Seven-county tour focused on partnerships, building relationships
Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff has wrapped up her first three months in the office after launching a whirl-wind tour of the seven-county region. The tour included more than 100 meetings and events with local and elected officials; business, civic and community leaders; members of the media; and more.
“I can’t say enough how much I appreciated all the time I was able to spend around the region,” said Tchourumoff. “There’s nothing like meeting people face-to-face in their communities to listen to their concerns and learn about their successes. Building those relationships is the foundation of the region we’re building.”
Tchourumoff says she was most impressed by the many examples of partnership she witnessed during her seven-county circuit.
“Residents and local officials take so much pride in where they live and what they’ve accomplished together. It’s inspiring and gives me great hope, in these divisive times, that our oars are in the water and we’re continuing to row in the same direction—towards a region that is livable and prosperous.”
While Tchourumoff says there were many highlights to the first three months, she says one of the most fun was the Children’s Water Festival, co-hosted by the Council in September. Tchourumoff spent part of the day with 1,600 fourth-graders from around the region, as they learned about the importance of water and how to be future stewards of this resource.
“The work we do at the Council—it’s really all about setting up our region for the future,” said Tchourumoff. “What makes the Twin Cities region so successful is its civic infrastructure and commitment to problem-solving and engagement on a regional scale. It’s a model that dates back many decades and one I hope we uphold for generations to come.”
Tour highlights by county
Tchourumoff spent time in each of the seven counties, often meeting one-on-one with local elected officials. She was sometimes joined by the local Met Council member for the district and covered the wide array of work the Council is engaged in throughout the region.
Anoka: a board workshop with county commissioners to learn more about county priorities and demographics; a groundbreaking for the 105th Avenue Reconstruction Project in Blaine, which will improve safety for pedestrians and motorists; and a tour of the city of Ramsey with local officials to see joint local/Met Council investments up close.
Carver: learning about a local project to reuse stormwater for irrigation to conserve water; planning for Coney Island in the Lake Waconia Regional Park; and a meeting with city and county officials to hear about the county’s plans to spend their new local sales tax on county transportation projects.
Dakota: meeting with county commissioners about the future of transit funding for projects like the Orange Line BRT; hearing from cities about their experience with the 2018 comprehensive planning process; and visiting workforce and senior housing projects, in addition to parks like Whitetail Woods.
Hennepin: discussing affordable/workforce housing needs with suburban Hennepin County leaders, discussions with local residents and officials about water priorities around the region.
Ramsey: a workshop with county commissioners, to hear about the County’s strategic plan for the future; visiting White Bear Lake city officials to talk about water issues and tour local redevelopment.
Scott: hearing about plans that are intentional about accommodating growth, while preserving parkland, and the use of “smart” technology in Savage to better gauge water use.
Washington: visiting the Lake Elmo Regional Park Reserve with county commissioners; meeting in Hugo with local officials to see their water reuse efforts.
No time for complacency
Tchourumoff called the many sessions friendly and productive, but challenges remain.
“Transportation and transportation funding are common and recurring themes,” said Tchourumoff. “As the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the seven-county area, we’re responsible for allocating federal funds for local transportation projects. This makes us very aware of the scarcity of resources. We will continue to advocate for a stronger regional transit system. With an additional 750,000 people coming in our region by 2040, we need every tool at our disposal to ensure a range of mobility options.”
Tchourumoff says other challenges that stand out is the affordable housing crisis, the long and persistent history of disparities in the region that confront people of color, and the ability to preserve and maintain abundant natural resources.
“These are not issues with easy solutions,” said Tchourumoff. “But our long-standing collective commitment to healthy communities and a vital region give us a strong and competitive advantage as the region continues to grow and thrive, and strives to provide opportunities for all its residents.
“I look forward to continuing visiting with local and community leaders from across the region. The welcome I’ve received in all corners has been so gracious, and I appreciate all the invitations I continue to receive for local elected officials to show off their communities.”