St. Cloud Elects Council Members Who Support Stalling Refugee Resettlement Program

St. Cloud elected two new conservative members to its city council who support efforts to slow down the influx of refugees settling in the community.

The issue became a hot topic in Minnesota after Council Member Jeff Johnson (not related to the Republican gubernatorial candidate) introduced a measure to temporarily pause the federal resettlement program until St. Cloud officials agreed to release information on its cost.

But the measure was ultimately rejected in a 6-1 vote, and a symbolic proposal declaring St. Cloud a “welcoming community” was passed in its place. Residents of St. Cloud, however, showed signs of supporting Johnson’s proposal, and in August 2017 had gathered signatures for a petition demanding increased transparency on refugee resettlement, according to The Star Tribune.

St. Cloud residents later started a group called Concerned Community Citizens, or C-Cubed, which sought to recall members of the city council who voted against Johnson’s resolution, The St. Cloud Times reports.

In one instance, the group hosted a “Red Hat Forum” in which its members sported hats with “Make St. Cloud Great Again” printed on them. But these residents were chastised by Gov. Mark Dayton (D-MN), who suggested that they “find another state” to live in if they can’t “accept” refugees.

“If you are that intolerant, if you are that much of a racist or a bigot, then find another state. Find a state where the minority population is one percent or whatever. It’s not going to be again. It’s not going to be that in St. Cloud, or Rochester or Worthington,” Dayton said when the issue was first raised.

Now, however, the city has elected two new council members who supported Johnson’s resolution, and plan to pressure St. Cloud’s leaders to be more transparent on the refugee resettlement program’s cost to the city.

“It’s to gain an understanding of where the city’s resources are being spent,” Council Member-elect Mike Conway said, according to The Star Tribune. Conway will replace Johnson, who didn’t seek reelection, and will be joined by fellow conservative Paul Brandmire.

When announcing his campaign, Brandmire accused the city council of “turning a deaf ear to these people who simply want to be heard.”

“I got involved because I’m thinking these people are not watching out for us anymore. That’s why I ran for House because I got the impression that things in St. Paul were going a direction I didn’t feel comfortable with,” Brandmire said. “It’s like they were asleep at the switch.”

Brandmire unseated Council Member John Libert, who voted against Johnson’s proposal to suspend refugee resettlement in the city. Conway agreed with Brandmire’s assessment of the city’s government, saying elected officials were “just not listening to the residents.”

“The city council has proven that they really aren’t interested in listening to the residents. They have their own agenda. I don’t have a specific agenda other than to represent the people, specifically in the Fourth Ward,” Conway said.

Both Conway and Brandmire will be sworn in on Jan. 7.

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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]

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