November 2017 News From The Chamber
Message From Our CEO Katie Simmons: Businesses make data-driven decisions; the Chamber is no different. When our Board of Directors formed the Task Force on City Revenues & Expenditures earlier this year it was with the express intention of leaving no stone unturned. Charged with producing data on the City's ability, or lack thereof, to pay for our current and future needs in priority areas - like public safety and roads - the Task Force returned with key observations: there are no means or plans to improve our collector and arterial roadway infrastructure ($90M price tag) nor invest in a proactive police department (112 officers plus dispatchers at $3M more/year). Add to this a lack of funds needed to improve technologies to deliver greater efficiencies, like Emergency Medical Dispatch which will benefit both our Police and Fire departments by eliminating many duplicate responses to calls. On top of these gaps, the City is facing an unfunded pension liability of $120M which has already upset the apple cart - pulling needed funds away from public services, a trend that will only accelerate as annual payments balloon beyond current budgeted funds.
At the Board's Annual Retreat last week, the Task Force was charged with producing a white paper on the exploration of, among other things, the mechanics of a revenue measure to help fund improvements in these priority areas. Many of these talks are ongoing in the community already, and the Chamber Board has pledged to convene these groups for the purpose of fleshing out opportunities, obstructions and, ultimately, feasibility. All of this research will be presented to our members and partners around the first of the year with an understanding that there is no single solution. We will pause then, as we are doing now, to invite your feedback.
One long-time Chico business owner said recently on the topic, "a revenue measure doesn't scare me; operating my business under California regulation does." Another said, "I'm a collector of sales tax and as long as we can educate consumers on the benefits of shopping locally then I am not bothered by the revenue measure concept." We expect opinions will be diverse. No sweeping decisions that benefit the community are made by one organization operating in a political vacuum. The reality is the community-at-large drives outcomes, we are simply providing the data and framework for possible next steps - as pledged in our 2017 Community Vision Report.
Although the revenue measure topic couldn't be bigger and, potentially, more controversial, we would not be meeting the needs of our members by ignoring the problems that have been so pronounced in nearly every business walk, anchor business listening session, and casual conversation for years. You have demanded, rightfully so, a better quality of life which equates to less crime, better roads, and a safe community in which to operate your business and conduct your life. Let's see if we can find a solution that will be a great fit for Chico. If you are interested in participating in this data collection and framing of next steps, please let me know and I will send you an invitation to our next Task Force meeting.
I'll say this in closing, the Chamber Board - which is no more than a collection of hard-working business people and community leaders operating under a shared Community Vision - is committed to Moving Chico Forward. It's a job we take very seriously and with a deep sense of responsibility. The membership and partnership of the Chamber, and our collective economic success, are the reasons we endeavor to accomplish great things. Businesses create healthy communities, plain and simple. If you have thoughts, concerns, questions, ideas, now is the time to speak up. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work together. Chico - the place where you live and choose to do business - is worth it.