ST. CLOUD - Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton spoke in front of a packed crowd at the St. Cloud Library on Tuesday afternoon, responding to questions on diversity and racial discrimination.

Dayton's visit was hosted by the Central Minnesota NAACP to speak on racial intimidation and hate crimes against Somalis and other minority groups in Central Minnesota.

Some members of the Somali population in the crowd asked Dayton about continued discrimination and harassment in the state. Dayton says St. Cloud needs to continue adjusting to embrace diversity.

"This is Minnesota and you have every right to be here and anybody who can't accept your right to be here should find another state, they really should go somewhere else."

Dayton also responded to a couple questions on the possibility of extending the Northstar Rail to St. Cloud. He says the state needs to get federal funding for the project, and that it's frustrating that the line was created to stop short of town.

"We need to get money from the federal government to expand it, we can get part or about 20 percent of it from the state but we need the federal government. Whoever built that line that stopped 11 miles short of St. Cloud should get the idiot of the year award."

Other audience members expressed concerns about tax dollars being used for refugees in Minnesota and the possibility of them taking over jobs. Dayton says the state has 97,000 job vacancies and that immigrants and refugees can help fill that void.

Former school board candidate Hassan Yussuf also asked Dayton how the state was responding to it's growing achievement gap issue in it's schools. Dayton says there needs to be more diversity in their teaching field.

"The Minnesota achievement gap is a disgrace and unacceptable. Part of it is because we have an influx of people from other states and countries who don't have the same educational background and only 1 percent of our teachers are African American which is unacceptable."

He sat with a panel that also included St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, State Representative Jim Knoblach, NAACP board members and Somali business leaders.


Mark Dayton speaks in the St. Cloud Great River Regional Library. (Dan DeBaun, WJON)
Mark Dayton speaks in the St. Cloud Great River Regional Library. (Dan DeBaun, WJON)

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