Letter: In defense of the chamber
A Google alert caught my attention. Local columnist Su Lum had a few questions about the Aspen Chamber Resort Association (“One last endorsement stab,” Commentary, The Aspen Times, May 27), so I thought I’d take a moment to answer them.
“How did the Aspen chamber dare get off spending a potful of money against Referendum 1 without polling each and every one of its members and documenting their support?” Well, we are a local nonprofit organized to provide services. Our mission is to attract visitors to the resort for local economic benefit. We also provide valuable benefits and services, advocate on relevant local issues and provide synergy with government and nonprofit entities. Referendum 1 is an issue that directly affects the resort, and businesses should have a unified voice. The chamber is a tool for that success. We did poll our members and publicly presented the results at the city of Aspen breakfast in April. Our board of directors and staff came together for a strategic planning session, discussing Referendum 1 and what would be an appropriate response. Our public-affairs committee met and partnered with the Know the Vote campaign to get the simple message out that land use belongs in the code, not the charter. Overall, the chamber donated about $4,000 in advertising, and the Know the Vote campaign raised many individual donations, so it was a unified effort, not a potful of money — and certainly not public funds as suggested.
“Why does the chamber have control of the lodging tax money rather than putting this contract out to bid?” It was the chamber and local lodges that went to the city and said we need a tourism-promotion fund dedicated to tourism to properly market the resort. The city put the issue to the voters, and the lodging tax was passed in 2000 and again in 2010. The language clearly states that the city must turn over all the lodging tax receipts to an organization that can provide services such as the chamber. The control of the lodging tax money is simple. The city has final budget approval, and the chamber has to design and implement the tourism program on behalf of the city of Aspen. The marketing plan must be reviewed by the marketing advisory committee, the Aspen Lodging Association, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board and the Finance Committee. There is currently a five-year contract in place, and we would welcome an request-for-proposals process if that was desired by the council. As a nonprofit organization dedicated to attracting visitors to the resort, we take no management fee, are fiscally responsible and work with all the community stakeholders in an efficient manner.
“It wouldn’t be the first time we dissolved Aspen’s chamber.” Because you don’t like what we say, you want the business voice silenced? For the past 10 years, the chamber has committed to understanding the local issues and advocating for business success and will continue to do.
Hope I was able to answer your questions, Su, now I leave you with one — why are you so mad? We all want what’s best for Aspen; how about we stop being mean and get meaningful?
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