Burns: Vision 2025 can’t see need for public accountability, resorts to name-calling

As more details become available, it’s clear that Vision Together 2025 was working on its Afghan refugee recruitment plan in October of last year – and was admitting that it “could happen quickly” because “the Biden administration is eager to place them in communities.”

The proof is in Ethan Imhoff’s Nov. 11 executive director’s report to the Cambria County Planning Commission, which everyone should read closely:

“So (Vision CEO) Mike Tedesco, (Vision board member) Mike Kane and I have been doing some preliminary investigation over the past month into how this could unfold locally. It is a complicated issue … However, it is something that could happen quickly. As we speak there are tens of thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees who are currently living on American military bases. The Biden administration is eager to place them in communities.

“The Vision board talked about the issue and decided to very deliberately pursue the possibilities. The primary issues revolve around housing, education, translation and social services. But there are financial resources available at the federal level.”

Instead of targeting me with baseless attacks for siding with the public’s right to know, Tedesco should be demonstrating that the nonprofit corporation he leads is not in reality a shadow government, by answering these valid questions about how it operates:

  1. If they knew that things “could happen very quickly,” why weren’t they telling everyone that and trying to build public support in October and November?
  2. If the Vision board decided to “very deliberately pursue the possibilities” of such a far-reaching refugee settlement plan, did they brief or obtain formal support from the Cambria County and Johnstown city governments? Did either of those elected bodies formally sanction the plan in writing or through a public vote on a resolution of support?
  3. If there were (or are) “financial resources available at the federal level,” who was going to apply for and administer those funds? County or city government, or Vision 2025?
  4. Did any entity actually apply for these federal funds, and if so, what is the status of that application? Was an agreement ever executed? If not, is it still on track to be?

Those questions should be answered immediately, because the people of Cambria County deserve full transparency on any plan that would impact our schools, housing, health care system and economy.

Instead of changing course in the face of mounting evidence that exposes Vision 2025’s secretive way of doing business, Tedesco is emerging from his proverbial smoke-filled board room making ludicrous statements such as this, to WTAJ:

"Manufacturing controversy that creates a perception that Cambria County is an unwelcoming and racist place does nothing but harm our image around the world. I invite all those who are attempting to score cheap political points based on racist tropes to look toward the future and actually join Vision Together’s conversation regarding how to create it.”

Inadvertently, Tedesco must be seeking to make Cambria County the fertilizer capital of the United States, because he’s shoveling a Herculean amount of BS with that one.

This is all about the way Tedesco and Vision 2025 do business, nothing more and nothing less. If they really believed in public participation, they’d have put ALL the details of their three step plan under the “Immigration FAQs” section of their website back in November, instead of the fluff they came up with after I called for a public hearing in January.

I, for one, believe the scope of the Vision 2025 plan went from 100 Afghan families to a revised 5-to-10 families only after the public became aware. And I, for one, also believe that Vision 2025 was or is the entity designated to “execute an agreement with the federal government outlining both parties’ roles and responsibilities” and to “secure an administrative fee,” as called for in step 1 of their plan.

For the record, I was never invited to “join Vision Together 2025’s conversation” on refugee recruitment – and I will not do so as long as it occurs in a back room. I also believe it’s a conflict of interest for any elected official to serve on the board of a nonprofit that accepts tax dollars without public scrutiny.

Frank Burns represents the 72nd Legislative District in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.