Chamber Of Commerce Is A Corporate Welfare Union - And Response

Friday, July 19, 2013 - by April Eidson

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce opposing unions is a laugh out loud moment, for sure.

Let’s examine the local Chamber of Commerce just for a moment.  These are the facts:

1)      The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce is a registered non-profit with membership that pays dues for the privilege of calling themselves a member. In return, the Chamber of Commerce lobbies for GovernMInt benefits their members, who include the largest corporations.  The Chamber also has a registered PAC. They are the pure definition of union, with corporate welfare members.  At least the unions don’t ask for a GovernMint check each year, their members pay their own way.

2)      The Chamber of Commerce lobbies for their corporate members to receive property tax abatements and other privileges, you and I could not obtain as a small to medium sized business, or a property owner. No property tax emption for the little people, we pay.  Some of the Chamber deal cutting, includes exempting the list of 50 corporations not paying property taxes from paying stormwater utility fees. I believe this is unlawful on the stormwater utility, and should be challenged. The idea that we all have to property taxes and stormwater fees, except the GoverMints favorites, is absurd. How do you get on that GovernMInt free pass form taxes list?

My favorite property tax abatement, or PILOT, is the River City Company issuing an abatement to themselves at the movie theatre property downtown.  What a great advantage leasing property, when you are property tax exempt   We all want that deal.

3)      The Chamber of Commerce is also heavily taxpayer subsidized to the tune of $1.1 million annually of local property and sales tax revenues.  The city and county budget each year allocates an annual gift of $1.1 million. Interestingly enough, when I asked to review the budget for the taxpayer windfall to the Chamber, they claimed not subject to open records. What a fun concept to take $1.1 million in local property tax dollars, and tell the taxpayer it is none of their business, because the Chamber is a non-profit private corporation.

The absurdities of this powerful corporate machine in Chattanooga fighting unions, they are a GoverMint subsidized union. 

Why does the public have to fund this union of corporations with operating money?  

* * *

All so-called Chambers of Commerce operate similarly. The one here in Lancaster, SC, and the one in Charlotte operate the same. It's also the reason our company no longer belongs to any of them, besides the fact they act like it's a privilege to pay our hard earned money to belong.

Maybe it's time for citizens to lobby their elected officials to eliminate public subsidies of these organizations and those like them. A trade organization should be exactly that, a trade organization that is supported by its membership. That's the way it used to be.

Here's an idea. If the Chamber of Commerce is subsidized by tax dollars, shouldn't all of us automatically be members? As members, shouldn't we also have a vote as to who runs the show and what direction the organization will take? Who appoints the chief operating officer and governing board of the Chamber? Shouldn't we, taxpayers and paying members, have elected representatives to any governing board in addition to the head honcho of the Chamber of Commerce?

If not, why not?

Jim Earley
Lancaster, SC

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