Calls for Accountability Miss the Mark

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I’m going to describe a government agency and let you, brilliant reader, guess who it is.

  • This government agency is an un-elected bureaucracy with its top-ranking official appointed by the governor, who is then confirmed by the Minnesota Senate.
  • This agency gets involved with planning activities and expenditures at both the regional and local level.
  • This agency has an annual budget for the Twin Cities metropolitan area in the hundreds of millions.
  • This agency has built transportation projects where annual users fall short of projections.
  • This agency charges its users for its services but those revenues fall short of expenses, often requiring transfers from local and state budgets to make up the difference

Can you guess which agency I’m talking about?

If you guessed MnDOT, you’re right! You may have thought I was talking about those baddies at the Metropolitan Council given the recent House subcommittee created to hold them accountable.

Truth is, the two organizations share many similarities. The Met Council’s entire 2015 budget is  $936 million, compared to 2014 MnDOT spending in the Metro District on just trunk highways (no county highway or municipal street contributions included) totaling $685 million. The Metropolitan Council members and chair are appointed by the current governor and confirmed by the Senate, just like MnDOT’s commissioner. Both organizations impact land use and transportation planning by the investments they make. Both have projects with questionable capital costs per rider/driver.

I know this was a fairly trollish post. But we’re seeing the continuation of the campaignmantra from one political party carry over into action in the legislature. And while some of it may sound a bit over the top (like completely banning streetcars), sometimes things do slip through (like the Dan Patch gag order) that may not actually make sense.

If we want to hold the Metropolitan Council more accountable (and maybe I’d be on board with that, given all the expensive wastewater infrastructure and highly subsidized suburban bus routes and park & rides in our region), we should at least cast our gaze on other departments of government. Even if they build things your political party happens to like.