The Metropolitan Council or Met Council is the regional governmental agency and metropolitan planning organization in Minnesota serving the Twin Cities seven-county metropolitan area. The Met Council is granted regional authority powers in state statutes by the Minnesota Legislature. These powers can supersede decisions and actions of local governments. The legislature entrusts the Council to maintain public services and oversee growth of the state's largest metro area. This agency is similar to Metro in Portland, Oregon in that both agencies administer an urban growth boundary.
The Council's role in the Twin Cities metro area is defined by the necessary regional services it provides and manages. These include public transportation, wastewater treatment, regional planning, urban planning for municipalities, forecasting population growth, ensuring adequate affordable housing, maintaining a regional park and trails system, and "provides a framework for regional systems including aviation, transportation, parks and open space, water quality and water management."
Governance and structure
The Met Council currently has 17 members, 16 of which represent a geographic district in the seven-county area with one chair who serves "at large." All members are appointed by the Governor of Minnesota and are reappointed with each new governor in office. The Minnesota Senate may confirm or reject each appointment. In 2007, Governor Tim Pawlenty appointed the Council Chair to Peter Bell and the Regional Administrator to Tom Weaver.
The seven counties in the Council's Twin Cities Metropolitan Area are Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington counties.
Geographic districts vary in characteristics but were historically drawn by population percentage and the presence of major natural resources. Districts near the downtown core are much smaller while the edge districts encompass large amounts of rural land. For example, District 3 contains almost all of Lake Minnetonka and its tributaries and watershed.
The Council delivers regional services to communities and the public through these divisions and operating areas:
- Regional Administration/Chair's Office - Generally sets the goals and direction the Council will take with the metro area. It also manages finances and makes budget decisions on how shared funding and grant programs are distributed amongst the region.
- Community Development - The majority of land use, regional, urban, and community planning occur with this division. It also develops and administers regional and municipal frameworks as well as the long-range vision plans.
- Transportation - This division includes Metro Transit, the authority that provides most bus service and operates light rail and commuter rail lines. Metropolitan Transportation Services (MTS) includes the staff that support the Council's role as the Metropolitan Planning Organization for the region. It also analyzes and develops future transportation options. However, road and street corridor planning is left to county and city governments. The metropolitan highway system is planned in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Additional public transit agencies also exist under an agreement in state law that allows them to "opt-out" of Metro Transit service. The largest agencies are Southwest Metro Transit in the west and Minnesota Valley Transportation Authority in the south.
- Environmental Services - MCES is mandated to address water quality, water supply, and sewage treatment. It also has full jurisdiction of the wastewater treatment system (within the MUSA boundary). This includes maintenance and construction of wastewater interceptors and operation of seven wastewater treatment plants throughout the metro area. Treatment of drinking water and storm run-off water management are left to municipalities.
- Municipal Urban Service Area (MUSA) - While not a division, the MUSA is an urban growth boundary which instead of limiting development, limits the services and infrastructure needed for development. The most important service of which is connection to the sewage treatment system. Growth is controlled because state law prohibits disastrous septic tank systems and most cities require development to be connected to a system.
In 1967 the Minnesota Legislature created the Metropolitan Council in response to growing issues of septic tank wastewater contamination. During that time, it was recognized there were systematic problems which transcended coordination of any one agency. There were more than 200 municipal agencies in existence then.
Additional acts of the legislature passed in 1974, 1976, and 1994 expanded the role and powers of the Met Council, merging it with transit and waste control commissions to become a unified regional authority.
Met Council Chairs
|James L. Hetland Jr.||1967 – 1971||Harold LeVander|
|Albert Hofstede||1971 – 1973||Wendell Anderson|
|John E. Boland||1973 – 1979||Wendell Anderson|
|Charles R. Weaver Sr.||1979 – 1982||Al Quie|
|Gerald J. Isaacs||1983 – 1984||Rudy Perpich|
|Sandra S. Gardebring||1984 – 1986||Rudy Perpich|
|Steve Keefe||1986 – 1991||Rudy Perpich|
|Mary E. Anderson||1991 – 1992||Arne Carlson|
|Dottie Rietow||1992 – 1995||Arne Carlson|
|Curtis W. Johnson||1995 – 1999||Arne Carlson|
|Ted Mondale||1999 – 2003||Jesse Ventura|
|Peter Bell||2003 – 2011||Tim Pawlenty|
|Susan Haigh||2011-||Mark Dayton|
Shortly after the Minnesota elections, 2010, Minnesota Legislative Auditor James Nobles recommended on 21 January 2011 that "the Legislature should restructure the governance of the Metropolitan Council" (page 41). The Legislative Auditor continued stating that "Maintaining an appointed Met Council would continue the Council’s accountability problems ... Because Council members are appointed by the governor, however, they are not directly accountable to the public for (their) decisions." This lack of credibility and accountability was reported on by newspapers such as the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune, and even online editorials like Politics In Minnesota.
Keegan Iversen, a Libertarian candidate for state auditor in the 2014 election, has called for the elimination or restructuring of the Council. Iversen has questioned the Councils constitutionality citing its 501(c)(4) status not in compliance with Minnesota Constitutional requirements. The legislature may authorize municipal corporations to levy and collect assessments for local improvements upon property benefited thereby without regard to cash valuation.
Marty Seifert, a Republican candidate for governor in the 2014 election, has called for the abolition of the Council, citing it as an unelected authority with taxation powers without representation.  However, most of the responsibilities of the Metropolitan Council would still need to be maintained, including a Metropolitan Planning Organization that allows the region to receive federal transportation funding. In essence, the Metropolitan Council operates in ways similar to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.
- Metropolitan Council. Accessed 2007. http://www.metrocouncil.org
- Met Council (February 2006). "Transit centers help attract new riders, boost system efficiency". Retrieved 2007-09-21.
- Steven Hauser. "Testing Inter-System Usability of Opt Out Transit Systems and Transportation". Retrieved 2007-09-21.
- Governance of Transit in the Twin Cities Region, Office of the Legislative Auditor. Accessed 2011. http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/ped/pedrep/transit.pdf
- The Paper Trail: Legislative Auditor recommends Met Council reform. Accessed 2011. http://politicsinminnesota.com/2011/01/the-paper-trail-legislative-auditor-recommends-met-council-reform/