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Pioneer Editorial: Cheers and Jeers

Voters must educate themselves for informed choices

Campaigns are in full swing throughout the region, state and country, with candidates appearing on November’s general election making their final appeal to voters.

Candidates use yard signs, campaign mailings and advertising – broadcast, print and online – as tools to garner support.

And it’s not only candidates who are spending time and money. There are two constitutional amendments on the ballot. Voters within the Bemidji School District will decide on a referendum to renew a $501-per-pupil operating levy. City residents will face a ballot question asking whether to implement a recall procedure into Bemidji’s charter.

There are four weeks until Election Day.

The media and civic-minded groups do their best to inform the electorate with stories and candidate debates. Those are tools used to educate residents and provide information relevant to the future of our cities, counties, state and nation.

Ultimately, though, it’s the responsibility of voters to arrive at the polls and make informed decisions, casting ballots that accurately reflect their values, hopes and conscience.

Justice for all

It took more than four years, but the case against former Bemidji real estate agent Ed Detwiler inched closer to closure last week when he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

The scheme provided for the payment of undisclosed kickbacks to property buyers and provided for the paying and subsidizing of down payments. Mortgage lenders lost more than $743,000 in the fraud conspiracy – and some property buyers, including a couple whose daughter’s inquiry to the FBI prompted a 2007 investigation, were shortchanged. One FBI investigator listed 157 suspect property sales, prompting him to conclude Detwiler conspired with appraisers, lenders and investors to defraud both buyers and sellers.

After the guilty plea, Beltrami County Assessor Duane Ebbighausen put it succinctly by stating the lengthy investigation and conviction proves the matter wasn’t “swept under the rug.”

When Detwiler appears before a judge for sentencing, he’ll face up to 20 years in prison. A plea agreement calls for him to cooperate with investigators by providing details about the conspiracy and information about others’ participation.

If the federal investigator was right, then everyone involved in the conspiracy needs to face justice in a courtroom.

Fees for food

The Bemidji Community Food Shelf recently requested the City Council waive or discount up to $1,500 in city fees for infrastructure upgrades at the organization’s new building.

Councilors did not act on the request, and a city has a moratorium on donations to nonprofit groups with the exception of building fees associated with Habitat for Humanity projects.

Habitat, like the city, has a vested interest in providing low-income housing in Bemidji. The food shelf has a vested interest in feeding the needy.

One councilor stated the city can only fund projects serving a city function.

A solution could be in the works if the City Council follows a recommendation by City Manager John Chattin, who suggests council members determine how liquor store profits might help nonprofits competing for the funds through an application process.

Until then, it seems requests like the food shelf’s request is legitimate, worthy and in the best interest of the city’s residents.