THE CITY MANAGER PLAN IN
BY HENRY M. ALEXANDER
Charter revisions have been frequent in Kansas City.
It may be that this frequency is a reflection of the city's
rapid growth. At all events the structure and form of the
city's government have received much public attention.
The city government has been cast in many molds. "Tinkering with the charter" has been a popular pastime. A Democratic election commissioner, commenting in 1917 upon this
circumstance, complained that "every sixty days the 'nuts'
in this town want a new charter."
The first permanent settlement upon the present site of
Kansas City was made 118 years ago. This frontier community, known for twenty-nine years as Westport Landing,
was officially christened the Town of Kansas by the county
court of Jackson county on February 4, 1850. Three years
later the name was changed again. The Town of Kansas
then became the City of Kansas by special act of the State
legislature. This statute, enacted in 1853, was the first formal
charter of the municipality. The present name of the city
was acquired in 1889. The City of Kansas inherited little
from the Town of Kansas. Old records show a cash balance
of $7.22 in the municipal treasury. During the first year of
its corporate existence the City of Kansas collected less than
$5,000 in taxes.
Charter revisions were facilitated and even encouraged
by the general home rule provisions of the State constitution
adopted in 1875. These constitutional provisions, applying
only to cities with a population of over 100,000, enabled any
*This paper is listed as Research Paper Number 656, Journal Series, University of Arkansas. The author has here drawn freely upon material in his
study of Council-Manager Government in Kansas City, a doctoral dissertation
written in 1933 and 1934 at the University of Missouri and published in microfilm. Documentary source materials are there indicated. He wishes here to
acknowledge his indebtedness to Mr. Walter Matscheck, former director of the
Kansas City Civic Research Institute, for material taken from articles published
by him in the National Municipal Review and in Public Management.