Chamber makes a smart move

Decision to end endorsements resolves a lingering perception of conflict of interest

The Chico Chamber of Commerce’s announcement last Thursday (Oct. 30) that it would no longer endorse candidates for public office was welcome news for several reasons.

Frankly, the practice had become a drag on the chamber’s effectiveness. Too many people in the community, including some members of the City Council, believed it was a conflict of interest for the chamber to endorse council candidates while seeking and accepting city funding of its visitor bureau. That was a debatable issue, but whichever side one took, the debate was a distraction from the chamber’s work.

In addition, some members of the chamber openly disagreed with the chamber board’s regular endorsement of conservative candidates and felt alienated from the group. A few even dropped their memberships. Perhaps now they will feel comfortable returning to the fold.

Lately, the chamber has been focused more on issues than candidates, as with its well-researched city-budget and retail-trade reports, both of which have been important additions to the discussion of the city’s economy. The group intends to continue such work and take stands on issues, governmental policies and ballot initiatives.

It also intends to study candidates and educate its members and the larger community about them—including their “attributes, strengths [and] weaknesses,” according to a press release—and their stands on issues of importance to the chamber. That’s a valid way for the chamber board to position itself vis-à-vis the candidates without actually endorsing anyone.

The timing of the policy change is also good. The chamber is about to hire a new CEO, and this will relieve him or her of a political nuisance that, fairly or not, has bothered the chamber for many years.

We congratulate the chamber’s directors for making a wise decision and look forward to their explorations and illuminations of other issues of importance to the community.