The basics of the Southwest Light Rail project are controversial enough on their own. Now opponents are layering another debate over the existing one as they argue whether the process for nailing down those basics is democratic enough.
The controversy garnered extra attention when Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) worried in a Sept. 7 Star Tribune editorial that the Metropolitan Council would overlook local officials’ concerns.
“For the members of the Met Council to move forward in their capacity as unelected officials and to commit millions of public dollars to these public works projects is concerning,” she wrote. “Even more so is their power to act contrary to the wishes of duly elected local officials who are directly accountable to their communities and voters. Not only should they have to have a recorded public vote, this project should not move forward without municipal consent from each city council of every affected community along the line.”
But 10 days later, Minnetonka Mayor Terry Schneider—along with Edina Mayor James Hovland and Hennepin County Commissioner Jan Callison—argued in another Star Tribune editorial that Loon’s worries are overblown.
“Elected officials of all five cities on the line as well as Hennepin County will vote on this project as part of the municipal consent process outlined in Minnesota Statutes section 473.3994,” they wrote. “Moreover, these communities have worked on and provided input to this project for years through a variety of committees, planning opportunities and the involvement of local elected officials. We can assure you that each community has had and expects to have a substantial role in the planning of this line.”
Schneider, Hovland and Callison add that more than 2,000 residents have attended 15 public light rail meetings since April and that citizen, business and technical advisory groups have been meeting for years.
“We encourage those unfamiliar with the process of developing and building a major public investment like the Southwest light-rail line to join us at our upcoming meetings,” they conclude.
Other news you should know about today:
- North Memorial construction gets underway: Work on North Memorial’s controversial new Minnetonka Medical Center officially begins Tuesday with a groundbreaking from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Residents were initially worried about what the project would mean for their homes. But the building is now about 4,000 square feet smaller and farther back from Highwood Drive. It has about 61 fewer parking spaces. It also has more berms and preserves more trees in order to screen Highwood Drive neighbors from the activity. It will have primary care, specialty care, an urgency center, a lab and imaging.