Andrew Palmer, editor/publisher of The Northland News sat down with newly elected City Councilwoman Heather Hall last Friday to discuss her thoughts on Kansas City and her upcoming tenure as Councilwoman from Kansas City.
The Northland News (TNN): The Kansas City City Council just passed a minimum wage increase. What are your thoughts?
Heather Hall (HH): First, I don’t think it’s legal for a municipality to create an ordinance that goes against state law. I think there’ll be a legal challenge to it.
TNN: Would you have voted for it had you been on the Council yesterday?
TNN: What is your favorite thing about Kansas City and more specifically the Northland?
HH: The people in the Northland are amazing. I grew up in Kansas in Johnson County and at the time to me the Northland was this funny little place where there was just an airport. To now be someone who represents the Northland is interesting when I look back on my previous thinking.
TNN: When did you move into the Northland?
HH: 16 years ago. You know I just like Kansas City, and I like who we are. I don’t think we should be working hard to be someone else.
TNN: Tell me more about that? What do you mean?
HH: I like that we have the sports that we have, and the arts that we have. I like the fact that we live in this big metro that has a whole lot of diversity in it. Kansas City is such a liveable city, and I want to make sure that this continues. That means home prices are affordable. We have access to quality jobs and education.
TNN: You commented on voter apathy and low turnout in the Northland for the municipal elections recently when you spoke at the Northland Coffee Connect. What do you think drives that?
HH: One component of that is that the City Council changed the date of the elections last year putting the primary in April and the general election in June. Voters were not in tune to the new date of the election.
The bigger problem is I don’t believe voters have thought their vote matters down at City Hall. Because of this, they have just become apathetic. I think this last election gave a lot of Northland Voters a new enthusiasm. I go to the grocery store yesterday and a voter comes up to me. “Hey, I voted for you, and I never vote in Kansas City. I’m so excited you won!” I think that’s because I’m a normal person just like them. I’m hopeful that my election turns the tide a little bit.
TNN: What will you do to better engage the public than prior City Councilman Dick Davis?
HH: I’m going to do what I was doing when I was campaigning which is knocking on doors, asking people what they care about, and then following through on initiatives that they care about.
I didn’t create my three platform items because they are what Heather cared about. I made them up because that is what people told me they wanted. Those three platform items were public safety, infrastructure, and small business growth. People in the Northland want more than five police officers representing almost one hundred thousand people. People in the Northland want a new fire station in the northeast corner.
During the campaign I talked about fiscal accountability on infrastructure. Kansas City often says we don’t have any money to do infrastructure, but there’s plenty of money to build a multi-million dollar hotel. Explain that to me. How is the money there but it’s not? The people of the Northland want infrastructure, they want sidewalks, sewers, roads, community centers, and they want this fire station. Once again this is people in the Northland speaking to me when I knocked on their doors.
The third thing citizens said they wanted is small business growth. Small businesses are the backbone of our country. This minimum wage issue is like telling small businesses we don’t want you to exist anymore. There’s no way a small business will survive and thrive paying $13 an hour. And I’m not saying I don’t want people to have a good quality job. What I am saying is that this is just not the right way to do it.
TNN: You’re a political outsider, an ideological outsider, after all you were branded as the “Tea Party” candidate, how will this impact you? How do you think you’ll overcome resistance to you?
HH: Well, I’m just me, I’m Heather Hall. This was a non-partisan race, and I had voters from both sides of the political aisle vote for me. I had Republicans, Democrats, probably had some Tea Party support, and I even had union members vote for me. I will always do what is right for the people of the Northland. And I’m not a member of the Tea Party, I don’t even know how you join. I will be fiscally responsible with the people’s money and if that makes me a conservative, so be it.
TNN: What is the biggest challenge facing Kansas City right now?
HH: Our inability to reign in the budget and our spending on things that are fun instead of what is actually needed.
HH: In every single district there are blighted areas. An example is the crumbling infrastructure along Chouteau and Antioch. We can’t fix this, but we have money for a new streetcar and a new grocery store downtown. Why do we have money to give the Kansas City Star a huge tax break, but we can’t deal with these other things.
TNN: Talk more about the Kansas City Star issue.
HH: The first question I had is I’d like to meet with all the other businesses in that same area. Are they having the same drop in valuation. Are they next in line to ask for the tax breaks the Star is asking for. Is their [the Star] valuation really that bad? And if that’s the case then what’s the real problem? Why did that happen?
TNN: Kind of a fun closing question. I’ve always been a reader, and taught English for years here in The Northland. What’s your favorite book?
HH: The Noticer by Andy Andrews.
For you readers out there here’s a summary of The Noticer.
Orange Beach, Alabama, is a simple town filled with simple people. But like all humans on the planet, the good folks of Orange Beach have their share of problems―marriages teetering on the brink of divorce, young adults giving up on life, business people on the verge of bankruptcy, as well as the many other obstacles that life seems to dish out to the masses.
Fortunately, when things look the darkest, a mysterious man named Jones has a miraculous way of showing up. An elderly man with white hair, of indiscriminate age and race, wearing blue jeans, a white T-shirt and leather flip flops carrying a battered old suitcase, Jones is a unique soul. Communicating what he calls “a little perspective,” he explains that he has been given a gift of noticing things that others miss. “Your time on this earth is a gift to be used wisely,” he says. “Don’t squander your words or your thoughts. Consider even the simplest action you take, for your lives matter beyond measure…and they matter forever.”
Jones speaks to that part in everyone that is yearning to understand why things happen and what we can do about it.
Like The Traveler’s Gift, The Noticer is a unique narrative blend of fiction, allegory, and inspiration in which gifted storyteller Andy Andrews helps us see how becoming a “noticer” just might change a person’s life forever.