Interview with Kendal Killian, Uptown’s City Council Candidate

Reported by Mike Steffan from Gigi’s Café
Kendal Pic 4 Interview

Stubble: How did you first become politically interested?
Kendal: I started getting more actively involved in politics after my dad came out as gay when I was in high school. My siblings, my dad and I marched in the Millennium March on Washington for Gay Rights. Then three things happened in just a couple years. First, Bush stole the election, and then 9-11 and then Paul Wellstone died. I didn’t like the way things were headed and I realized I couldn’t make radical social change from the cheap seats, which is where I was literally spending most of my time – section 212 at Twins games.

Stubble: Why are you running for city council?
Kendal: I think we need a council member in Ward 10, in Uptown and Whittier, that respects all of us and all of our reasons for living here. I love Minneapolis. I love cities. I love everything about the urban environment. I think we can really build a progressive, inclusive city, and I’m excited to do that.

Stubble: If you win, what is your focus on day one of your tenure as Ward 10 councilor?
Kendal: The primary area I want to work on is equity issues. We have a severe gap in our society between the haves and the have-nots. Income equality is very severe, and is very pervasive in Minneapolis as well. In fact, by some measures, we have some of the widest gaps between persons of color and white folks in the nation, and that’s something I think that our city needs to address.

Stubble: So far you’ve earned the support of several prominent DFLers in the state. I have a two-part question for you: What does it look like to forge those kinds of relationships, and what does that mean for a city council race?
Kendal: For one, the endorsements are forged over the years through working hand-in-hand on projects, both policy and community wise, at the capitol, and on campaigns. For a city councilperson, it represents a relationship we’ll continue to have.

The city council doesn’t operate on an island, neither does the legislature, or Met Council, school board, park board, etc. so we have to work in collaboration. For example, on the renter’s credit, the renters do pay property taxes through the rent they pay to their landlords. Recently, the Republican led legislature greatly rolled back the renter’s credit to renters. 75% of the residents in Ward 10 are renters. It is an area where the ward 10 councilperson can work with the legislature to restore the renter’s credit and reduce the burden on renters who are predominantly low income starting out.

Stubble: Why do you think there is a disconnect between an average person’s understanding of how the federal government operates, and how local government operates?
Kendal: I think part of it is simply information. Between MSNBC, CNN, Huffington Post…you can’t move without hearing news of the sequester, for example, but it is much harder to follow local issues. There’s a lack of information and media about it. And with the decimation in recent years of local and community newspapers, the size of the information gap has increased.

Stubble: Do you think that lack of media coverage creates a scenario where the local political process suffers?
Kendal: To frame it in a positive way, more information creates a better form of citizenry that is more engaged. In that line, we make better decisions as a whole.

Stubble: Run me through a regular day of a city council member. What kind of authority, or power, does a councilor have?
Kendal: You know, it’s pretty interesting. City staff has a lot of authority over different things.. A councilor has a lot of power in their own ward. And often is the case, the rest of the council is deferential to the council of a specific ward issues specific to their ward. The councilor also wears another hat where they serve on different committees, and have leadership over that committee’s focus.

Stubble: Why do politics on this level even matter? What effect does a city councilor have on the average citizen’s day-to-day life?
Kendal: It is the closest level of government to the people. City councilor represents 29,000 individuals. The office, between the full time councilor and two staff people, that is 3:29,000 ratio. About 10,000:1. That is by far the lowest ratio of staff people to citizens as far as government is concerned.

But this covers everything from whether or not this restaurant is serving food following the right regulations, to having clean water, to having a bad landlord that is breaking code…all the way to public safety systems of fire and police. It is similar to being a good referee – your actions as a councilor might be invisible, but everyday there is a whole crew of people, whether as police, firepeople, or public works, they all contribute to allow us to carry out our own lives.

Stubble: From what I know of local campaigns, door-knocking is a must. How many doors do you need to knock to win?
Kendal: I’ve knocked 1,000 so far, and now I’m focusing right now on potential DFL delegates. There’s a series of phases to this campaign. We have the DFL caucus process, so we’re in the recruitment phase right now – finding and reminding folks to go to the caucuses which are on April 16th. There’s only 11 days in my race between caucus day and Ward 10 convention. Assuming I’m successful at the Ward 10 convention, the next phase then is the general election. In that time, I will be knocking on at least 20,000 more doors to spread the word.

Stubble: On a local level, it seems like it might not require a whole lot of funding, but there. Do you have a specific fundraising goal in mind, and how you get there?
Kendal: Overall, I think we’ll have to raise for the campaign $45,000. I’ve already raised a third of that. I am the top fundraising challenger in this race in 2012. [2012 being the only reporting period so far in the race]

Right now my focus has been on recruiting delegates for the caucus process, as you might imagine. It really is all about communicating. This money isn’t about TV ads, or special interests…This is about having the money to spread the information about my candidacy, and ultimately, to get the facts in the voters’ hands. This is a grass-roots, Wellstone-style campaign, and unfortunately, that isn’t free.

Stubble: What is your favorite restaurant/cafe/bar in Mpls?
Kendal: I like anywhere where the servers and the customers really know each other and obviously have real relationships. Where you can just feel the tightness of the community. I see that often at places like the Egg and I, the BLB, Muddy Waters, the CC Club, Lyle’s. As far as newer places, Republic is pretty great.

[Word Association]

Tap: Fulton Brewery
Splinters: home remodeling
St. Paul: boring!
Twins: Summer
Greg Jennings: My wife, Kelly. Huge packers fan. Is he now with the Vikings?
Hash Browns: Breakfast, Our Kitchen
Freedom: America!
Cookie Monster: Childhood.
Lyndale: Mainstreet, Ward 10!

Kendal Killian is running for City Council Ward 10, which represents Uptown and Whittier neighborhoods.

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