North Little Rock's new mayor is putting his best foot forward. City Communications Director Nathan Hamilton says Mayor Joe Smith met with the city attorney Wednesday to talk about ending a three-year-old lawsuit between the city and the North Little Rock School District.
Smith says there's a perception that the schools and city hall don't play well together, and it's time to smooth things out.
"My first piece of legislation in two weeks is going to be to end the lawsuit with the school district," Smith said at his inauguration Tuesday.
School Board President Scott Teague knew Smith wanted to build a strong relationship with schools, but didn't know he would propose an end to the lawsuit.
"Honestly, at that point, that was news to me when he mentioned that," Teague said.
Since 2009, the district has been fighting the city in court, upset by the creation of a tax district that diverted money from schools to improving blighted areas downtown.
Superintendent Ken Kirspel says the district has supported other instances of tax increment financing, but not the one that would cap the amount schools received from improvements in a blighted district downtown. And three years in court," It's always good not to have a lawsuit pending anywhere." Kirspel said. "It's to our advantage and the city's advantage to move forward.
"Whether it's the reality or perception of a strained relationship, we don't need that." Teague said.
Now that the city is entering a new year, with a new administration, it's important for this new mayor to get things off on the right foot.
"We're going to have a great partnership," Smith said. "And I think the best way to start this year is to make the lawsuit go away."