The Northland is a tale of two counties, Platte and Clay. Both are north of the Missouri River. Both possess a rich frontier history and are now leading growth areas for the City of Kansas City. Each has notable suburban cities, too. But when it comes to county government, in the past few decades they have differed. Platte County has experienced snags, political maneuvers and the occasional lightweight office holder. But those are minor skirmishes compared to the political brawling, lawsuits and recycling of the same old combatants as officeholders in Clay County. So we will watch with interest the outcome as our neighbors to the east vote Tuesday on whether or not to form a new, charter form of County government. Some former officeholders in Clay are leading the charge for change. Some current officeholders are fighting it tooth and claw. If approved by a simple majority, Clay’s three-member County Commission would become a seven-member Council. Elections would be non-partisan, meaning at least on the ballot a party affiliation such as Democrat, Republican or Tea Party would not be listed or matter. Some elected offices that require specific business management skills would in theory be appointed positions based on merit. The Kansas City Star’s report said this will be the third time since 2003 that Clay County voters have gone to the polls to decide this issue. My memory is that this issue has surfaced more times than that and dates to the early 1990s. You wonder if what begins in Clay eventually meanders over to Platte? We’ve always been more rural and far slower to develop than Clay County. That’s the result of bridges, highways and blue collar employment at Claycomo, in North Kansas City or south of the River in the old industrial Blue River valley factories. Perhaps size made the politics more intense. But Platte County’s recent growth, affluence and the highly visible KCI corridor have evened the counties somewhat and that includes political stakes. The charter issue with some elected offices replaced by appointments is interesting. I’ve known some talented and dedicated officeholders in Platte County through the years. Taxpayers got more than their money’s worth. Then again, there were a few officials that barely kept a chair warm and relied on staff to hold the pieces together. Every once in a while, a political party would run a candidate as a nuisance to the opposition, and to everyone’s surprise, they would win. Then they would resign because they didn’t really want the job in the first place. State law dictates how much everyday business is conducted in the Courthouse. In theory, a council hiring some clerical and fiscal managers rather than voters rolling the dice makes sense. But that’s assuming the council isn’t packed by a political faction with big-money-backing picking their friends for jobs. Nothing is ever as simple as it seems to the coffee shop critic. At the County Commission level, some Platte Commissioners made the office a full-time job and others worked it in around the edges of their day job. But generally they kept the County’s affairs in good order. A council with more voices would represent more neighborhoods. But it’s hard to see that decision making would be easier. It is strange that two counties separated initially by a line on a map should evolve so differently. But they have. Over the years, I’ve thought charter government proposals were not good for Clay County because the elected officeholder provided another unfettered voice to taxpayers and voters. They were more likely to be whistle blowers than a hired office manager. Now, after all the wrangling there in recent years, I’m hoping that by the time you read this the charter proposal in Clay County has passed. That County could use change. We could watch the experiment. Platte County voters may want to make the change someday. But I’m glad we were not asked to decide this week. Sometimes slow going and trailing the neighbor is a good thing.