Very interesting 20-hour trip to Sheboygan, Wisconsin last week. I visited with a few dozen chamber leaders, most of whom were good Cheeseheads who make frequent trips to Lambeau Field. Following my formal after-dinner remarks -- the infamous "Deathbed Confessions" speech -- I followed the group to the nearly ubiquitous hospitality suite. During dinner, I had been assured by my hosts that "Suite 427 will rock!" I can't say that the assembled mid-westerners were rocking, but they were certainly sharing.
During the informal gathering that stretched long into the night, I bounced from one conversation to the next.: a local brewery's need for help with marketing . . . a struggle to restore demand for boat engines . . . an interim CEO whose city council was trying to pull the chamber's already lean bed tax funding. One communications director was shifting from printed to electronic communications and another was reviving a dormant glossy magazine. A story from a chamber leader who was fighting the likelihood of new state fees led to a revelation about another who was working behind the scenes on a governor's race still 18 months away. One of the chamber leaders had her head buried in one hand, with her cell phone in the other, as she tried to deal with a personnel issue at 10 p.m. In the hospitality suite, I heard exclamations about the short-sighted decisions of sponsors and the suffering being endured in various industry sectors, as well as the recession-busting success of others. One guy needed Badger tickets for a VIP and the other needed help saving their hospital -- both scored useful contacts somewhere in the room.
There on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, on a balmy September evening, I listened to the stories that are chamber life. Thanks for sharing.
Next stops? Nashville and Beijing.
Critique of Spokane Proposition 4
Last month we posted about Spokane's Proposition 4, also know as the "Community Bill of Rights." This collection of 9 amendments to the city charter would confer city residents the right to a locally-based economy, affordable housing, affordable health care, renewable energy, and prevailing wages and apprenticeships. And that's just 5 of the 9 amendments! This 1,135 word proposal would impact everything from land use to labor relations in Spokane.
The Proposition's text is extremely (perhaps intentionally) vague, and it includes no discussion of how to pay for the rights that it would guarantee
Proposition 4 also opens the door to massive litigation by stating: "Residents, workers, neighborhoods, neighborhood councils, and the City of Spokane shall have the right to enforce the Community Bill of Rights."
This week the Washington Policy Center released Citizens' Guide to Proposition 4, a straightforward critique of the Community Bill of Rights proposal. Their key finding were:
- The Community Bill of Rights will expand government entitlement programs, not individual rights.
- Taxpayers could be on the hook to pay for proposed programs that have no funding mechanism in place.
- The broad policy agenda is not affordable under the cities current budget.
- The measure will likely face scrutiny in the courts under the state's "single subject law."
Because of the scope and potential impact of this proposal, and the probability that it could become contagious, you owe it to your community to follow what's happening in Spokane. Check out my post from Aug 30 - Spokane "Neighborhood Bill of Rights" - for links and more information.
Attracting Air Service to the FL Panhandle
The Pensacola Bay Area (FL) Chamber of Commerce is teaming up with other chambers and economic development agencies in Northwest Florida to help bring service from Southwest Airlines to the Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport.
Their Pledge Luv campaign (www.pledgeluv.com) asks area residents to submit pledges to buy a specified dollar amount of Southwest gift cards as soon as Southwest Airlines announces service to the Pensacola airport. Each pledge is a binding legal agreement. Cool idea!
Why Pledge Luv you ask? LUV is the stock exchange moniker for Southwest Airlines, which is based at Dallas Love Field Airport and uses a hear as part of their logo.
Click to go to the Pensacola Chamber Website - http://pensacolachamber.com/
Click for local press coverage - New airline looking to boost local economy
Chamber Headline Roundup
Here are several chamber related headlines from the past week that caught my attention.
- Lansing Chamber of Commerce Starts Countdown to Shutdown
A new chamber sponsored billboard near I-496 bears a message for state legislators who are still in budget negotiations.
- Seattle Chamber of Commerce supports same-sex partnerships
The Chamber has endorsed Washington Referendum 71 - a messaure that would extend marital rights to same-sex partners.
- Rhode Island Businesses Teaming Up to Improve Electricity Buying Power
A program between Constellation NewEnergy and the Greater Providence Chamber will "help members of all sizes better manage their electricity budgets."
- SE Iowa town makes arrests in name of tourism
An Iowa Chamber has an interesting take on tourist promotion.
Michigan Chamber Foundation Launches "Great Ideas" Forum
The Michigan Chamber Foundation has launched a new project that aims to collect and discuss innovative, creative and transformative ideas to help advance quality of life in Michigan. The project is supported by a website - www.greatideasformichigan.org/ - that will allow citizens of Michigan to submit potentially great ideas comment on the ideas of others.
There are few constraints on submissions. The project welcomes innovative ideas for new programs/efforts/concepts at the neighborhood, local, regional or statewide level. It also accepts links to other examples.
Great ideas will be organized into six categories:
- Rebuilding Communities & Transportation
- Enjoying Michigan's Vast Resources
- Achieving a Healthy Michigan
- Revitalizing Michigan's Economy
- Improving Education Attainment
- Modernizing Government at All Levels
Specter Stumps for Retooled Card Check
At a speech during the AFL-CIO Convention this week in Pittsburgh, Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) unveiled a retooled version of the Employee Free Choice Act that he said, "will be totally satisfactory to labor."
The reworked version of EFCA does not include the card check provision that would abandon secret ballot elections. But it keeps binding arbitration, stiffens penalties on businesses, and would cut the length of time between the call for a union election and the election date.
To read more about the revised bill, check out this Washington Post article.
Baucus Releases Health Care Plan Sans Public Option
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) has released a health care reform bill that he called, "one of the largest pieces of social legislation in American history since the depression." The $856 billion proposal differs from House bills by not including a government run public option. It instead would establish consumer owned co-ops to compete with private insurance.
Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and leader of the bi-partisan 'Gang of Six,' was unable to secure a public endorsement of this plan from any of this Republican colleagues.
Click to read coverage from the Washington Post.
Click to download text of the Americas Healthy Future Act of 2009
Upstate SC Chambers Join Forces
Ten chambers of commerce from northwest South Carolina region have joined forces and pooled resources for state level advocacy. The Upstate Chamber Coalition will create and advocate for a common legislative agenda when the state legislature reconvenes in January.
"It's a collaborative world, and we need to have business leaders with a common agenda," said David Cordeau, president and CEO of the Spartanburg Chamber. "We are excited about this opportunity to partner with other chambers across the Upstate to bring a brighter future to the area."
Upstate SC isn't the only region where chambers have joined forces for advocacy. 16 chambers in Indiana have formed the Northeast Indiana Chamber Coalition (NEICC) to collaborate on state, local and federal policy advocacy efforts.
TABOR on the Ballot in Washington
"On the west coast we govern by ballot initiative." That's what a chamber exec from Washington State told me during a conversation yesterday. My suspicions were confirmed.
The subject of this particular conversation was Washington Initiative 1033, a taxpayer bill of rights (TABOR) proposal that will be on the state's ballot this November.
TABOR limits growth of a state or municipality's tax revenue and/or expenditure. Under most TABOR laws, growth in tax collection or expenditure is only allowed as a result of inflation and population increase. Colorado was the first state to pass TABOR (1992) and is still the state most closely associated with TABOR. In Colorado, TABOR limits the revenue the state can keep from income, sales or property tax. Limits are based on the previous year's allowed collection plus the combined rates of inflation and population growth. Any revenue collected in excess of the cap must be refunded to taxpayers, usually in the form of a tax refund.
One problem with TABOR is the so-called "ratchet effect" which occurs in years following a recession when the economy recovers but the TABOR revenue caps reflect state tax collection during the downturn. Those caps can hamstring state spending during times of growth for important services and infrastructure improvements.
The push for Initiative 1033 in Washington is being led by three taxpayer advocates through their website - http://www.permanent-offense.org/.
A broad coalition has formed to oppose 1033 - http://no1033.com/ Members of the opposition coalition include groups the SEIU, AARP, and the Greater Seattle Chamber.
For more background and links on TABOR, check out the ACCE Policy Clearinghouse.
Labor Talk on Labor Day
On Labor Day, yesterday, President Obama and Vice President Biden made the rounds talking about labor issues.
At a Labor Day labor rally with Sen. Specter in Pittsburgh, PA, Vice President Biden chose to highlight Card Check. Here is a quote from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
"If you wanted to join a union, you could join a union and not be stopped by employers," Biden said, referring to the Employee Free Choice Act, now under consideration by Congress. "We're going to get that done with the help of Arlen Specter."
Treat this as a reminder that Card Check is still on the administration's ever growing priority list.