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Kim Crockett’s post about her recent trip to our nation’s capitol focused on the work that the Center for the American Experiment is doing to thwart the Met Council’s Thrive 20240 blueprint.

In her post, Ms. Crockett wrote that “DFL Governor Mark Dayton’s plan, like many ‘blue state’ governors, uses ‘transit oriented development’ or TOD, to pull money out of the suburbs and greater Minnesota to fund and re-enforce a city centric power model. That model shifts how and where people live, and how they get around, to change the political landscape in favor of left-wing control of local and state government. If ‘Thrive’ succeeds, we will effectively lose self-governance at the local, and even state, level in favor of unelected bureaucrats.”

First, the Met Council’s transportation blueprint is outdated. Next, it isn’t based on listening to the communities and residents it’s supposed to represent. Third, the Met Council’s transportation blueprint ignores the fact that the American people don’t want to get herded like cattle into a one-size-fits all transportation blueprint.

With more people being able to work from home and with more people buying their things from Amazon, E-Bay, Craigslist and other online outlets, the need for transit is waning, not waxing. While Al Gore hates urban sprawl, the American people apparently have voted with their mortgages in favor of spreading out.

Then there’s this:

These TOD plans rely on crony capitalism to thwart citizen opposition to these billion-dollar boondoggles. There are construction and engineering firms and armies of lawyers and consultants, lined up to take their cut of the $2 billion for SWLRT. And that is just the start: then comes Bottineau LRT and others. They press their case with help from the business chambers and K-Street lobbyist here and in D.C.

Here in St. Cloud, we’re fighting against extending the Northstar rail project from Big Lake to St. Cloud. While extending Northstar isn’t as high-profile of a project as building SWLRT is, it’s still built on the same central planning crony capitalist principles.

Another thing that SWLRT and Northstar have in common is that they’re massive wastes of the taxpayers’ money. After construction, they’ll still need massive operating subsidies. Think about that. Northstar isn’t making money. It never will. Extending it from Big Lake to St. Cloud just adds to the money the special interests will need to take from taxpayers. SWLRT is no different. Before explaining that statement, I’d suggest that you watch this video:

As you watch the video, count how many different pieces of infrastructure have to be built before SWLRT is operational. Then think of how many people will use SWLRT vs. how many will continue to use the highways and city streets. (You can make the same comparison with Northstar.) SWLRT and Northstar aren’t solutions to Minnesota’s transportation problems. They’re impediments to the solutions.

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Preya Samsundar’s article on the SWLRT line is informative from the standpoint of how intent Gov. Dayton’s political appointees are in spending the taxpayers’ hard-earned money on another light rail boondoggle.

Ms. Samsundar writes “Southwest Light Rail will begin construction, despite a decision by the federal government to rescind federal funds. MPR reports that the new Met Council Chair, Alene Tchourumoff, plans to start construction on the newest addition to Minnesota’s light rail enterprise by 2019.” Later in the article, Ms. Samsundar writes “However, the dissolution of the Counties Transit Improvement Board in May left Hennepin County footing a $289 million bill for their share of Southwest Light Rail, approximately $103.5 million more than initially projected. As Alpha News reported, the dissolution leaves the additional burden on Hennepin County taxpayers who will see a half-cent increase in their local sales tax.”

That’s just the tip of an expensive iceberg. The $289,000,000 bill is just part of the expense. Then there’s this:

The nearly 15 mile light rail extension that plans to connect wealthy western suburbs to the Twin Cities is still $900 million short, but that is not stopping Tchourumoff from moving forward with the plan.

Of course, that isn’t stopping her. It isn’t like she has to face voters. It isn’t like Ms. Tchourumoff is spending her own money. It’s exceptionally easy to spend other people’s money.

This is a total boondoggle for taxpayers across the state. In addition to tax increases in the Twin Cities, which I don’t care about, taxpayers in rural Minnesota get stuck with part of the tab of subsidizing this boondoggle. Let’s be clear. There isn’t a light rail line in Minnesota that breaks even. There isn’t a light rail line that comes close to breaking even. That’s why I call these projects boondoggles. For that matter, I could call these projects ideologically-inspired boondoggles.

The bottom line is simple. The Met Council isn’t interested in listening to people. They’re only interested in serving Gov. Dayton. If that costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, the Met Council is fine with that. Like I said earlier, it isn’t like they’ll be held accountable by Gov. Dayton.

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In this post, I asked several questions, including why do Democrats think that unaccountable bureaucrats with a constituency of one person (the governor) are best-suited to do region-wide infrastructure planning?

People that don’t have to worry about accountability to citizens inevitably get corrupted or stop listening to the people or both.

Something that Katherine Kersten wrote in this article should raise red flags. She wrote “The council’s vision to transform how the people of the Twin Cities region live and get around has two prongs. First, the Thrive plan will promote compact, high-density housing and “transit-oriented development” (TOD). TOD seeks to ‘pivot’ from an “auto-friendly” to a ‘transit-friendly’ transportation system by discouraging driving and pushing people to walk, bike or take public transit to work and leisure activities. Both Thrive’s housing and transportation policy plans exhibit a striking hostility to travel by car, and to the freedom and mobility that ownership of a personal vehicle brings.”

Here’s a question for LFR readers: should any government agency have the authority to push its citizens towards “transit-friendly” transportation systems? Here’s another question that dovetails off the first question: should an unelected government panel be allowed to “exhibit a striking hostility to travel by car”? Shouldn’t those decisions be made by the citizens themselves?

If you think that unaccountable bureaucrats that don’t have to listen to the people make better decisions than elected officials that have to answer to the people, I’d love seeing the proof for that. Honestly, I don’t think it exists.

Later in the article, Ms. Kersten wrote this:

The plan will lavish funds (at least $2.7 billion) on fixed-rail transit while virtually ignoring funding for expanding roads, which are vital to regional prosperity and on which 99 percent of area trips rely in some way. Despite the council’s drive for densification — which will jam more cars into a smaller space — the Thrive plan declares that “expanding the roadway system is not a sustainable way to address congestion, climate change, equity and livability.”

It’s time for the Met Council to disappear or, at minimum, to have their authority reduced. It’s obvious that they’re an organization with an ideological agenda. It’s obvious that they aren’t that worried about what the citizens of the Twin Cities want.

The transportation plan greatly favors the urban core over suburbs and exurbs and uses limited transportation funds as a bludgeon to promote its social agenda of dispersing poverty. In response, county boards of the five “ring” counties — Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Scott and Washington — have unanimously denounced the council’s plan.

And around and around we go. The Met Council doesn’t care what Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Scott and Washington counties want. They’re shaped almost exclusively around the belief that fixed rail transit is the way to go. It won’t take long for the people to reject that foolishness.

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Friday night during the Almanac Roundtable segment, DFL activist Abou Amara insisted that the legislature had frequently reformed the Met Council. When I heard that, I replayed that part of the segment (I always DVR it) to make sure I heard it correctly. Indeed I’d heard it correctly. Simply put, Amara’s contribution to that part of the roundtable was BS. The legislature has changed the Met Council’s responsibilities frequently but it hasn’t reformed it.

Let’s think of it this way. Each legislator, each city councilmember, each county commissioner and each school board member have hundreds, if not thousands of constituents. The Met Council has a single constituent — the governor. They don’t have to listen to members of the metro city councils, the Hennepin County commissioners and they especially don’t have to listen to the residents of the 7-county metro area. If they decide to ignore the city council, it doesn’t matter as long as they do what their constituent wants them to do.

Another part of Amara’s argument to keep the Met Council around is because there’s a need for long-term planning. That’s a fair point but it doesn’t prove that the Met Council is needed to accomplish that task. In fact, it’s proof that it isn’t needed. Governing bodies that aren’t accountable to people shouldn’t have any authority. The Met Council under Gov. Dayton is a patronage position.

Kathy Kersten’s column nails it in terms of the Met Council’s mentality:

“The people designing your city don’t care what you want.” That’s how forbes.com columnist Joel Kotkin sums up the mentality of today’s so-called “smart growth” urban planners. Here in the Twin Cities, we have a perfect example of what Kotkin is warning about: “Thrive MSP 2040,” the Metropolitan Council’s 30-year development framework for our seven-county metro area.

Here’s something else worth thinking about when thinking whether the Met Council needs a transformation. First, let’s start by noticing that Amara thinks we need to keep long-term planning out of the hands of “people who face election once every 2 or 4 years.” Question: where does Amara think we’d find these long-term planners? Are they ‘experts’ in their field? If they’re experts in their field, would that lead them to not listen to the residents of the seven-county metro? Would they only listen to like-minded advocates and lobbyists?

That’s what’s happening now. The Met Council isn’t listening to people in Prior Lake, Eden Prairie, Maplewood, Woodbury, Plymouth, et al. They have the authority to raise taxes. They don’t face the voters. Ever. That’s the worst possible system imaginable.

The truth is that Abou Amara isn’t telling the truth. The Met Council hasn’t undergone positive change except if you think mission creep is positive change. The Republican gubernatorial candidate that puts together a thoughtful plan that puts the people in charge of the Council will have a positive platform to tout to voters. It’s time to straighten this corrupt system out.

This article announcing Gov. Dayton’s appointing of a new chairperson of the Met Council highlights the possibility of that appointee facing pushback when her committee hearing is held.

According to the article, “The Met Council has new leadership. On Tuesday, Gov. Mark Dayton announced that current Chair Adam Duininck will step down from his role as head of the Met Council. In his place, Dayton announced the appointment of Minnesota State Rail Director Alene Tchourumoff to head the Met Council.”

Further into the article, Alpha reporter Preya Samsundar reports “Sen. Dave Osmek of Mound, who is expected to announce his candidacy for governor this summer, had been pushing pieces of legislation to reign in, and more recently, abolish the Met Council. On the last day of session, Osmek turned in a 214-page piece of legislation which states, “A bill for an act relating to local and state government; abolishing the Met Council.” Osmek has been pushing for reformation of the Met Council since 2015.”
Sen. Osmek’s credentials as a reformer are high. Jason Lewis’ reformer credentials are pretty high, too. Rep. Lewis is working hard in DC against organizations like the Met Council:

In Washington, Rep. Jason Lewis is also doing his part to ensure the council goes no further. In March, a bill authored by Lewis passed through the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee in the United States House of Representatives.

“Under the rule, the Met Council, a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), could have expanded their boundaries and taxed the suburbs to help fund downtown projects,” Lewis told Alpha News at the time. “We’re protecting the ability of local decision makers to do what works for their own communities.”

Thank goodness for Jason Lewis for protecting suburbs like Prior Lake, Shakopee and Chanhassen. Let’s hope we elect a Republican governor and keep our GOP majorities in the Minnesota House and Senate so we can, at minimum, stop the Met Council’s authority to tax people without representing people.

Right now, the Met Council ‘represents’ Gov. Dayton. They don’t represent the people. Still, they’ve been given the authority to levy taxes. There’s no way that’s right.

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There’s no question about whether Gov. Dayton is dishonest. The only question left to determine is how dishonest Gov. Dayton is. I’d say that he’s exceptionally dishonest if I’m using this article to determine Gov. Dayton’s dishonesty.

According to the article, Gov. Dayton ” said that ‘the cost of inaction’ by state lawmakers had caused the price increase.” Gov. Dayton knows that the legislature has nothing to do with the price increase because Adam Duininck told him that the SWLRT project was being put off by the federal government. Commissioner Duininck told Gov. Dayton that “the federal government has no plans to execute a funding agreement until sometime in 2017 because of ongoing litigation regarding the project.”

The “ongoing litigation that they’re talking about is something I’ve started calling the Tunheim Lawsuit. It’s a lawsuit being tried in federal court. The Tunheim Lawsuit won’t start until Sept. 17, 2017. The FTA, aka the Federal Transportation Administration, won’t lift a finger until that lawsuit is settled. The earliest that lawsuit will be settled will be January, 2018.

That’s actually the least of the Met Council’s worries. It isn’t likely that they’ll win the Tunheim Lawsuit. It’s that they have no chance at winning the lawsuit that the Calhoun-Isles Condominium Association might bring. The Calhoun-Isles Condominium Association hasn’t filed a lawsuit yet but if they did, they’d win.

This paragraph is wishful thinking:

The Council, backed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, has proposed to authorize $103.5 million in debt, with the Hennepin County Regional Real Authority and the Counties Transit Improvement Board contributing a total of $41 million — enough to ensure $900 million in federal dollars for the light rail project.

This isn’t based on reality. It’s based on what the Met Council, the Hennepin County Regional Real Authority and CTIB wish would happen. They know, though, that it won’t. They know it won’t happen because they’ve been told that it won’t happen.

There’s no question that people are resistant to change. They appreciate the familiar, which is why it’s difficult, if not impossible, to change things that are broken. Sometimes, though, a dramatic shake-up is exactly what’s needed. The colonists knew that in the 1770s. There are lots of angry activists in the 21st Century who wonder if it isn’t time for another revolution.

This op-ed, which I linked to in this post, highlights the fact that the “council has broad authority, including the ability to levy taxes” but that the governor is their primary constituent. In the colonists’ times, they started a revolution. One of their chief rallying cries was “No taxation without representation.”

According to Dictionary.com, the definition for No taxation without representation “became an anti-British slogan before the American Revolution; in full, “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” I can’t disagree with that last sentence. Taxation without representation is tyranny.

This paragraph especially stands out:

The mayors in their commentary suggested that elected city and county officials could not handle the workload or think “regionally” while representing both their municipality and a Met Council district.

There’s a simple explanation for these mayors’ preference. They want their initiatives to get rubberstamped and put into place ASAP. What politician enjoys the mess that’s created when making sausage? The Met Council is a mayor’s dream. They get their wish list enacted without having to cut deals with uppity peasants.

This nation’s Founding Fathers understood the appeal of mob rule. That’s why they designed a system filled with checks and balances. They wanted to thwart entities like the Met Council. They wanted the system to be messy because efficient governments are usually out-of-control governments that don’t pay attention to the citizenry, aka the uppity peasants.

Here’s the lengthy list of elected officials that signed onto this op-ed:

Scott Schulte is an Anoka County commissioner. Chris Gerlach is a Dakota County commissioner. Jeff Lunde is mayor of Brooklyn Park. This commentary was also submitted on behalf of the following local government officials. County commissioners: Rhonda Sivarajah, Matt Look, Julie Braastad and Robyn West, Anoka County; Tom Workman and Randy Maluchnik, Carver County; Liz Workman and Nancy Shouweiler, Dakota County; Jon Ulrich, Scott County, and Jeff Johnson, Hennepin County. Mayors: Mark Korin, Oak Grove; Kelli Slavik, Plymouth; Jim Adams, Crystal; Jeff Reinert, Lino Lakes, and Dave Povolny, Columbus. City Council members: Jim Goodrich, Andover; John Jordan, Brooklyn Park; Jeff Kolb, Olga Parsons and Elizabeth Dahl, Crystal; Dave Clark and Jason King, Blaine; Brian Kirkham, Bethel, and Bill Krebs, Columbus.

The time for a dramatic reform of the Met Council is at least a decade overdue. Further, there’s never a good time to give government the authority to raise taxes without giving people the authority to boot the bums out of office.

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This op-ed, written by an Anoka County commissioner, a Dakota County commissioner and the mayor of Brooklyn Park, highlights what’s wrong with the Met Council.

Their op-ed opens by saying “four suburban counties and 41 cities across the Twin Cities area have passed resolutions contradicting the group of mayors who wrote ‘Tweaks’ are, in fact, the best model for Met Council” (May 9), defending the current model of gubernatorial control of the Metropolitan Council.”

The next paragraph says “Those mayors argue that the current model is working well, needing only a few changes to the appointment process, and that any move away from gubernatorial control is ill-advised and impractical. They give the impression that counties and cities are working in a ‘highly responsive’ partnership with the council.”

I don’t know who those mayors are but if they think that the Met Council is “highly responsive” to the people living in the 7-county metro, then they aren’t fit for duty because they’re either incredibly dishonest or they’re stupid. This paragraph encapsulates things perfectly:

The council has broad authority, including the ability to levy taxes, charge fees and set regional policy. Cities and counties are the entities most directly affected by decisions of the council, making them the council’s primary constituents. Yet appointment of council members resides solely with the governor, effectively making the governor the primary constituent.

What part of that sounds like the Met Council is responsive to the citizens living within their authority? The Met Council will always be more responsive to the governor than to the citizenry because he’s the person who can hire or fire them. That’s a system that could be called ‘whatever the governor wants, the governor gets’. The last I looked, our system of government was built on the consent of the governed.

The Met Council is built on the principle of governing without the consent of the governed and the principle that there be the power to tax without representation. Here’s a revolutionary concept:

Many cities and counties believe that the council lacks accountability and responsiveness to them as direct constituents and that the authority to impose taxes and set regional policy should be the responsibility of local government elected officials.

This is what the reformers want:

We support reform that adheres to the following principles:

  1. ?A majority of council members shall be elected officials, appointed from cities and counties within the region;
  2. ?Metropolitan cities shall directly control the appointment process for city representatives to the council;
  3. ?Metropolitan counties shall directly appoint their own representatives to the council;
  4. ?The terms of office for any members appointed by the governor shall be staggered and not coterminous with the governor’s;
  5. ?Membership shall include representation from every metropolitan county government, and
  6. ?The council shall represent the entire region; voting shall be structured based on population and incorporate a system of checks and balances.

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Saying that the Met Council is accountability’s enemy isn’t just conservative consensus anymore. Thanks to Katherine Kersten’s reporting, we know that Jim Nobles, Minnesota’s Legislative Auditor, declared that the Council lacks “accountability,” “transparency” and “credibility.” Further, thanks to Kevin Terrell’s report, we know why the Council lacks accountability, transparency and credibility.

For those who haven’t given the Met Council much thought, it’s time to start thinking it through. For instance, how would the average citizen feel if they found out that “nearly all other large metro regions are governed by a ‘Council of Governments, composed predominantly of local elected officials accountable to the voters. Yet none of these COGs has the breath-taking power of the Met Council'”? How upset would people be if they found out that the “Met Council is the only regional authority that can independently increase taxes” but doesn’t “[provide] direct representation”?

Kevin Terrell’s report is as fascinating as it is infuriating. On pg. 25 of the 42 page report, Terrell lays out what’s at stake and some options:

GOVERNANCE: If you err, err on the side of more democracy, more local involvement, more elected officials. Every other council has more democratic governance than MSP.
Sample alternative governance structures
Gubernatorial appointees
Description: ?Leave the Council 100%, or a majority, appointed by the governor.
Advantages: Some believe this model defeats parochial interests in favor of regional “needs” and “efficiency.”
Disadvantages: We continue to have an unaccountable body with authority over duly elected officials.

That’s one option. Next, think of replacing the Met Council with an elected body like they have in Portland, OR:

Advantage: We would have representatives who are directly accountable for regional policy, spending decisions and outcomes.
Disadvantage: We already have local representatives who are charged with, and capable of dealing with the issues at hand. Why do we need another layer of government?

Another option is called the “Council of Governments” model:

Description: ?An assembly of existing elected officials, with representatives from counties and municipalities.
Advantages:

  1. We would have directly accountable and existing elected officials responsible for decisions.
  2. It mirrors the structure of other major regional authorities and would allow the region to eliminate several layers of inefficiency in transportation planning.

Disadvantage: Like most democratic processes, it can be a noisy and messy path to compromise and progress.If accountability is important to you, the current Met Council structure is the worst governing model imaginable. Saying that the Met Council “defeats parochial interests in favor of regional ‘needs’ and ‘efficiency'” is code for saying they prefer going through the motions so they can rubberstamp the governor’s agenda. They love being able to raise taxes without having to face the voters whose taxes they raised. It’s a liberal’s dream job.