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Heather Morolla Kale- Ward 7
Family: Husband and Daughter
Education: MA Public Relations and Organizational Communication from Wayne State University
Occupation: General Manager, Flint Ferris Wheel and former Director of Member Services, Flint & Genesee County Chamber of Commerce
Why do you feel you are a good fit for Flint City Council?
My passion and commitment to Flint is unwavering. Passion along with the desire to learn, listen and help whenever possible are characteristics that would benefit City Council. I want to be a part of a solution to move our city forward.
What are the top five issues you want to focus on as a City Council member?
The Water Crisis, recovery and properly educating/informing residents of the progress should be at the top of everyone’s focus areas. 2) We have limited resources and it’s important that we work with the City Administration, State and Federal Elected Officials to identify opportunities to build the resources back up. Our residents need to feel safe and that is difficult when the money allocated for public safety is constrained by a limited tax base. We need to be creative and collaborative to come up with solutions. 3) Blight is overtaking Flint. We have a population of about 100,000 with an infrastructure that was built to support over double that. How can we possibly keep up? We need to identify leaders in the City, Wards and Precincts that can help inform our Blight Elimination Office and perhaps take it a step further and pick up a rake or help mow a lawn. The new website is a start in the right direction. A great tool that needs to be utilized to its fullest capability. 4) City Council should be a part of changing the narrative of how Flint is perceived. This can’t be done if it is in constant chaos. We need to hold people accountable, create positive working relationships other council members and meeting attendees. I am not disillusioned that this will happen overnight but with the right intentions and structure…it will happen. The Charter that passed in August gives us an opportunity to put some resources behind that structure. 5) We need to look at other rust belt communities that have redefined themselves and speak with their leaders. We need to be innovative and come up with ways to communicate and support the work that needs to be done (like the Flint Property Portal Website)
How would you help the city navigate through the water crisis?
Listening and understanding all perspectives, educating myself and my constituents with information provided. Doing my due diligence in finding information that is not provided. Making informed decisions and casting votes that will best benefit the citizens of Flint.
What would your water source recommendation be?
I have been diligent in looking at articles and reports pertaining to our water. I am not certain that all options have been explored and exhausted. That being said, ALL residents have the right to safe, clean, affordable water as quickly as possible.
How satisfied are you with Flint’s current administration?
I am focused on how I can impact and satisfy the residents of the 7th ward and how we can cultivate a culture of partnership, improvement and empowerment.
Millions of dollars have been poured into the development of downtown Flint. How would you develop other areas of the city and what areas do you think need more focus?
I liken the development of downtown, the core of our city, to physical fitness. If you have a strong core, developing the strength of other muscles becomes easier and is more sustainable. We are working on our core and making progress but here needs to be more support in the communities outside of downtown. The Ruth Mott Foundation has recognized this and is leading by example with their investment in North Flint. Pastor Sanders of Fresh Start CDC and New Jerusalem and Rev. Dr. Flynn with North Flint Reinvestment Corporation and Foss Ave Baptist Church are doing tremendous community development in the Northside. I am excited to build a relationship with them and explore their success and challenges to date. I am certain myself, other leaders, neighborhoods and communities can learn a great deal from their work and experience. In addition, it is my understanding that the council plays a part in how the Community Development Block Grant dollars are distributed, having a process and criteria in place to allocate the dollars would better support our neighborhoods.
A complaint from some millennials is the lack of opportunity in Flint. How would you tackle that issue in hopes of keeping young people in Flint?
This is about perception checking and understanding people’s experiences and views. I am sure the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and seniors would have similar comments i.e. senior centers closing. Sitting down and listening to groups that have specific concerns is invaluable. I am not a Millennial or a Baby Boomer but I can build relationships understand why they feel a particular way, what specific opportunities do they want, to who do they need to connect and so on. Maybe the opportunity they want or need is out there but they aren’t aware of it. If the opportunity they want isn’t out there we can work together to come up with a solution
What is your opinion about blight in Flint and how would you tackle it?
I talk to many residents that aren’t even aware that we have a Blight Elimination Office and they are very busy. Can you imagine if even 10% more of the city population called to submit complaints? They are doing the best job they can with the resources they have but they are in the weeds (no pun intended). We need to utilize their staff, the Flint Property Portal, block clubs, neighborhood associations and individual residents to help identify ordinance violations, educate about the importance of blight elimination and help people see that our community deserves respect. We can tackle blight and other public safety issues with innovative minds, better communication and technology.
How would you build better communication with the administration in hopes of unifying the two bodies to work for the betterment of the Flint community?
I am a life-long learner, whether it be through relationships, professional development or my career. The City of Flint municipal body, both executive and legislative, is a reflection of our entire community and our community has been betrayed, ignored and left to figure things out on our own. We can figure things out but we cant if we don’t understand each other if we don’t trust each other and don’t help each other. At the risk of sounding like I am looking through rose colored glasses, there needs to be professional development around leadership, cultural competency, emotional intelligence, conflict resolution and most of all TRUST.
What are the top three top goals that you hope to accomplish as a City Council member?
Water is ground zero and that goes without saying, so I will include three others. First, I want to build a good working relationship the council members with whom I’d be serving, the administration, leaders and Flint residents so we can create a shared vision based on positive work that has been done and needs to be done. Secondly, I’d like to work with others to help bolster blight elimination and public safety. All residents deserve to feel safe. Feeling safe and cared for is a key factor in our citizens walking into their full potential. Last but not least, identifying better and more efficient ways of communicating that meet the needs of all residents, employees and departments of city hall. We can move forward at a faster pace if we are in lockstep. Clearly, there is a multitude of other issues but at this stage, I think these are goals to which I’d give a good amount of attention.
If there was one thing you could tell all Flint residents what would it be?
Wow, one thing. Hmm. Well, I’ll speak to my passion for this City. In reflecting on these questions, I could feel my heart pumping and the words just flowing out of me. At times, I was getting a bit emotional because of my personal experiences in Flint. I was thinking of the people and places that have shaped who I am and that have impacted my life. I am so thankful. I want my daughter to be able to have the same level of love for her City when she is older, I want that for all children growing up here. I want them to know they are cared for and that we want to pave the way for them. We need to remove barriers not create or contribute to them. There are WONDERFUL things about our city but usually the negative is louder than the positive. If our children are constantly exposed to the negative narratives, in fighting, self-promotion, crime and the lack of opportunity what desire do they have to build a future for themselves let alone this city? We are in survival mode. Survival means different things to different people relative their experience and reality. We have the power to make a change and we ALL have the deep passion to make it. Let’s use that to make positive impacts for everyone.