Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2001

Census numbers cause state to restructure Legislative districts

March 29, 2001

State Rep. Ray Cox has seen many changes during his five terms in Topeka, but one of the most noticeable changes is the growth experienced within his district.

Cox, whose district stretches across three counties, knew his district was growing, and the census data released recently only reaffirmed his beliefs.

In 1992, when Cox was first elected to his seat, the district he represented had about 18,000 residents. According to data from the 2000 census, that same district has grown to about 30,000 people, which is an increase of 12,000 people in nine years.

Cox's district encompasses parts of Wyandotte County, Johnson County and Leavenworth County. In terms of cities, Cox represents the northern part of Olathe, Lenexa, western Shawnee, Bonner Springs, Linwood and Basehor.

Cox said the ideal district probably takes into account about 21,000 people. Although he said having such a large geographical area to cover sometimes makes his job difficult, Cox said there are other districts where population changes are even more evident. In the 27th district, Rep. Ray Merrick's area has grown to more than 60,000.

A special committee on redistricting has been formed, and Cox said he expects that his district will become smaller. The most likely place for the cuts to come will be somewhere in Johnson County, Cox said. He is the only representative of a Johnson County city who does not live in the county.

"I don't know how it's going to play out," Cox said. "I think the nine years I've been in, I've done a pretty good job of representing all three counties."

Cox said he is in favor of redistricting to keep districts smaller because they are more manageable that way. He believes the smaller a district is, the better representation the constituents in that district receive. Although he does not have the final say in how his district ends up being structured, Cox said all representatives do have the opportunity to give input into the redistricting process.

Cox's current term expires in 2002. He said he has not decided yet on whether to pursue a sixth term in office, but believes representing his tri-county district has given him some unique experiences he might not have had otherwise.

"It's really been an interesting district," Cox said. "You can imagine the cross-section of the community you get."

Cox said his current district encompasses homes priced under $100,000 all the way up to homes in the $1 million range in Olathe's Cedar Creek neighborhood. He has also worked with several different labor groups.

Cox said one of the most challenging projects he has worked on while in office is trying to stop the Kansas Department of Transportation's proposal for the K-7 Highway and Interstate 70 corridor in Bonner Springs. Thus far, Cox is pleased to have held off KDOT from proceeding with the project for more than a year now.

"It has just literally engulfed me these last couple years," Cox said. "It's taken so much of my time and effort, literally."

Despite KDOT's past refusals to work with the city of Bonner Springs to negotiate a compromise between their plans, Cox vowed not to give up the fight.

"It's still not over yet," Cox said. "I will fight them until the bitter end."

Cox said if he had to pick out one thing he was most proud of accomplishing while in office, it would be the establishing of a counseling network for family members effected by Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. When the process of developing a counseling network began, Kansas was one of only four states without such a group. Now, the state's SIDS counseling network is based in Wichita, and Cox said he is hopeful it will quickly expand statewide.

"It doesn't get headlines, but it's probably one of the more satisfying things I've been involved with."

In the future, two of Cox's major goals are to help get slot machines at the Woodlands and revamp the formula for education funding within the state.

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