Letter: Mission Health deal reveals community lesson 

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Mission Health’s Rowena Buffett Timms’ disparaging of citizens expressing their concerns about the Mission/HCA sale terms and Dogwood Health Trust board composition is a real head-scratcher.

It’s doubly puzzling after witnessing Josh Stein, North Carolina’s attorney general, praising those same citizens Jan. 16 for guiding his office toward the positive changes made in that sale agreement and DHT board makeup.

Why would Mission’s senior VP for government and community relations (community relations, no less) describe citizens in the Mountain Xpress (Dec.12) as an “organized, self-interested opposition,” adding “we all know that a small group of loud voices can create an illusion of broader views” [“Get on Board: Mission Health’s Approach to Dogwood Health Trust Worries Local Nonprofits”].

She’s talking about the YWCA, the NAACP, the mayor of Highlands, the people of Spruce Pine and many other organizations and individuals who have been working decades to make WNC better.

What is those citizens’ “self-interest?” It reminds me of a community meeting, 30 years ago, where the mayor of Knoxville berated neighborhood residents who opposed the closing of a fire station with, “The only reason you oppose it is that you live near the fire station.” Well, duh.

Every community organizer has heard insulated officials say such things. Ms. Buffett Timms, just the most recent, was apparently trying to discredit and cower into silence people working to ensure positive change. The we-know-what-is-best bubble forms when officials lose touch with their own institution’s stated goals and with the community’s pulse. Why didn’t she simply ask to meet with them/us and listen?

It’s a lesson for anyone engaged in community-betterment organizing not to be cowed but to continue pushing for what is best. Just ask AG Josh Stein.

— Monroe Gilmour
Coordinator, WNC Citizens Ending Institutional Bigotry (WNCCEIB)
Black Mountain

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