In the past I have been known to be critical of the Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce but I am not against a business association being involved with local political decision making. Petitioning one's leaders is an important part of our political process. Associations of all kinds exist in harmony with each other, government and the citizen. They could not be judged as a bad thing, in fact, most also support the community they serves in both time and money to prove themselves a local asset. Not so the Chamber of Commerce. In my opinion they actually give nothing to the community, they do however seem to take a lot.
The Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce has their nose firmly embedded in every segment of the public pie. They have taken over virtually all aspects of city and county planning, determining the priorities for capital projects, quality of life issues and transportation. The Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce control all industrial and commercial growth, what companies locate here, where they are located, what price they pay for land and how much tax write-offs they get. They are also involved heavily in education, law enforcement, environmental issues, health care, utilities, media and the church.
And, they get paid for it.
The Cleveland Bradley County Chamber of Commerce is powerful. All local leaders, both elected and professional, are subservient to them. If the Chamber says jump, everyone sprouts wings. I have likened them to the mafia in that if you are protected by them, you do their bidding, if you are not in their club it is difficult to do business because they have tilted the playing field so much in their direction.
The Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce have recently released their Five Year Strategic Plan for the city and county. As they do every year, their self appointed committees decide what would be good for them and our elected legislators vote to make it official policy. For the past few years a new airport was top of their list. Before that it was county zoning that was flavor of the month. This time around the chamber has decided to allocate resources for their next pet project; a convention center. They call it a conference / civic center, but whatever they call it, it is another project like the airport and you will pay for it.
The Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce has really done itself proud with the current Five Year Strategic Plan. It is crammed packed with funding for chamber programs that consolidate its power and guarantee almost unlimited and permanent funding. Under Goals for Local Government it unabashedly demands continued funding for the Chamber of Commerce. Not bad for a private company that is bullying the community with unwanted projects.
You may ask how this association has accumulated so much power and substituted itself for your elected representatives. Years ago the city council and county commission were totally chamber boys. Nodding heads with business cards. They still have enough supporters to have their way and the rest either don't see what's happening or are afraid to object. The latest Five Year Strategic Plan was voted by the city council and county commission unanimously without discussion. I would wager that most did not even read it. How is that for power.
You may ask who is running the Chamber and how can they get away with substituting themselves for government.
It is difficult to say who the number one honcho is. I know it is not Gary Farlow, Chamber President, or any of its other department heads. They are just hired hands doing the bidding of the godfathers. It is my opinion that the ringleaders belong to the Chamber's alter-ego, Cleveland Associated Industries. Cleveland Associated Industries are a shadowy and secret organization with membership hidden from the public and media alike. It is an extremely exclusive club who's membership is by invitation only. I do know that names synonymous with Cleveland's history and big business echo its halls. People that guard their names and reputation by conducting business behind closed doors, involving themselves in politics quietly through go-betweens. These are the people who reap the benefit of the Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce's political leverage to maintain an uneven playing field.
I believe the Chamber's antics are costing local taxpayers and small business millions. I believe the Chamber's association with Cleveland Associated Industries is unhealthy and serves to keep wages low for major industries and prevent the free movement of labor between companies. I believe the Chamber is being delegated government responsibility and charging the taxpayer for the privileged. I believe the Chamber is a self proclaimed voice of business that could not survive on membership fees alone. Therefore I believe the Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce is not the representative of local business, does little if anything for small business and only exists by cloaking itself with the government cloth at the taxpayer's expense.
If they don't work for the citizen and the don't represent all local business, why are they being paid to decide our future?
Let them compete like the rest of small business on an even playing field and see how long they survive.
That's what I think. What do you think?