In early March, Lynnea Atlas-Ingebretson was appointed to the Metropolitan Council’s District 6 seat, which represents most of Southwest Minneapolis — along with St. Louis Park, Golden Valley, New Hope and Crystal.
She said her work on the council will be driven by a desire for more “conversations about our commonalities” and more equitable access to transportation, nature and other resources. Atlas-Ingebretson joins the most racially diverse class of Met Council members in the regional governing agency’s 52-year history.
A Minneapolis native and North High School graduate, she served most recently as the chief of staff at Juxtaposition Arts, a North Side organization that she described as teaching young people about “contemporary art, graphic design, landscape architecture, screenprinting, textiles and something called tactile urbanism, which is creative ways of engaging the public in spaces and decisions about spaces that impact them.”
Atlas-Ingebretson left Juxtaposition Arts when she joined the Met Council and started a new role at Youthprise, a philanthropic organization dedicated to reducing racial disparities among Minnesota youth. She lives with her husband, her mother-in-law and her 11-year-old son in Golden Valley.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
How will your work at Juxtaposition Arts inform your work on the Met Council?
One of the things that’s critical for our communities is making sure we’re taking advantage of all of our talents. We can’t afford to have the types of employment, housing and transportation gaps that exist impacting our growing populations. Organizations like Juxta and Youthprise understand that and have been working to create innovative solutions from within communities. They see these wonderful young people as untapped gold mines, if you will.
What I bring to the council is an ever-present lens that we have opportunities in our communities that we aren’t leveraging fully, and I’ll be trying to make connections between what we are doing and what can be done.
You mentioned in your job interview that you wanted to focus on measurable change for “dismantling inequitable practices baked into our systems.” Are there specific inequitable practices you want to correct within the Met Council’s organization?
Right now I’m at a place of learning, but the things I’m looking for are: How are our systems operating on autopilot and not looking at certain factors as we’re making decisions? Where are we not making connections between areas of historic disinvestment and opportunities that we have to build?
Are we collecting information that allows us to make informed decisions to prevent disparities? I’m asking that of every department that presents to the council. We need to collect information about age, gender, ethnicity, language. If our growing population has a much higher percentage of language diversity than our current population and we don’t have systems that allow for connections, then we can’t do a good job.
What other issues do you want to address on the Met Council?
It’s important for institutions like ours to think about how we’re organized to meet the expectations, desires and interests of new generations.
One study said that growth in Minnesota counties is in many places going to come 100 percent from communities of color and indigenous communities. That’s going to need to influence how we plan for things.
We have to ensure that people of different abilities are able to participate fully in our society, that they have transportation that’s accessible to them.
As Minnesotans retire at higher and higher rates, we are reliant on five workers for every retiree and right now in our state we have three. We have to address employment gaps in order to be prepared.
Do you support the route chosen for the Southwest Light Rail Transit line and what will be your priorities for the project going forward?
The route is set, it just is. That’s the reality we’re working in. My priorities for that project will be to really work hard to connect with the communities in my district that are impacted by Southwest LRT (and by the Blue Line).
I want to work to create better communication and provide clarity for the public about how decisions are made.
What do you see as the major upcoming Met Council projects in Southwest Minneapolis?
What I would love is for us to have more conversations about our commonalities. When I applied for this position, every applicant was asked to speak about equity. Moving from speaking about it to taking action on it is something none of us can afford not to do.
There’s a lot more diversity in South Minneapolis than people think, and it’s important for people to build relationships across areas. I’ve found working in North Minneapolis and South Minneapolis to be super, super similar. These are communities that value relationships, they value their neighbors deeply.
I want to encourage collaboration and engagement in metropolitan regional parks and open spaces. How do we have growth in outdoor activities that takes into account all modes of engagement, whether it’s families trying to walk with a stroller, or the excitement that surrounds skiing or biking, or the desire to have quiet nature space, or the conservation of some of the most rare natural environments.