The Metropolitan Council will soon have a new leader — Alene Tchourumoff. Now Minnesota’s top elected officials need to lead in their own right by moving beyond the unproductive debate over expanding transportation options, let alone the future of the Met Council itself.
Tchourumoff, who has 10 years of experience working with infrastructure and transportation issues, will oversee an agency tasked with running the transit system, wastewater treatment and land-use planning for the seven-county metro area. She’s currently the state’s rail director, experience that will be valuable when — or, given the current political environment, if — the Southwest and Bottineau light-rail lines proceed.
Controversy over light rail, particularly Southwest, marked the term of outgoing Chair Adam Duininck, who is leaving the Met Council to become head of government affairs for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters.
This state is fortunate to have someone as experienced as Tchourumoff take the reins. And it’s fortunate to have an effective regional planning agency that’s a model for many other metro areas. Calls to disband the Met Council or fundamentally alter its governance structure are counterproductive to smart public policy.
Rather, Republicans in the Legislature and all aspiring or declared GOP gubernatorial candidates should acknowledge the necessity of expanding transit as well as roads and then get to the actual adult debate: how to pay for that expansion on a sustainable basis.
The need was amplified with the recent release of data that showed a growing metro-area population, with an expanding share of that growth in the central cities — a fact painfully clear in the gridlock that frustrated motorists in downtown Minneapolis last week.
The politicization of the Met Council belies its very intent. State leaders must find a path to embracing — and paying for — roads, bridges and transit, and let professionals like Tchourumoff implement necessary advancements to keep this region nationally, and indeed internationally, competitive.