On the day he appointed Adam Duininck chair of the Metropolitan Council, Gov. Mark Dayton acknowledged that the new leader had a challenge ahead to appease smaller cities and townships who say their interests have been underserved. Still, he acknowledged that in an area of 3 million people governed by a board of 17 members, you can’t please everyone all the time.
“People have different views of what they consider to be accountability or not,” Dayton told reporters Friday. “I’m willing to look at the Legislature for anything that would improve the effectiveness and accountability of the Met Council.”
A bipartisan crew of state senators is offering up one solution. A bill filed last week would allow more local control of the huge planning and policymaking entity by requiring the governor’s appointees to get some local signoff before they’re approved by the Senate. Historically, the governor’s Met Council appointees moved directly to the Senate for confirmation, leading some to call for elections rather than appointments.
The bill’s chief author, Sen. Dave Osmek, R-Mound, said the measure offers local control and compromise. An 11-year City Council member, he said he worked with good Met Council members and bad. Local governing bodies know the members better than anyone, he said, and should have say in their appointments.
“The whole point of this exercise is to give some local control on who’s going to be there, what their qualifications are, who they are, what they represent and are they going to be servants of the people or just one person in the state of Minnesota?” Osmek said.
His proposal would require an appointee to get a resolution of support from at least half the cities they would be representing. Conversely, a recall resolution could be triggered under the same rules — at least half the cities supporting a recall. The Met Council chair would be exempt.
Osmek says his bill is not just the product of a lone Republican lawmaker disgruntled with a DFL governor’s appointees. Cosponsors on the bill include Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, but also DFL Sens. Ann Rest of New Hope and Greg Clausen of Apple Valley. The overarching goal, Osmek said, is accountability, for all Met Council members.
Rest, who in the past supported proposals to elect Met Council members, said Osmek’s measure appealed to her because it would create more responsibility and accountability between local governments and the Met Council without undermining the role of either the governor or the Legislature.
“It’s an invisible level of government which has a great deal of impact on city services and structures,” Rest said. “I think Senator Osmek’s bill puts more of a face on those people and the impact that they have on local communities.”
The bill has been referred to the State and Local Government Committee. There’s no word yet on whether it will get a hearing.