous convictions. The city itself runs a felon re-entry program, and partners with local businesses and charities to help the unemployed and underemployed grow the skills they need to succeed. Mark Stodola removes barriers to entering the workplace that force former criminals out of the legitimate job market.
Crime and homelessness are a constant drain on city resources and lower the quality of life for every resident. Little Rock’s Mayor is approaching these problems from multiple angles, working to raise his city up at every level. Modern governing recognizes that there is no single, easy solution that we can use to fix wide-reaching economic and social issues. Mayor Stodola has shown that a broad coalition of problem-solvers acting throughout every level of society produces significant results, and we recognize his work as our DMO of the Month for May.
Mark Stodola was first elected Mayor in 2007. Prior to that he spent six years as the City Attorney for the state’s capitol. Elected as Prosecuting Attorney for the 6th District in 1990, he sought early reforms to the justice system by establishing a juvenile diversion program and Arkansas’ first Domestic Violence Unit. Before entering public office, he served in a local law firm, and was named to the Mid-South Super Lawyers List. He is the Board Representative on NLC’s Council on Youth, Education, and Families.
Want to take action?
1. Sign on to the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.
2. Pledge your committment to fair hiring practices and Ban the Box.
3. Join the DMO Policy Council to take the next step on local issues.