Over decades of tension between Scott County and the Metropolitan Council, few moments can have been quite as sharp an "ouch!" for the Met Council itself as a gaffe it committed last month.
Letters to civic leaders, inviting them to attend listening sessions devoted to showing how deeply the council cares about their opinions as it begins its latest round of long-range planning, went out with the wrong first names. Mayor Janet Williams of Savage was addressed as Larry.
Said Gary Van Eyll, whose signature appeared on those letters as the man who represents Scott County on the council:
"It is something I won't live down for a very long time."
Still, he addressed it forthrightly, as he did a number of other topics in an interview aimed at setting out as crisply as possible what is at stake as Gov. Mark Dayton's Met Council begins the public phase of its planning process for what the Twin Cities should look like by 2040.
Here's an edited version:
Q You have a delicate role to play as a Carver County person representing Scott as well, a county that resents never getting -- not for eons, anyway -- its own voice on the Met Council.
A I didn't even know when interviewing that there was a problem with Scott County. We in Carver always dealt pretty well with the Met Council, and Chaska [of which he was mayor for seven years] really well in particular. I didn't know there was this animosity.
To fix that, we have to listen -- to look at their side of things. If we're going to be fighting the whole time, it will make both of us losers and someone else a winner.
Q What is at stake for suburban counties in the latest round of planning aimed at 2040?
A It is extremely important for Carver, Scott, Anoka -- all that feel they're on the fringe sometimes -- to have their voice heard. What's at stake is all of it: wastewater, transportation, community development, parks -- all that is extremely important.
Q What's a specific example?
A If we really want to have in Scott County a [new and wider] river crossing, we need to get out there and say that is one of our major goals right up there on top: RIVER CROSSING. They need to hear that. We need to hear that, boom boom boom. And they're going to say, 'We don't just need one, we need more.' They only have, I can't remember exactly how many river crossings per mile of river vs. other counties, but it's a lot different. That would be one specific one: they should come out and say that. That's what I hope will come from this. 'In 2040 we expect a transportation system with bridges and bus rapid transit from Shakopee to wherever.' Whatever it is.
Q How about housing? You have an affordable housing person as chair of the council, and suburbs that sometimes resist it.
A The council has always encouraged workforce housing, and I haven't seen that change any -- maybe it's been a little more to the forefront. We need workforce housing. We need a mix -- we can't just have one style, one kind.
Q 2040 seems like a long ways away.
A I went to a meeting once where some older people were saying, '2040, that's way too far off for us, a lot of us won't be around.' But this is about starting now to get to that goal. It affects us right away. If you're going to get to be that way in 2040, you need to be working toward it now. That's what planning is about. Our 2040 comprehensive plans may look very different from our 2030 plans [completed a few years ago]. It's a road map.
Q Have you talked to 'Mayor Larry' lately?
A (Laughs) I was starting to think you weren't going to ask that and I'd be very happy if you hadn't. Here's what happened: One person on the Chaska council got the right first name and last name, and everyone else in both counties, plus Minnetrista and St. Bonny, got the wrong first name. The sort was all goofed up.
It was just in my district, and I don't know why. Janet's giving me [a hard time] and so is my mayor. I know them well, but it was all generated automatically, although I did proofread the second letter that went out to apologize. It's something I won't live down for a very long time.
David Peterson • 952-746-3285