WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — KSN News sent a questionnaire to each candidate facing a challenger in the November general election. We have not made any edits to the candidate’s answers.


Biographical Information:

Lacey Cruse

Click here to read candidate’s biography.

Campaign website/Facebook/Social Media:

LaceyCruse.com

What do you think should be done to help residents dealing with high costs?

As a County Commissioner, I believe we should work to pass property tax relief programs for qualified elderly and disabled homeowners living on a fixed income. In addition, the county should consider responsibly minimizing or eliminating altogether regulations where possible to drive economic growth and reduce costs for small businesses.

Affordable housing is at an all-time low, and rising inflation drives citizens out of their homes. In my next term, I will work to create responsible and ethical incentives to spur the development of affordable, quality housing that families can afford. Additionally, housing programs operated by the City of Wichita, Sedgwick County, and the nonprofit sector need support communicating the resources they offer. Finally, we must do a better job educating the community on the local housing resources available and encourage the development of more mixed-use housing options.

What can be done to improve the local economy?

Access to mental health care, addiction treatment, and affordable housing is economic development. We must get a hold of the mental health and addiction challenges plaguing this community. You do that by funding prevention services, increasing wages for those in this field, and working to fund education opportunities to recruit talent. We can not arrest our way out of this issue we have to focus on outcomes and modernizing a struggling system.

Another way of improving our local economy is to focus on locally sourced foods and growers to keep money local. Additionally, the county should work with state and federal partners to make the most of the federal infrastructure bill to expand broadband access. Finally, County government has got to stop rubberstamping tax dollars and look at equitable ways to ensure that the same opportunities are afforded to everyone.

What are your thoughts on Wichita’s decriminalizing marijuana and its effect on the County? 

I think we need to work with our City partners and do it responsibly. But, unfortunately, it’s taken a political turn that has to stop so the citizens and law enforcement receive a clear message about what it means for both governments. We are already working on some clear messaging that will be released soon.

What do you want to see done regarding:

  • Mental health issues in the community?

I want to see less talk and more action by selecting a site for the new behavioral crisis facility run by the county known as Comcare. I will work to ensure the location of the county behavioral crisis center expansion is selected based on the research and data produced and presented by the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition. As the only Commissioner who was an integral part of the development of this plan, I am the most qualified Commissioner to help ensure the site for this $15,000,000 asset doesn’t fall into the hands of developers with less than ideal motivates. Using best practices, data, and research as a guide, we have an opportunity to serve those with the greatest need, and we can ensure equal access for all citizens by selecting an appropriate site.

The Integrated Care Team, also known as ICT1, needs to be fully funded and operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I will work to make that happen during my next term. Had that Integrated Care Team been online 24/7, Cedric Lofton would still be alive.

  • Fentanyl? Drug addiction?

The county can convene substance abuse professionals to strategize the best use of the opioid settlement monies and focus on harm reduction initiatives. For example, the County should support Safe Streets and its initiatives to increase accessibility and utilization of naloxone, help to facilitate greater access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT) after incarceration, increase access to fentanyl contamination testing, and improve syringe services programs.

  • Homelessness?

This community is suffering from a lack of affordable housing, and in District 4, we see neighbors suffering from addiction, mental illness, and homelessness. I will work to create 150 additional permanent supportive apartments by bolstering development opportunities through ethical and equitable incentive programs. In addition, I will work with our Continuum of Care social services sector to bring the Community Solutions Built for Zero initiative here. This program is successful in 14 cities around the nation in terms of ending chronic and veteran homelessness.

Another way we help the most vulnerable is by creating a “Social Service Hub.” Similar to a co-working space for entrepreneurs, a Social Service Hub would provide resources for housing, mental and physical health, job placement, ID recovery, and addiction treatment all in one place.

A Social Service Hub reduces missed appointments and transportation challenges. In addition, by improving connection opportunities, we will reduce the taxpayer burden by serving individuals with community-based services instead of the costly and ineffective criminal justice system.

What are your thoughts on:

  • Sedgwick County law enforcement?

We need to bolsiter prevention programs so people are diverted from jail in the first place. I will continue to drive the conversation around expanding specialty courts to include a veteran, mental health, and domestic violence court. As we have seen with our drug court, alternatives to incarceration produce better outcomes, thus reducing the burden on taxpayers.

  • The jail?

(See previous answer.)

  • Juvenile detention?

As mentioned above about bolstering prevention services, we must be doing everything we can to keep kids out of juvenile detention and as we all saw with the death of CJ Lofton, need to make sure we are treating children in the community as best as we can before it escalates to the point of a homicide in Juvenile Intake facility.

The County needs to honor the commitment it made at the beginning to support the task force’s suggestions. That means conducting an outside investigation and supporting a review of the “Stand your Ground” law relating to in-custody deaths. By fulfilling the commitment, we will take tangible steps towards systematic change, show our community we hear them, and not stall on the suggested changes.

What are your thoughts on election integrity in Sedgwick County? Across the United States? Would you change the election process, and how?

I do believe our elections are safe and secure but are wholly underfunded. I would vote to increase the pay for poll workers and fund recruitment efforts to increase the number of workers at each polling location. During the August 2nd primary, the Lynwood Recreation Center saw wait times of longer than 3 hours. No voter should be waiting in line that long, especially parents with small children because only a few poll workers are available.

What do you consider to be the biggest issues facing Sedgwick County, and how would you address them?

Our workforce challenges are very glaring, but in reality, Sedgwick County has a culture problem. Every member of county government, especially in management, needs to take routine and regular classes around unconscious and implicit bias, cultural awareness, anti-racism, anti-harassment, anti-sexism, and LGBTQ & Transgender Inclusion, to name a few. In addition to this regular training, the county must reevaluate how equity plays out in spending tax dollars. So, in my next term, I will drive action with tough, uncomfortable conversations because that is how to build an equitable and inclusive county government.