Collision Course, Two Chambers

Terrance Thornton at the Independent posted a story dated 7 September 2012 about Scottsdale’s TWO Chamber of Commerce organizations.

The headline reads, “Scottsdale business advocacy focus for two local outfits.” To anyone who’s been around Scottsdale more than four or five years, it is clear that the real focus of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce (the old one) is lobbying for developers and the bar industry.

Observing this election cycle from the inside, it is clear to me that the North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce is heading down the same path. It’s a full-on race to see who can suck up the most developer money and liquor cash to come out on top.

SACOC CEO Rick Kidder has shamelessly promoted the erosion of Scottsdale’s General Plan, the very policy document that made Scottsdale such a desirable place to develop. He spent big bucks, with some coming from Scottsdale Healthcare and an endorsement from Mayo Clinic’s Wyatt Decker, to promote the General Plan changes that were thankfully defeated in the spring.

Former SACOC CEO Virginia Korte is the front runner in the race for three open seats on the Scottsdale City Council. She owns ten acres of prime real estate right across the street from the taxpayer-subsidized, ASU Foundation-owned office complex known SkySong. Is it any wonder she’s a strong advocate for light rail and zoning concessions for McDowell Road property owners? Is there any doubt how she’ll vote on height and density cases if she gets elected? Discovery Triangle, here we come!

Now the “North Chamber” is attempting to leapfrog over the “Area Chamber” in promoting high-density housing projects in North Scottsdale. The first shot across the bow was a television campaign ad against yours truly and promoting developer toadie Jim Lane.

Only a couple of weeks later, members and leaders of the North Chamber did zoning attorney John Berry’s bidding and showed up to testify en mass at the City Council rubber stamp session for the Echo at Windgate housing project.

I note with some ironic amusement that the Area Chamber has moved out of it’s offices just north of the bar district in Downtown Scottsdale to a quieter location farther north, on McCormick Parkway.

The further irony is that this location is less than two miles from where Scottsdale Healthcare relocated it’s own offices at Via de Ventura and Hayden. SHC is probably the largest private real estate holder by value in the city. They recently received (with help from the Area Chamber) significant zoning concessions. I have no doubt that SHC is one of, if not the major funding source for the Area Chamber.

Both the North Chamber and the Area Chamber claim to be all about networking and business advocacy. Unfortunately, that leaves very little in the middle.

What Chambers of Commerce SHOULD do [“The Role of the Chamber“] is help real businesses build sustained output and create sustained jobs. Instead, both these groups have “trade shows” attended mostly by their own members; they sell memberships to unsuspecting small business owners who expect help growing their customer base and either go out of business or drop out of the Chamber when it comes time to renew; and the Chamber leadership spends their dues on hobnobbing with zoning attorneys and developer-friendly politicians.

The Area Chamber withheld overt endorsements this election cycle so they could perpetuate the ruse that they are entitled to free use of our government access cable channel, in order to promote their candidates.

The North Chamber’s endorsements didn’t seem to get a lot of attention, but their TV ad certainly had some effect.

I’m guessing that both Chambers will continue to be hobbled by chronically low membership numbers, because real business people don’t want their dues going to political corruption.

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