Last week five members of the Crystal City Council signed a joint letter expressing our support for a statement of principles for reform of the Metropolitan Council. In doing so, we joined a coalition of local elected officials from 35 cities and 4 counties who have adopted these same principles.
The Met Council was established in 1967 to provide regional planning services for the twin cities area- originally focused on transit and wastewater treatment. As years went on, the Council’s scope has grown, but it’s accountability has not.
The Twin Cites is not unique in having a regional planning authority. We are, however, unique in the way our regional planning authority is organized and funded.
The Met Council has an annual budget of over $900,000,000 – larger than the regional planning authorities of Houston, Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles and 13 other larger metro areas – combined! $80 million of the Met Council’s budget comes from an annual tax levy. That figure makes the Met Council’s tax levy the third largest levy in Minnesota- and more than 8 times Crystal’s levy.
The Met Council has the largest budget of any regional planning authority (by far) and is the only regional planning authority in the United States that has direct taxing authority.
Despite these facts, the Met Council is also the only regional planning authority that contains no elected officials- instead all members of the Met Council are appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, the Governor.
The principles of reform being supported by the coalition of local governments are not seeking to eliminate the Council, but rather seek some common sense reforms to make the Met Council more accountable, responsive and credible to its primary constituents- the cities and counties it serves.
Among the changes being sought are staggered terms for Council Members, changing the makeup of the Council to include a majority of elected officials, ensuring that representation is population based, and incorporating a system of checks and balances on the Council’s activities.
The principles of reform supported in the letter are:
- A majority of the members of the Metropolitan Council shall be elected officials, appointed from cities and counties within the region.
- Metropolitan cities shall directly control the appointment process for city representatives to the Metropolitan Council.
- Metropolitan counties shall directly appoint their own representatives to the Metropolitan Council.
- The terms of office for any Metropolitan Council members appointed by the Governor shall be staggered and not coterminous with the Governor.
- Membership on the Metropolitan Council shall include representation from every metropolitan county government.
- The Metropolitan Council shall represent the entire region, therefore voting shall be structured based on population and incorporate a system of checks and balances.
- Metropolitan Governance Reform Principles
- Metropolitan Council Reform Q&A
- Letter from Crystal City Council in support of Met Council Reform Principles
The Crystal City Council originally debated passing a statement of support for these principles as a council resolution. However, the rules adopted by the council prohibit resolutions of this type, and ultimately it was decided not to pursue a formal resolution. All council members were given the opportunity to sign the letter.