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Census rejects city’s appeal of 2010 population totals; new Census numbers for Douglas County show growth slowed in 2012

I suppose all great disputes get to this point: the discussion of fecal matter.

That is what it has come to in the dispute between Lawrence City Hall and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The city and the Census Bureau still don’t agree on how many people live in Lawrence, and now it is official. The Census Bureau recently notified the city it has rejected the city’s appeal of the bureau’s 2010 Census findings for the city.

No matter, city officials are convinced their local data showing the city has a little more than 94,000 people is correct. And they have at least one unique piece of evidence to back it up: the weight of fecal matter.

City commissioners were told at their Tuesday meeting that the city has at least 30 years worth of data about how much “organic material” comes into the city’s sewer plant each year. (Yes, “organic material” is code for just what you are thinking.) Over the years, that number broken out on a per capita basis has remained pretty steady. Officials with the city’s utilities department told commissioners that the numbers they’re seeing tend to support the city’s population estimate more so than the Census Bureau’s count.

And that sounded good to city commissioners. (Well, maybe that’s not the best way to say that.) Regardless, the new direction for the city is to use the locally produced population estimates rather than relying on data from the Census that local officials now question.

The difference is significant. In 2010, the Census found the city had 87,643 people. The city believed it had about 90,000 people. The city’s Planning Department now estimates the city’s 2013 population to be 94,586 people. The Census hasn’t produced a 2013 population estimate yet, but the city expects it to be around 90,000 people. That’s a difference of about 5 percent.

And the difference likely will get bigger as more years pass because all the estimates use the 2010 total as a baseline. By 2020, who knows how much the Census Bureau and the city will disagree on the city’s population. The numbers have an impact on federal grants and that sort of thing, but the city also needs a good population number to do good planning. Like for a $64 million sewage treatment plant that the city gave preliminary approval to on Tuesday. (That’s why fecal matter data was so readily available, in case you are wondering.)

Population growth is one factor — although not the only one — in the city’s decision to move forward on the large project. The city is betting on a new era of growth. There’s a case to be made for that, but the city can’t point to Census data as a reason for their optimism.

With this appeal now in the books, the decade of the 2000s is now officially the slowest growth period for Lawrence since the Great Depression. The city grew at a rate of 0.9 percent a year for the decade of the 2000s, well below the more than 2 percent annual growth rates the city experienced in the 1980s and 1990s.

As for who is right and who is wrong in this dispute, I don’t know. The fecal data is interesting (never know what phrases you are going to write in this job), but it may not be the best indicator. As utility officials admit, not all of that material is human waste and not all of it comes from households. For example, when Hallmark starts producing more cards and envelopes as part of its Lawrence expansion, that project is expected to produce waste that is the equivalent of about 500 additional people. So, you can see how the numbers may be tough to interpret.

The Census Bureau, though, hasn’t done much to increase its credibility either. In notifying the city it was rejecting its appeal, the bureau did admit that it had messed up the count in some areas of town. But the Census is contending that it got the total count for the city right, but it didn’t allocate that population to some of the neighborhoods correctly. City officials have raised their eyebrows at that.

Tuesday’s meeting and its fecal content did produce a few good jokes from commissioners — mainly about how the city may want to offer its “weighing pooh” method to the Census Bureau.

What won’t be funny is if the city plans for and budgets for a lot of growth, and then it doesn’t happen. We’ll see who gets the last laugh — in about a decade or so.


These numbers are just in this morning, so I thought I would add them on here. The Census Bureau has released it 2012 population estimates for Douglas County.

The new numbers won’t do anything to settle the dispute. If anything, they just add to it.

The Census Bureau found that from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012, Douglas County grew at a rate even slower than the rate the 2010 Census found.

The 2012 Douglas County population estimate checks in at 112,864 people, an increase of just 620 people for the year. That’s a growth rate of 0.5 percent. The 2010 Census found Douglas County during the decade of the 2000s grew at an average annual rate of about 1 percent. So now the Census Bureau is estimating we’re growing at about half that rate.

Oh, fecal matter.

Perhaps, the problem is we just don’t have enough purple. The new numbers show population growth around Kansas State University continues to boom. Manhattan’s metro area had a 2.8 percent population increase for the year, the 10th fastest for any metro area in the country.

Geary County, home to Junction City, had an increase of 7.4 percent for the year, the third fastest growth rate of any county in the country.

Douglas County did better than several other places, though. Several counties around us declined for the year. Here’s a look at the numbers for some other area counties:

— Johnson County 559,913 people (1.2 percent growth)

— Leavenworth: 77,739 (0.7 percent increase)

— Wyandotte: 159,129 ( 0.7 percent increase)

— Sedgwick: 503,899 (0.5 percent increase)

— Shawnee 178,991 (less than 0.1 percent increase)

— Franklin County 25,906 (less than 0.1 percent decline)

— Jefferson County 18,945 (0.2 percent decline)

— Osage County: 16,142 (1.1 percent decline)
Reply 23 comments from Tange Boston_corbett Down_the_river 50yearresident Smileydog Richard Heckler David Holroyd Kuguardgrl13 Patkindle Elliottaw and 10 others

Lecompton and Downtown Lawrence’s Christmas parade both garner national media attention; Lawrence ranks low in new per capita income report, while Manhattan soars

News and notes from around town:

• Forget the fiscal cliff, forget the Middle East conflict, heck, even forget Black Friday (I wish I could). The national media finally has found a worthy place to sink its teeth into: Douglas County.

Lawrence and Douglas County have received a pair of high-profile articles from the national media in recent days.

At the top of the list is little Lecompton and its tireless top-hat-clad promoter. If you have ever been to an event in Lecompton, chances are you either met or at least saw Paul Bahnmaier, president of the Lecompton Historical Society. Well, now so too has The New York Times.

The Times last week ran an article on Lecompton and Bahnmaier’s efforts to get the town of about 600 people national recognition as Steven Spielberg’s film “Lincoln” hits the big screen.

The movie is based on the book “Team of Rivals,” which mentions Lecompton and the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution that set in motion a series of political events that would culminate with Lincoln’s election.

Bahnmaier has been contacting media outlets throughout the state and region, urging them to take a look at Lecompton’s history.

As he told The Times, Lecompton should not play second fiddle to more well-known Civil War sites such as Fort Sumter, Gettysburg or Appomattox.

“None of those places would be important had the events not occurred here in Lecompton,” Bahnmaier told The Times.

The article is a good primer on Lecompton’s importance in the broader picture of the Civil War and Lincoln’s rise to power. But even more than that, it is just nice recognition for a man who has devoted himself to ensuring Lecompton’s important role in national history is not forgotten.

By the sound of things, Bahnmaier has gotten fairly excited about the surge in national interest in Lecompton. The Times’ article revealed that Bahnmaier routinely dines on a turkey sandwich at Kroeger’s Country Meats in Lecompton. But on a recent afternoon, “he was so excited about the possibility of national coverage of the town’s history that he allowed himself a quarter-pound cheeseburger.”

Now, that’s pretty excited.

The second recent article has organizers of Lawrence’s Old-Fashioned Christmas Parade excited. The parade will make its way down Massachusetts Street for the 20th time at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

The folks at USA Today named the parade as one of “10 Great Places to Put a Spin on the Christmas Spirit.” The article promotes the parade as one of the few places where you can still get that old-fashioned Christmas feel.

Lawrence, however, has some interesting competition. One is The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The hotel is Christmas themed all year round. It features a singing Santa and a nearby gift shop that has “tens of thousands” of holiday accessories.

That sounds like pure Hell. It may be the only hotel in the country where Norman Bates visiting your shower may improve your stay.

Then there is something called Dickens on the Strand in Galveston, Texas. It involves people dressed up in the Victorian clothing of Dickens’ era. It also includes something called “bed races.”

No thank you. My wife had me train for one of those once. It involved me on a roll-away cot, my basement stairs and her giving me a big push.

I knew there was a reason I never liked Dickens.

• There is a new report out that probably won’t cause Lawrence to garner any national headlines. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has released its estimates for 2011 per capita income in each of the country’s 366 metro areas.

Lawrence isn’t likely to land on any “best of” lists in this category. The Lawrence metro area — which is all of Douglas County — has a per capita income of $33,379, which ranks it 271 out of the 366 metro areas. There is good news though. Lawrence’s per capita income grew in 2011, which was not the case in 2010. In fact, for the first time since 2007, every metro area in the country saw an increase in per capita income. Lawrence’s per capita income grew by 3.5 percent for the year. Nationally, however, the average metro area saw its per capita income grow by 4.3 percent. If those are the Joneses up ahead, we’re not keeping up.

I’ll tell you a community that is, though: Manhattan. Our friends in the K-State capital now have an average per capita income of $43,593. That’s right, folks in Manhattan have about $10,000 more in per capita income than folks in Lawrence. (This is normally where I would make some sort of math-related joke involving Wildcats, but it appears they understand math better than we do.) Manhattan’s per capita income growth rate was 6.4 percent in 2011, and the city now has the 55th highest per capita income of any metro area in the country.

And you thought the beating we took on the football field was bad.

Lawrence leaders long have pointed to the city’s role as a university community as a drag on per capita income. There are certainly many university communities that suffer from low per capita incomes as the result of students who drag down the average. But anymore, it seems there are just as many university communities that have diversified their economies and have negated the downward income pressure create by low-earning students.

Here’s a look at several communities. Some are university towns, while others are not. I mainly picked regional communities and others I thought you would be interested in:

— Lawrence: $33,379; 3.5 percent growth — Ames, Iowa: $37,429; 6.1 percent growth — Austin, Texas: $40,455; 3.9 percent growth — Boulder, Colo.: $51,893; 3.7 percent growth — Columbia, Mo.: $37,350; 4.1 percent growth — Iowa City, Iowa: $41,277; 6.1 percent growth — Jefferson City, Mo.: $35,453; 3.2 percent growth — Joplin, Mo.: $31,408; 3.9 percent growth — Kansas City Mo./Kan.: $43,062; 3.9 percent growth — Lincoln, Neb.: $39,018; 4.8 percent — Lubbock, Texas: $34.573; 1.9 percent growth — Manhattan: $43,593; 6.4 percent growth — Oklahoma City, Okla.: $40,002; 5.9 percent growth — Omaha, Neb.: $44,470; 4.4 percent growth — St. Joseph, Mo.: $34,189; 4.8 percent growth — Springfield, Mo.: $33,302; 4.1 percent growth — Topeka: $37,765; 5.2 percent growth — Tulsa, Okla.: $42,236; 6.8 percent growth — Waco, Texas: $33,943; 2.7 percent growth — Wichita: $38,568; 4.4 percent growth

Reply 26 comments from Kiferghost Thinking_out_loud Optimist Flloyd Richard Heckler David Holroyd Average William McCauley Lathrup Rushbok and 6 others