St. Cloud Times, Oct. 28

Refugee resettlement? Let's keep talking

Yes! The St. Cloud City Council did the right thing Monday night when it voted 5-1 to adopt a resolution declaring the city a just and welcoming community.

The key, though, about that vote is it must mark the beginning (not the end) of more community-wide dialogue and education in the St. Cloud metro area about refugee resettlement.

Local residents not being welcoming of new residents is by no means a new problem, nor one unique to St. Cloud.

Community leaders should learn from history rather than repeat it. Build on passage of this resolution with a multi-pronged approach.

Start with a series of moderated public forums at which people have opportunities to not just share their concerns and claims, but provide credible evidence those are valid.

That's an essential component if this fast-growing community is to have fact-based (instead of fear-based) discussions about resettled refugees.

Requiring proof is also essential because the sad reality is too many people seem willing to believe — and repeat — claims that have been proven either incredibly misleading or flat-out false.

Look no further than claims still heard today about everything from free phones to free cars going to every refugee.

If you need a refresher on such matters, Stearns County in 2015 provided 64 pages of answers to opponents of refugee resettlement programs about its role and assistance. There also are many Times news reports compiled in recent years as part of the Times' Immigration Fact Check efforts.

One goal of such forums should be to find questions and concerns that have not been answered and hold follow-up public meetings at which experts can provide answers. Those meetings could feature a panel of experts able to address:

— The refugee resettlement process.

— The roles various levels of government play in refugee resettlement.

— Public assistance for resettled refugees.

— The benefits refugees provide to the community.

— The rights granted to resettled refugees — and, honestly, all people living legally in America.

The intent of these forums is simply to foster respectful, public dialogue aimed at answering questions based on facts, not fear.

Given population trends, St. Cloud and neighboring communities are going to continue to see new residents, whether they are refugees of Somalia or the neighbor's distant relatives from Sebeka.

We need to be a welcoming and just community no matter their roots.

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Mankato Free Press, Oct. 26

GOP split: The establishment can't just surrender

The Republican Party appears to be at war with itself over what it is to be a Republican. So far, the establishment isn't just losing to the insurgents. It's surrendering.

That's a reasonable conclusion to draw from the retirements of Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona — two veterans of Congress who are, emphatically, not fans of President Donald Trump.

The verbal volleys hurled in the past few weeks at the president by members of his own party have been pointed and without precedent. But they've also come from the electorally irrelevant. Sen. John McCain, re-elected in November to a six-year term, has brain cancer and is highly unlikely to ever stand for election again. Former President George W. Bush isn't running for anything again either.

Corker and Flake, their seats up for election in a year's time, opted out. They may well spend their final year-plus in the Senate blistering Trump and occasionally hindering his presidency, but they won't take their cause to the party faithful and the electorate. Ceding the electoral field to the insurgents is a losing strategy.

It is said that other members of the so-called "governing wing" of the Republican Party are deeply uneasy about the Trump administration. If so, they are, still, swallowing their words.

The primary for Alabama's special Senate election (to fill the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions became attorney general) may well have something to do with that. Alabama's Republicans chose the most disruptive candidate available. The chances that Roy Moore will be a competent, useful senator are slim indeed, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may well be quietly praying that the Democrat pulls off the upset.

That would reduce his majority to one vote, but might stiffen the spines of his caucus. As matters stand, the governing wing of the party in control of the government is unable to govern. And that's bad for the country.

Why it matters:

The old guard of the Republican Party may be uneasy with President Trump, but the vocal ones have been electorally neutered.

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Post Bulletin, Oct. 27

After last class bell rings, students continue to learn

It's past dark on a weeknight and the last school bell rang hours ago, but the lights are still on upstairs, and shadowy figures move about.

Is this the start of a ghost story? No, it's the scene at any of our city's high schools, thanks to the tireless energy of students, staff, volunteers, and others who make after-school programs possible.

Here at the end of Lights On Afterschool 2017, a week in which we've been encouraged to think about the myriad benefits of after school programs, it's hard not to feel fortunate. According to Afterschool Alliance, in Minnesota 136,041 students are enrolled in after-school programs, 149,516 are waiting for an available program, and 219,277 are alone and unsupervised after school.

Rochester's after school landscape is rich with activities for our students. Science Olympiad, sports, dramatic productions, DECA, Future Business Leaders of America, 4-H — the list is nearly endless.

On Wednesday night, Mayo High sophomores Braydon Crum and Henry Lange sat and played cards after debate practice. Between the pair, they're active in chess club, the lacrosse team, and, of course, debate.

"There's a sense of pride about it," said Lange.

He and Crum also said the after-school activities have helped their work ethic, bonding with other students, and intellectual stimulation.

These programs are where students learn to succeed on their own. They look good on college applications, too. More than that, though, studies show a slew of benefits applicable to the working world. Even while navigating the academic requirements of school successfully, there's not much time for authentic pursuits. That's why after-school programs are so special.

"These programs give kids a chance to discover their talents and passions," said Jodi Grant, Afterschool Alliance director, in a news release. "They keep kids safe, inspire them to learn and give parents peace of mind while they are at work."

Whether it's a community-led effort, like the Somali Kulan Community, an honors society meeting, or a sports team, we owe a shout-out to the parents who ferry kids around. Ditto for the custodial staff, coaches, and most of all, the students. Thanks for training up to fix the mistakes the generations ahead of you are bound to make.

The weeklong celebration came to a close Friday, but next time you see the bustle of a high school's early-dark pickup spot, take a pause and feel glad that the future is training itself.