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By John Diers
Community columnist

Few people in the Twin Cities area are aware of the workings of the Metropolitan Council and the power it wields over their lives.

And why should they? Because it’s an unelected body, unaccountable to voters, yet it taxes, runs the region’s transit system, operates its sewer and wastewater treatment facilities, kills mosquitoes, funds regional parks and affordable housing, receives and allocates federal funding and determines how and where the region will grow.

It does all this with approximately 4,250 employees and a unified operating budget of $1.235 billion.

Next to state government, it is the most powerful agency in Minnesota and the only entity of its kind in the nation — lording it over other governments and their elected officials, compelling them to follow its mandates or suffer the consequences.

Dissent of any kind is heresy. Rebel and the Met Council will send its inquisitors to fine and punish. Refuse its mandates on growth and development and, as Lake Elmo learned a few years ago, it will bury you with litigation and million-dollar fines.

Transformed from an area of truck farms and gardens after World War II, the Twin Cities suburbs in 1967 were bursting with new housing projects, roads and schools. Yet, they lacked any regional perspective in governance or long-term vision.

Development was intruding on such basics as sewage treatment and water supplies with untreated waste going into the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, lakes and streams. Hundreds of individual septic systems and private wells foretold a public health disaster waiting to happen. There were no regional parks. Natural areas were under threat from haphazard housing projects and shopping centers. There was no regional transit system, just a faltering private bus company, Twin City Lines, which once carried 206 million annual riders on its streetcars at the end of World War II. That eventually decreased to fewer than 65 million, a ridership count so low the company wasn’t able to generate enough capital to replace its tired fleet.

The Citizens League was the architect of the Met Council. I was fresh out of the University of Minnesota in 1966 and a policy wonk on public transit. I joined the League at the time because of that interest, and I followed its efforts at laying the groundwork for regional planning. I supported regionalism then, and I do now, but not by fiat.

I still have a copy of the League’s original report and recommendations dated February 9, 1967. It was given to the Legislature as a template for the future Council. It reads:

“We recommend that the 1967 Legislature create a Metropolitan Council, directly elected by popular vote of the people, to solve the pressing area wide governmental problems of the Twin Cities area in a coordinated manner. The Council would be responsible only for those area wide functions and services which cannot be handled adequately by municipalities and counties and which are specifically assigned to the Council by the Legislature. The Council would not have any broad ‘home rule’ type grant of authority.”

The Legislature was jealous of its authority over metropolitan affairs and unwilling to relinquish that authority to an elected body accountable to voters because what emerged in 1967 was a Council appointed by the governor’s office, accountable solely to the governor and the Legislature.

There was to be no direct election by popular vote. At the time there was considerable angst and handwringing and rhetorical concern about parochialism, much as there is today, but parochialism comes with elected government, along with accountability and the need to work through and compromise for the common good. That’s what democracy is about.

The Citizens League envisioned a planning body, but the Council self-aggrandized over the years, becoming a provider of services, gobbling up public transit along with other functions that were once in separate, independent agencies. It is now a colossus of power and control that’s run by an oligarchy of technocrats and planners with no direct accountability to voters.

In its 2011 report on transit governance, the Office of the Legislative Auditor said of the Council: “More and more, the Met Council, as presently constituted, is a relic. Its complex and unclear lines of authority and accountability give metro residents no direct stake in their destiny.”

In 2023 little has changed. Witness the botched Southwest light rail project that is years behind schedule, several hundred million dollars over budget and lacking accountability.

Reform is needed. The Council should be made an elected body and returned to its original role as a planning agency with its operating functions restored to separate agencies.

Will it happen? Legislation is pending. Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, and Rep. Frank Orenstein, DFL-Minneapolis, have introduced legislation in the Senate (SF1624) and House (HF2092) that would make the Met Council an elected body. There is interest and support for the legislation. I wish them success in their efforts.

John Diers is a Prior Lake resident who spent 40 years working in the transit industry and is the author of “Twin Cities by Trolley: The Streetcar Era in Minneapolis and St. Paul” and “St. Paul Union Depot.” To submit questions or topics for community columnists, email editor@plamerican.com.

Please read more at the Prior Lake American: ⬇️ Thanks 🙏  🇺🇸 ⚖️ 🦅



I believe most Americans are awake, if not woke, to the fact that the wellbeing of America and the world is at risk. Russian President Vladimir Putin demonstrated by unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, that he’s willing to risk major war in Europe to regain dictatorial power that Communist Russia once exerted over much of Europe. His words indicate willingness to consider nuclear weapons.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s acquiescence of Putin’s moves, and his rhetoric about the prospect of stripping Taiwan’s independence, increase the risk of world military conflict.

On the home front, our southern border has become an open gate for thousands to illegally enter America each day, and a pipeline for Fentanyl to kill tens of thousands of Americans each year. With an overworked understaffed border patrol, these illegals are dispersing into unknown destinations where they require lodging, food, medical care, and children’s schooling.

With American taxpayers footing much of the cost, how many tens of millions of “illegals” can America absorb? How many of the “undocumented” immigrants pose a direct threat to the safety of American families?  With 2.3 million reported apprehensions last year of individuals trying to enter illegally, no one knows how many dangerous individuals get through. Some defenders of the status quo point out accurately that we also have dangerous home-grown persons in America, but that is no excuse to allow hundreds or thousands more to hike or wade across the border.

Cities are plagued with increasingly brazen crime like the frightening “smash and grab” tactics that we get to watch on nightly news. Mass shootings, and violence on public transportation have become the norm. Public schools once considered safe-havens for children, are becoming locked down fortresses.

One might question whether the state of our nation is as upbeat as we heard in the President’s recent State-of-the-Union address.

We can wish that elected officials in Washington would close ranks in an all-out effort to address these problems, but reality is, our two-party political system is failing. Instead of electing capable honest leaders who work together to cure our nation’s ills, we get little more than political bickering by many politicians from both parties. It often seems their primary goal is retention of political office at any cost, and/or personal enrichment at the expense of taxpayers. At risk of alienating readers from both sides of the political aisle, here are examples from a long list.

Recently elected New York Republican Congressman George Santos, grossly lied about his qualifications in order to win election. Some NY Congressional Republicans did distinguish themselves by calling for his resignation.

Democrat Congresswoman Ilhan Omar publicly demonstrated her allegiances by publicly equating the US and Israel to Hamas and the Taliban, but she was reelected in a landslide.

Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene’s rude behavior during the State-of-the-Union address should be an embarrassment to everyone in Congress. Hopefully this is her last term.

While the above are relative amateurs, senior Democrat Congressman Adam Schiff used the prestige of his position as chair of the powerful House Intelligence Committee, to claim he had personally seen evidence of collusion between Donald Trump and Russia. However, after a $32 million investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller (a highly respected former FBI Director who was appointed to that position by Presidents from both parties), no evidence was found to support Schiff’s collusion allegation.

I was one who rejected any possibility that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton could receive nominations for the 2016 election. While Donald Trump had demonstrated ability to get things done, I believed his oversize ego would be a barrier to uniting the nation, and that Hillary’s dishonesty already on display while Secretary of State, would disqualify her.

The 2020 choice was no better.

President Trump’s personal behavior diminished his chance for reelection, and the best Democrats had to offer was Joe Biden who would be the oldest president in our history, and whose major qualification seemed to be that he was a life-long career-politician. So where do we go from here?

I want to believe Democrats understand that having a Commander-in-Chief in his mid-80s is not what’s needed to enhance America’s future security, and that Republicans understand that nationwide destructive demonstrations that would result if former President Trump was returned to the White House, is not what’s needed to restore American unity.

If either man truly cares about the wellbeing of our nation, it is time to withdraw from consideration for 2024. But what do I know?

Wes Mader is a former Prior Lake mayor. Following retirement after serving as president of Bowmar Aerospace and Defense in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Wes and his wife Char retired in Prior Lake.

Please read more at the Prior Lake American! Thanks 🙏


Former School Board Chair, Richard Wolf has leveled a serious and personal allegation against PLSAS School Board candidates who are challenging incumbent Board members. He made the allegation in his letter to the editor of the Prior Lake American (Skeptical of PLSAS “change candidates,” Oct. 29).

Wolf’s letter states that “these candidates are backed by a political group associated with large monied groups in the state who are hostile to public education.” He also writes that these candidates “want public education students to learn only what this group desires.” Mr. Wolf offers no factual information to support his claim, but that’s not new for Wolf when attacking those with whom he disagrees.

While serving as Board Chair, Wolf launched a similar public attack against residents who were questioning the School District’s financial dealings with Nexus. In a letter to the editor of the Prior Lake American at that time, Wolf wrote that there was a group in town that “don’t want public education to succeed.” He went on to say “Don’t believe me? Check out their consultant,” and then named the consultant as “Paul Dorr” a nationally known critic of public education. With that kind of specific information from a School Board Chair, it sounded believable, but it was a flagrant lie.

Unfortunately, the Prior Lake American believed Wolf’s letter and put it online before someone contacted the American to advise them that Wolf’s accusation was false. To their credit, the American then pulled the letter from their website, and eliminated it from their print edition before it could do further damage in the community.

Wolf however, never apologized to those he had accused, nor did he offer any explanation regarding the basis for his fabricated story about a local group hiring an anti-education consultant.

For some in politics including some school board members, it has become an art form to censor or discredit the personal credibility of anyone who questions their decisions. However, a credible school board should welcome questions from parents, taxpayers and teachers. The tendency for some on the current PLSAS Board, to be evasive to those who raise legitimate questions about financial performance or teaching curricula, is why I support the change that Wolf adamantly opposes.

Wes Mader, Prior Lake

Last year School Superintendent Staloch, Finance Director Julie Cink and the Board aggressively promoted a $35 million tech levy referendum. Following their full-court press, less than 3,500 of the District’s over 30,000 registered voters showed up to vote yes. An obvious conclusion that can be drawn is that there is lack of public confidence in fiscal oversight and management by the District.

Of numerous issues contributing to lack of confidence, one that became most conspicuous was disclosure that Nexus Solutions, the District’s consultant had been paid $25 million since initially hired under rather questionable circumstances.

While questions were being raised about prior specific expenditures, like $426,511 that Finance Director Cink authorized for Nexus consultation on AstroTurf, the Board seemed disengaged. Serious questions regarding fiscal management went unanswered.

Declining student academic proficiency (based on MCA testing) also deserves action, not excuses.

While a convenient response is to blame COVID, let’s not be misled. Factual data clearly shows student academic proficiency in decline well before we even heard of COVID.

Taxpayers deserve a new School Board, willing and able to address fiscal issues in a forthright transparent manner. Parents deserve a Board willing to give them voice in the education of their children. Teachers deserve a Board that provides them time and resources to teach core subjects instead of controversial ideological topics. Voters can fix what’s gone wrong, by electing a new Board, accountable to parents, teachers and taxpayers.  

Wes Mader, 3348 Wood Duck Trail, Prior Lake, MN 55372

The Dakota County League of Women Voters hosted the Prior Lake Savage Area Schools ISD 719 School Board Candidate Forum on 10/12/22

If you missed the forum, you can watch it at the link below ⬇️ Thanks 🙏 🇺🇸 ⚖️ 🦅