Beltrami County’s newsletter for the second quarter of 2019 boasts about growth: A $12 million facility in the Bemidji Technology Park, Stittsworth Meats’ creation of 25 jobs, a new trucking terminal, and other things that will help Bemidji maintain its reputation as a growing regional hub.
As a former Beltrami County resident, it saddens me that all of these efforts will grind to a halt, as the county is apparently at capacity.
When the county’s Board of Commissioners voted Jan. 7 to prohibit refugees from resettling in the area, Commissioner Jim Lucachick said it was not “prudent” to allow refugees in when the county needs to take care of “all of the issues,” according to a Minnesota Public Radio article. While Lucachick is not quoted as elaborating on what “all of the issues” actually means, a Beltrami citizen is quoted as saying that the county cannot afford to take in refugees.
Perhaps this citizen is referring to the county’s 4.2 percent unemployment rate -- the lowest in the county’s history. Perhaps he is referring to the fact that the recent developments cited above only generated $164,000 in annual property taxes. Or maybe when people say that the county can’t afford refugees, they mean it can’t “afford” the kind of growth that includes people who don’t look like them.
You can’t have it both ways, Beltrami. Embrace your place as a prosperous regional hub and share the wealth, or acknowledge the insular racism so pervasive in this county.