Metro Council's core mission remains vital to its effectiveness

June 28, 2010
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Grand Valley Metropolitan Council is taking the time to reflect on its mission and focus on key issues, but the organization’s success depends more on the intent of its members than any particular issue. If its members question the Metro Council’s value — especially in tough economic times — that is the problem.

Member loyalty is not a new issue to the organization as local governmental representatives work to get past their “city limits signs” and work as partners for regional stability. The point of formation 20 years ago was to do just that, and the bigger crisis was urban sprawl.

The Business Journal notes there is an added threat in the painful evolution of this new economy, and that is the long-cited trend that most are moving back to urban areas. A result of that trend is that it creates the same economic pall in suburbs as happened more than 50 years ago when city dwellers moved out and created new suburbs.

As government revenues continue to decline, there is even greater need for the Metro Council members to work together. Metro Council’s legacy of successful projects range from transportation and the REGIS system to Project Blueprint. The Blueprint was hailed as an exceptional piece of planning, and while the Metro Council adopted it, not one of the regional governmental units adopted its principles.

During discussion of the priorities of nine major issue topics, council member Al Vanderberg, Ottawa County administrator, was correct in stating, “I think the equal or bigger question is who we are.” It is the council’s mission that binds the individual members, and if members do not understand or embrace the mission, the council is broken.

Several area government representatives among the 35 members have suggested they may not continue membership because of governmental budget woes, and that the dues would be better used to assist those governments in budget balancing. But those comparatively negligible dues would not have great impact on those budgets. Those dollars go further with the Metro Council in its ability to plan and assist all its members. To think otherwise is penny wise and pound foolish.

Some of the governmental representatives to the council have failed to help their fellows in specific districts understand the value of the regional planning body or the legislative opportunity it provides to revenue-strapped communities. For instance (and most recently), Metro Council has represented the issue of the impact of the state failing to make its revenue sharing payments, even as smaller units of government could not afford to do so.

Current council members found that the nine issues they identified as most important also were identified four years ago. They are likely to find, too, that the original mission of Metro Council is even more important now.

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