I wanted to share with you my perspective as a small business owner during these unprecedented times.

First, I know this virus is real. I know it can be devastating and fatal. I also know that the effects of this virus due to the powers that be will reach far beyond the virus itself. It has created strong divides that pit neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother.

People are being pushed into choosing sides, tending to be either fear-filled or freedom fighting. Personally, I have a little of both. I have a mom in long-term care that I worry about daily. My daughter has immune issues and I have three beautiful and young grandkids. I am also no spring chicken! I worry about any of us catching this virus, but I worry even more about the world we are creating and the problems and debt we will leave for generations to come. The depths of the destruction to our freedoms and economy are staggering.

Yes, I am a small business owner, but hopefully giving you the background above you won’t jump to the conclusion that most do (“you care more about money than you do lives!”) when I say I believe we need a concise plan of opening up businesses, ALL businesses. One that includes caution and details with dates and one that MOVES forward.

I have to be careful as a business owner. We aren’t allowed to have opinions. We aren’t allowed to stand up for what we believe. Well, we can, but in doing so we run the risk of alienating half the people. It’s sad, but true. It is the world we live in especially now. My dad taught me to stand up for what I believe in and to put actions behind my words, so I marched at the governor’s mansion to support small businesses and the many lives they effect. I received some hurtful texts and messages, which further showed me how divisive things have become (one was from a relative).

Small businesses are struggling and we are feeling we have nowhere to turn. Our words seem to fall on deaf ears. I wrote the mayor of Elk River hoping they would fight to save Elk River businesses.

Here’s what I wrote:

When I was told I would have to shut down my business and close my doors on March 16 due to the pandemic and the unknowns associated with it, I did. I supported those making the decisions as we were all dealing with a new situation.

As days moved into weeks and now months, I have watched, researched and studied COVID-19 and the decisions that are being made. It has become quite clear that this is more about politics and much less about the virus. People’s lives are being played with for the purpose of political gain. It was at this point I started asking questions and contacting my state government officials to which I heard nothing back.

I then decided to start more local, let my city council and my mayor know that this is hurting deeper and wider than it appeared the virus ever would or could. Only 1 council member had the respect to answer me back. I do understand how busy these unprecedented times are for everyone! Even though my doors are closed, my time and work load has increased three fold as I work to continue to support my dancers and their families and hold on to my business.

I am reaching out, yet again, in the hopes that maybe this time you will hear my call for help. As I stated in my previous email, I am a long time resident of Elk River and proud business owner. I continue to pay rent (to owners who financially support the City of Elk River), insurance (to my agent who is also a business owner in Elk River) and utilities (to the city of Elk River) on a studio that the governor has told me I can no longer run a business out of and has no clear idea of when I will be allowed to. The trickle down effect that will happen as one by one we watch Elk River’s small businesses close is not something I believe this community can afford.

I have been a dance educator for over 30 years and have owned my dance studio for the past 13 years. I will fight to the end for Showcase Dance because this is my dream, because my dancers are my kids and their families are my family too, and because the amazing teachers who work for me rely on this job for their families. I have sacrificed, struggled, pushed and worked hard and now, through no fault of my own, I could lose it all. To make matters worse, we now see the blatant inequities as to whose business is allowed to survive and whose is not. Though the decision to close businesses was not yours, the decision to save and fight for Elk River’s businesses is YOURS.

I believe my husband said it best when he was comforting me on a particularly tough day: “Don’t ever put your trust and faith in man or politicians, they will only let you down. Instead, put all your trust and faith in God for He will never forsake you.” I continue to pray that God will guide you during these difficult days. — Respectfully, Becky Burley, Elk River

(Editor’s note: The Star News spoke to Becky Burley and received permission to run her email. She reported that she watched the Elk River City Council discussions and said she understands the predicament they are in. She said she appreciates their effort to pass a resolution, but said she suspects it will do nothing.  She said she will continue fight to be able to open, especially after seeing certain businesses be able to open and her belief that she has a solid plan to reopen when she is given the green light.)

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