Adam Duininck, the new Metropolitan Council chairman, stopped by Dakota County last week on his Twin Cities regional tour — and was met with a list of grievances.
The visit came as suburban counties are meeting regularly to discuss their frustrations with the council. In the conversation with Duininck, Dakota County Board members repeated routine requests:
• The Met Council's structure must change so that it advocates for the needs of the metropolitan area instead of the governor's agenda.
• Local experts should be at the table during Met Council planning discussions.
• The county needs more money and flexibility to improve transportation systems and parks.
Duininck, whom Gov. Mark Dayton appointed chairman in January to replace Susan Haigh, has repeatedly said he is open to structural changes, as long as Met Council members are able to take a regional look at issues instead of just pushing local projects.
Advocating for the Twin Cities has "never been a role that the council has really played publicly. But I think it's something that is worth a discussion about," he said.
Commissioner Chris Gerlach said the council's focus has shifted from the metropolitan area to the entire state.
"The constituency of the Met Council is one. It's the governor," Gerlach said. "The Met Council is a state agency that's essentially dictating what's going on."
Met Council member Wendy Wulff of Lakeville attended the meeting and said she has never been told what to do by the governor. Wulff is the only appointee from Gov. Tim Pawlenty's administration who remained on the council. She said she would support staggered terms to create more consistency — one of many structural changes the county would like to see.
The Met Council is wrapping up a series of long-term plans for housing, parks, transportation and water resources in the region.
Dakota County has responded to each of the plans with critiques of the process and outcome. Commissioner Kathleen Gaylord said that it makes sense to have a regional planning group, but it cannot act like "king of the hill" and fail to consult with the communities affected by the plans.
Duininck led the work group that formed the council's recently adopted Transportation Policy Plan. He said he should have brought more people from different counties into the discussion, otherwise "you just have a bunch of bad feelings toward each other."
As for transportation funding, Dayton's bill "doesn't do it for us," Commissioner Nancy Schouweiler said. It forces the county to rely on property taxes to fund state roads, she said.
Dakota County is a "universal donor" when it comes to transportation funds — it pays far more than it receives, County Manager Brandt Richardson said.
Schouweiler said they need to levy an additional quarter-cent sales tax to support local projects. The County Board recently decided to draft legislation that would grant them the authority to levy such a tax.
Duininck acknowledged that Dakota County has unique needs when it comes to transportation, and said he is open to more local controls.