The Chair of the Metropolitan Council is cautioning that the Twin Cities region could fall behind peer cities if leaders do not continue to make long-term investments in vital infrastructure like affordable housing and transportation.
In a speech marking the 50th Anniversary of the Metropolitan Council, Chair Alene Tchourumoff pointed to the role regional partnerships and long-term planning have played in building a high quality of life for the region.
Inside the University of Minnesota McNamara Alumni Center, surrounded by local elected officials and leaders from across the region, Chair Tchourumoff said that since 1967, the Council has guided those regional efforts, with great success.
“Over the past 50 years, our region has made wise choices and invested in long-term solutions. Because of it, the Twin Cities metropolitan region is strong and vibrant, and competitive in the global marketplace,” said Tchourumoff.
“But we face a serious risk,” Tchourumoff warned. “One of complacency. We may not be facing a burning crisis, but we are facing a slow burn that could roll back the progress we’ve made, setting our region back while our peers in Denver, Seattle and Portland charge forward.”
Tchourumoff called on regional leaders - many of whom were in attendance at the event - to continue to choose innovation, as their counterparts did 50 years ago when choosing to create a regional body.
She challenged leaders to work together to address the region’s three most pressing challenges:
safe, affordable housing
modern, efficient transit for a growing economy
making our region a place where everyone has the opportunities they need to reach their full potential
Chair Tchourumoff said these traits, along with a highly skilled workforce and a high quality of life, are the ingredients for a successful business environment.
“Our region has those things. That’s why we have so many Fortune 500 corporate headquarters and growing businesses here. But we need to do even better – much better, in fact – if we hope to attract major employers and thousands of new jobs to the Twin Cities,” said Chair Tchourumoff.
“But it’s not just the new potential corporate campuses we are looking to gain; a strong regional approach is essential for creating a better business environment for the employers that are already here – our homegrown businesses – and the many hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans they employ.”
Chair Tchourumoff also used the opportunity to announce that in 2017 the METRO Green and Blue Lines broke ridership records with a 4 percent increase in ridership. And the Northstar Commuter Rail line shattered ridership expectations by posting an increase of 11.6 percent.
Governor Mark Dayton also spoke at the 50th anniversary celebration, welcoming everyone and reminding them of the region’s many assets.
Following Governor Dayton and Chair Tchourumoff’s remarks, a group of former Council Chairs discussed the challenges of the next 50 years and their thoughts on how to tackle them. Sue Haigh (2011-2015), Curt Johnson (1995-1999), and Ted Mondale (1999-2003) addressed a range of topics from autonomous cars, to affordable housing, to efforts to reform the Council’s governance. The panel discussion was moderated by former Council Member Brian McDaniel, who served from 2003-2008.
The Council has a collection of stories that capture successes and the power of partnerships from the past 50 years, as well as a look at the region in 1967. They can be found at metrocouncil.org/50.