The Met Council is moving along their project to extend the light rail’s blue line, adding stops in north Minneapolis, Golden Valley, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park. Each city involved needs to approve phases of the project through a process known as “municipal consent.” According to the Met Council the blue line extension has “successfully gained municipal consent” – but some city council members are saying the process isn’t as fair as most of the public perceives it to be.
Elizabeth Dahl sits on the Crystal City Council and reached out to Alpha News to share her concerns. Dahl says that the municipal consent process leaves cities with three options: to vote “yes” on the project, to vote “no” on the project and have a taxpayer-funded mediation where their concerns will likely be turned in to a “yes” later on, or to vote for a non-resolution, which will automatically be turned in to a “yes” after a certain period of time.
Wanting to avoid taxpayer funded mediation, the City of Crystal voted for a non-resolution. Dahl explains, “Here we have the Met Council telling everyone they have a choice, that all of these cities voted yes on this project, when in fact they did not. I know more than one city council member who voted yes, not because they wanted to back this project, but because they wanted to protect their city form the Met Council.”
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who has been active against this project, says he has heard several concerns from the city of Crystal, explaining, “The municipal consent process is frustrating in its own way, and I have heard from particularly in Crystal, their frustration, because the interpretation their attorneys have given them is that essentially municipal consent is kind of irrelevant, because even if you vote no they move forward with it anyway.”
Johnson says while some cities may interpret the municipal consent process differently, that it should be changed regardless, stating, “If that is the correct interpretation, I think you might hear different interpretations of that… and if that’s correct then it’s just kind of a joke. We should fix it to say municipal consent matters and a city can stop the project if they don’t support it, or just get rid of municipal consent or stop calling it that because that’s not really what it is.”
Alpha News reached out to several other city council members along the blue line extension. Some members stated they support the project, however some members agreed that municipal consent isn’t as transparent as it seems. John Jordan with Brooklyn Park says “to call it ‘Municipal Consent’ wasn’t really a proper term for what we were doing,” going on to say, “If the Met Council decides to impose their light rail on future cities those councils need to know what they’re getting into the very first time they vote. They are locking themselves and future councils into their decision.”
The Metropolitan Council responded saying they were following state statute. Their response states: “The Metropolitan Council followed the state statute (473.3994) that requires municipal consent, which means local approval of an LRT line’s physical design components including tracks, bridges, stations, roads and support structures. All five corridor city councils and the county board earlier approved the line’s route.” Both Johnson and Dahl said that state lawmakers would need to address this problem.
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