A newly launched task force could help reform the Metropolitan Council once and for all.

Created during this year's legislative session, the Metropolitan Governance Task Force now has 17 members and is ready to begin an intensive review of the Met Council, the powerful but beleaguered regional planning body that oversees public transportation, wastewater treatment, land-use regulations, affordable housing and public parks in the seven-county metro area.

"The goal is that we will have a road map for a very different Met Council governance structure" by the time the Legislature convenes next year, said Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-Minneapolis, who will serve on the task force.

Then it will be up to lawmakers to decide what to do with the task force's recommendations, which could significantly change the council's structure and mandate.

For some, that road map would call for the Met Council's 16 members and chair to be elected, rather than appointed as they currently are by the governor. The thinking is that would make the council more responsive to the electorate.

Momentum for an elected Met Council reached a crescendo in recent months after the ongoing troubles of the $2.7 billion Southwest light-rail line were explored in great detail during a series of hearings by the Office of the Legislative Auditor.

The council, which oversees Metro Transit, is building the Southwest line, an extension of the Green Line that will connect downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. But the project is nearly a decade behind schedule and more than $1 billion over budget.

Even Legislative Auditor Judy Randall has weighed in on the Met Council conundrum.

"Based on what we've seen and based on the structure that we have for funding and building [transit projects], I'm not convinced that Met Council is the right entity to be the responsible authority for those projects," Randall said at a June hearing.

The task force came together after two bills to change the Met Council's structure failed to draw bipartisan support during this year's legislative session.

"There wasn't consensus on both sides of the aisle to have an elected council, so [the task force] was the best option," Hornstein said.

Although the Met Council's structure has been studied extensively, Hornstein vowed that the task force's work will be comprehensive and meaningful. "We will look at all options," he said.

The group's first meeting is set for Aug. 9.

The Met Council was formed in 1967 to handle regional issues that transcended city and county boundaries. Now it's one of the most powerful organizations of its kind nationwide. Portland, Ore., has a similar body, but its members are elected.

The Legislative Auditor suggested in 2011 that the council consist of appointed and elected members serving staggered terms. A group organized by the Citizens League in 2016, and a blue ribbon panel convened by Gov. Tim Walz in 2020, both recommended that appointees serve staggered terms.

Met Council options to be considered by the task force include combining elected and appointed members; creating a "council of governments" in its place; doling out the council's responsibilities to state and local governments; devising a home rule charter to govern the council; as well as electing all members, and other "viable alternatives."

The members appointed to the new task force are largely elected officials, many of whom have been critical of the council. They include Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, who introduced legislation this past session calling for elected council members. Another member, Hennepin County Commissioner Marion Greene, advocated for the same at a legislative hearing this year.

Myron Orfield, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, was named to represent the state Office of Higher Education on the task force. Orfield has written two books about local government and helped create the current Met Council structure in 1994. As a state lawmaker in the 1990s, he pushed for elected council members, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Arne Carlson.

This year another task force member, House Minority Leader Jon Koznick, R-Lakeville, introduced legislation, ultimately unsuccessful, reforming the council's nominating process.

"Staff and bureaucrats run the show at the Met Council, and the problems revealed by the [Southwest] mess show that major change and accountability is needed," Koznick said.

In a statement, a Met Council spokesperson said: "We stand ready to provide any assistance or information the task force requests."