WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa chamber asking for $300,000 boost from city


The Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce wants $300,000 from the cash-strapped City of Santa Rosa to fund its new economic development initiative.

The chamber this year launched a county-wide jobs push called BEST, Building Economic Success Together. The group estimated that with $3.25 million it could create 4,000 new jobs by helping local businesses expand and attracting new businesses to the area.

The county’s unemployment rate was about 10 percent in August.

The effort has generated pledges of $2 million to $3 million from private businesses, $300,000 over three years from Sonoma County, and $10,000 from Healdsburg.

Now Santa Rosa is being asked to step up with a five-year commitment of $60,000 per year.

The City Council will consider the request at its meeting Tuesday.

The city already has financial links to the Santa Rosa Chamber. It lets the chamber’s Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau operate for free out of the depot building in Railroad Square. It also discounts the rent paid by the chamber in a city-owned building on First Street by $26,000 per year.

Dave Gouin, the city’s director of economic development and housing, said he welcomes the new program.

“Economic development is all about partnerships, and we’re excited that the business community stepped up and pledged their resources to develop this program,” Gouin said.

In his staff report, however, Gouin said the program seemed to have some elements that are not appropriate uses of tax dollars.

One element of the proposal is to “collaborate on a scorecard to track support by elected officials for projects important to the business community.”

Another is to “support initiatives, policies and officials that encourage job creation and community vibrancy.”

Both would need to be omitted from any agreement because as political efforts they “cannot be sponsored with taxpayer resources,” Gouin wrote.

Gouin also said the only source of city money available at the moment is the city’s $118 million General Fund, and that money already has been earmarked for other purposes.

City staff will not recommend dipping into the city’s reserves, which already are below the desired 15 percent, Gouin said, so he is recommending the council only consider making a pledge as part of the next year’s budget.

The city could find other ways to support the effort, Gouin noted. It could pay the $60,000 but then begin charging the chamber a similar amount in rent for the use of the depot. It also could increase the rent at the chamber building to help offset the cost. Or it could count the city’s existing economic development programs as an in-kind contribution.

34 Responses to “Santa Rosa chamber asking for $300,000 boost from city”

  1. freethinker says:

    Is it not interesting that our city council operates the same way our US government works?

    We see reverse Peter Pan policies. I can just picture a BofA executive sipping on his favorite cocktail in the cayman islands.

    We see that the politicians run into a wall when trying to ease the burden on the taxpayers, but have no problem awarding money to the people who are supposed to create jobs, but instead shut down the door and find ways to pass off the burden to the taxpayer.

    The chamber of commerce here is no different than most of the wall street criminals.
    The only care about about profits. They could have proven me to be wrong by never having asked for that handout in the first place and actually create jobs. It really is sad because they think they can mascarade everything by putting on a few feel good events.

    The city is broke and we continue to scare business away. If the commerce could work on trimming the fat off of some of the regulations in place, they won’t need to be asking for such handouts.

    Seriously it is embarassing and a kick in the gut to the honest taxpayer. Its time to vote out the puppets.

  2. Jonathan Dan says:

    Your favorite 4 voted for it. Just take a guess who the 4 are?

  3. Social Dis-Ease says:

    Remember the Chamber of Commerce is another ‘partner’ in local Agenda 21 implementation.

  4. Brian Brazoot says:

    It’s a California Cornucopia!

    The SR Chamber and Jeff Kolin (the Czar of Elsmere who somehow became the Despot of Santa Rosa) paid over $50,000 to a Tennessee firm to “brand” Santa Rosa. Remeber that?

    The work was so horrid, juvenile, and downright misleading (jumping salmon, artichokes, etc.), that it was shelved immediately.

    Even if we were to ignore the highly partisan mission of this extremely biased Chamber, the history of their fiduciary irresponsibility and insider collusion makes their request for public funding laughable, at best.

  5. freethinker says:

    First they rob us blind by giving their main donor friends the handouts they were waiting for. Now we can’t afford to pay the real hardworking people they money they earned over the years. Now they want to ‘ask’ us for a boost? I’m sure if they had just taken the money no one would have noticed…again.

  6. Stephen A. O'Leary says:

    I will be opposing this funneling of tax dollars to the Chamber of Commerce at the City Council today. I really want to see Bartley, Ours,Olivares and Sawyer try to justify another give away to their friends and poltical supporters with a straight face. I am especially interested in how they can explain charging for parking at Howarth and shutting off streetlights in my neighborhood, so they can give $300,000 to the Chamber of Commerce. I can’t wait for the next election because this (and their earlier give away to the cops!) is what will make sure they don’t get another term.

  7. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    RE: Jim M – “…but it is totally absurd to say that government does not create jobs.”

    Sure, the government can CREATE jobs, with the money they get from taxing and feeing us in the first place, then SPENDING this money by hiring employees because it is now ‘in the budget’.

  8. Antonio Watley says:

    This is definately an election issue. I will be watching who votes to give away our tax dollars to the Chamber and I will work to defeat them in the next election. This Pro Business Council is turning out to be nothing but Pro MOnkey Business give aways to their friends and cronies. This is an Old Boys Club that snuck into office promising “jobs” and all they have delivered is sweetheart deals to their friends and endorsers. I thought it was bad when Ours, Bartley and Sawyer made a backroom deal for pension give aways but this is over the top. How can it even be legal for them to give a private business organization 300,000 of our tax dollars?

  9. Dave Madigan says:

    If the average citizen wanted to rent a building owned by the City, would the citizen get free or dramatically reduced rent?

    I thought so….


  10. Jay says:

    I had no idea we gave them free and discounted rent. Time to take that money back.

    This is the only City/County/State where we demand all these public services but refuse to pay for them.

    This is EXACTLY why we’re broke.

  11. Social Dis-Ease says:

    The Chamber of Commerce is another NGO engaged in yet ANOTHER…
    ‘public/private partnership’.
    Our director of Economic Development and Housing says; “economic development is all about partnerships…
    the quote almost defines fascism.
    Spoken like a true Agenda 21 cronie.
    David Gouin helped spearhead the Gateways Redevelopment Project.
    The Chamber of Commerce was named as a defendant when citizen’s groups sued to stop same(Concerned Citizens Against Redevelopment Law Abuse and Santa Rosa Business Association-now Santa Rosa Neighborhood Coalition).
    In a Free Market Capitalist society which is what’s supposed to be happening here in these United States such an ideology has no place.
    NO to all of it.

  12. Lets be Reasonable says:

    @Richard – “The city allowed the hotels to increase the room tax and use that money for themselves, the hotel owners.”
    When are you talking about? The City tried a number of years ago to get the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) increased by putting it on the ballot, and it was rejected by the voters. http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/departments/finance/revenue/tax-fees/Pages/TOT.aspx
    Or are you referring to the Tourism Business Improvement Area (BIA) that was set up in 2010? This is not so much a tax as it is a fee that hotels agreed to levy on themselves in order to raise funds for marketing. The City administers the BIA (for a 2% fee) and gets 30% of the rest to fund “destination marketing,” while the rest goes to support the Convention and Visitors Bureau – saving tax money, since the City had been paying for it previously. http://ci.santa-rosa.ca.us/business/Pages/SRTBIA.aspx

  13. Logical says:

    If every local business invested by hiring just one person we’d be well on our way to creating jobs in a quicker and more substantial way.

  14. RICHARD says:

    What does business friendly mean to Messrs Sawyer, Olivares, Ours and Bartley ? It seems to mean:

    1. agree to sell the AT&T building for about a million dollars less than it cost us.

    2. forfeit about $ 3 million in federal funds because they voted to allow cars in the transit mall to access the AT&T building.

    3. agree to forgive about a million dollars of CoddingTown Mall’s loan, money it borrowed from us.

    4. allow hotels to increase the room tax and keep that tax money.

    5. give the chamber of commerce $ 300,000 of our money.

    Business friendly does not mean people nor tax payer friendly.

  15. Money Grubber says:

    Did you all see yesterday’s online news about the SANTA ROSA man who threw a hot dog at Tiger Woods and got arrested for it?

    The City of Santa Rosa should be proud.

    That one guy just generated several “jobs.” The Press Democrat wrote about it. That’s one job.

    The story is actually all over the news nationally. Thats at least ten more jobs.

    Since government likes to pretend that they can “create” jobs, I propose that the City Council members all pull some stupid stunt to keep California news reporters busy and working.

  16. Whattheheckisgoingonhere? says:

    Lets see…. Will the council do the right thing given the economic circumstances? Does the Council care about what the majority of constituents want? Is the Council…. Nevermind…. They have alreday told us and indicated by their actions that they could care less about us, the taxpayer. But hey, we can lay off some more low level workers and give the rest of them a pay cut to make up for this money.

  17. Jim M says:

    I’m not sure the city should give this money to the Chamber, but it is totally absurd to say that government does not create jobs.

    Has the public highway system not created jobs? has our public education system not created jobs? Our very currency is based upon the government, without the support of the government the dollars you carry in your pocket are worthless paper. Are you seriously trying to say none of that creates jobs?

  18. Pete says:

    Government cannot create jobs! The Santa Rosa Chamber can’t create jobs. The Chamber needs to stop wasting taxpayer money!

  19. Anthony Walters says:

    Why does our city council want to give money to the Chamber of Commerce to do what they are supposed to be doing anyway? I think it’s unbelieveable that the “Pro Business” city council wants to charge us for parking at Howarth Park but can find money to give their friends at the Chamber of Commerce. Isn’t this is the same behavior that got City Council Sharon Wright in trouble with the FPPC?

  20. brown act Jack says:

    wishful thinking dominates the CC and the CofC , does it not?

    If you think that with $3,000,000 you can create 4,000 jobs, you had better get a job with the Federal Governmnet. $1,500,000,000 was invested in Solyandra and created about that many jobs for a short time.

    And the Chamber of Commerce wants the city to donate $60,000 by pledging that much a year for 5 years.

    Hmmmmm, I say let the City pledge it, as it will have the same result as the $3,000,000 pledged by buinsesses.

    You can not spend pledges, can you?

    Seems to me the CC should have realized that with the pledges for the unification, and some of the pledges in the southwest area.

    I would only trust pledges done in the from of signed agreements that could be enforced against the people giving them.

    But then again I am not trying to get money from the City

  21. Frank says:

    waddya expect from Liberal arts majors
    ” Oh , will have fun printing, oops Painting up more money”
    and will hand that to all that hire someone or open a business on April first
    or how bout some role playing from the Chambers like try to open a business lets say Asphalt plant or Aggragete, or oh i know a place for kids to hang out pinball machines, batting cages, paintball, maybe right next to the SRJC

  22. ken says:

    Yeah, I don’t think so…

  23. liz says:

    Sharing on face book! perhaps we need a confronting wall street protest at our chamber of commerce (republican) offices.
    Why are we paying the rent?

  24. Kirstin says:

    Agreed, Greg Karraker:
    “If local businesses really think these activities deliver ROI, they should invest their own money, measure the results, and
    enjoy the rewards, or accept the losses.”

    And agreed, Jim:
    “The government DOES NOT create jobs. It doesn’t. Private citizens do. The idea of giving more money to the government to “create jobs” is ridiculous.”

    However, Jim, just wanted to point out that what is being proposed here is a handout from local government to business (the Chamber of Commerce). The Chamber itself is not a government entity — although it may seem that way sometimes (http://www.santarosachamber.com/index.php?submenu=whatwedo&src=gendocs&ref=What%20We%20Do&category=Main). You probably know that, but some reading here might not.

    One of the reasons we have a depressed economy is because there is too much mixing of govt. and what should be private and separate enterprise. The city government should restrict itself to its own basic priorities (if it did so, it wouldn’t need such a big budget) and otherwise get out of the way and allow business to conduct itself. But many city government leaders want to involve themselves in micromanaging business and actually “developing” business themselves. That is not the proper function of of good government, and that, in part, is why we have a stagnant economy.

    So, Santa Rosa City Council: don’t give the CoC $300K of our money. But DO reduce your bureaucratic nonsense that is hamstringing legitimate business.

  25. RICHARD says:

    The city shook down the kids for money to keep the pools open.

    The city shook down the seniors for money to keep the senior center open.

    The city allowed the hotels to increase the room tax and use that money for themselves, the hotel owners.

    The city defunded school crossing guards.

    The city convinced the people to increase the sales tax to fund essential services.

    Q. Does the city have money for the chamber of commerce’s latest trickle down scam?

    A. No, no way, no how, no sir, no madame, no, no, no.

  26. Jim says:

    Attract business to Santa Rosa? Are these people for real?? Businesses are leaving the state in droves. Starting a business in Sonoma County is a freaking nightmare.

    When I started mine, it took 6 months (YES 6 MONTHS!!!!) to get my business license. I ended up calling every number listed on the city website every day, asking where my business license was. They certainly cashed my check within a couple days, no problem with that.

    I left messages for the license department every day. I NEVER got one return phone call. NEVER. The level of hoops I had to jump through was outrageous. I run a small service company, no employees. Yet it was a pile of paperwork. Endless delays. Misinformation from the morons in the city office. And, on top of all that, 6 freaking months!!!

    The government DOES NOT create jobs. It doesn’t. Private citizens do. The idea of giving more money to the government to “create jobs” is ridiculous.

    This again proves how the government really has no clue about how the economy works. And the Sheeple voters are freaking idiots.

  27. Greg Karraker says:

    @Sam —

    Here’s one proud Free Market blowhard that doesn’t think one Chamber of Commerce should get one dime of taxpayer money, anywhere, anytime.

    I have seen more chambers waste more money on useless projects like new city logos, theme lines, and feelgood programs that never attract any customers or build any business.

    If local businesses really think these activities deliver ROI, they should invest their own money, measure the results, and
    enjoy the rewards, or accept the losses.

  28. CAnthisbe says:

    Sam -

    Looks like the “proud Free Market blow[h]ards” already chimed in against giving the Chamber of Commerce taxpayer money before you got here. It looks like you agree with them blowhards.

    The easy answer to this is the City does not have the money. Agree with Richard that the fact that the Chamber takes political positions should also mean that it should not be getting money from the City. The Chamber should not be getting free and discounted rent either.

    While the article does not state the below as a direct quote, the article suggests the substance of the statement is based on what Dave Gouin stated:

    “The city could find other ways to support the effort, Gouin noted. It could pay the $60,000 but then begin charging the chamber a similar amount in rent for the use of the depot. It also could increase the rent at the chamber building to help offset the cost. Or it could count the city’s existing economic development programs as an in-kind contribution”.

    This statement makes little sense. If I give you one apple and I take one apple from you, how may apples did I give you?
    It would be more efficient just to tell the Chamber to pretend that the City gave it $300,000.

    Since the City has no money but City government seems to want to help the Chamber “create” 4,000 new jobs, the City could do away with $300,000 worth of job destroying regulations. We may not be able to agree on just what those are but the City could probably do away with 10 X that much.

    Question: If Sonoma County already gave $3000,000, didn’t the taxpayers in Santa Rosa already give at the office – I mean at the County?

    Last – and maybe least – if Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce has about 900 members, I’m going to guesstimate that all of Sonoma County’s Chambers of Commerce have 4,000 members. If each member hires one new employee, then they would have “created” 4,000 new jobs with zero taxpayer money,

  29. Dave Madigan says:

    How about a simple and straightforward answer: NO!

  30. bear says:

    Why not give the money directly to the republican party?

    That would be honest.

  31. CityEmployee says:

    More furlough days for City employees.

  32. Sam Mosely says:

    It is outrageous that the Chamber of Commerce wants money from the city to do political work. Where are all the proud Free Market blowards that are always on this site now? I KNOW they’d be squawking loud if City Council wanted to give this money to union organizations. Its even more outrageous for the Chamber to ask for our tax dollars when they know they are taking it from pools, parks libraries and senior centers. The Chamber has been getting thousands of our tax dollars for years from the city council (ever since their crony Sharon Wright was on the council) and yet this is the first time the PD has ever reported it. Why don’t they investigate how much of our tax dollars have already been given away to a private group? Because the PD is in the pocket of the same business interests that the “So-Called” Pro Business City Council is That’s Why!

  33. RICHARD says:

    “Dave Gouin, the city’s director of economic development … is recommending the council only consider making a pledge as part of the next year’s budget.” What would Mr Gouin remove from the budget; pools, parks, police, fire, crossing guards, library or maybe himself?

    No organization involved in elective politics ought get public funds. It will spend to get its friends elected and they will vote to give it public funds. “The Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday endorsed a slate of three pro-business candidates for City Council … The chamber backed Scott Bartley, Jake Ours and Juan Hernandez,,,” – The Press Democrat

    The chamber is not, repeat not, to be trusted. This chamber has gotten our tax money by unethical means: “…. violations …. resulted in over $ 700,000 … to the chamber.” FPPC No. 96/162

    They are trying to trick us again with “trickle down”. Thumb down = no public money for the chamber.

  34. Juvenal says:

    Is this how Business mean to get Government off its back?