Huntington Beach City Council members are looking to establish a new relationship with the city’s Chamber of Commerce, offering up over $10,000 worth of city resources to the group that advocates for the business community.
The discussion comes as the cities of Anaheim and La Habra are taking steps to distance themselves from their chambers of commerce, with one city reeling from a corruption investigation and the other taking back control of its annual State of the City address.
What Does the Chamber Get?
The new deal would require Surf City to pay $2,500 a year for an executive level membership with the chamber, and would require them to waive nearly $10,000 in fees on at least seven events the chamber hosts at city facilities every year.
City Economic Development staff would meet with the chamber on a monthly basis, and give out brochures from the Chamber of Commerce at the city’s business license counter.
Chamber officials would take over hosting the mayor’s annual State of the City address and invite the city to a series of events like their annual gala, several mixer events, and the Mayor’s Breakfast event, with a combined worth of at least $10,000.
The goal is focused on formalizing the relationship between the two groups, which for years has been more nebulous.
“The purpose of this (memorandum of understanding) is to address the duties and responsibilities of the Parties to serve the business community in relation to the common endeavor of a prosperous and thriving Huntington Beach,” city staff wrote in the proposed deal.
Tightening the relationship with the Chamber of Commerce comes before a city council that has been vocally pro-business and has regularly pointed out their support of events like the Pacific Airshow in the city, despite controversy over how much money it brings the city.
Other cities have also been distancing themselves from their Chambers of Commerce over the past year.
In Anaheim, former Mayor Harry Sidhu pled guilty to corruption charges, centered on an effort to sell Angel Stadium to the Angels at a cheaper price in exchange for donations to Sidhu’s mayoral campaign.
Todd Ament, former CEO of the city’s Chamber of Commerce, also pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges and was working closely with Sidhu at city hall according to a city commissioned report that found he may have been improperly lobbying Sidhu and influence peddling.
City hired investigators from the JL Group also found the city gave away several no-bid contracts to the Chamber with no justification, and several other issues they say may have violated the law.
“Overall, we observed that Sidhu had a close connection to Ament and the Anaheim Chamber and engaged in what could only be described as influence peddling through Ament,” investigators wrote in their report.
La Habra leaders took back control of their State of the City from the chamber this year amidst resident complaints that no one should have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to see the mayor speak about the city they live in.
Huntington Beach city council members are set to discuss their new contract on Tuesday night.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Todd Ament pleaded guilty to corruption charges. While he pleaded guilty to fraud charges, he did not plead guilty to corruption charges. We regret the error.
Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NBiesiada.
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