Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 86
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for May 3, 2001

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

Dear Editor

Recently, a news release from big-time politician appeared in your paper, touting the fact that the new center of population in the U.S. is in south-central Missouri. While I doubt that the politician in question had anything to do with overall national or state population movement, it did pique my curiosity about population trends in our immediate area. I visited our County Clerk’s office and obtained the population figures for each of Johnson County’s 15 townships.

What we’re seeing in Johnson County is ex-urbanization. While our larger towns are growing at a moderate rate and our smallest towns are losing population, rural areas are growing faster than towns and cities. Warrensburg township had the greatest total growth, the city’s growth rate (7.9%) was just over half the township’s non-urban rate (14.6%). The second largest township in actual numbers and the largest in growth rate was Jackson (Pittsville-Elm-rural Lone Jack area) with 1332 new residents, a rate of almost 60%. Second in rate was Montserrat township with 609 new residents and a growth rate of 58%. Chilhowee, Post Oak & Rose Hill townships showed substantial gains even though the towns of Chilhowee, Leeton and LaTour lost people. Overall, the rural growth rate was over 20% while the county as a whole was at around 13.5%.

The question arises as to what this means politically. As I’ve written before, any shifts in our legislative districts will depend on what has to be done to expand the boundaries of urban districts with shrinking populations. We know that we’ll remain in Ike Skelton’s congressional district so he can continue to dispense government largesse on Whiteman AFB. The boundary between our Eastern & Western Commissioner districts should be settled amicably since they all belong to the same political party. Our city council and school board are elected at large (but towns with wards will have to do some realigning).

The biggest uncertainty is how population shifts will affect local issues and taxes. If the new rural residents are city people moving out, will they again try to impose city life on the country by pushing zoning? What will be their attitude toward new taxes for the jail, the library, the schools? Will they shop in our towns if local sales taxes are raised for parks or other urban projects, or will they do most of their shopping in the K.C. area? It should prove an interesting year.

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