Chamber criticism undeserved

By Terry Feinberg
Many organizations, including labor unions, environmental
groups, trade associations and even the Gilroy Dispatch, are
concerned about the public policy direction of our community, and
thus have developed systems to interview, evaluate and endorse
candidates for elected office. The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is no
different.
By Terry Feinberg

Many organizations, including labor unions, environmental groups, trade associations and even the Gilroy Dispatch, are concerned about the public policy direction of our community, and thus have developed systems to interview, evaluate and endorse candidates for elected office. The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce is no different.

As a business owner and Chamber member, I welcome the Chamber’s political recommendations, and encourage their strong advocacy on business issues. This does not mean I will blindly follow the Chamber’s positions or agree with my fellow members on all issues. Chris Coté, a local liberal advocate, believes the Chamber’s voice should be silenced. The Dispatch has editorialized that the Chamber should not endorse a candidate unless the entire membership has voted to do so.

Now Mayor Al Pinheiro believes the Chamber should not endorse candidates. I agree. The Chamber should not HAVE TO endorse candidates, but as long as labor groups, environmentalists, anti-business groups and the Gilroy Dispatch continue to endorse candidates, the Chamber MUST enter the fray and provide a business perspective.

The Dispatch also called the Chamber “arrogant” for instituting a process, that if anything, is more open and inclusive than most organizations that endorse candidates. Does the Dispatch “know best” for its readers? Does the Dispatch take a vote of all its employees and subscribers before issuing an endorsement? Does the Dispatch even conduct their candidate interviews in public? The answer to all these questions is a resounding no!

The purpose of an endorsement is to make recommendations based upon the interests of a constituency. The Chamber created an endorsement policy that is fair, non-partisan, open, objective and representative of their members. Candidates are interviewed in public forums which are open to all Chamber members.

I was at the meeting that is at the center of this so-called controversy. Chris Coté admitted in the Dispatch that he attempted to manipulate the outcome of the Chamber’s endorsement.

To set the record straight, there was no vote of the membership, and the “hiccup” reported in the Dispatch was that the endorsement committee was not properly convened and an improper and informal vote was taken. Half a dozen people, lead by an individual who subsequently admitted he was working for the campaign of the candidate being interviewed, barnstormed the meeting and tried to force an improper vote of those present.

These people have admitted their bias and conflict of interest, and they were not even present for the interviews of both candidates.

I recused myself from voting at the meeting because I was not at both interviews. It was the only ethical thing to do. I guess for those who came to the meeting to stuff the ballot box, ethics don’t matter, outcomes do.

In regards to whether or not the Chamber Board of Directors should have the authority to override a decision by a committee, one only has to look to city government for the answer.

Despite numerous commissions and task forces, the City Council is the final arbiter of issues. Frequently, the Council makes a decision that is opposite the recommendation of a commission or task force because it is their responsibility to determine, based upon all information available and a broader perspective, the direction for the city.

As in government, corporate and organization committees serve in strictly an advisory capacity to a Board of Directors. The Board has the fiduciary responsibility to make the final decision, which is exactly the way the Chamber has, and should be, operating.

Guest columnist Terry Feinberg is the president of Konnections and a volunteer member of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Endorsement Committee.

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