Patty Nauman’s career in government has come full circle. She grew up in and worked for the City of Columbia Heights, then served as committee administrator for powerful Minnesota legislative committees. Now she’s the executive director of an organization that advocates on behalf of metro area cities at the State Capitol and Metropolitan Council.
Metro Cities, formerly known as the Association of Metropolitan Municipalities, dates to about the time the Legislature created the Council to address issues that cross local boundaries.
“There’s a lot of intersection between the Council and cities,” said Nauman. “Depending on the day and the issue, Metro Cities’ role with respect to the Council is as ‘watchdog,’ ‘liaison’ and ‘partner.’”
Metro Cities monitors the Council to make sure city interests are represented. It informs its member cities of what’s taking shape at the Council, and shares Council information that member cities find useful in local planning.
“Cities find value in the data, guidance, resources and tools the Council can offer that they might not have in-house,” said Nauman.
Council tools and resources that add value to local planning
The Local Planning Handbook, which Nauman calls “an exceptional tool” to help cities navigate updates and amendments to local comprehensive plans. In addition to required plan elements like transportation and water, the Handbook provides additional resources on topics requested by community, such as green infrastructure, energy planning and community engagement.
Population forecasts and estimates, that determine, with local review and input, the number of people, households and jobs within cities, current and anticipated. The data are used to distribute local government aid and local street aid, as well as help local officials plan for infrastructure needs.
Financial resources, for example, planning grants; Livable Communities grants for affordable housing and economic development; grants for regional parks; and I/I grants for local sewer improvements to prevent stormwater and groundwater from getting into the wastewater treatment system.
Community profiles, with information on individual cities, their demographic makeup, employment sectors, incomes and poverty rates, types of housing, land use and commuting patterns.
Research, with data on changing demographics in the region, the economy and employment, housing, construction activity and development trends.
Convening partners on issues like water supply to encourage planning that promotes the long-term sustainability of the region’s abundant, but not unlimited, water resources. And, continuing to examine funding mechanisms for the region’s wastewater system.
In addition, communities benefit from regional services, like wastewater collection and treatment, transit and transportation planning, and regional parks planning and coordination.
Regional coordination is important, but locals want a say
“There’s no question that these regional services and infrastructure investments are more efficiently and effectively coordinated and provided at the regional scale,” said Nauman.
“From Metro Cities’ perspective, we don’t agree with everything the Council does and decides, and local officials work to influence, advise and offer input. Local governments want the opportunity to have a say and make sure the Council stays within its lane.
“There can be tension, but that’s typically healthy. You work it out.
“Having an effective regional government is an advantage, especially as communities and governments face more problems, challenges and opportunities that will require coordinated problem solving and effective partnerships.
“More coordination and more long-term thinking is important, and that’s what the Council is here to do.”
Planning resources for communities