In January, the 89th Legislature convened to begin its work. With the elections behind us and the House under Republican leadership, we opened the session with a renewed sense of bipartisanship. Many suburban legislators, myself included, had high hopes for one particular bill that would inject some common-sense into a major concern of local city councils — the Metropolitan Council.

The Met Council is an unelected body that has the power to tax and spend over $1 billion every year and inject itself regularly into local government decisions. It has the authority to dictate (among other things) where new trains and high-density “affordable” housing should be built in your neighborhood. It also has the power to withhold state and federal aid if cities don’t comply with its demands.

As recently reported in this newspaper (“4 counties aim at Met Council,” April 7), four counties have now engaged a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., to wrestle federal funding streams away from a Met Council that has become increasingly unresponsive to their constituents’ needs. Counties should not have to waste your tax dollars like this, but it’s a direct result of how powerless your elected officials are against this unaccountable regional government.

Last month, Gov. Mark Dayton had the opportunity to support a reasonable, bipartisan effort to provide an incremental amount of local control over the Met Council — the common-sense reform bill I introduced to give local city councils some say in who represents them on the council.

Instead, Dayton chose to side against providing a local voice into the appointment process, even sending one of his employees to testify against it. His loyal DFL senators killed the bill before it had a chance to get to a full vote.

Maybe this shouldn’t come as a shock. The governor clearly thinks he should be able to appoint political cronies to the Met Council to impose his agenda over the people you actually elect.

Consider his recent appointment for Met Council chair.

Twelve citizens applied to become chair of the Met Council. Their résumés were reviewed and candidates were interviewed, and in February, Dayton chose Adam Duininck. What were his qualifications? What made him the best, most-prepared candidate?

Eight of the applicants came with over 82 combined years of experience as elected officeholders from various levels. Duininck had zero elective experience. Ten of the applicants had earned postsecondary degrees, some with master’s degrees and some with doctorates. Duininck had no college degree.

Eleven of the applicants provided decades of work experience across a wide swath of respectable private- and public-sector organizations. Duininck’s most recent position was deeply entrenched in partisan politics as a fundraiser for a DFL super PAC. Before that, Duininck spent a few years as a political director for a powerful labor union, also deeply rooted in DFL politics.

Out of the pool of 12 possible candidates, Dayton picked the one with the least amount of experience. But Duininck did have one qualification that made him stand out above all of the other candidates: He was married to the governor’s chief of staff.

Dayton has been unwilling to work with legislators to improve the Met Council and provide experienced leadership for its future. Rather than allow a small amount of local input, Dayton slammed the door on sensible reforms.

And when given the opportunity to appoint a nonpolitical Met Council chair who could gain the trust of ordinary people, Dayton chose cronyism and nepotism over proven leadership.

Minnesotans deserve better leadership than this.

 

David Osmek, R-Mound, is minority whip in the Minnesota Senate.