League Of Women Voters Splits With Brea Chamber.

Last Friday, September 21, the League of Women Voters informed all candidates for City Council, “It has come to the League’s attention that the Chamber of Commerce has endorsed several City Council candidates. Since the League is a nonpartisan organization who never endorses candidates, we are no longer co-hosting the forum with the Chamber.”

Kudos to the League for continuing to take the high road. Epic fail on the part of the Chamber, endorsing three candidates gave the remaining four every right to boycott the forum. Thankfully, I doubt any would.

What is the Chamber’s job?

The general view of Brea’s Chamber of Commerce is that they advocate on behalf of local businesses, not political candidates.

They review and take a position on legislation, from city to county to state, either endorsing or opposing it based on whether it favors local business.

Michael Becher, long time Chamber board member, reflected as he completed his term as Chairman, “We want to continue to advocate for businesses and we need to stay focused on the issues facing businesses. I would encourage John Koos, [incoming Chairman] to continue to lead us with an eye of businesses and to continually encourage us as a board to focus on how we can better serve the businesses in Brea.” (OCR – 12/30/13)

What is CalChamber’s position on this?

In defining it’s policies of advocacy, the California Chamber of Commerce (of which Brea is a member) says on it’s website, “Working together, the CalChamber and local chambers of commerce are a solid force as advocates for business-friendly policies and helping California businesses comply with complex laws and regulations.” That’s it. Not a word about endorsing candidates.

As it’s known, CalChamber, the state organization, positions themselves as a non-partisan group advocating for or against legislation but never taking a position on behalf of any political candidates. It’s in their Bylaws.

So who, exactly, is endorsing who?

A gang of several board members, dubbed the “Legislative Action Committee” and apparently handpicked by Chairman Koos and Chamber CEO Heidi Gallegos, reviewed and “graded” questionnaires from the candidates. Want to see the questionnaire, click here.

Note – Repeated attempts to identify members of the Legislative Action Committee produced no responses from Chamber leaders. All things considered, maybe that info is not so relevant anyway.

Of the 17 questions, only 4 remotely connect with business interests:

  • What is your position on residential and/or commercial development in Brea?
  • Under what circumstances would you vote for an increase of taxes/fees in Brea?
  • How would your election further the goals and objectives of the Brea Chamber of Commerce?
  • What would you do to maintain or improve Brea’s business friendly environment?

The other 13 questions, from website address and campaign budget to who is your campaign manager/consultant seem more designed to provide intel for a counter-campaign than clarify the candidates position on Brea Business issues.

The Legislative Action Committee also has a 14 page statement of policy guidelines, duties and responsibilities (click here for a copy) that makes no reference to anything remotely sounding like endorsing candidates. Nothing. Nada.

chamberThis Committee sent their “findings” to the Executive Board, run by Koos and Gallegos, who added their approval… as did the full 22 member Board run by Koos and Gallegos.

The redundancy is obvious. These 22 people released the Chamber’s “Endorsed Candidate’s” list – never taking it to the general membership for any sort of consensus.

Endorsements from the Brea Chamber are construed by the general public, however, to carry the weight of the entire organization. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Businesses and workers circulate petition against endorsement.

Downtown businesses and their employees are circulating this petition:

Dear Brea Chamber of Commerce: I work in the Brea Downtown. I object to the Chamber’s endorsement of any candidates for any elected municipal office. Further, my livelihood will be negatively affected if Bill Hall is elected to City Council. His opposition to Council’s wise investment in the new parking structure and his advocacy to sell it and make it “pay to park” could cost me my job and/or business. Please rescind your endorsement ASAP.

Well, now it’s gotten pretty personal. Not only is the objection to making any endorsement quite clear, one in particular they find threatening to business in general and their jobs in particular.

Hall, as a member of the BOUSD Board of Directors, helped orchestrate the private sale of the Brea Place property to Hines for a fraction of it’s true worth, also advocates the sale of legacy city properties for the sake of making a quick buck. Today it’s the Super Block One parking structures… tomorrow what? The Embassy Suites? Birch Hills Golf Course?

Taps owner, Chris Snyder, along with Moe Orr from the Yard House and Dan Kleinberg from the Improv, delivered several hundred petitions to the Chamber Board at their meeting this morning (09/26).

Chris voiced his opinion thus, “We have restaurants in five different Southern California cities, and I believe it is in the best interest of any Chamber of Commerce to remain neutral during any election cycle as it pertains to elected officials. The reasoning for this is quite simple, The Chamber of Commerce should be the stewards of ‘connecting business with opportunity’ not connecting businesses with political candidates.”

The belief that the Chamber is way out of line endorsing candidates, at any level, seems to be universally accepted.

So, let’s sum this up.

Under the control and leadership of John Koos and Heidi Gallegos, the Chambers Officers and Directors were convinced to endorse three out of seven candidates running for Brea City Council.

The selection was based upon a questionnaire that provided little or no meaningful understanding of any candidate’s views and opinions about the future of Brea’s business community.

This list of endorsees was released to the public in advance of the traditional Candidate’s Forum – leading the League of Women Voters to sever their relationship with the Chamber as a co-host of the event.

At the time of this writing, the city is still planning to allow the Chamber to have a punch and cookies meet-and-greet outside Council Chambers.

And the winner is…

Hopefully good ol’ Brea, but ultimately, the ball is in your court on that one.

Attend or watch the Candidate’s Forum or go to one of the many neighborhood meet-and-greets. Listen to what the candidates are saying and if something sounds a little familiar… a little clichéd… scratch that name off your list.

I’ve scratched off four names and eagerly await my absentee ballot to land in my mailbox. The likelihood I’ll announce my choices on Brea Matters is zero.

My hope is that every reader does their own homework and makes an educated vote rather than succumbing to the more typical personality contest we’ve witnessed in recent years.