Head of Twin Cities region's Met Council says partnership is key

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The head of the group responsible for choosing where to spend nearly $1 billion across the Twin Cities this year laid out his vision for where things should go.

Adam Duininck is the chair of the Metropolitan Council – a 17-member board that serves the seven Twin Cities metro counties.

They're in charge of a lot, including wastewater treatment facilities, transportation services, aviation, affordable housing and regional parks. The Light Rail lines would be one of the more frequently talked about projects the council has a hand in, but they also funnel money into regional parks and keep an eye on things like sewer rates that homeowners pay.

They're funded through regional taxes, fares, user fees, and some state and federal funding. It's no small slice either: The 2016 budget is $978 million, which you can read a summary of here.

On Thursday, Duininck gave his 2016 State of the Region address (which you can read in full here), focused in large part on partnerships, and how the council "needed to strengthen its relationship with elected leaders and the communities we directly impact."

Duininck said it's a three-pronged thing: Collaborating with stakeholders on issues to be good stewards of public money; engaging local communities by figuring out what they want to do, and how the Met Council can find resources to help the communities get there; and prromoting competitive partnerships that benefit the whole region and keeps things in line with the long-term vision.

"There is so much more we can and must accomplish. We must work together. We can build new and long-lasting partnerships," Duininck said.

Criticisms of the Met Council

Which projects end up getting money, and who makes those decisions, have been used as criticisms against the Met Council even before Duininck took over as its chair in 2015.

One frequent sticking point is the fact that all 17 members of the council are appointed by the governor – not elected by the people they represent. Earlier this week, four counties banded together to recommend changes.

They believe that representatives on the Met Council should be elected, and that there should be a better system of checks and balances in place. Those changes will mean the council is held more accountable for its decisions going forward.

The elected-vs-appointed issue has been a complaint of local government leaders for years, says the Star Tribune, but would require action by the Legislature and Gov. Mark Dayton.

In 2011, a report from the Legislative Auditor recommend the Met Council be made up of a mix of people who are elected, and others who are appointed.

MinnPost notes the Met Council has also been criticized for favoring transit plans over road work, and for what critics said was an uneven distribution of affordable housing throughout the counties.

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