The positive for Fargo city commissioner Dave Piepkorn is that at least he showed up at the meeting this time.
That’s better than the time he failed to show for a much-anticipated meeting about refugee resettlement costs, which supposedly concern Piepkorn to no end. He’s looking out for you, the taxpayers, and certainly not using bigotry and racism over immigrants to gain political favor. That’s what Dave says and he played for the North Dakota State football team and so we should believe him.
Anyway, Piepkorn was vacationing in Mexico when he was a no-show, despite being given a six-week heads-up on the meeting. I imagine him being on a beach, sipping a Corona and feeling nervous because all of the brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking people waiting on him. I’m not not sure if Cass County commissioner Chad Peterson was on the beach with Piepkorn, also feeling uneasy because of the accents of the servers. Chad, too, is really upset about alleged refugee costs in Fargo and Cass County and, some have said, is the little devil whispering in his buddy Piepkorn’s ear.
So Dave was in the city commission chambers this time, on Monday. That’s good. From there, though, it goes downhill.
Piepkorn, who you know as the Nikita Khrushchev of the city commission because of his finger-pointing and foot-stomping over those dastardly refugees who’ve come to our town to escape war, famine and death, used his attendance at this meeting to jump back into the refugee debate. Hey, he’s been out of the headlines for awhile. And the city commission field in 2018 is sure to be a huge one with Piepkorn’s and Tony Gehrig’s seats up for grabs. Piepkorn has to solidify his brand as the refugee wrangler, since Gehrig successfully stole his original one as the tax watchdog.
Piepkorn made a swift political move when he asked that the usual rubber-stamp approval of an $11,000 federal grant to Fargo Cass Public Health to be used for interpreters be moved from the consent agenda (routine items, approved as a whole without discussion) be moved to the regular agenda (discussion items, needing individual votes for approval) so he could make an issue of it. And he did, pointing out that the grant — while a grant from the federal government at no cost to the city of Fargo — is still tax money.
The rest of the commission ignored him and voted 4-1 to accept the funds, with Piepkorn the lone dissenting vote.
Yes, it was exceedingly lame. Even for Piepkorn. Griping about an $11,000 grant that comes from the feds is so petty as to be embarrassing for anybody not shamelessly playing to bigots. And, as usual, he was ineffective. But he got what he wanted: He was able to get a quote in The Forum (even though he won’t speak to our reporters directly) about how he’s looking out for tax dollars and he’s on record as voting against accepting money that will go for interpreters used by New Americans — likely refugees and immigrants.
Piepkorn’s concern over $11,000 of “tax money” is kind of strange, though, considering he’s long been an advocate of giving tax breaks to building projects in downtown Fargo and, just last year, was a major booster of giving a 10-year property tax exemption worth $660,000 to FedEx to move one of its facilities from Grand Forks to Fargo.
The tax breaks Piepkorn favors are literally “your” money. That is city of Fargo money, collected from you, that Piepkorn is consistently willing to give away to attract businesses (incentives, for the record, that I’m generally fine with). And in FedEx’s case, it’s not entirely clear whether the company wanted the money in order to relocate here. One of its officials said it would have moved here without the tax breaks, although the company later said the breaks were a factor. Either way, it doesn’t seem as if the tax breaks were a deal-breaker for FedEx.
Yet there was Piepkorn, cheerleading the way to giving a $52 billion international company $660,000 worth of your money. Piepkorn voted for the Fed Ex tax break.
And this week, the commissioner was trying to play taxpayer watchdog over $11,000 of federal grant money, which can only be defined as your money using a very big stretch of the imagination.
It seems just a little inconsistent, no? It’s almost as if he’s using the refugee topic as political theater to blatantly gain votes while not actually caring about your taxpayer dollars, which he is willing to give away by the millions.
But, hey, at least he showed up at the meeting and wasn’t on a beach in Mexico. It’s baby steps with commissioner Piepkorn, and for now that’s a victory.