Minnesota Counties Talking Refugees, Housing, DHS
ST. CLOUD -- County Commissioners across Minnesota -- and the country -- are all facing making a decision on refugee resettlement. The action has been prompted by an executive order by President Donald Trump issued in September.
Julie Ring is the Executive Director of the Association of Minnesota Counties. She says this is new territory for counties.
Each county board across the state will have to be considering the issue and deciding how to move forward. It's one of those issues that's more complicated than it seems on the surface because we're working with a lot of our local non-profits that are interested in refugee resettlement. But, the county has to make this decision on behalf of all of the municipalities in their jurisdictions.
Ring says there is some concern from counties about making decisions on behalf of cities. Tuesday on a 3-2 margin the Kandiyohi County Board voted to continue to allow refugees to resettle in that county.
Rural development will also be a top issued next week when nearly 600 county officials gather. Ring says they recently launched a new policy committee focused on economic development, workforce development, and housing.
We hear an awful lot about challenges with affordable housing and workforce housing throughout the state in every county, regardless of size, rural and metro, the need for affordable housing for the people who are working in our communities so that we can keep good jobs and attract new jobs.
A couple of the scheduled topics next week are "Rewriting the Rural Narrative" and "The Housing and Homelessness Crisis in Minnesota".
There's also little doubt the troubles at the Minnesota Department of Human Services will continue to be a hot topic during the upcoming state legislative session. What lawmakers ultimately decide to do with the department will have a direct impact on county governments, and that is why the Association of Minnesota Counties wants to have a voice in the decisions.
Ring says they've already met with new commissioner Jodi Harpstead a number of times.
And she has been very open to hearing our concerns. I'm really hopeful that we'll be able to work together in the session. There's a long list of things in Human Services that we'll be focused on.
Ring says they'll also be setting their legislative platform during the conference.
Other topics on their agenda include enhancing public outreach, cybersecurity, and media training for county professionals.
The Association of Minnesota Counties is holding its 110th annual conference here in St. Cloud Sunday through Wednesday of next week at the River's Edge Convention Center.