Burleigh County commissioners rule against refugee resettlement straw poll

By  | 

Burleigh County Commissioners voted in December to allow refugees to resettle in Bismarck. During the hours of testimony, many residents asked that it be put to a vote. The commission decided against that vote.

While some on the commission saw a ballot question as a way to test public opinion.

"I can't see the harm in having the straw poll and let our people in Bismarck tell us how they feel," said Jim Peluso, commissioner.

Others wondered how much it would accomplish.

"It doesn't change the vote in November, and if we vote that same vote; the next time, we vote on it ,the straw poll has no force of any of that," said Mark Armstrong, commissioner.

The discussion was not a public hearing so only the commissioners spoke on the issue. In the end they voted 3-2 against the ballot question.

"Certainly the recourse if people are unhappy with our decision is to recall us, and they certainly have the right to do that," said Armstrong.

And it sounded like some might be willing to take that action.

"Democracy. That's our way in this country. Now I feel there's three commissioners that have taken our right to vote on a major issue away," said Joseph Harsche, Bismarck.

If the extra question would require a second page on the ballot it could cost taxpayers $50,000. The county auditor says he's not sure if this question would push us over the top.

Commissioners expect to vote on the issue again in September.