News about communities, transit, parks, water issues, regional planning

Media coverage of the Met Council and the Twin Cities region

Solar farms grow at wastewater plants in Minnesota

Midwestern Energy News, August 21, 2015

In early June, workers began the installation of a $3.5 million solar farm next to the Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant in Shakopee, Minn.

It's part of an ambitious plan by the Metropolitan Council  -- a government agency dealing with mass transit, wastewater, parks and affordable housing for the seven-county Twin Cities region -- to use marginal land it owns for photovoltaic solar installations. Along with Blue Lake, the council is also doing a solar farm at another wastewater facility in suburban Empire Township.

The plan also calls for community solar gardens at both sites that would largely attract other governmental units looking to offset their electricity use with renewable energy.

To save water quality, think before you flush

Treatment plants can't handle some of those products being discarded
Star Tribune, August 21, 2015

You flush, and it goes away. Or does it?  There’s more going down the sewer pipes than you might imagine, and some of it is damaging stuff.

Newspaper headlines report the presence of drugs in our drinking water, male fish producing eggs, and the alarming fact that tiny plastic beads may be killing our lakes. It’s easy to ignore our role in all of this. We just assume that someone, somewhere, is dealing with our waste — if we think about it at all.

Keep the Wipes out of the Pipes (VIDEO)

City of Bloomington, Oct. 23, 2013

Cloth-like bathroom wipes are cause for concern for Bloomington Utility employees.  Take a look at why wipes don't belong in the pipes.

Affordable housing in the Twin Cities: the who, what, where and why

Pioneer Press, August 22, 2015

A new report from the Metropolitan Council indicates that the amount of affordable housing being built in the seven-county metro has hit a record low. This is occurring as luxury housing production picks up.

Here's a closer look at frequently asked questions about affordable housing in the Twin Cities:

Twin Cities suburbs need more affordable housing, Met Council says

Pioneer Press, August 17, 2015

On paper, the cities of St. Paul and Lakeville tie for their lack of affordable housing, and not in a good way. Each city would have to add more than 2,200 units to keep up with demand, according to the Metropolitan Council.

From 2011 through 2013, St. Paul added a total of 370 affordable housing units. During those years, Lakeville added none.

The need for more such housing is acute everywhere, housing advocates say, but not all cities are engaged. St. Paul and Minneapolis are leading production, but a Met Council report released Monday shows they're unable to keep up with regional demand. And they're getting minuscule help from the suburbs.


Numbers tell the story of light-rail's steady growth in Twin Cities

It’s also key to consider future needs when judging transit. 

Star Tribune, August 3, 2015

It’s been 11 years since Blue Line light-rail service began in the Twin Cities, and more than a year since that line acquired its Green companion, formerly known as the Central Corridor. Yet anecdotes and misimpressions continue to shape views of the two transit lines’ worth.


Mobility-based housing programs seek to move low-income families to low-poverty neighborhoodsFederal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis - July 27, 2015

When housing voucher recipients relocate to areas of greater opportunity, the positive outcomes can be long-lasting and substantial. When Rita Ytzen, a senior program supervisor at the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority (MPHA), discusses her organization’s relatively new initiative to help low-income families with children move to low-poverty areas, she uses words that evoke optimism and fresh starts.

“The hope is that if we can help impoverished people move to areas of greater opportunity, they’ll have access to better schools for their children and a safer environment in which to raise their families,” she says. “We want to help people who want to help themselves. We want to give them a second chance.”
Having the opportunity to live in an area with greater resources is particularly significant considering the sizable body of research that has demonstrated how children can fall behind academically, physically, cognitively, and economically when they live in high-poverty neighborhoods, which frequently have elevated levels of violence, low-performing schools, and low environmental quality.[1] When low-income children move to areas with low poverty rates, however, recent research has found that, depending on the age when the child resettles and the number of years he or she stays in the new surroundings, the economic and educational outcomes can be positive and substantial.

The latest news favors integration in housing

StarTribune, July 2, 2015

A Harvard study has affirmed it (when done right). And the Supreme Court has kept it possible.

In June, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision establishing that the Fair Housing Act prohibits the segregation of racial minorities and other historical targets of discrimination, even when that segregation is created by seemingly neutral policies like zoning laws. This legal milestone has arrived at an opportune time for advocates of civil rights and social justice. This is because, just months ago, new research effectively settled a long-running debate about the effect of neighborhoods on endemic poverty.


For nearly two decades, housing policymakers have been split over a fundamental question: Does moving to wealthier, less-segregated neighborhoods help families escape the cycle of poverty?

Seizing the Moment to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing

National Housing Institute Roofline blog, June 3, 2015

Regional agencies like the Met Council guide billions of dollars in public investments—investments that shape the structure of opportunity and disadvantage across regions. The new fair housing rule provides a path forward to begin to channel these investments in ways that counteract decades of inequitable growth patterns and move us towards the vision of regional equity.

Anoka County ranks high as a place to escape poverty

MPR News, May 7, 2015
A new Harvard study shows that where you live makes a big difference in how easily you can move out of poverty.  Anoka County ranks in the top fifth nationally as a place where children have a better shot to scale the income ladder.

Minnesota business groups back transportation tax hike

StarTribune, May 6, 2015

A group of regional chambers of commerce in both the Twin Cities and outstate Minnesota came out Wednesday in support of transportation-related tax increases to pay for road, bridge and transit projects.

"Investment in transportation is critical to Minnesota's competitiveness, so we also support an increase in revenue that allows us to properly plan and build a transportation system that will ensure regional competitiveness, vitality and economic growth in our state," read a letter to legislative leaders signed by the presidents or executive directors of regional business groups including chambers of commerce in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, Mankato and Marshall.

Southwest LRT: Despite rising cost estimates, it's no time to quit

The line is a long-term initiative with several advantages over competing ideas.

Star Tribune Opinion, May 5, 2015
After the Metropolitan Council’s curious discovery last week that, well gosh, the Southwest light-rail line will cost an extra $341 million because of swampy ground and other unexpected complications on the line’s far end, the temptation might be to pull the plug on the entire mess. Gov. Mark Dayton called the overrun “appalling,” and who could disagree?

But despite all the acrimony over costs, delays, routing, and now what looks like engineering ineptitude, calling it quits on light rail in the corridor, or converting it to a rapid bus line, would be the wrong thing to do. Here’s why:

Job growth in Twin Cities driven by 'Suburban Edge,' according to Met Council report

MinnPost, May 5, 2015
It was just one chart in a 14-page MetroStats report released this spring by the research team at the Metropolitan Council — and what it showed was curious, if not totally unexpected. The authors titled it, “Percent change in total employment between 2000 and 2014 by sub-regions in the Twin Cities.” But it might as well have been called, “Where the job-growth isn’t.”

Chart of the Day: Data for Every City in the Metro, April 29, 2015
Hats off to the Met Council! When they’re not busy with pedestrian bridges and light rail planning, they provide amazing amounts of easily digestible data about Twin Cities communities. Check out the interface, which generates charts for different cities at the click of a button.


Explore the Green Line Between Minneapolis and Saint Paul

Park the car and hop on the Green Line. The Twin Cities’ sleek new light-rail line offers an easy tour of the metro

Midwest Living, April 2015
Six dollars and a spirit of discovery are all you need to explore the Twin Cities, thanks to the new Metro Green Line light-rail addition. Connecting the hearts of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, this train makes it easy for visitors to enjoy a weekend’s worth of museums, sports, music and food without ever touching the car keys. The $900 million, 1-year-old project represents the state’s largest public works initiative to date.

For residents, the line inspired some $2.5 billion worth of housing, retail and office developments, as well as renovations to destinations like the 1920s Union Depot in downtown Saint Paul. For visitors, the line provides easy access to the classic Twin Cities attractions, like Minneapolis’ Nicollet Mall, plus an invitation to explore off-the-radar neighborhoods.

Ten suburban mayors: A growing, prosperous Twin Cities area needs transit
Businesses in our suburban communities need to access a workforce that lives beyond the borders of their cities.

Star Tribune Opinion, April 20, 2015

As suburban mayors, we aspire to see our cities thrive. We know that hard work and careful investment are essential to realizing those goals.

Through a challenging recession, public and private partnerships began to help our region prosper. Thanks to comprehensive planning and to the success of individual Minnesotans, our metropolitan area came roaring out of the Great Recession and is now touted as having one of the most successful regional economies in the country.

As our economy improves, our population continues to expand. By 2040, our state is projected to add more than 1 million residents, with 800,000 of those new arrivals living in the metro area. To accommodate this growth and reach our full potential, we need to make smart public investments to ensure continued private-sector success. We must invest in a first-rate education system, in research and development to help companies succeed and, just as important, in a world-class transportation system.


Today’s arguments about the Met Council were had at the time of its formation.

Star Tribune Opinions, April 10, 2015
Back when the Metropolitan Council was formed, nearly 50 years ago, some of the same arguments about its members’ selection were raised as those in the letters on April 9. Appointments by the governor, elections by districts and other methods all were all discussed. In the end, the gubernatorial appointment option was approved.

One rationale was that another layer of campaigning and campaign spending would prove excessive, draining and perhaps confusing for voters who already faced choosing among candidates for state, legislative district, county, city and special district offices.

GOP transportation bill would derail buses, too

Flatlining tax support isn’t “harmless” for Metro Transit

Editorial Board, Star Tribune, March 31, 2015
Opposition to light-rail transit was standard fare for Minnesota Republican candidates in the 2014 campaign. But among metro-area candidates, that position was often followed in the next breath by support for better bus service. In fact, GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson quipped — we hoped not fully in jest — that he considered light rail a DFL plot to get Republicans to favor more spending on buses.

That’s why we were disappointed to learn from Metro Transit analysts the implications of the House GOP transportation proposal released March 23. As expected, it would make further expansion of light rail nearly impossible. It would deprive the Counties Transit Improvement Board of about $28 million per year in state funds now used for light-rail operations. The board, which is funded by a 0.25 percent five-county sales tax, would be obliged to pick up those operational costs, leaving it short of funds needed to finance new rail lines.

The American Dream is alive in the Twin Cities, but not for everyone

PBS Newhour - March 18, 2015

In a report on the PBS NewsHour this week, anchor and correspondent Judy Woodruff visited the Twin Cities to find out why it is a national destination for millenials – but one also battling a sharp racial inequality gap.

In her introduction to the piece, Woodruff says, “It might surprise you to hear that one of the hot destination cities, especially for young so-called millennials, is the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul. I traveled there recently as part of our partnership with The Atlantic to explore the findings in a recent article in the magazine, and to try to find out whether the so-called Minneapolis Miracle is really paying off for everyone.”

Take the long view on transportation in Minnesota

Star Tribune Editorial -January 9, 2015
It will take new money to “get real” about roads, bridges and transit. Can the decay and neglect that afflict transportation systems in Minnesota be corrected by a one-time infusion of cash, a drawdown of uncommitted funds and a tighter operation at the Department of Transportation (MnDOT)? Or will a fix require enlarging the state’s transportation revenue stream with increased taxes?

Those questions roughly outline the debate that took shape last week as the 2015 legislative session convened. To their credit, both sides voiced openness to other ideas. But the opening bids by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and the new state House GOP majority reveal markedly differing notions about what will be required to end the deterioration of the state’s transportation systems, let alone upgrade them to serve a growing population.

Met Council weighs in on protecting water supplies

Star Tribune - December 29, 2014
A final report on protecting water supplies in the northeast metro area confirms a price tag that could exceed $600 million. But it also cautions that lots of unknowns remain.

“This evaluation of alternatives stops short of identifying the best way forward,” the Metropolitan Council said in a study released Monday, adding: “The best option for moving forward may be a hybrid of the examples considered in this study, and could involve approaches that were not considered in this study.”

As diversity grows, disparities plague Twin Cities

Too many are being left behind as metro area becomes less white.

Star Tribune (Opinion) November 6, 2014
 A new report from the Metropolitan Council describes something that’s probably obvious: Our complexion is changing. The Twin Cities metro area is gradually looking more like the rest of America.
Fifty years ago we were outliers — 98 percent white. Now, one of every four residents of the seven inner-ring metro counties is “of color.” Latinos, blacks and Asians have accounted for 92 percent of the region’s growth since 2000. By 2040, they are expected to make up 40 percent of our population.


How the Twin Cities got transit right: - October 14, 2014
Big projects often divide cities. But Minneapolis' light rail line is creating jobs and driving development in underserved areas.

The right way to renew a city.  When the Minneapolis metro region went to build a light rail line connecting downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, the initial reaction was not good. Several community groups from lower-income neighborhoods along the proposed route opposed the project. They'd been scarred from a previous highway project that cut right through the neighborhood, dividing homes from the retail district and resulting in hundreds of evictions. They were afraid the new rail line would do the same.



Upcoming Events