Friday, February 26, 2016

The Twin Cities’ Local Government Coalition calls for reform of the Metropolitan Council

The Twin Cities' Local Government Coalition, which is comprised of City and County leaders from Anoka, Carver, Dakota and Scott Counties, today called for reform of the Metropolitan Council's governance structure to make the Council accountable to the people its decisions impact and improve future regional planning, growth and economic development.

"The Metropolitan Council's authority and involvement in regional issues have expanded greatly since its founding in 1967, but today's Council has no accountability to the regional residents and taxpayers," said Commissioner Mike Beard of Scott County. "Instead the Council operates as a state agency, and is answerable solely to the Governor.  Reform of the Metropolitan Council's governance structure would better serve the entire region while increasing accountability and collaboration."

The Twin Cities' Local Government Coalition supports strong regional governance, but says for it to be effective, citizens must feel that the body effectively represents their goals and values.  Every major regional planning organization in the United States has a majority of locally elected members, while members of the Metropolitan Council are non-elected individuals answerable only to the Governor, an office that has often been elected without majority support from metropolitan-area voters.  This non-elected body has the ability to levy taxes on metropolitan-area residents.

"Minnesotans take pride in having an active role in the decision making process when it comes to public services but the current structure of the Met Council keeps their voices silent," said Rhonda Sivarajah, chair of the Anoka County Board of Commissioners.  "It's time to get out of the '60s and have elected representation on the Council."

The Coalition has developed a statement of belief and six principles for Metropolitan Council Reform:

Statement of Belief:  The Metropolitan Council, due to its taxing and policy authority, should be accountable to a regional constituency of those impacted by its decisions.  It should not operate as a state agency – as it does in its current form —answerable to only one person, the Governor.

Principles for Metropolitan Council Reform:

  1. A majority of members of the Metropolitan Council shall be elected officials, appointed from cities and counties within the region.

  1. Metropolitan cities shall directly control the appointment process for city representatives to the Metropolitan Council.
  2. Metropolitan counties shall directly appoint their own representatives to the Metropolitan Council.
  3. The terms of office for any Metropolitan Council members appointed by the Governor shall be staggered and not coterminous with the Governor.
  4. Membership on the Metropolitan Council shall include representation from every metropolitan county government.
  5. The Metropolitan Council shall represent the entire region, therefore voting shall be structured based on population and incorporate a system of checks and balances.

The Coalition is asking for any city or county in the metropolitan area that agrees with these principles to pass a resolution adopting them, to illustrate to the Legislature and Governor how many local governments support reform and local representation.  

The Coalition's principles complement other calls for Metropolitan Council reform.  In 2011, the nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor in the evaluation report entitled Governance of Transit in the Twin Cities Region recommended a Council with a mix of gubernatorial appointees and elected officials from the region, in order to improve the Council's credibility and make it more accountable to its regional constituency.  Moving to a new governance structure would also allow the Council to meet federal guidelines to serve as the region's Metropolitan Planning Organization, a move encouraged by Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHA) representatives in 2015 to make the Council "more directly accountable to its public."  

The Coalition's objectives for its collective effort to improved Council governance are:

  1. To articulate a vision of responsive and effective metropolitan governance – as represented by a Statement of Belief and Principles for Reform of the Metropolitan Council.
  2. To align local government interests behind a reform effort – through formation of a broad coalition of metropolitan Cities and Counties – and a common position.
  3. To be prepared for any efforts – legislative and otherwise – to reform the governance structure and functioning of the Metropolitan Council.

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