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Media coverage of the Met Council and the Twin Cities region


Keep the Twin Cities rolling with a transit build-out
Legislature can't reach a transportation deal without it.

By Editorial Board Star Tribune - May 12, 2016

A fruitful conclusion to the 2016 legislative session is not yet in sight. But the path to one is becoming clear: The fate of four major bills — bonding, budget, taxes and transportation — hinges on achieving a bipartisan accord on transportation. And a transportation deal can’t be reached without an agreement to fund Metro Transit, including the Southwest light-rail line.

That’s not just the Star Tribune Editorial Board’s view. It’s an assessment of political reality that’s widely shared at the State Capitol. It’s also the urging of the CEOs of a dozen leading corporations, who on these pages last Saturday pleaded for the continued build-out of the metro area’s long-planned network of bus and rail rapid transit service.

The Southwest line (also called the Green Line Extension) is the crucial next step in that network’s construction. Fail this year to provide the $135 million remainder of a state/local match the project requires, and the region’s ability to complete the entire network will be in jeopardy. Minnesota could lose not only $895 million in federal funds for the Southwest line, but also the opportunity to secure federal money for future rapid transit projects.

Column: Legislature must fund Southwest light rail

By Guest Columnist Gail Dorfman

SunSailor -  May 11, 2016

As state lawmakers near the end of the legislative session, it is critical they pass a transportation bill that includes funding for public transit.

A comprehensive transportation system includes roads and bridges, public transit, pedestrian and bike access, highways and more. In the metro, it is critical that we continue to invest in a regional transit system, providing more options to people to get to work, school and other destinations.

First, our region is growing. Just think about your commute to work each day; now think about an additional 750,000 people in the region also commuting to work. We need to invest in transit to ensure we have a system that can keep people and goods moving across the metro.

Big business joins final push for $1.79B Southwest light-rail funding
Large corporations urge Legislature to help secure federal transit funding

StarTribune - May 10, 2016

The final push is on at the Capitol for state legislators to fund a critical piece of the $1.79 billion Southwest light-rail project, and powerful Twin Cities business interests have now publicly entered the fray.

The Metropolitan Council, which would build and operate the 14.5-mile line, needs to nail down the final 10-percent portion of local matching funds (about $135 million) from the state Legislature this year. Time is short — the current session ends May 23.

“We have 13 days to go,” said Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, at a transit roundtable meeting Monday in Eden Prairie. “It’s time now to fish or cut bait” on a comprehensive transportation package that includes funding for Southwest.

Met Council program steers Section 8 renters to low-poverty areas with good schools

Met Council seeks rentals in areas with good schools.

StarTribune - May 9, 2016

It's an opportunity lost: Half the families that initially receive a much-coveted Section 8 federal housing voucher in Anoka, Carver and suburban Hennepin and Ramsey counties can't find a home on which to use them.

For those who do find a place, nearly one-quarter settle in areas of concentrated poverty.

Now 45 young families in the throes of this housing search are getting one-on-one counseling and help to make sure they find rental homes in neighborhoods with good schools, lower poverty rates and better odds of success.

Minnesota businesses need transit, and we need it now
As CEOs of the Twin Cities' major employers, we ask legislators to seize this opportunity

StarTribune - May 9, 2016

As major employers in the Twin Cities region, we have a vested interest in helping to ensure that our region is growing and evolving to meet the needs of our employees, customers, patients and communities we care for — now and into the future.

We are therefore calling on the state Legislature to make a comprehensive investment in our overall infrastructure by passing a bipartisan transportation funding bill this year. To us, comprehensive means money for roads, bridges and transit.

Collectively, we employ more than 100,000 people in the region. Many of them rely daily on public transit to get to work, to school and to other opportunities. In fact, according to transit surveys, 80 percent of public transit riders are commuting to work or school and both are increasingly linked to a person’s long-term health outcomes.

Minnesota Chamber Federation urges passage of transportation package this session

Home Town Source  - May 3, 2016

The Minnesota Chamber Federation today urged the Minnesota Legislature to pass strategic and sustained funding for roads, bridges and transit this session. The letter was signed by the Minnesota Chamber and 44 local chamber partners across the state.

The state’s historic budget reserve and surplus give us the opportunity to invest in our infrastructure and reach compromise on how to bring new resources into the transportation system,” the letter stated.


Can't afford to pass on transportation bill

As state lawmakers near the final weeks of the legislative session, it is critical they pass a transportation bill, which includes funding for public transit.

A comprehensive transportation system includes roads and bridges, public transit, pedestrian and bike access, highways, and more. In the metro, it is critical that we continue to invest in a regional transit system, providing more options to people to get to work, school and more.


Water action week

Quad Community Press letter to the editor from Council member Sandy Rummel - April 19, 2016

Gov. Mark Dayton has declared April 17 - 22 as Water Action Week. It’s a great opportunity to continue the conversation about one of Minnesota’s most abundant – but precious – natural resources.  

There was a time when we took water for granted. In the late 1960s, our streams and rivers were highly polluted, with untreated human waste flowing directly in the Mississippi River. This crisis led our state to create the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, as well as charge the Metropolitan Council with the job of treating the metro’s wastewater.

Franken urges state funding for Southwest Corridor light rail

The senator says those federal dollars go away if the state does not act. 

Star Tribune - April 17, 2016

U.S. Sen. Al Franken visited the proposed future light rail stop in Hopkins Sunday morning to warn that nearly $900 million in federal funding for the Southwest Corridor light-rail line will be lost if state legislators don’t fund the state’s smaller share this year.  Standing in front of a green Metro Transit bus that says “get on board” with the Southwest line, Franken advocated for the project, saying it would propel economic development and job creation in communities along the line.

“If the state legislature doesn’t act this session, that $895 million would go to New York or California or Washington state, the Seattle area,” Franken said. “As a senator from the state of Minnesota, I want to see those resources come here — that money come here to Minnesota.”

Franken was joined by Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck, Hopkins Mayor Molly Cummins, and Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO John Stanoch at a Park and Ride near 10299 Excelsior Blvd. located across the street from the planned Hopkins stop.

Partnership is a step in the right direction

Rosemount Town Pages -Letter to the Editor - April 4, 2016

As the member of the Metropolitan Council whose district includes Rosemount, I am very proud of the announcement of a recent partnership between the city of Rosemount and the Met Council.

In March, the Rosemount City Council voted to authorize two new solar garden subscription agreements. The city essentially helps fund the generation of solar energy, which Xcel Energy then uses in its distribution network. In exchange, Xcel passes along credits on electric bills, meaning hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings for the city.

This was made possible because of work through the Met Council to secure competitive bids on behalf of cities and counties all throughout the metro region, ultimately leading to a better deal for each city.

Affordable housing a must along Southwest LRT, according to strategy
Plan calls for affordable housing in the Southwest rail corridor.

Star Tribune - April 3, 2016
Montana Moore, a barista at Munkabeans in Hopkins, splits her $1,500 monthly rent and utilities with two roommates.

Despite the widespread notion that the Southwest light-rail line would cater to professionals commuting from the wealthy western suburbs, the train also will cut past working-class homes with incomes well below the metro median.

That’s why one-third of the 11,200 new apartments, condos and homes expected along the line through 2030 should be for those with low and moderate incomes, according to a Southwest LRT Corridor working group.

Those goals are designed to ensure that the metro area’s first light-rail line extending deep into the suburbs won’t cause wholesale gentrification of lower-income neighborhoods, where rapid transit is more a necessity than a convenience, said Hopkins Economic Development Director Kersten Elverum.

City leaders tout light rail, development during real estate forum

Sun Post - March 30, 2016
The coming of light rail transit and robust business and job development were the hot forum topics during the 24th annual city of Brooklyn Park Realtor Forum, held March 24 at the Edinburgh golf clubhouse.
There are many positive things happening around the city, and Mayor Jeff Lunde points to the hottest business development zone to illustrate the city’s business and job growth.

Hopkins boy overcoming cancer serves as honorary light rail operator

Kare11 TV - March 21, 2016

An 8-year-old Twin Cities boy took over the controls of a Minneapolis light rail train, becoming an honorary operator for the day. The opportunity came because of his dreams to see the Southwest Light Rail line come to his hometown of Hopkins and because of another challenge he faces.

New Metro Transit app will allow riders to pay fares by phone

Star Tribune (Blog) March 16, 2016

Metro Transit bus, light-rail and commuter rail riders will soon be able to pay their fares by using their smartphones.
Riders also will be able to access schedules, route maps, plan a trip and get real-time bus arrival and departure times. Riders will be able buy pre-paid tickets that can be used on any bus or train when the new Metro Transit Mobility App debuts in mid- to late summer.
"This will be a game changer for Metro Transit," said Adam Mehl, a marketing department specialist who has been working with the Portland-based contractor GlobeSherpa to develop the app. ""We want to give people a way to pay the way they want to."

Metro Transit police use Somali language lessons to break down barriers

Minnesota Public Radio News - March 16, 2016

Twenty Metro Transit officers sit in a classroom, carefully taking notes. They slowly try to pronounce every word instructor Ali Warsame says, from simple greetings like "hello" to more tricky phrases like "Show me your ticket" or "Put your hands where I can see them."

In late February, Metro Transit police began offering a Somali language class to some of its officers. The cops say they want to connect with the growing Somali community in the Twin Cities who ride buses and light rail.

Metro Transit Police Chief John Harrington sat in the front row during a recent class and tried over and over to say, "How is the family?"

Minnesota Chamber sees big role for business in state's transportation-funding debate

MinnPost - March 14, 2016

Sitting in his office on the 15th floor of the Securian Building in downtown St. Paul, Doug Loon has a clear view of the Minnesota State Capitol, its 111-year-old dome swaddled in plastic as construction crews finish up restoration work.

Loon is coming up on his nine-month anniversary as head of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the single largest group representing businesses across the state. So far, he’s spent most of his time on the job traveling around Minnesota to meet individual business leaders and members of the group. But in the next two months, his work will be mostly focused just up Cedar Street from his office in St. Paul.



In search of racial equity, Met Council creates advisory committee

Met Council forms an advisory committee to help it confront worsening racial disparities. 
StarTribune - March 9, 2016

They will confront ways of doing business in the Twin Cities that have led to some of the nation’s worst racial disparities in income, housing and education, and they’ll volunteer their time to do it.

And they’ll be working with the Metropolitan Council, the regional planning agency embroiled in a federal fair housing complaint with two of the state’s most racially diverse cities.

Despite those challenges, the Met Council’s new Equity Advisory Committee has drawn more than 100 potential candidates ranging from neighborhood activists to college professors.

Transit-oriented development in St. Paul: connections that create value

The Line, March 8, 2016

MSP’s transit investments — the METRO bus and light-rail system, the emerging arterial bus rapid transit (aBRT) system, enhanced bus service and more — are helping to build a more populous, prosperous region.
Other cities are taking note. A recent Chicago Magazine piece heaped effusive praise on MSP’s efficient transit system and forward-thinking policies, contrasting our fair region’s transportation infrastructure with Chicago’s creaky, ineffective network. Writer Whet Moser marveled that transit-oriented development (TOD) — dense, often mixed-use projects built near major transit lines and designed with transit users in mind — actually get built in MSP.
Moser pointed to MSP’s unique system of regional governance — the Metropolitan Council — as a key driver for equitable TOD. Lucy Galbraith, the Met Council’s director of transit-oriented development, agrees.

Gov. Dayton holds first-ever Minnesota Water Summit (video)

WCCO  Feb. 27, 2016
Minnesotans are taking on the issue of water quality to make sure a crisis like Flint, Michigan does not happen in this state. About 1,000 people attended Gov. Mark Dayton’s first-ever Water Summit at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront Hotel.

“Clean, safe water is nothing we can take for granted,” Dayton said. “It’s something we must insist upon and then take the actions necessary to attain it.”


Rapid bus lines as economic drivers

Finance & Commerce - February 4, 2016

Bus Rapid Transit lines can generate economic development, attract high-paying jobs and increase property values, according to a study released last month by the Metropolitan Research Center at the University of Utah.

The report, which aims to answer questions about economic development near BRT lines by comparing systems around the country, veers into new research territory.

Planning, design and democracy

Guest Column by Adam Duininck, Sun  Post - February 2, 2016
Running a light rail train through North Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park is a massive effort involving countless hours of planning, design, engineering and ultimately, construction.

But the most important part of the Blue Line Extension light rail line is the democracy phase.

New study finds positive economic development benefits associated with bus rapid transit projects

Transportation for America, January 12, 2016

Bus rapid transit is a type of bus service that travels faster and more reliably by providing level boarding, triggering traffic signals, providing pre-board fare payment and running in dedicated lanes separated from traffic, among other typical characteristics. For the first time, a new peer-reviewed research study, unveiled this morning, provides compelling evidence that BRT — often with a price tag far lower than other transit investments — can provide ample economic benefits for cities large and small.

Met Council plotting ways to diversify staff

Finance and Commerce - January 7, 2016

The Metropolitan Council on Wednesday began outlining strategies for diversifying its workforce and boosting equity across its ranks in line with a broader push spearheaded by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Council members at a Committee of the Whole meeting expressed strong support for a more intentional approach to inclusion, noting racial and gender gaps in the agency’s 4,000-strong workforce. The aim mirrors a state-level diversity and inclusion council launched by the Dayton administration last year.


Metro Transit admirably tackles racial disparities

How tackling climate change will pay off

Tina Smith, StarTribune Opinion - December 23, 2015

Minnesota is already a leader in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, but we can — and certainly will — do even more. Much of Minnesota has experienced springlike temperatures this December, often in the 40s. Warmer weather has become the norm; since 1998, the Earth has experienced 10 of the warmest years on record. And 2015 is expected to break last year’s record as the warmest yet.

This is why we all should be celebrating that nearly 200 countries have reached consensus on a plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The Paris Climate Agreement puts the world on a path to avoid the worst effects of climate change by keeping any increase in global temperature below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gov. Mark Dayton and I strongly support bold action to tackle climate change. Doing so will be good for our environment, good for our health and good for our economy.


Met Council aims to deepen equity focus with new panel

Karlee Weimann, Finance & Commerce - Dec. 7, 2015

A new equity advisory committee formed by the Metropolitan Council will zero in on racial and other disparities in the agency’s projects, policymaking and hiring practices.

The 21-member group, accepting applications through Jan. 4, sprouted from discussions that started last year between council members and staff. The Met Council decided to explicitly incorporate equity
into its policymaking, a move that lines up with a recently updated public engagement plan.
Primarily, the committee will help steer the council’s investment strategy. That could include selecting where to build Metro Transit bus shelters and transit stations, Met Council Chair Adam Duininck said. “For us, this is a really important part of just doing ongoing civic engagement that’s authentic and connected to the community,” he said. “Having this equity advisory committee is a big part of that.”


Counterpoint: Kersten and her critics are wrong on housing plan

Mike Maguire, StarTribune, October 10, 2015
As the mayor of a successful suburban city, I value good data — it helps to develop a community plan and a path to prosperity. As in business, planning community success in a competitive and changing marketplace requires that we in local government understand the demographic and market trends that will affect our cities and the region we’re part of.

Two recent commentaries criticized the Metropolitan Council’s housing plan with different but equally tired and unproductive perspectives.

6-acre solar array unveiled at Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment plant

SW News, October 8, 2015
The Metropolitan Council, in conjunction with SunEdison, Oak Leaf Energy and Xcel Energy, unveiled a new 6-acre solar panel array at the Blue Lake Wastewater Treatment facility in Shakopee on Tuesday. The array will provide 1.57 megawatts of power to the facility, replacing 10 percent of the facility’s total energy needs with solar power.  “This is a great example of how public and private entities can work together,” Laura McCarten, regional vice president for Xcel Energy, said at the ceremony.

As Minnesota stalls, some states ramp up transportation funding
It’s important to stay competitive with critical infrastructure investment.

Star Tribune Editorial, October 6, 2015

Minnesota lawmakers hit the brakes instead of the accelerator on transportation funding this year, and that’s regrettable. But there’s some consolation in knowing that not every state has stalled on critical infrastructure.

Fifteen states passed major transportation packages in 2015. Seven raised gasoline taxes. Eight raised various driving fees. Four launched bonding programs to finance new roads or transit projects. Republicans controlled the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature in 10 of those 15 states, including six that raised taxes. Among the highlights:


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.


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.


Mobility-based housing programs seek to move low-income families to low-poverty neighborhoods

Federal 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.”

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.



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.





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