Met Council chair gets Senate panel’s blessing

Metropolitan Council Chair Adam Duininck answered questions from senators during his confirmation hearing. Tim Pugmire | MPR News

A Minnesota Senate panel is recommending the confirmation of Adam Duininck as chair of the Metropolitan Council.

Duininck appeared this morning before the Senate State and Local Government Committee, which approved the recommendation on a divided voice vote. The confirmation now goes to the full Senate.

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Duininck to the post in January. The governor also changed the job from part time to fulltime. Duininck previously served on the Metropolitan Council board and chaired its transportation committee.

During the confirmation hearing, Duininck told Senators that he is a “transportation junkie.”

“I’ve evolved from someone who is passionate about transportation to someone who understands the importance of taking a regional approach to public policy issues,” Duininck said.

Duininck also responded to questions about the cost of the Southwest Corridor light rail project, which is now up to $2 billion due to the discovery of poor ground conditions and soil contamination along the line. Duininck said he was shocked by the $341 million increase.

“After today’s announcement, we have to kind of take a pause and think about the future of Southwest,” he said.

The Metropolitan Council is a regional policy-making body for the Twin Cities area, dealing with transportation, housing, parks and wastewater treatment.

Duininck previously worked for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 and the political organization Win Minnesota.

Sen. Dan Hall, R-Burnsville, suggested that partisan politics have defined Duininck’s career.

“I think we should be very concerned about the governor’s appointment,” Hall said.

Another Republican on the panel, Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, said his concerns are with the Metropolitan Council’s mission. Thompson said too many local officials feel like they’re being strong-armed through fines and other threats.

“The very mission of the Met Council, dare I say it, is to a degree extortion,” Thompson said. “The very nature of the Met Council is antithetical to what we as Americans believe is just and fair government, and that is not a reflection on Mr. Duininck today.”