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Plain Talk: When China looms over local politics

Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski joins this episode of Plain Talk to discuss the Fufeng project debate which has roiled his community so much that one person tried to make a citizen's arrest of the city council at a recent meeting.

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The Grand Forks city council will make a final decision on the agreement with Fufeng Group at its meeting next week.
Matt Henson / WDAY-TV
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MINOT, N.D. — The politics around local development were already a fraught exercise before the cloud of geopolitical issues cast a shadow over them.

Things like economic incentives, zoning ordinances, traffic, smells, noise, and infrastructure loads have never been easy to navigate. But add in growing concerns over the presence, in our local economies, of businesses based in places like China? The process becomes positively byzantine.

The Fufeng Group would like to build a corn milling plant near Grand Forks, North Dakota, and all the usual concerns are around it. Are they getting too much taxpayer support? Is the project palatable to those who have to live or work near it?

But then there's also the fact that Fufeng is based in China which is ruled by an oppressive Communist government that, among other sins against basic human decency, has millions of ethnic minorities confined in forced labor camps.

Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski joins this episode of Plain Talk to discuss the Fufeng project debate which has roiled his community so much that one person tried to make a citizen's arrest of the city council at a recent meeting.

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Bochenski acknowledges that concerns about China are valid, all the more so after Russia's invasion of Ukraine elevated the question of our nation's economic ties to these regimes, but argued that a local city council is ill-prepared to take the lead on them.

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Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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