Target CEO Steinhafel helped nix eating disorder clinic
Friday, August 06, 2010 at 12:31 pm
Earlier this year, an eating disorder clinic called the Emily Program was attempting to open a new facility in an affluent part of Orono, a town of 7,500 people west of Minneapolis. But opposition from some neighbors, as well as the influence of Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel — who has drawn national criticism for orchestrating political contributions that go to Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer — helped kill the facility.
It was supposed to be a ten-bed treatment facility in a former private school. Initially, the program enjoyed the support of many city officials, including the mayor.
Dirk Miller, the executive director of Emily’s Program, told the Star Tribune (in some fantastic journalism by Heron Marquez Estrada) that he was shocked at Steinhafel’s stance, partly because Steinhafel attended an early informational meeting about the project and told program workers: “You people are doing God’s work.”
Despite the earlier public statements and his service on foundation boards that operate centers for troubled youth in other neighborhoods, Steinhafel quickly changed his tune. Steinhafel spoke against the program at community hearings, wrote a letter to city officials and hired a lawyer from the politically connected firm Faegre and Benson, who put pressure on the city and mayor to reject the organization’s permit.
Steinhafel, in comments at a Feb. 22 City Council meeting, said, “We strongly believe that Emily’s Program has no place at the Hill School location.”
In a separate letter to city officials, Steinhafel and his wife, Denise, said the school site is too small and that a zoning change could have longer-range implications, including opening the door to other medical facilities at the site or in the area. They said they are not opposed to the Emily Program. They wrote that they have a close friend who suffers from an eating disorder and acknowledged “the help programs like this offer.”
Other opponents, such as former supporter Orono Mayor Jim White, claimed that permitting the program would open the way for “a rehab center for drug or sex offenders –from moving into the school site if the Emily Program closed or left.” White asked the program to withdraw the application.
In mid-March, Emily’s Program abandoned the effort. The former school, owned by former Republican Party chairman and TCF CEO Bill Cooper, was to remain vacant. Cooper told the Star Tribune that he was “disappointed by the council and the community’s reaction,” and that it was a “not-in-my-neighborhood” sort of thing.
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.