There are many issues facing cities and counties that are regional in nature, yet there are few successful models of regional governance. An exception is the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) in the All-America City of Kansas City, MO, where decision-makers from around the region convene to analyze a wide variety of issues, set goals, and partner.
While many regional councils focus primarily on land use and transportation planning and allocating federal dollars, MARC works on a broad range of issues, including housing, workforce development, early childhood education, and health. And as an organization that serves nine counties and 119 cities across two states, MARC includes considerations of equity across all of its issue areas.
MARC regularly reports on the continuing effects of racial discrimination and redlining on housing patterns in the region, including this report from March, which shows that over half the region ranked years ago as “declining” or “hazardous” continues to have home values that are less than half those in more “desirable” areas.
Recent MARC studies indicate a shortage of 64,000 units of affordable rental housing in the region and that this problem is particularly acute for low-income renters. Analyses show that a large majority of renters are people of color and that these residents plus older adults occupy a disproportionate share of “extremely low-income” housing units.
MARC’s First Suburbs Coalition works to analyze housing needs and encourage redevelopment to expand housing stock. The group worked with that National League of Cities four years ago to craft a strategy for creating more affordable housing.
MARC has also worked on issues like broadband equity and workforce development. MARC works closely with a regional economic development group, KC Rising, whose goal is to create economic prosperity for the region. KC Rising tracks detailed metrics in seven goal areas: connectivity, neighborhoods, enterprise, industry, inclusion, education, and culture.
One innovative area of collaboration between MARC and KC Rising is their development of an Economic Equity Values Atlas (EEVA) a decision-support tool that includes a map that compares individual Census tracts to averages across 19 different indicators.
MARC celebrated its 50th-anniversary last year and, as Board Chair Carson Ross, Mayor of Blue Springs, MO, said it will continue to serve an important role as “a forum for the region to address critical needs, promote economic and social progress, and ensure equitable opportunities for everyone.”