Final word

Center of the American Experiment holds Met Council accountable

The Center has for years attempted to bring some sanity to the problem posed by an overbearing, overreaching Metropolitan Council. How do we get first class regional services and intelligently plan for growth without giving up our right to govern ourselves at the local level?

We are happy to report that the political equation has changed for the Met Council and that the Center is playing a significant role. As a result, the Council has been forced to change its behavior and recognize the authority of elected officials, or at least the authority of the Legislature. Where this leads remains to be seen but you should be encouraged.

Chairman Adam Duininck and the Met Council, who serve at the pleasure of Governor Dayton, have backed off of the threat to go around the Legislature and self-fund the state’s share of the Southwest Light Rail Transit (SWLRT) project..

Instead the Council will attempt to convince the House GOP to fund the line, which it declined to do last session. If the Legislature in 2016 again declines, SWLRT should come to an end. Recognizing that the Legislature is talking about changing and even abolishing the Council, Chair Duininck told the House transportation chair in a letter, “Should the Legislature ultimately choose not to fund the Southwest LRT project in a future legislative session, the project will not go forward.” Even if the Council attempts to renege, deadlines for federal funding may have passed.

While admitting it puts the project in jeopardy, even the Star Tribune had to admit that the Council was wise to let the state decide whether to fund the project, deferring to the body that created the Council and can “uncreate” the Council.

Being good Minnesotans, we are reluctant to blow our own horn, but we want our members to know when progress can be claimed as a result of your generous support of the Center. Our long-term goal of unwinding the Met Council is still at a distance, but we can say that SWLRT is at serious risk, and the Council’s authority is under the microscope.

So how did we do it? Early in 2014, Kathy Kersten began meeting with local officials trying to fend off Thrive MSP 2040. The Center then gathered local and state leaders to hear national experts like Wendell Cox and Randal O’Toole offer- ing opportunities to meet, compare notes and build a coalition of people who are in a position to make a difference.

Next, Kathy and I teamed up for the Blueprint project. While Kathy tirelessly mastered and dissected Thrive MSP 2040, I focused on creating a menu of legislative solutions. This has been a very productive partnership resulting in a widely circulated Blueprint critique of Thrive entitled “Met Council Power Grab,” which we took to the airwaves and on the road.

Working as a tag team, we have debated the Council’s representative and Thrive advocates while speaking to numerous area chamber and business groups. We have reached thousands of Minnesotans via the radio and countless columns in the local press. We have reached over a hundred elected officials, staff and leaders with a PowerPoint presentation on the Met Council’s power grab. Kathy and I have also testified at the Legislature in various committees, and met with county and local officials to share the ideas and encouragement they need to re-assert their authority.

Kathy is now connecting her research to the anti-democratic “Sustainability” movement that inspires Thrive.

The Center does not object to regional services. We object to an unaccountable regional body that has no respect for local government or even the state legislature. Citizens have been disenfranchised by the behemoth Met Council, which is now a nearly $1 billion dollar agency.

Kathy and I have urged elected officials to protect us from this rogue agency and offered them the intellectual ammo to do it. With very limited resources, and lots of passion, we have poked and prodded elected officials to focus on this governance problem before the Council does more damage and succeeds in solidifying its power under Thrive.

There can be no American Experiment without local governance—and there can be no Center without faithful donors like you.