Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles on candidates for Pine Bluff mayor.
As a candidate for mayor in 2008, Peter Daniels Jr., finished third, collecting just under 1,700 votes, and now, four years later, he’s taking another shot at the city’s highest office.
“I’m more ripened now, more seasoned now and more mature politically now,” Daniels said. “The last four years has caused me to see the drought in the politics and economy of this city and understand the disappointment I see in the eyes of the citizens of this city, who need a serious change in every quarter of this city.”
Daniels, 60, said the votes he received in 2008 are the base that he began this campaign from, and when he was not successful last time, he stared the African-American newspaper, The Banner, to get his message across.
“I found that people didn’t know me and what’s in my heart,” Daniels said.
Regarding public safety, Daniels described himself as the “Bring The Pain” candidate.
“Criminals better know there are eight exits in and out of Pine Bluff and they better find one because when I’m elected, we’re going to go after them,” he said.
Daniels said public safety would be his top priority, and he would start by “terminating the employment of the police chief (Brenda Davis-Jones).
“I’m disappointed with the low morale and high attrition rates in the police department,” he said. “I would also bring back the Civil Service Commission like it was before, or so that it would comply with state statutes,” Daniels said.
The commission was eliminated by the city council last year, and hiring duties were given to the city’s human resources department and the police and fire department chiefs.
Later during an interview, Daniels said he would allow the commission to hire and fire police and fire chiefs, an authority they had prior to a vote that gave the mayor of Pine Bluff that authority.
“I don’t want the responsibility of hiring and firing the chiefs, but I’m going to expect them to do their job,” he said.
Daniels said he would also study increasing the salaries of police and firefighters and wants to make them the “best paid in the state.”
He said he would also look at various options that could be available to reduce crime, including increasing bike patrols, utilizing foot patrols in certain areas and purchasing the ShotSpotter gunfire-locating technology.
“High and rising crime caused economic development to come to a halt and means we’re not going to be able to attract or compete for the 21st century jobs,” Daniels said.
Regarding job creation, Daniels said he wants Pine Bluff and Jefferson County to work together to create “our own living-wage-paying jobs in areas where we are consumers but not manufacturers.”
As examples, he said a beverage plant or bakery would generate jobs, and at the same time, provide goods and services to the people of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County and Arkansas.
“I’m going to work with the (Economic Development) Alliance and the Pine Bluff Council like no mayor has ever done before,” Daniels said. “Whatever we have to do, I’m willing to do to improve our economy.”
He also said he doesn’t believe the current administration is trying to partner with industries already here like Tyson Foods, Stant, Mid-America Packaging and others to assist those industries in expansion.
“If we can do something, we will go to the council with well thought out proposals on how to assist them,” Daniels said.
The same approach would be taken with smaller businesses, said Daniels, who said he would try to help them find ways to improve their business.
“We’re not going to throw good money after bad but if there are ways to help them grow, we want to look at that,” he said, citing the possibility of low-interest-loans or grants.
Daniels also wants to establish a grantwriting department in city government to go after state and federal grants.
“I want them to generate proposals like you wouldn’t believe,” Daniels said.
On the subject of youth, Daniels said he was “appalled at the condition of the Merrill and Chester Hynes community centers,” which he described as “disgraceful.
“There are not enough after-school programs to make children ready for college so they can find 21st century jobs and careers,” Daniels said. “We need to have easily accessible computer labs and I believe the city can work with churches and organizations to make that happen.”
He was also critical of what he said was the frequent absence of the current mayor attending conferences or meetings out of town or out of state.
“I’m going to be very accessible,” Daniels said. “If it’s really important (a conference or meeting), I’m going to be there, but if not, I’m going to send somebody else in my place.”
Daniels also promised full access to city departments and agencies for the media and citizens.
“The current administration has had untold numbers of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests submitted,” he said. “If we can avoid having a FOIA request submitted by giving someone the information they need, I say let them come and have access to it.
“The job of the city is to serve and not make things difficult,” Daniels said.
Another of his proposals calls for the creation of a non-uniform civil service commission to hear grievances from city employees, saying he wanted workers to feel secure in their jobs.
“I want to be the drummajor for change,” Daniels said. “I want the respect of the people, but I know I’m going to have to earn that respect through my service.”