Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The 'Dotte

I’ve been here all my life (save four years where I moved 30 miles west to go to college), and I take living in KCK for granted. It’s just one of those things that has always been. I took a drive last night after dinner. Up Parallel, down Leavenworth Road.

It really made me think about my hometown.

There aren’t many people like me and my fiancée here--professionals with college degrees--at least not in the area where I live. What few young-ish professionals KCK does have live almost exclusively west of I-435, and I'd wager a lot of them are government employees and therefore live here as a condition of employment. Everyone with school-aged children who can afford to move away does so.

The school district has been in a slow decline for 20 years. Even my alma mater, Sumner, now registers ACT scores that hover around the national average. (When I attended, we had higher scores than ANY other high school in the metro.)

More and more storefronts are shuttered in the small strips of businesses I used to visit. Old grocery stores and bowling alleys are now churches, the congregations undoubtedly buying the derelict buildings for pennies on the dollar. Property values have plummeted in the last two years, and the home foreclosure rate is the highest in the metro.

Sure, there are pockets of hope. The Legends still exceeds expectations, although the casino’s last-minute withdrawal is hugely damaging. A trickle of people is moving to the Rosedale area with its proximity to the Plaza and Westport.

But overall, I shudder to think of what’s happening to my hometown.

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