Back in 1967, the Metropolitan Council was created to solve a problem: The growing population of the Twin Cities region had a sewage problem spawned by a patchwork of sewer and septic systems, and letting the problem fester would be a significant problem for public health.
The Metropolitan Council wasn’t supposed to replace local governments, but coordinate their efforts to increase health, safety and efficiency.
Coordinated planning of water and sewer systems made sense. And it worked pretty well, as such things go. Some things do work better at scale.
Legislators liked what they saw, so they added new functions to the Met Council over time. The most obvious and most frequently contentious is public transit, but other duties were added over time: regional planning, urban planning for municipalities, forecasting population growth, ensuring adequate affordable housing, and maintaining a regional park and trails system. It even has authority over aviation matters.
Aficionados of making government “efficient” and empowering “experts” see this increase in the Metropolitan Council as a great thing. It turns the Twin Cities metropolitan region — which is a sprawling mish-mash of overlapping governments, populations, taxing districts, and authorities — into one thing to be managed. And managed by a council that is entirely unelected and mostly unaccountable.