Gov. Tim Walz recently announced the first steps in the long-awaited process of reforming the Metropolitan Council, an urban planning agency of 17 unelected officials who control the transportation system in the Twin Cities metro area.
Under an executive order signed Friday, the governor has established a “blue ribbon committee” of local leaders who will “review and assess the work of the Metropolitan Council.”
Walz’s office said the committee will “review and make recommendations on the role of elected versus appointed council members, the role of the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the effectiveness of the delivery of regional transit service.”
“As the needs of our communities evolve, it is good stewardship to evaluate the broader governance of the Metropolitan Council by assessing what changes have been made and determining whether changes need to be made as we look ahead,” the governor said in a statement. “I have great respect for the leaders on the committee, and I trust that they will complete this work thoroughly and thoughtfully.”
The Met Council, as it’s often called, consists of 17 unelected officials, including a chair, all of whom are appointed by the governor. Of the 400 similar planning organizations across the country, all are required to have at least one elected official, making the Twin Cities Met Council uniquely unaccountable, according to the Center of the American Experiment.
That’s one of the many reasons why reform has been a priority for Republicans, including Senate candidate Jason Lewis, whose first two bills as a congressman targeted the Met Council. The first bill was successful, but the second, which would have required the council to have an elected member in order to receive federal funding, was stalled in the Senate.
“Sen. Tina Smith blocked my efforts in the 115th Congress, but it is encouraging to finally see Gov. Walz acquiesce to starting the process of reform I’ve been demanding for years, including as recently as Friday,” said Lewis, who’s in the middle of a tight race with Smith.
“The suburbs are under assault by Democrats, and metropolitan planning organizations like the Met Council are forcing their ‘new urbanist agenda’ on suburban residents,” he added. “Gov. Walz’s creation of an independent committee to evaluate the role of the organization’s unelected body is a step in the right direction though long overdue.”
While Lewis is hopeful the new committee will lead to reform, Met Council Chair Charlie Zelle said he is “optimistic this committee will validate the integrity of the work being done.”
“The Metropolitan Council welcomes the independent commission of nonpartisan leaders to do an in-depth review of the organization’s governance,” he said.