Lewis Doubles Down on Met Council Accountability

On Wednesday August 29th, Rep, Jason Lewis hosted a round table event to discuss increasing the accountability of the Met Council. The context for the meeting was that Rep. Lewis has attached an amendment to the house bill that would reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, and that amendment would require the Met Council to have elected officials on its board – as is the case for every other 400 or so such boards across the country.

Our local situation of having a regional authority completely overseen by unelected officials is so egregiously out of line with political norms and legal requirements that Rep. Lewis’ bill passed out of committee unanimously, with obvious bi-partisan support. Similarly, there is a local, bi-partisan group of legislators who support this amendment, and the general idea of substantially increasing the accountability of the Met Council.

As a reminder, this situation is allowed to exist thanks only to an Obama-era ruling that continued to “grandfather” in the outdated structure of the Met Council. But interestingly, even as the Department of Transportation issued that ruling, it advised the “we would encourage the Council to move toward the structure described in 23 USC 134(d)(2) in order to make the MPO [Metropolitan Planning Organization] more directly accountable to its public].

I’d suggest that anytime the Obama-era department and I agree on something, it’s a strong indication the current situation is out of control and needs to change.

Finally, critics of Lewis’ amendment make the unfounded claim that the change would require an onerous “re-designation” process. This is simply false. And if those local critics need any advice on how they might structure this newly formulated and accountable Met Council, they need to look no further than to all the other regional authorities in existence in Minnesota, all of which include a diverse array of existing elected officials, plus other constituencies. (See table on page 11 of my report:  The Twin Cities Met Council: A Comparative Assessment)

The Center strongly supports Rep. Lewis’ amendment, and appreciates the bi-partisan local support for the change to make the Met Council more accountable to the people.