FARGO - Despite relentless criticism and a recall petition against him, City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said on a local radio talk show Monday, April 17, that he welcomes a special election and still wants numbers on refugee resettlement.
Piepkorn briefly phoned in to talk with host Jay Thomas on 970 WDAY on the recent effort to recall him and the report on refugee resettlement presented Thursday, April 13, to the Fargo Human Relations Commission.
Although Piepkorn instigated the six-month study on the impacts of refugees here, he told Thomas he was on vacation in Cabo San Lucas last week, but his absence wasn't "intentional."
Asked if he missed anything from the report, Piepkorn said, "No, nothing substantial, that's for sure." He then referred to the report as "propaganda and fake news."
"I do want to see numbers that are based on facts," he said. "I won't tolerate people who try to blow smoke up my dress. A lot of people don't want to know what those numbers are. I promise we will get those numbers."
Now that Gov. Doug Burgum has signed into law a legislative study looking at various aspects of refugee resettlement in North Dakota, Piepkorn said he is optimistic the numbers he wants will eventually come out.
Several people called in on Monday to offer Piepkorn support, while others voiced concern about him spreading divisiveness among the community.
One person sent an email to Thomas for the commissioner and asked, "Since you were a no-show at the [meeting] assessing refugee impacts on our community, why shouldn't we assume your purpose is just to engage in cheap demagoguery, all to try to ride the 'Trump wave?' "
Piepkorn has received a mix of encouragement and opposition for his stance on refugee resettlement since he started raising questions last September. Aside from wanting to know how much is spent on refugee resettlement, Piepkorn told Thomas he also wants to know about crimes refugees commit.
"They are our guest. If they're not behaving, they don't get to stay," he said.
Asked if he is against refugees, Piepkorn said, "Absolutely not."
"My track record is I ask questions about how our money is being spent," he said.
A recall committee informally called Recall Dave is working to gather about 3,500 signatures by May 12 to force a recall election.
"Actually, I'm preparing for the recall election," Piepkorn said. "I hope it happens. I think I will do very well."
The Recall Dave website notes that besides his stance on refugees, another reason to recall Piepkorn is that he was elected with a minority of votes, just 21 percent. Piepkorn previously served on the commission from 2008 until he lost a close re-election bid in 2012.
A recall election would provide an "opportunity for a lot of people to send a message to the politically correct," Piepkorn told Thomas.
Andrew J. Lenzmeier, chairman of the recall committee, said he is confident his group will get enough signatures by the deadline. Lenzmeier will be on the "Jay Thomas Show" Tuesday afternoon, April 18, to give his take on the commissioner and efforts to oust him.