ST. CLOUD — To see how publicly divided the St. Cloud community is regarding a recent influx of Somali and East African refugees, people need look only at the 2018 City Council elections.
A year after the seven-member council passed a resolution to make the city a more welcoming place, four candidates who openly questioned refugee resettlement here ran for office. Two — Paul Brandmire and Mike Conway — were elected.
Those results reflect continuing pushback to Somali refugees and have continued to exacerbate the city’s national reputation.
Mayor David Kleis has also been faulted, with some residents saying the longtime city leader has not done enough to speak out against hate and looks past the problem.
Brandmire, a conservative on the nonpartisan City Council, told the Times he still supports a pause on new refugees coming in and continues to have questions about the resettlement program’s impact on taxpayers.
But Brandmire says the costs of the program have not been clear for St. Cloud residents, though he admitted that he hasn’t looked at the costs of the program “that closely” and hasn’t yet read several reports that outlined costs.
St. Cloud refugees: Get involved, learn more
Stearns County officials say county costs for refugees are “minimal,” and they have held several public forums to break down the impact on local taxpayers. St. Cloud city officials have also said refugees have not increased city spending, especially because most funding for the program is federal.
Yet the political battle still rages. Read more about it in Part IV of “Hope & Fear in Minnesota’s Heartland: Local politics underscore deep divisions.“
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