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Author Topic: Do we have too many counties?  (Read 20109 times)

hbelkins

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Re: Do we have too many counties?
« Reply #75 on: August 10, 2015, 12:29:24 PM »

Pike County has a satellite courthouse in the Belfry/South Williamson area.


You think that is a remnant of the era before Corridor G was finished?  It used to be, like, an hour over bad road to Pikeville.  Now its just a few minutes of safe and fast driving on a good road.

Highly possible. I remember it being there when the only four-lane sections were on either end between Pikeville and the state line.

There may also be a satellite courthouse at Phelps, but I'm not positive.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Do we have too many counties?
« Reply #76 on: August 10, 2015, 12:46:32 PM »

Kansas has 105 counties.  In 2009, a Democrat from Wyandotte County introduced a no-hoper bill to reduce the county count to 13:

http://wichitaliberty.org/kansas-government/steineger-introduces-kansas-county-consolidation-bill/

A year after this bill was introduced, Sam Brownback was elected governor, and one of his first signature measures was an employment subsidy program designed to curb rural depopulation, which is the main threat to the continued viability of the existing counties in western Kansas.  While there may be technocratic arguments in favor of county consolidation, policy is moving entirely in the opposite direction.

This is helped by the truly horrible quality of service the state provides in the major urban areas.  As an example, in the rural counties driver license renewal is handled in the county courthouses, so rural residents effectively have one driver's license bureau for as few as 1,300 people.  In Sedgwick County, which has a population just under 500,000, there are just two driver licensing bureaus, the second of which opened last year in Derby after years of complaints about the long waits at the original bureau in the moribund Twin Lakes shopping center at 21st and Amidon.  (Twin Lakes is just 2.6 miles from my house, per Google Maps.  The last time I had to renew my driver's license, I considered driving all the way to Wellington--40 miles--to have it done at the Sumner County courthouse.  In the end I drove 20 miles to the bureau in Andover, which is in Butler County but abuts the Sedgwick County line, and did it there.  Others have driven 30 miles to Newton only to be hit with "convenience fees" for being Wichita residents despite the fact that driver licensing is a statewide operation.)

In Kansas, counties have nothing to do with education and the vast majority of school districts are not coterminous with counties.  There are a total of 293 school districts, which are the result of several developments since 1950:  the abolition of ecclesiastical school districts (previously there were schools attached to churches that had standing as public schools, but this was eventually ruled contrary to the First Amendment), unification of elementary and high school districts, and forced consolidation of too-small school districts.  The latter two were mandated by the Kansas Legislature and carried out under the supervision of Adel F. Throckmorton, a dirigiste Republican appointee who had a long incumbency as the state Superintendent of Public Instruction.

As a result of these measures, which were originally pushed for the sake of efficiency, rural Kansas is now full of small towns where the folk memory is of the closure of the local high school touching off an extended period of decline.  It is partly for this reason that although both a Republican governor and a Republican legislature believe the state is spending far too much on non-classroom expenses for K-12 education, further consolidation of school districts is not even on the table.
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hbelkins

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Re: Do we have too many counties?
« Reply #77 on: August 11, 2015, 03:37:49 PM »

Thirteen counties for Kansas? I can't imagine the geographical nightmare that would be, especially in the rural parts of the state.
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J N Winkler

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Re: Do we have too many counties?
« Reply #78 on: August 11, 2015, 05:13:12 PM »

Here is the bill, which lays out the consolidation plan:

http://www.kansas.gov/government/legislative/bills/2010/198.pdf

I sketched it out in CorelDRAW, using USGS basemapping borrowed via the Wikipedia page on Kansas counties, and it is actually not an implausible scheme.  It does result in some very large counties outside northeastern Kansas.  However, with the exception of the middle county against the Nebraska border, no county is more than 150 miles wide in any direction.  All counties have a substantially convex shape.  The plan narrows the per-county population range significantly, from about 2,000-500,000 to about 30,000-700,000.

It doesn't matter, anyway:  in Kansas it will never be the aim of either the Republicans or the Democrats to search for efficiency savings in local government in western Kansas (where all of the underpopulated counties are) because further falls in the population would be the almost inevitable result.  Republicans don't want to give up western Kansas because it is their most reliable voting bloc, and Democrats are uncomfortable with job losses on economic grounds.
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