Letter: Council needs to highlight city’s value and bring in growth

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2021

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Excerpt sent to City Council:

“Albert Lea was a fantastic place to grow up in the ’50s and ’60s and, as a native of the city, the extreme lack of robust economic development growth since then has been disturbing to watch — especially being at the ideal hub of Interstates 35W and 90.

With the terrible blow of Farmstead (previously Wilson & Co.) having declared bankruptcy and closing its doors in 1990 and then demolishing the plant, it is good news there are now plans for the Blazing Star center. I hope it will be vibrant and bring life and many new businesses to that area. In addition, the development of MercyOne is very beneficial, as you well know, to current and future residents.

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I watched the July 26 City Council meeting video and as a transcriber for various metro area city councils, boards and commissions, I was very concerned the City Clerk’s response to a resident’s phone request for direction (as to how to be added to a council meeting agenda) was “I don’t know how.” At the very least, the response should have been, “I don’t know how now — but I will find out and get back to you.”

Related to this, I suggest adding a standing “community forum” item to your agendas. It’s a time when individuals may address the City Council about an item not included on the regular agenda. Speakers are requested to come to the podium, state their name and connection to the city and limit comments to five minutes. The council will listen to the brief remarks, ask clarifying questions and, if needed, request staff to follow up or direct the matter to be added to an upcoming agenda. Generally the City Council will not take official action on items raised at the Community Forum at the meeting on which they are raised. I believe this will provide the very communication opportunity that several residents requested at the July 26 meeting.

Additionally, I read the city’s mission and vision statements, and nowhere was there a reference to economic development. Of course, one wants “to be proud of a community that enhances the quality of life for current and future generations, to call home, and others can’t wait to visit” ­— but to entice new businesses and fresh ideas, the mission statement, I believe, also needs to target that audience as well, identify the city’s contributions to those businesses, and cite the city’s uniqueness (again, being at the enticing intersection of Interstate 35W and 90).

A town often becomes stagnant because the economic activity that supports it has failed, government actions, or uncontrolled adversities. Albert Lea’s population has remained stagnant at 18,000, perhaps even declined, since I left in 1972 — and its placement on the map is exceptional and deserves robust economic growth.

I hope that you, as the current powers-that-be, will choose to highlight the city’s value and bring much-needed growth to its door. I wish you the best in doing so during your watch.”

Mary Heintz