Rep. Jim Newberger (R-Becker) is against more funding for Minnesota’s North Star rail, a line that was originally supposed to go between Minneapolis and St. Cloud but has yet to be extended that far. During debate on a transportation bill Newberger said he’s against expanding the route because the tracks would go near St. Cloud’s prison.
“Boy, wouldn’t that be convenient, to have that rail line going from the prison to North Minneapolis,” said Newberger. After hearing some grumbling he quickly added, “or to any section of our state.” Boos were heard in the House chamber.
North Minneapolis is a neighborhood with a racially diverse population.
Newberger quickly apologized for naming North Minneapolis, “but that’s what came into my mind. It doesn’t matter, it could be any part of the city. But if you’re going to connect a large metro to a prison there’s going to be some concerns. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t.”
Newberger said in his “neck of the woods,” there’s a different name for the North Star. “We don’t call it North Star, we call it the black hole because that’s where all the money goes.”
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Later in the evening, Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-St. Paul) took to the House floor to respond to Newberger’s comments.
Structural Racism At Root Of Offensive Remark About North Minneapolis Says Rep. Moran
Governor Mark Dayton says Republican leadership in the Minnesota House should take action against Newberger for his comments. At a news conference on an unrelated topic Wednesday morning, Dayton said “I think it’s horrible, I think he should be reprimanded, if not censured, by his leadership. The fact that nobody has made comment on that in House leadership, I think is appalling,”
According to the Star Tribune, Newberger’s office has apologized again. “I sincerely apologize,” Newberger said in a statement issued on Wednesday. “I recognize my comments last night offended some people. I will work in the future to not repeat this mistake.”
Rep. Raymond Dehn (DFL-Minneapolis) who represents the North Minneapolis neighborhood is calling for Newberger to apologize. In a press release to the media Dehn said:
“Not only was the comment highly offensive, it appears to be based on woefully inaccurate stereotypes about the type of people living in North Minneapolis. I represent a diverse group of people in North Minneapolis. Many are largely successful and many others are working hard to get ahead and help their families. It’s exactly these types of prejudices that make it so easy for the GOP to target the hard working people in one part of one city in Minnesota. At a minimum, Rep. Newberger should apologize on the House Floor.”