INDEPENDENCE, KAN. Residents urged legislators to put Montgomery County back in the same congressional district with the rest of southeast Kansas.
The occasion was a public hearing Tuesday, held by legislators who have the task of redrawing the state's four congressional, 40 state Senate, 125 state House and 10 State Board of Education districts, using 2000 census figures.
Legislators were told that Montgomery County has more in common with cities such as Pittsburg, Chanute and Fort Scott than with Wichita.
"Southeast Kansas is a single community of interest, a region of small towns, small newspapers, light manufacturing, small farms," said Tim Emert, former Senate majority leader from Independence. "We face rural problems, not urban problems."
Montgomery County was included in the 4th District in 1992 when the boundaries were last drawn. The district includes Wichita, the state's largest city. Before that, Montgomery County was in the old 5th District, but the state lost a congressional seat after the 1990 census.
Emert said Montgomery County has little in common with the 4th District's urban core. He noted that Independence does not get its news from Wichita, but from television stations in Pittsburg, Joplin, Mo., and Tulsa, Okla.
Others said the region has worked together for improved highways and economic development.
Rochelle Chronister, a former legislator and secretary of Social and Rehabilitation Services, said Montgomery County is always included in the nine-county core identified as southeast Kansas.
The other eight counties are Allen, Bourbon, Cherokee, Crawford, Labette, Neosho, Wilson and Woodson.
To illustrate the point, Chronister included a list of nearly 30 associations and organizations that include Montgomery as a fixture of the region.
Sen. Dwayne Umbarger, R-Thayer, said the region is experiencing an economic rebound, including Montgomery County where Amazon.com and Cessna Aircraft Co. have invested heavily in their operations.
Umbarger, who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the ties between the region's community colleges and Pittsburg State University illustrated the interdependence between the levels of higher education.
Still, he said, there most residents are pleased with current representation and boundaries. Umbarger, who lives in the 2nd District but represents residents in both the 2nd and 4th, added that there "is no groundswell" to move Montgomery.