Letter: Position puzzling from chamber

Published 9:56 pm Monday, August 28, 2017

The position of neutrality chosen by the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce regarding the effort to keep a full-service, acute-care hospital here is puzzling. On Aug. 21, I phoned the chamber and asked if they would explain this choice. I was told that it was a “decision of the board.” I then asked if I might speak to a board member who might offer reasons for the decision and once again was told, “It’s a decision of the board.” Apparently, rationale for this board decision can’t be disclosed.

We are newcomers to this lovely area. We are retired and are among the ranks of the elderly. A full-service hospital was of real consideration when we made the decision to move here in 2015. We were simply curious as to why a chamber of commerce would not actively support an effort to keep such a hospital in their city. Since no explanation was given, we remained puzzled.

We went online in order to learn more about the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber. Unless information is in need of updating, the chamber represents some 450 member businesses from small, one-person shops to large industrial manufacturers. The chamber states, “They also include the biggest name in health care, all forms of agri-business and familiar names in the retail business.”

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Available online is a list of board members, none of whom we know, and to our knowledge, have never met. We have no idea if the list is current. Listed are Jeff Woodside, Albert Lea Select Foods; Catherine Buboltz, KIMT TV, board chairwoman; Amy Davis, Cargill Turkey and Cooked Meats; Trisha Dahl, Mayo Clinic Health System; Julia Thompson, Freeborn County Shopper; Kelly Anderson, Erberts and Gerbert’s; Jeff Eaton, Eaton Sport & Spine Cinic; Justin Oman, Security Bank; George Gonzalez, Dave Syverson Auto Plaza; Kathy Sabinish, Dave’s Phone Booth and Frames R Us; Kim Nelson, Freeborn County Historical Museum, Library and Village; Adenuga Atewologun, Riverland Community College; and Angie Kolker, Freeborn-Mower Cooperative.

The chamber’s position of neutrality indicates they neither support nor oppose the effort to keep a full-service, acute-care hospital in Albert Lea. Does this mean that their 450 members recognize no benefit from such a hospital? Was there discussion followed by a vote — a unanimous vote, a simple majority, a percentage? Are their conflicts of interest? Does chamber membership bind the thinking of individuals to a position of neutrality? Are business employees also to remain neutral as regard to the Save Our Hospital effort?

I believe that with a simple phone call of inquiry, I would be offered a brief explanation for the chamber’s position of neutrality. No explanation was forthcoming, and I’m now much more curious then I was prior to making the call. Is there no board member, nor general chamber member who will explain?

Carol Gordon

Albert Lea