Archive for Monday, November 8, 2004

Worth watching

Changes taking place in Topeka’s local government may prove instructional for Lawrence and Douglas County residents.

November 8, 2004

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It will be interesting for local residents to follow the evolution of Topeka's city government in light of the approval of two measures on Tuesday that sets the stage for significant changes in the years to come.

First, Topeka residents voted to change their form of government from the current strong mayor-council format to a council-manager system. The new format will transfer most of the mayor's administrative power to a hired city manager. The new system is much like Lawrence's commission-manager format except the Topeka city council will have nine members plus the mayor.

The manager-council system puts a professional administrator in charge of day-to-day city operations and probably was attractive to Topeka voters, at least in part, because of problems that drove their last mayor to resign in the middle of an ouster action. Topekans also may hope the new form of government will help their city become more efficient and competitive with Lawrence and other cities.

The switch to a council-manager government, however, may be short-lived for Topeka. Also on Tuesday, Shawnee County voters agreed to seek appointment of a commission to form a plan to consolidate the functions of their county government with Topeka city government.

This move could be similar to the action that formed the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan., several years ago. Although Douglas County voters may not be ready to consider such action now, the fact that such a proposal may be in our future warrants our careful observation of events to the west.

Lawrence and Douglas County are fortunate to have government bodies that serve them well, but, as the saying goes, "nothing is constant except change."

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