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Candidates differ on issues facing Missouri

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net

Jon Patterson seeks a second term as the District 30 representative in the Missouri State House, and the Republican is opposed by a fellow northern Lee’s Summit resident in Democrat Art Schaaf.

Jon Patterson

Patterson, a surgeon, has been endorsed by several business groups, including the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. Schaaf, a first-time candidate, is retired from the Air Force after serving as both an enlisted and commissioned member, during which time he commanded a police security unit. 

Art_Schaaf

“I’ve always been interested in making things better, and just the way things are right now we need to look at different alternatives,” Schaaf said.

The 30th District includes the Lakewood area of Lee’s Summit, as well as five precincts in south Independence and parts of Blue Springs. The election is Nov. 3. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., and many people are voting in advance.

Patterson said he supports Amendment 3, which would overturn parts of the “Clean Missouri” amendment voters approved in 2018. Clean Missouri includes a nonpartisan demographer in addition to a bipartisan commission in the process of drawing legislative districts after the census. If nothing else, Patterson said, Amendment 3 double-checks one of the issues of “Clean Missouri.”

“One of the problems of Clean Missouri is it had so many things, and you can’t be sure what voters wanted for sure,” he said. “What was attractive was the lobbyist gift ban.”

“If Clean Missouri had been one issue and people overwhelmingly voted for it, then critics would be correct – it is trying to overturn the will of the people. If people trusted voters in 2018, they have to trust voters in 2020.”

Schaaf said Amendment 3 would undo the voters’ will, “and that’s not what government’s there for. It’s there to make sure the people’s will is carried out.”

On Gov. Mike Parson’s long-stated priorities of infrastructure maintenance and workforce development, Schaaf said he would like to see more done with road and bridge maintenance, though locally he has seen strides with educating the workforce.

“One of things concerned I’m about is not only attracting good businesses, but also educating a good workforce,” he said. “Training isn’t just ending at age 18; it continues lifelong, to set people up to be able to transition.” 

Patterson cited the federal grant obtained to eventually repair the critical Interstate 70 Rocheport bridge over the Missouri River, as well as Parson’s bonding to secure future funds for infrastructure maintenance. The Fast Track Workforce Incentive Grant program, designed for adults over the age of 25, can be a boon for developing workers in high-need areas, Patterson said.

Patterson said he believes Parson’s measured statewide response to COVID-19 has been appropriate, noting that “hindsight’s always 20/20 and we’re working with the information we have at the time.”

“Things can always be better,” but the change in national advice over time about masks simply illustrates how fast information about the virus can change, he said.

Schaaf said the statewide response has been a “miserable failure, just like at federal level.” He said he was disappointed that Patterson, given his profession and his post as chair of the House special committee on the coronavirus, didn’t host any public hearings on the matter.

“We’ve got to control the spread of the virus,” Schaaf said. “It’s pain now or pain later, but either way you’ve got to make the sacrifice.”

Patterson said he believes the state’s education funding has been good with the current formula.

“We invested $6 billion in K-12 education, and it’s fully funded,” he said. “I think it works and I think we should make sure it’s funded every year.”

Schaaf said education funding and workforce development often go hand-in-hand. Charter schools, he said, can often be a drain on funding.

“It all runs together, educating students and maintaining what we have,” he said. “The funding might be more robust, but it’s withdrawal before it gets to schools that hurts. We need to make tech schools more robust.

“The will is there,” he said. “We just need to understand, people should have a brain skill and a hands-on skill. Companies are trying to be flexible by necessity.”