By C.S. Hagen
FARGO - The recall petition of City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn fizzled out on Friday after two months of volunteers gathering signatures.
The recall ended because Pipekorn promised to obtain the list of all signatories on the “Scott Hennen Show” AM1100 “The Flag” on May 10, according to a recall committee press release.
“So when they turn in the signatures for the Freedom of Information Act, I am going to request a copy of the signatures so we can review them as well,” Piepkorn said on the “Scott Hennen Show.” He added that he was concerned the signatures were not legitimate.
Friday was the final day to handover the petition to the city auditor for certification. A minimum of 3,504 signatures was needed.
“Over the past two months our volunteers have worked ceaselessly to hold accountable a city commissioner who continues to abuse his power in the effort to denigrate and marginalize some of the city's most vulnerable residents,” the recall committee said in a press release.
“Piepkorn's actions are the actions of a bully and we will continue to work to ensure that no elected official, especially those installed with a minority of votes, uses their office to spread fear, foment distrust or divide our community.”
The recall process garnered support as well as criticism from around the city. Netizens both left and right of the political aisle took to posting their thoughts about the controversy, which stemmed from Piepkorn’s outburst during a City Commissioner’s meeting last October. Last year, Piepkorn’s scrutiny into unearthing the financial “burden” of specific minority groups brought into the area by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota sparked the anti-immigrant interest of Breitbart News, the “alt-right” online news forum formerly led by Steve Bannon, a coincidence Piepkorn denied he had anything to do with.
The recall effort stirred controversy between would-be allies as well, when the Fargo/Moorhead Refugee Advisory Council, or FMRAC, issued a statement saying they were against the recall, and that recall volunteers had been threatened.
The recall committee stated at the time that volunteers had not been threatened. Fargo Police also received no reports of threats being made to recall volunteers.
“Even if they were over, the committee wouldn’t give him the chance,” a recall organizer Zac Echola said. “If anyone on the list mistakenly added their name or if they are simply unlucky enough to not be in an ICE database, they could be deported, even if they're citizens. State Department and ICE don't share data.”
Piepkorn plans to continue his line of questioning into schools and into West Fargo after he said he received information that the City of Fargo spends approximately $225,000 a year on refugees. Piepkorn also plans to ask police to begin documenting refugee status, according to his interview on the “Scott Hennen Show.” In addition, a legislative study committee will begin looking at Fargo and West Fargo city and school numbers that pertaining to refugee resettlement costs in January 2018, Piepkorn said.
Piepkorn has focused primarily on Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, the organization contracted by the state to manage the arrival of refugees and immigrants to North Dakota. The organization has handed over its 2014 990 nonprofit tax returns, and offered repeatedly to meet with Piepkorn to answer questions. Since the beginning, Piepkorn has refused.
A total of three reports on refugee costs have been handed over to the city since October 2016. The first report filed by the Fargo Human Relations Commission in April stated that statistics were difficult to obtain, but that refugees were good for the city having a cost-positive impact of $3,250 per individual. A second report filed on May 4 by the City of Fargo’s Finance Committee stated that the city has spent up to $750,000 on refugees since 2014, including the hiring of a cultural liaison officer, an interpreter, social service grants, and on the Human Relations Commission.
The third report was handed to Fargo City Commissioners last Monday by Fargo Cass Public Health, reaffirming that government agencies do not track refugees, but that the department did spend $60,100 in nursing costs on refugees in 2016.
A total of $3,895,096 went to refugee programs out of $11 million listed as federal government grants for the period up to June 30, 2016, with the City of Fargo directly contributing $500 for the Building Bridges conference, according to Shirley Dykshoorn, vice president of Senior and Humanitarian Services for Lutheran Social Services. One percent of the dollars expended by city health staff went toward refugees, she reported. “We provide dollars for those services under a contract with the Health Department,” she said.
Piepkorn’s statements pertaining to refugee costs have continuously been disproved.
“When I’m being attacked for asking where our tax money is going, that’s very concerning,” Piepkorn said. “This has upset a lot of citizens of Fargo.
He did not raise funds against the recall, but said he’s had offers of help from around the country.
“I will have people from around the country if I want to raise money that will help me, and I’ve had people offer to come to Fargo to help with the recall.”
Although the recall committee did not succeed in their efforts, they hope the recall petition has awakened people in Fargo to what they consider unfair treatment of New Americans.
“Our efforts began with little time to spare, but we did so in order to show folks that they need not be afraid, that they can stand up and participate in their democracy. Although we did not attain a recall, we have begun a vital conversation.”
July 19th 2017
July 19th 2017
July 12th 2017
June 28th 2017
June 22nd 2017
by Sabrina Hornung
Photos by Raul GomezLast Sunday we had our annual Best of the Best awards ceremony at The Plains Art Museum. we don’t mean to brag but we’re the area’s longest-running media poll, meaning we’ve been relying on you -- our…
by Sabrina Hornung
The moment of truth has arrived. After seven weeks of sampling and judging some of the finest libations in the area the results for this year’s Cocktail Showdown have arrived. Christopher Larson, Raul Gomez and Sabrina Hornung…
The High Plains Reader had the opportunity to chat with Goo Goo Dolls Bassist Robby Takac about their origins, their ever evolving sound, and the impact of “Iris.”High Plains Reader: You grew up in Buffalo New York. What was…
Fourteen years ago this month, entertainment icon Bob Hope died at age 100. Born in 1903, Hope performed in vaudeville and theatre in the 1920s and 30s, moved into radio and films in the 1930s, and by the 1940s was a major movie…
by Dima Vitanova
Shane Balkowitsch was nervous. He squatted under an inky shroud, gazing ahead above the rim of his eyeglasses. In front of him, hoisted on a modern tripod, was his accordion camera with its intense red bellows. Only steps away…
The Red River Zoo is inviting adults to gather their friends and tap into your wild side for one special night of fundraising. Zoo Brew is back again at 7pm on Thursday evening, July 27th, and with even more beer to sample than…