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A Conversation With … Abe McGull

Springfield Councilman and Assistant U.S. Attorney

Posted online

You’ve had a career in public service, serving in the Navy and the U.S. attorney’s office and as a mayor, journalist and state prosecutor. Why did you run for City Council?
There are two positions in a city that have more impact on all the citizens: being on a school board and being on a city council. Those two entities direct the future of the city … in terms of the policies that we develop, the ordinances that we pass and police and fire protection. I learned the impact of citizens’ participation in their local government from my mother. She made me mow the lawns of the widows in the neighborhood, and she told me one thing: You can’t take a dime from them. All you can take is a cold glass of water. It taught me a valuable lesson.

Representing Zone 2, do you have any areas of specialty or an agenda you’re focused on?
Being on City Council is like taking a drink from a fire hose. Every day you have a myriad of issues. As a leader, you try to instill good systems that work to make the city grow. You want to have lower taxes, we want to have good business relationships so we can hire our citizens for various jobs in the community, and you want good schools. Every elected official should listen to their constituents but also listen to the city. It’s talking to us all the time. It’s saying that this particular area, even though it was zoned as residential, it has developed into a commercial area. Elected officials should look at that growth and look at that change and develop policies that help foster that growth and productivity.

Council is currently discussing regulations to recently legalized medical marijuana facilities. What’s your take on the distance requirements from day care centers and schools, and do you see council taking further actions?
The recent bill that was being considered by my colleague, Craig Hosmer, I think is an acceptable compromise with the various constituencies. We may tweak it a little bit more. Most businesses want a definite certainty as to what is defined as a day care facility. And they should have that because you’re making a sizable investment in a community, so you want some kind of predictability. We are going to make sure the implementation of this new nascent industry fits well within the Springfield construct.

Council also recently discussed permits for payday lenders. What’s your take on council’s role in regulating this industry?
We should, as a City Council, perhaps look at how much information a particular borrower really had when they were making that decision to get a payday loan. Do they know the terms upon default? Those terms should be very clear. We do the same thing in the housing industry when you have to sign a closing statement. Why can’t we do the same thing for a payday loan? I don’t think the city should be in the business of picking and choosing what businesses are good or bad. Without these payday loans, most of these citizens who are higher risk won’t have any place to go. Some of the other financial institutions are not stepping up to the plate.

Tell me about your work with the U.S. attorney’s office.
I’ve been with the U.S. attorney’s office now almost 20 years. We prosecute cases in which there’s a federal offense. It could be importation of drugs, public corruption or terrorism cases. [U.S. Attorney] Tim [Garrison] has implemented a plan where we have a zero tolerance on violent crime. We have implemented a plan where we’re taking guns out of the hands of the most violent criminals in the Western District of Missouri. We also are very aggressive in terms of a prosecution of drug cases. Nothing can deteriorate a community quicker than the proliferation of drugs.

Abe McGull can be reached at amcgull@springfieldmo.gov.

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