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The primary election on Aug. 2 will see Jackson County voters choose party candidates for nine legislator races, as well as the county executive. Winners will advance to the general Jackson County ballot in November. In the 2nd District, however, the winner of the Democratic primary will face no opposition in November and will become the new legislator for the district.
The 2nd District, which saw its boundaries redrawn in a redistricting process earlier this year, includes almost all neighborhoods east of Troost Avenue and north of 63rd Street, as well as Leeds and Raytown.
If elected, the candidate will become a member of the Jackson County Legislature, which is responsible for approving a yearly budget and for overseeing the county government, alongside the county executive and county manager.
When talking about their candidacy, the candidates discussed Jackson County’s tax assessment process, the county jail and government transparency, among other themes.
Running to represent the district are:
- Lorenzo Johnson, a former federal government employee in taxation services and a member of the advisory board at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
- Mitchell W. Sudduth, a business entrepreneur.
- Venessa Huskey, a former KC neighborhoods and communities liaison.
To help you prepare for the Jackson County ballot, the Beacon sent all three Democratic candidates a list of five questions about what they hope to accomplish as a legislator.
Responses have been edited for clarity, length and Associated Press style.
Click on a question to jump ahead:
- What new perspectives will you bring to the legislature?
- What will be the most important factors for you when making yearly budget decisions?
- How will you make yourself available to your constituents throughout your term?
- If elected, what are two or three specific things you plan to recommend to improve the county government?
- How has the legislature been successful in the past, and how do you think it can improve?
What new perspectives will you bring to the legislature?
Mitchell Sudduth: Because I am not a career politician, I will bring a clearer perspective of the people of Jackson County. My background demonstrates involvement in the community, entrepreneurship and the ability to take on tasks and issues and solve them objectively and creatively. As the former vice president of the Southtown Council I helped create events that helped businesses in midtown and south Kansas City thrive. As the chairman of the insurance committee for Neighborhood Housing Services, I created programs such as the “battery brigade,” going door-to-door and changing batteries in the smoke detectors. As an entrepreneur, I understand that sometimes [entrepreneurs] need support when starting a business and at key points in the business cycle.
Venessa Huskey: I developed relationships with all the neighborhoods and communities when I served as a Kansas City neighborhood and community liaison for eight years. I want to be accessible to the district I serve. Furthermore, I will attend meetings to listen to what is going on and I also intend to host at least one district meeting a year while serving my term with the county.
Lorenzo Johnson: I hold representation, accountability and integrity most important. The expenditures by the legislature should be a county need and not a personal endeavor for one’s own added credentials. As a person who has worked in government, I understand the need to avoid delays on worthy projects and closely working with an established budget.
What will be the most important factors for you when making yearly budget decisions?
Mitchell Sudduth: The most important factor when making the yearly budget is putting together a growth plan like a business to make sure Jackson County stays solvent so that we don’t have to drastically raise taxes affecting the elderly and low-income residents. Also, leveraging the monies from Jackson County to pay for neighborhood investment, job creation and allocating funds to new programs to reduce or solve root crimes.
Venessa Huskey: I do not want to make decisions that benefit you or me, but us. My budget decisions will be determined by up-to-date information about past events. My intention is to support budgets that will better the county.
Lorenzo Johnson: One of the factors when making a budget decision is the worthiness. Another factor would be the timeliness. The third and the most important factor is the benefit to the Jackson County taxpayers. A clear avoidance in the misappropriation of funds would involve a close attention to detail and a constant review of expenditures on all projects.
How will you make yourself available to your constituents throughout your term?
Mitchell Sudduth: I will have an open-door policy to talk to my constituents as well as have regular meetings twice a month to talk and answer questions that any resident from Jackson County can attend and brainstorm solutions.
Venessa Huskey: By U.S. mail, email and phone calls. An excellent working relationship with staff to vet their concern and obtain the specifics from the constituent by identifying what the issue is, how it affects the community and if the constituent supports or opposes the issue. I’m aware that concerned citizens and their attitudes can influence policy when it signals a dramatic change, especially when the public feels strongly on one side of an issue. They are expecting me to be their voice.
Lorenzo Johnson: This position is one that should be highly visible with a readiness to serve. The number one issue is responding to inquiries and requests as quickly as possible. It is important to inform the taxpayer on the projects we are considering and to acknowledge the benefits of that project. We must represent the people we serve and the only way we can successfully accomplish this is by listening.
If elected, what are two or three specific things you plan to recommend to improve the county government?
Mitchell Sudduth: Capping property taxes for the elderly and disabled, as well as instituting a maximum percentage increase for property taxes in a given year. More transparency. Cutting wasteful spending.
Venessa Huskey: First, increasing government transparency by proactive communication with Jackson County residents and making pertinent information available and in layman’s terms for clear understanding. Second, the county can focus on getting unhoused people shelter. We can be flexible to help people do what they can now with a commitment to making improvements over time.
Lorenzo Johnson: First, it is necessary that we find an immediate resolution in our property tax increases, which are very controversial and which we all sorely experienced, including myself. Second, to closely watch the expenditures on projects such as the new jail that was passed by the present legislature. Third, to improve and follow the process by which all projects are issued.
How has the legislature been successful in the past, and how do you think it can improve?
Mitchell Sudduth: The county raising and limiting the taxes in Lee’s Summit to a flat 14% was great in suburban areas. However, the up-to 1,000% tax increase in the urban core can be improved if the legislators apply the same rule to the urban core with a reasonable maximum cap so that it doesn’t hurt the residents in the urban core.
Venessa Huskey: Due to COVID American Rescue Plan Act funding, Jackson County improved public health with federal dollars. The balance of the fund is eligible to be used to invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. The county’s utilities are antiquated, and they can improve those services for the residents to use. In addition, the county may partner with the cities within the county to repave the main streets, thoroughfares and boulevards.
Lorenzo Johnson: I have noticed and praised the legislature for working together, regardless of their party affiliation, in progressing our county. The legislature needs to be even more responsive, available to the county residents, timely, clear, informative and relatable.