Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis, R-Minnesota, and Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature took aim at the Metropolitan Council, the regional provider of essential services for the Twin Cities area. The Met Council is made up of 17 civilians appointed by the governor, and two of its main functions are to manage the mass transit and sewer systems all around Minneapolis and St. Paul.
For around 50 years the Met Council has operated smoothly, putting federal funds toward projects such as the Green Line, the light rail transit line that connects the Twin Cities. The Met Council is responsible for overseeing plenty of basic services that we often use but rarely think about, and now Lewis and other Minnesota Republicans are trying to stop the Met Council from operating the way that it has for the past few decades.
A few weeks ago, Lewis proposed an amendment in an unrelated U.S. House Bill designed to cripple the Met Council. The measure would strip the Met Council of its status as a Metropolitan Planning Organization, preventing it from receiving funding from the federal government. At the same time, Republicans in the state Legislature introduced bills in the Minnesota House and Senate to restructure the membership of the Met Council. Their bills would force out the experienced citizens who have successfully run the Met Council for years and replace them with local officials who have no desire or time to take on new responsibilities. It’s no wonder that at least 14 mayors and city council members have come out against the actions of Lewis and Minnesota Republicans.
The main complaint from opponents of the Met Council is that it is run by appointed citizens rather than by local elected officials. Conveniently, these opponents overlook the fact that the Met Council is already supervised by the Transportation Advisory Board, which does consist of local elected officials.
Here’s the truth: The attacks from Lewis and Minnesota Republicans on the Met Council are nothing more than political grandstanding. They are trying to scapegoat a group that provides necessary services in our state in order to say that they’re committed to “strengthening democracy,” or “cutting down on corruption.” The consequence of this political move, if they are successful, is that local elected officials would be required to divide their attention between issues in their municipalities and issues typically dealt with by the Met Council. This would result in a less efficient council, with council members too busy to work on new projects in mass transit, sewage management, affordable housing, and other areas.
All of us should call on Jason Lewis and Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature to stop their attacks on the Met Council. Better yet, we should work to replace politicians who care more about their own political résumés than about the best interest of their constituents.
Declan Falls is a student of political science at Carleton College in Northfield and a campaign fellow at Angie Craig for Congress.