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It’s pathetic that the St. Cloud City Council incumbents are using their supporters to spread fear to defeat their challengers. A perfect example of the incumbents’ fearmongering is this LTE that the St. Cloud Times published.

In it, the writer writes “In St. Cloud, most of us seek to treat others the way we’d like to be treated. That cuts across race, religion and what’s in your wallet. But a handful of candidates running for St. Cloud City Council are trying to divide us against each other. They hope that if we fear our neighbor, believe conspiracy theories about Sharia law and the United Nations, or buy into inflated crime statistics and rhetoric, we might look the other way while they fail to address the issues affecting all of us in our community. I appreciate our current council members Dave Masters, Steve Laraway and John Libert for refusing to accept the rhetoric of those who are targeting certain members in the community to build political power.”

What a pile of BS. First off, saying that these candidates are trying to divide citizens by getting them to “buy into inflated crime statistics” is reprehensible. Those statistics came from the FBI. Does this writer want me to believe that I shouldn’t trust the FBI?

Next, I don’t remember any LTEs written after Jeff Goerger teamed with #UniteCloud in pushing his ‘welcoming community’ resolution without advance notice. That resolution was written to belittle the resolution that Councilman Jeff Johnson’s resolution. Masters, Laraway and Libert each voted to undercut Councilman Johnson. There wasn’t any advance notice given by Goerger. Councilman Johnson gave the Council 2 weeks advance notice.

I’d call Laraway, Libert, Goerger and Masters predators but that’s too good for them. There’s only 2 members of the City Council that actually listen to their constituents: Jeff Johnson and George Hontos. The rest of them only listen to the special interests like the Chamber of Commerce, UniteCloud and Lutheran Social Services. It’s rich that people that only listen to the special interests are considered uniters but those that actually listen to their would-be constituents are considered dividers.

BTW, John Palmer, Liz Baklaich, Paul Brandmire and Mike Conway are each running on an agenda of economic development and law and order. Finally, this LTE has the tone of a typical UniteCloud smear job written all over it. UniteCloud specializes in smearing people rather than debating them on a substantive basis.

When A.J. Kern announced that she was primarying Tom Emmer this past summer, the St. Cloud Times forced her to quit writing her monthly column for them. The Times must selectively enforce their policies because Natalie Ringsmuth is running for the ISD 742 school board but she’s still writing her monthly column.

This month, Ringsmuth’s column reads more like a hit piece against Liz Baklaich, who is a city council candidate. Early in her hit piece, Ringsmuth said that she “is always up for a good community conversation — and not just one where everyone agrees with me.”

Actually, that’s pretty much the only kind of “community conversation” that Natalie prefers. The only other kind that she prefers are where her ideological opponents are outnumbered by a wide margin.

Ms. Ringsmuth doesn’t have the integrity to step aside from her column. She’d rather still use it to attack people who oppose her #UniteCloud agenda. That’s Ms. Baklaich’s ‘sin’. She’d much prefer Steve Laraway, a spineless councilman, to represent St. Cloud’s 2nd Ward on St. Cloud’s City Council. Laraway has totally bought into #UniteCloud’s agenda. Why wouldn’t Ringsmuth run interference for her ally?

The truth is that the Times should apologize for this decision. Further, they should immediately publish a rebuttal to Ringsmuth’s hit piece.

Tuesday morning, the Center of Immigration Studies, aka CIS, held a panel discussion on the topic of refugee resettlement. The participating panelists were Don Barnett, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and widely published on refugee resettlement and asylum issues, Richard Thompson, the President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, and St. Cloud City Councilman Jeff Johnson.

Based on the verified information presented during the discussion, it’s clear that the United States needs to rethink its refugee resettlement policies, not just for its own good but also for the good of the refugees. During the discussion, moderator Mark Krikorian said that the “point of refugee resettlement should be a last resort for people who literally cannot stay where they are for a second longer.” He then highlighted a report from “the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees”, which said that just “281 of the over 118,000 refugees, or 0.40 percent, the United Nations has dispatched to safe nations around the world, most to the United States, actually faced threats requiring their immediate removal. This emergency level applies to cases in which the immediacy of security and/or medical condition necessitates removal from the threatening conditions within a few days, if not within hours.”

Further, one of the other statistics presented during the event shows that it costs 12 times more to resettle refugees in the United States or other western nations than it costs to resettle refugees within the region of their birth. This information makes this propaganda video virtually irrelevant:

People need to start asking pro-refugee resettlement organizations whether it’s more important to import refugees into unfamiliar surroundings at high prices or whether it’s more important to resettle these refugees into regional camps in familiar territory at one-twelfth the cost. If the goal is to improve these refugees’ lives, then keeping them in familiar territory is imperative. If the goal is to use a federal government program to pay the salaries for Volag fat-cats, then we shouldn’t change anything.

UniteCloud has been a leading advocate for maintaining the status quo on resettlement policy. In this post, UniteCloud spends most of their bandwidth criticizing Jeff Johnson but they made some important admissions:

Much of Jeff’s focus has been on Lutheran Social Services, since they are the only refugee resettlement agency in Central MN. He claims that LSS has not been transparent enough and, to some extent, that has been true. Because of the combative nature of some of the attendees at their quarterly meeting, LSS has limited the meeting attendance to “invite only”.

LSS, aka Lutheran Social Services, hasn’t been transparent because they don’t want people to know how little they do to earn $1,000 per refugee resettled to the United States.

The truth is that LSS isn’t in the resettlement business to help refugees. They’re in it because it’s a lucrative business that pays the lucrative salaries of their leaders. There’s no proof that LSS works with these refugees to teach them about American culture or how to assimilate or, most importantly, access the American Dream. That isn’t compassion. That’s a racket.

It’s time to rethink US refugee resettlement. The goal should be to improve the refugees’ lives at the least expensive price. We’re failing on both counts right now.

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Thursday night at the St. Cloud Public Library, Dr. John Palmer gave a presentation based on this document. One of the primary focuses of Dr. Palmer’s presentation was to establish a set of facts so St. Cloud could have an honest discussion about the hidden costs of St. Cloud’s changing demographics.

One of the statistic sets that Dr. Palmer cited was the median household income for the major demographic groups. Dr. Palmer cited statistics from the State Demographer’s Office, which said “Median income is the point at which half the individuals earn less than that amount and half earn more. In 2015, the Median household income of Minnesotans was $60,900. Whites had a median household income of $64,100 with the next four largest groups of Minnesotans (Blacks, Mexicans, Hmong and Somali) having a substantially lower median household incomes than Whites. In order of median income, Hmong had the highest median income at $53,000 and Somalis had the lowest median income at $18,400. Black median income was $28,800 and Mexican median income was $38,500 in 2015.”

Dr. Palmer also noted the poverty rates of these demographic groups:

The largest Minnesota refugee-related population (Hmong), in 2015, have almost three times more of their population living below or near the poverty level than White Minnesotans (61% v. 21%). When the most recent (Somali) and second largest, refugee-related population are compared to White Minnesotans based on percent living below or near the poverty level, nearly four times more Somalis (21% v. 83%) live below or nearly below the poverty level than Whites. When the most recent refugee population (Somali) in Minnesota are compared to the largest and nearly 30 year resident refugee population (Hmong) in Minnesota, it appears that resettled refugees experience great challenges in escaping poverty and low-income status in the decades following resettlement.

Then Dr. Palmer observed:

“If you’re a Minnesotan and you see this data, you should be embarrassed. Something is wrong with this picture,” he said. It confirms the existence of a wide disparity in the economic health of different groups, Palmer said.

Dr. Palmer followed that up with this observation:

“When we look at the experience of the Hmong community and continuing economic challenges faced by African-Americans … we have not done, as a society, a very good job,” he said. “And then, we’ve brought in another population that have high needs.”

After Dr. Palmer’s presentation, he opened the floor to accept questions. One of the ‘questioners’ accused Dr. Palmer of cherry-picking statistics, arguing that Somalis had opened a number of businesses.

This missed the point that too many Somalis live in poverty or close to the Federal Poverty Level, aka FPL. The point Dr. Palmer tried making was that a) Minnesota hadn’t done a good job of making the American Dream available to these minority populations and b) he’s interested in finding a solution to lift these people out of poverty so they could live that American Dream.

Another questioner identified herself as a teacher at SCTCC. She asked whether Dr. Palmer put a high priority on diversity. He replied that he put a high priority on diversity of thought and that he loved America the melting pot but not America, the salad bowl, reminding people of the phrase e pluribus Unum, which means “out of many, One.”

It isn’t a stretch to think that #UniteCloud’s attendees hoped to pick a fight. As Dr. Palmer said at the outset, “If you came to hear an anti-refugee speaker you might as well leave, because I’m not that. That’s not who I am, that’s not what I do, that’s not what I want to be known of as in the community.” Nonetheless, people from #UniteCloud and ISIAIH/GRIP did their best to stir racial tension and animosity. Instead of succeeding, they exposed themselves as only interested in creating heat, not shedding light.

Put differently, Dr. Palmer came seeking a solution. #UniteCloud and ISIAIH/GRIP came to pick a fight.

The first thought I had after reading this article is that the St. Cloud Times isn’t interested in in-depth reporting. Instead, I’m left with the impression that the article is more about gossip than about in-depth reporting.

I base that statement on the opening paragraph of the article, which says “A banner posted in the dark of night two days before Christmas may mark the emergence of a new player in Central Minnesota’s refugee conflict.” Later in the article, Natalie Ringsmuth is quoted as saying “Their real goal is to get it spread around social media. Does it mean that there is (an Identity Evropa group) here, or they’re just trying to start one here? We don’t know. But it does seem like an escalation move.”

The article doesn’t say whether there’s a local chapter of Identity Evropa in St. Cloud or Central Minnesota. In the comments section of the online article, Don Casey said “Mission accomplished. Stunts like this are designed to attract attention — and the Times provides it in spades. A story 745 words long (700+ is the Associated Press standard for ‘”very top global stories of the day”). The story includes information on the goals of Identity Evropa — even information on how to join ( open to men and women of all ages … application on website … members allowed to register with an alias). The banner hangers (probably 2-3 non–locals) couldn’t have hoped for more.”

Actually, there’s another explanation that’s possible. Imagine if you’re organizing a group that promotes a welcoming community. Planting a provocative poster on a bridge might help with fundraising for an organization like Unite Cloud. I’m not accusing them of doing this. I’m just suggesting that, based on the Times’ reporting, it’s a possibility.

Natalie Ringsmuth must be a physically fit woman because she’s constantly jumping to conclusions. According to Ms. Ringsmuth, there’s a new group in St. Cloud that’s “trying to normalize the fact that refugees are not welcome here.” The name of the organization is C-Cubed.

According to their statement from Dec. 11, 2017, C-Cubed first met November 17th with the mission of coordinating “activities focused on internal and external communication, data analysis, candidate recruitment while monitoring the activities of the St. Cloud City Council, the Stearns County Board and ISD 742 School Board related to the impact of resettlement of refugees on our community.” Part of that “data analysis group has begun creation of a data warehouse containing data on the impact of refugee resettlement from a wide variety of sources. Analysis will be focused on the impact of resettlement on our community’s economy, housing, health, education, and public safety systems.”

Nattering Natalie’s negativity is trained on citizens who are worried about local government decisions and the financial impact their policies have on taxpayers. It didn’t take Ms. Ringsmuth long to jump from citizens wanting to know how refugees impact St. Cloud’s “economy, housing, health, education, and public safety systems” to that being proof the members of C-Cubed want to send the message that “refugees aren’t welcome here.”

This is all you need to know about Ms. Ringsmuth’s assumptions:

Often we allow misinformation and dehumanizing stereotypes to make untrue assumptions of our neighbors. By telling our stories, YOUR story, we can give a face to the disenfranchised and show others that there is more to each issue than meets the eye.

WHO IS YOUR NEIGHBOR?
LGBTQ+, Muslims, Christians, Immigrants, Disabled, Homeless, Poor, Women, Whites, Blacks, and on and on. We all have biases. They influence how we treat each other. You don’t have to agree with your neighbor’s lifestyle to promote a culture of respect. You don’t have to agree on anything to be kind. Our commonality is based in our humanness. Take time to look your neighbor in the eye, learn their story, and see how much we all hold in common.

Our Vision
#unitecloud seeks to foster an empathetic community that chooses to stand up for one another regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, or socio-economic background. We believe that our commitment to this vision will lead to a sense of greater safety and hope and a decrease in fear and suspicion of those who are different from us.

In other words, #UniteCloud automatically assumes that we’re bigots that need to be taught how not to assume the worst about those not like us. Ms. Ringsmuth needs to stop jumping to conclusions based on misinformation.

Last Monday, the St. Cloud City Council went off the deep end. On Ox in the Afternoon’s Friday program, it was said that the City Council “flipped us the bird.” This was planned. Most disgustingly, it was a surprise ambush. Jeff Goerger put forward a resolution for the Council’s consideration. In putting forward the resolution, Goerger ignored the rules that the City Council revised this past August.

Apart from the tactics used, and infinitely more important, the City Council didn’t listen to the people. There have been a large group of people clamoring for an independent audit that tells St. Cloud residents how much of their taxes are being spent on subsidized housing, education, public safety, health and other things. That’s what was the driving force behind Councilman Johnson’s moratorium. City Council President Lewis, Councilman Laraway, Councilman Libert, Councilman Goerger and Councilman Masters voted against accountability and transparency.

They, along with Mayor Kleis, sang from the same discredited ‘hymnal’ that this is a federal issue that doesn’t intersect with the city’s budget. If they want to continue singing that discredited refrain, that’s their right. It’s also St. Cloud’s right to defeat each of these councilmembers the next time they’re up for re-election.

Goerger, Masters, Laraway, Lewis and Libert exposed themselves as unworthy of being called leaders. They did what Kleis wanted them to do. That makes them sheep, not leaders. Further, Goerger, Masters, Laraway, Lewis and Libert attempted to quiet the city with this resolution. They did the opposite. Rather than having a rational discussion with their constituents, the City Council essentially told the people to shut up, that they knew what’s best.

Goerger’s condescension was showing when he introduced his resolution, which was titled “in support of a just and welcoming community.” The implication wasn’t lost on St. Cloud. It’s apparent that Goerger thinks that those that disagree with him aren’t just. His introductory speech made that clear, saying “This one guy bringing forward a resolution is not the voice of the City Council”:

What is the City Council afraid of? It’s clear that they thought that they had to control the debate. It’s clear that the Council felt they had to repudiate Councilman Johnson. It’s clear that there’s a sizable and growing group of people who simply want to know that their taxes aren’t getting spent foolishly.

The other unmistakable message sent by the City Council was that they have no intention of being transparent with the people of St. Cloud. The unmistakable message sent by Councilman Goerger is that he’s a liberal who isn’t that bright. In his resolution, he stated that “the city of St. Cloud has the capacity to provide municipal services to the aforementioned prospective new residents without an impact on the city budget or quality of life.”

Anyone that thinks that refugees don’t have an impact on the city budget is delusional. I wrote in this post that this was a crystallizing event. Further, it’s clear from watching the video of the meeting that there were essentially as many citizens opposing Goerger’s resolution as supporting. Why, then, was the vote lopsided in favoring Goerger’s resolution?

Further, people are saying that the Goerger resolution passed. It didn’t. The only vote taken was on whether to call the question. No votes were taken on whether to approve Goerger’s resolution. This video clearly shows that:

That’s shown approximately 1:20:00 into the video. Within seconds of the vote to call the question, Council President Lewis adjourned the meeting.

Finally, it’s clear that the anti-transparency activists weren’t there to listen people with a different opinion. They were there to shout down people who disagreed with them. Think about that. The people supporting the resolution titled “in support of a just and welcoming community” shouted down the people who wanted a full, respectful discussion. These anti-transparency activists who demand St. Cloud be a welcoming community were openly hostile to Councilman Johnson.

That’s both ironic and pathetic.

As you know, last February, I broke my right arm, which led to me spending 3 months in rehabilitation and away from LFR. While my arm is functional, it still isn’t 100%. Still, I’m grateful that I’m returning to the level of productivity that I was known for prior to my ‘year from hell’.

Over the past month, LFR has led the way in holding the ISD 742 School Board accountable. Additionally, I’ve spent time laying out a positive reform agenda that includes reducing the scope of government, especially as it pertains to the Met Council.

For the rest of 2017, I’ll be working on holding DFL front groups like Black Lives Matter and #UniteCloud accountable for their protests. I’ll also spend time exposing the connection between the School Board and special interest organizations. Trust me when I say it’s one of the best-kept secrets in town. It’s my goal to turn those connections into the worst-kept secrets in town.

Meanwhile, I’ll do my best to hold the St. Cloud Times and other media outlets accountable. Finally, LFR will provide information that will help you, the news consumer, the best-informed readers going into next year’s midterm elections.

Thanks for your loyal readership the past 12+ years. If you want to contribute monetarily or forward stories to me, contact me by leaving a comment to this post. I’ll contact you via email.

Stephanie Dickrell’s St. Cloud Times article about a #UniteCloud event puts in play the question of whether #UniteCloud’s message is compromised.

Ms. Dickrell’s article quotes Natalie Ringsmuth, the executive director and founder of UniteCloud, as saying “At midnight last night, we decided to do something. We felt like we didn’t want to wait a whole week. … We wanted to give space for people to be able to gather in the name of peace.” To their credit, their gathering was peaceful, with an asterisk.

Though there wasn’t any acts of physical violence at #UniteCloud’s gathering, #UniteCloud’s credibility is questioned because one of the organizations participating in the gathering was Black Lives Matter. Their history isn’t filled with inspirational moments. It’s filled with questionable activities. The article includes a paragraph that reads “BLM leaders are under a new kind of scrutiny because of a whiplash of unexpected events: cell phone videos of two black men who died from police gunfire followed by the ambush and killings of five police officers in Dallas at a Black Lives Matter protest, and three police officers targeted and killed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.”

The Twin Cities chapter of Black Lives Matter has its own checkered history:

Rumors about the man’s death started with a Facebook post by a user of the name Davion Gatlin, who initially claimed the man was black, the Pioneer Press reported. “[W]e ride pass the park around 6am and witness a brother hanging dead from a tree!” he wrote, attaching photos of the body that he took from afar. “They still killing us and we still killing each other! #MakeGoViral”

The verified Facebook account of Black Lives Matter Minneapolis has since picked up on Mr. Gatlin’s semi-viral post, also sharing the graphic photos and claiming that the man was “lynched.”

“A man was found lynched in St. Paul, MN this morning,” the group posted. “St. Paul PD was quick to call this a suicide while witnesses on the scene say the man’s hands were tied behind his back. We are hurt by the tragic news and know that this despicable & disgusting act of cowardice will not be erased.”

Here’s a question for Ms. Ringsmuth. If the march was for peace, why would you let Black Lives Matter, a group with a sometimes violent history, participate in the march?

Here’s the ugly truth. #UniteCloud is a DFL front group that’s more into stirring up political trouble than they’re about providing solutions. If #UniteCloud wants credibility, they need to get rid of organizations like Black Lives Matter because of their sordid history.

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