Archive for Thursday, August 9, 2007

City of De Soto to step up in class

August 9, 2007

Prodded by a Kansas Attorney General's opinion, the De Soto City Council started the process toward stepping up in classification but would prefer to pass on the most significant change the action could bring.

Last Thursday, the De Soto City Council approved a charter ordinance that would reclassify the city from its current third-class status to second class.

The ordinance will now be forwarded to Gov. Kathleen Sebelius office for her signature.

That's not likely to be a problem because state statute requires Kansas cities change from third- to second-class cities when their populations exceed 5,000.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates De Soto population at June 2005 to be 5,244, and it is the opinion of the Kansas Attorney General's Office that those annual estimates should trigger a change to a city's classification.

City Attorney Patrick Reavey said the city started work to recodify city ordinances and it made sense to change the city's classification at the beginning of that process rather than return at a later date to amend all class references.

The change in classification is mostly meaningless because there are few statutory distinctions between second- and third-class cities and it won't have an affect on the city's fiscal practices, Reavey said. The one exception, however, is a possible change in how city council members are elected.

City council members in third-class cities are elected to at-large seats. In second-class cities, two members of the council are elected to at-large seats and four are elected to represent wards. With De Soto's current population, wards would be drawn so that council members would serve about 1,300 people.

However in a suggestion that appealed to council member, the council could pass a charter ordinance exempting the city from the ward requirement, Reavey said.

Mayor Dave Anderson favored the move because the current system allows the best candidates to serve regardless of where they live.

Councilwoman Mitra Templin said an advantage to the ward system was that it would guarantee all parts of the city representation on the council. During her first two years on the council, there was no one on the body who lived in that part of the city served by the De Soto Fire Department or hooked to the city wastewater system, she said.

"We made decisions about both those departments," she said. "We're going to have to go to wards at some time."

But, she also had concerns about the number and quality of candidates in the near future.

It was agreed that Reavey would bring back a charter ordinance for the council's Aug. 16 meeting exempting the city from the ward requirement. As with all charter ordinances, the action will be subject to a protest petition, and it, too, will have to get the governor's signature.

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