Leftovers Column: Someone should be watching chambers
By Tania Chatila and Jennifer McLain, Staff Writers
Article Launched: 08/03/2008 11:14:59 PM PDT
Is it about business or about pleasure? Sometimes it’s hard to tell what some of our area chambers of commerce are doing.
Last week it was all about the San Dimas Chamber of Commerce, where the board of directors rejected Sid
Maksoudian’s application for admission.
Maksoudian – who owns Chalet Gourmet, an upscale liquor store on West Bonita Avenue – said he was denied entry because he’s outspoken.
Nobody’s denying Maksoudian’s criticism of the chamber and the city, including chamber officials.
But chamber President Ted Powl also isn’t giving a straight answer as to why the board rejected Maksoudian’s application – only to say, “We just don’t understand why he would apply, given the positions he’s stated in the past.”
In Baldwin Park, chamber officials there are mulling an audit of its finances after Councilwoman Marlen Garcia raised concerns about the way the chamber was being run.
And a few months back, a disgruntled former Rosemead Chamber of Commerce
member claimed the chamber was not reaching out to the Asian community, and also questioned the group’s finances. The Chamber denied all claims and also denied all inquiries to look into its accounting books.
The interesting thing about chambers is that some are funded by city coffers, while others are not.
In Rosemead, despite being a privately owned organization, the chamber still receives about $45,000 a year in taxpayer funding.
But in Baldwin Park, the chamber receives no municipal subsidy, though the city did loan the chamber $10,000 once when it was strapped for cash. The money has been paid back. Funny thing is, in both cases the city has no oversight concerning chamber practices.
The mission of most chambers is to provide services and support to promote the business community. But with allegations of misappropriation of funds, rejection of bona fide business owners and claims of not reaching out to certain ethnic communities, are chambers of commerce really worth it?
Just this week an anonymous business owner called and said she withdrew her membership with the Baldwin Park Chamber of Commerce because she felt that chamber executives were more concerned with their own problems than with doing their jobs.
Business owners spend quite a chunk of change – sometimes upwards of $600 a year – to be part of these organizations. And as we’ve seen, cities sometimes spend even more to keep the operations running. With little to no oversight for most chambers, it is hard to tell whether cities or businesses get their money’s worth.
That’s not to say that municipalities should have complete jurisdiction over how chambers are being run. But shouldn’t someone outside the agencies, especially if they receive city subsidies, be holding them accountable?
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