So it was all personal.
Back in October, the Belle Fourche City Council decided to kick the Chamber of Commerce out of the Center of the Nation Visitor Center that the Chamber pretty much built and ran for 20 years. The council's public justifications didn't add up: they fussed vaguely about transparency, when really it seemed they just had it out for forceful and effective Chamber director Teresa Schanzenbach.
The Chamber fired Schanzenbach at the end of October, and sure enough, the Belle Fourche City Council is reconsidering its Chamber eviction notice. At last week's council meeting, local leaders lined up to say the great and wonderful Belle Chamber should stay in the Visitor Center:
"Belle Fourche is on an upswing. Our census numbers are up, our interest in economic growth is up, our visitor numbers are up. I think the chamber is real big part of that.
“Abandoning the chamber … is the wrong decision,” [dentist John Jackson] added.
Mina Patel, the owner of the Super 8 in Belle Fourche also spoke in favor of the chamber.
“The first stop that I made when I bought that business was the chamber. The chamber was very supportive to the business. Overall, my view is: the city and the chamber have to work together to make the town work, and to make tourism work, which our business depends on,” Patel said [Kaylee Tschetter, "Belle Chamber May Keep Their Home," Black Hills Pioneer, 2013.12.04].
This hard-working, effective Chamber is the same Chamber that the Belle Fourche City Council felt deserved the boot just two months ago. The blunt fact that no one will admit is that this was all just a personal vendetta against Schanzenbach. Everyone in Belle Fourche knows it, and they are too ashamed to say. Consider this disgusting bit of avoidance and euphemism:
"I am here to ask for your reconsideration on removing us from the chamber building,” Vallerie Neff, vice president of the chamber board said. “ … We want to remain there. Our whole goal in our decision making these last few months has been to move forward. We’ve made one large step you all know of. We’ve also been working really hard with the Center of the Nation Business Association. We want to continue those efforts. We want to continue our efforts with the city council. Our goal is to move onward and upward” [emphasis mine; Tschetter, 2013.12.04].
One large step you all know of... ah, yes. When we South Dakotans do something mean, we can't even work up the courage to name the ill we have done and the person to whom we have done it. Move forward, don't look back, don't talk about it, don't admit that we've behaved like jerks to one of our neighbors.
The city council's Chamber task force will meet this afternoon to discuss formally reversing the Chamber eviction notice.