The Pioneer’s editorial on Jan. 11 stated, “The images (from the Jan. 7 Beltrami County Board meeting) will linger -- a packed boardroom of mostly older, white people raising their hands when asked if they opposed refugees coming to their community.”
What I saw was a packed board room of taxpayers raising their hands when asked if they opposed refugee resettlement in Beltrami County. There’s a huge difference. The Pioneer’s spin on the vote may attract more readers, but their careless wording with regard to race and intention did nothing to “alleviate a negative perception” about a forced vote that had nothing to do with hardworking people who are “unwelcoming.”
So why force a vote that didn’t need to happen? Commissioner Reed Olson made it clear that he wanted to be known as “welcoming” to the State Department. Perhaps information on how Commissioner Olson intends to support 2,500 refugees may have had a different response from the folks that pay the bills. Instead he left implying that we’re all a bunch of unwelcoming racists.
In reality the group of county taxpayers were reacting to the only facts known to them: an influx of refugees who would be dependent on county welfare services in a county that barely recovered from a “fiscal cliff” in 2019. These residents incurred six years of increased tax levies, live in a county with a poverty rate of 19% compared to the national average of 13%, and saw 37% of the total budget allocated to Health and Human Services, $32.3 million.
Let’s make it clear. This isn’t about race or unwelcoming white people. This is about taxes and who has to pay them. Don’t put a racist spin on practical, fiscal management. Our hometown paper started the social media fury; perhaps they should help put the false fire out.