Green Line Cuts Put a Spotlight on Met Council Decision-making

Met Council members (from left): Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson, Reva Chamblis, Chai Lee, Robert Lilligren, Francisco Gonzalez

While the decision hasn’t changed, the conversation has shifted.

Last week, the members of the Metropolitan Council once again heard from the General Manager of Metro Transit on the essentially final determination to eliminate 24-hour service of the Green Line on weekdays. But, in the weeks since the proposal was first floated, community leaders have raised significant concerns not only about the loss of shelter for people experiencing homelessness but also the lack of engagement or transparency around the decision-making process.

With strong support from a number of Met Council members, those concerns animated the discussion at the first May meeting and galvanized commitment and energy to better integrate meaningful input from community stakeholders and agency committees.

In his presentation, Metro Transit General Manager Wes Kooistra underscored that the decision to eliminate service on the Green Line from 2 to 4 a.m. Monday through Thursday starting in August will be finalized by the end of the month. However, reacting to community and Council members’ feedback, he confirmed that Metro Transit will:

  • Provide replacement bus service along the route during the hours the train is out of service
  • Resource additional case managers to help direct unsheltered riders to housing services
  • Contract with Wilder Research to better understand the needs of people using transit as shelter

Framing several Council members’ reaction to the presentation, Chai Lee and several Council members referenced an op-ed by Kadra Abdi, published that day in the Pioneer Press — “For the Met Council, equity has to start with inclusive decision-making.”

“This is about our work in transit service, but the concerns I’ve heard are really around how this decision got rolled out, the role of this body and other bodies in being part of that decision-making process and transparency as to why we are making those decisions,” said Council member Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson. “I’d like to just acknowledge that we could have done better and we need to do better moving forward… How do we make sure in cases like this that our constituents have a voice — because they want one.”

Building on Atlas-Ingebretson’s comments, Council member Francisco Gonzalez, who co-chairs the Met Council’s Equity Advisory Committee (EAC), noted that agency stakeholders, like the EAC, also want a voice. “We need to be sure we engage the community, especially the EAC, on the decisions we’re going to make at an earlier stage in the process so they have the opportunity to offer meaningful input,” he said.

Given the public response to the Green Line cuts, Council member Robert Lilligren emphasized the need to address both long-term engagement processes and the immediate needs of those impacted by this specific decision. “Because of the imminent decision about Green Line service, the spotlight will be on us for a bit here,” he said. “With this higher-profile decision coming out of the Met Council, we have an opportunity to at least be part of what the immediate, emergency response looks like in 2019.”

To that end, Council member Reva Chamblis pressed Kooistra to engage with the Council, as well as the EAC and community stakeholders, in how the services and outreach related to the Green Line cuts are implemented.

For Lilligren that goes beyond simply providing input, but engaging community leaders in being part of the response itself. “One of the things we learned in the encampment response is that who is providing the outreach and support and services matters,” he said. “[For instance,] in surveying community at the camp, the difference between the quality of data that a Native person administering the survey tool gathered versus a non-Native person was immense. We also learned that with the outreach… So as we struggle to find a sustainable regional solution, what’s the role of the Met Council? I think we’ll need to evolve and think about these issues in a different way.”

Meredith Vadis, the Council’s Regional Administrator, outlined some of the ways the agency is thinking about its role in that regional solution, including a potential amendment to the 2019 budget to allocate resources to address homelessness in the near term this summer and a larger $1 million commitment in the 2020 budget for permanent supportive housing services.

Met Council Chair Nora Slawik also invited a memo from Atlas-Ingebretson and other Council members delineating their concerns and recommendations around decision-making. “We’re working on our processes here, and I will take accountability as chair to say we can do better and I can do better and we will work on that,” she said.

Watch the full meeting of the Met Council here and stay tuned to the Alliance for updates!