I felt compelled to respond to the West Central Tribune article of Nov. 19 recapping the Nov. 15th meeting of the Willmar City Council and the vote on the Willmar Downtown Development group's funding request.
First, I'd like to applaud the council members who voted to fund the group. Downtown Development has clearly been diligent in seeking grants and donations before approaching the council, having secured millions in outside funding over the past 10 years. At the end of the day, $37,000 is a small price to pay for a thriving downtown that builds the tax base and that is attractive to residents and visitors.
Second, I'm disturbed by Councilman Ron Christianson's stated reasons for opposing the funding request. Christianson remarked that "only specific people frequent the businesses downtown" and that he "look(s) at it as a political correct thing, and PC is down the drain for (him)." What could he possibly mean, calling supporting downtown businesses "PC"? Given that many of the new businesses in Willmar have been opened by immigrants and transplants, you don't have to be a detective to suss out his true meaning here.
People of all colors and creeds eat, shop, and do business downtown. Immigrant-owned and -operated businesses benefit everyone. For example, the newly established Southwest Transportation drives people to and from medical appointments. If health care consumers are a niche market, that's news to me. Moreover, downtown's independent business owners have a vested interest in the success of downtown and greater Willmar. The same cannot be said for big-box stores or restaurant chains who pack up when their market shrinks or they outgrow their space.
Christianson's thinly-veiled xenophobia has no place in Willmar and will hobble the city's continued economic revitalization.