Sunday, November 9, 2014

St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Box Score O for 2

Opinion by:  E. Eugene Webb PhD

St.Petersburg Chamber of Commerce Mission Statement:

The St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce shall be the preeminent leader of business in order to ensure the economic growth and vitality of our community.

Notice the mission statement does not call for a political agenda.

Since the day Chris Steinocher arrived as president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce he has wanted to be a big player in City and County politics. Problem is under Steinocher’s leadership the Chamber can’t seem to get on the right side of the major issues.

First there was the LENS, which the Chamber backed to the hilt and the public soundly rejected.

Now there is GreenLight, which Steinocher co-chaired and pulled out all the stops for, soundly defeated at the polls.

There has always been a question in my mind as to whom the St. Pete Chamber really represents. When you look at the Board of Directors it looks like the name would more correctly be The St. Pete Corporate Chamber of Commerce. Small and medium sized business seems to be somewhat under represented on the Board.

That could explain why the Chamber is so out of touch with their members clients and customers - the public.

The St. Pete Chamber has been handed its hat twice now in major ballot initiatives. We may be approaching the moment where the Chamber’s endorsement and/or support are more of a curse than a blessing.

It’s also way past time for St. Pete City Council to turn to Steinocher and the Chamber every time they have a question about the pulse of business in the City. Looking at the recent record one could assume the Chamber doesn’t have a clue.

The time has come for a little soul searching among the Chamber membership and their leadership regarding their political role. Just because it’s big, bright, shiny,  expensive,  has high political exposure and is paid for by tax dollars does not mean it will pass public muster based on the Chamber’s endorsement.

It’s time for the St. Pete Chamber to get back to their stated mission. 

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