Platte County is not an island, economically self-dependent and surrounded by high seas such that roads, trails, utility lines, ecosystems and social systems end at the county line. We are instead linked in numerous ways to the overreach of Kansas City. Our county is at a crossroads of nine counties split by a state line. All of this is shared by various small towns and unincorporated areas that may be rural or urban. A coordinating and information-clearing-house body was born about four decades ago to lend a hand in sorting out complexities: the Mid-America Regional Council, known as MARC. I use the word “known” loosely. If I had not been involved in watching communities professionally as a journalist, I’m not sure if I would know that MARC exists or what it does. I could probably stand outside Arrowhead Stadium before a Chiefs football game and poll attendees on what they think of MARC, and a very small percentage would reply that they knew anything about this agency. So, I noted with interest in last week’s edition of this paper that two citizens attending a Platte County Commission meeting were questioning the County’s ties to MARC and membership fees, which total $13,000 in 2013. It is a beautiful thing about our democracy that citizens may attend meetings of government officials and freely ask questions, including those that might infer criticism of management choices. However, if you actually have to sort out unending complications about funding, roads, building standards, waste disposal and other things few of us like to worry about, then you would find a place like MARC helpful, maybe even essential. For the County not to participate in MARC is as sensible as you putting your snow shovel in the attic at the end of January. Some things just make sense. MARC is supported by counties, cities and groups within the Kansas City region on both sides of the state line. In return, MARC provides reports and data useful to community planners. The organization serves as a coordinating entity for committees and meetings of elected officials and municipal employees addressing problems and planning for the future. Past Platte County commissioners have served as leaders for MARC. Much of the work done by MARC is pro-active. For instance, trail systems built by counties and cities are often incorporated into a long-term plan developed years ago under the MARC umbrella. The agency also helps formulate plans for healthy communities and sustainable growth. When a government official has a question about some type of service that affects you and I, MARC is one of the first places most look for information and guidance. MARC does not tell communities what to do. Local government officials make those decisions based on constituent needs and wishes. But MARC does provide a tremendous pool of information and shared experience that greatly helps decision makers. Participation in MARC saves counties and cities a lot of time and money. Speaking of money, most of MARC’s $77 million budget in 2012 came from federal, state and private grants. Much of that money then goes out to counties and cities in the form of grants and support for programs. All of those state, county and city boundary lines do not negate the fact that in many ways this is one big community, from Edgerton in Platte County to Edgerton in Johnson County, Kan. MARC aids continuity. Democracy is a beautiful thing. We elect citizens like ourselves to government posts. But not every elected official is trained in all things related to keeping a community running smoothly. There is history and planning on either end of the present. MARC provides some stability in coordination as elected officials come and go. Many an elected official has found their horizons and abilities broadened by ties within MARC. There is a reason why most people on the street don’t talk about MARC in the coffee shops. The organization runs pretty smoothly and helps communities do the same. When all is well, people focus on other things in their life. Keeping the peace, encouraging prosperity and giving us time to pursue life interests are why government exists. Good government enhances freedom, and MARC is a tool of good government.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.