Not falling for refugee rhetoric

Thumbs Up: Douglas County commissioners deserve credit for asking their constituents for feedback on whether the county should allow legal refugees to live in the county. They held off taking a vote until their next meeting on Jan. 21 because they want to get input from the public. They could have made a knee-jerk decision to not allow resettlement here, which was the intent of a presidential executive order. It requires state and local governments to provide consent before refugees can settle in their areas. After June 1, refugees won’t be placed in jurisdictions that haven’t offered consent. This should not be a huge political issue that’s been blowing up on social media. First, people are misunderstanding who the refugees are. They’re not crime-driven illegal aliens looking for a free ride on the government’s dime. These are people who have been forced to flee their home countries because of violence or persecution based on religion, race or political opinion. We should be welcoming them, not shunning them. The issue shouldn’t be causing fear and exaggerated scenarios about what will happen if we – gasp – welcome others who weren’t born and raised here. Remember, refugees who move into the U.S. are screened extensively prior to their arrival. Twenty security assessments are conducted. Refugees have legal, permanent status in the United States, authorization to work immediately upon arrival and a pathway to citizenship after five years. Lastly, merely giving consent won’t result in an overwhelming flow of people into our county. From 2009 to 2019, Douglas County has been asked to accept a grand total of one refugee through the program. Tell your county commissioners to rise above the fear mongering and politics and vote to allow legal refugees into our community. It’s the right and decent thing to do.

Shark Tank fans

Thumbs Up: An Alexandria couple who attended the Alexandria Area High School’s third annual Shark Tank event on Jan. 12 were mightily impressed with the quality of the powerpoints, the professionalism of the students' presentations, and the sharp responses to the judges' questions. Eight teams from the school’s Business Center for Advanced Professional Studies class gave presentations based on a research paper and competed for more than $20,000 in scholarship money. Each group was a member of DECA, a student organization that competes in business events such as presentations, interviews and sales demonstrations.

“Kudos to Eric Hartmann, the teacher who spurred these students on, and kudos to Geneva Capital for supporting the students' good work with $20,000 in scholarship money. Alex schools rock!”

Thinking green

Thumbs Up: If the winter blahs are settling in, think spring. And think about planting some trees. The Douglas County Soil and Water Conservation District is hosting its annual tree open house on Wednesday, Jan. 29. It’s an ideal time to learn about which trees are best for your needs. Reserve your spot by Sunday, Jan. 19. Call 320-763-3191, Extension 3.

State’s licensing system: ‘Ugh’

Thumbs Down: Minnesota’s long, complicated system of renewing driver’s licenses could use an overhaul. Other states seem to have much more convenient processes in place. We heard from an Alexandria couple about their experience after they became residents of Florida. They went to a government center with their new Florida auto insurance cards after seeing their insurance agent. They signed in, waited 10 minutes and were called to a station to begin the process. A young woman at the station waved a sheriff’s deputy over and he and the couple went out to verify the VINs on the two cars. “That done, she did this: Applied for Florida titles on the cars, applied for driver’s licenses, ordered plates, applied for homestead exemption, and did voters registration, too,” the couple said. “When done with the paperwork, she left for a moment and came back with our driver’s licenses and the plates for the cars. Voter registration cards will be received in a week, new titles in 10 days, she said. And they were.Time to do all of this? Ninety minutes, one stop. Minnesota? Ugh.”

Diligent street crews

Thumbs Up: An Alexandria woman sends a “thumbs up” to city street crews who clear the snow off Madisson Street this winter and during previous winters. The street is located off County Road 22 in northwest Alexandria. “You do a great job and do it with a great attitude,” she said.

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If you have a suggestion for a Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down, email it to aedenloff@echopress.com or mail it to Echo Press, P.O. Box 549, Alexandria, MN 56308.