Chamber’s lobbying plan draws no concern in Mt. Crested Butte

Crested Butte to discuss issue January 22

An agreement intended to distinguish between the municipal funding of a local Visitor’s Center and the operation of the Chamber of Commerce met the approval of the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council with relatively little discussion.




The decision contrasted with the Town of Crested Butte’s consideration of the matter on December 10, when members of the Town Council questioned the appropriateness of the agreement and the town’s right to fund an active political lobbying organization.
Essentially, the service agreement was intended to establish a written agreement between the Chamber and the two towns for the operation of each town’s Visitor’s Center, both of which the Chamber of Commerce currently runs.
According to Crested Butte/ Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce director Christi Matthews, the Chamber is planning on dividing its budget to reflect its three primary tasks—maintaining the Visitor’s Centers, hosting special events and acting as an advocate and resource for businesses. The contract would separate Town monies going to pay for each Visitor’s Center from the Chamber’s newly adopted advocacy mission.
Some Crested Butte Town Council members said that because the town provides the Chamber of Commerce with money to run the town’s Visitor’s Center, the Chamber should not be allowed to operate as an active political lobbyist.
Following the discussion, the Chamber agreed to work with Crested Butte to rewrite the service agreement. The Chamber is scheduled to present the re-worded service agreement to the Crested Butte Town Council on Tuesday, January 22.
In the meantime, Mt. Crested Butte approved the service contract without discussion into the realm of political statements during a regular meeting on January 2.
After the meeting, town attorney Rod Landwehr said, “We feel that the businesses in our community ought to have a voice… to be a group that speaks for business, and takes positions on an ordinance—that’s exactly what (the Chamber) should be doing.”
Landwehr said if the Chamber were to take the town’s money and use it to directly fund a political campaign, it would definitely violate state and federal rules for funding an organization, but part of the purpose of the agreement was to make sure that doesn’t happen.
During the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council discussion, council member Mike Kube asked about the town of Mt. Crested Butte’s representation on the Chamber’s board of directors.
Matthews said there is at least one member on the board with business interests in the town of Mt. Crested Butte, and another that is equally interested in both towns. Matthews said the Chamber actively seeks board members to represent business interests in Mt. Crested Butte, but is often unsuccessful in finding willing or recruiting qualified candidates. “We have made a concentrated effort to approach the businesses in Mt. Crested Butte,” Matthews said.
Knowing the Chamber was seeking Mt. Crested Butte representatives, Kube said, “I am unhappy our businesses don’t take such an active part on the Chamber board.” Regardless, Kube said he said he was interested in having a requirement for Mt. Crested Butte board representatives. “It would be in Mt. Crested Butte’s best interest to have a guaranteed representation,” Kube said.
Chamber of Commerce board president Richard Bond, who attended the meeting, said Kube’s point was well taken. “It’s not an unreasonable request, but it may be very difficult to fulfill going forward,” Bond said. He said the Chamber was looking for passionate, hard-working board members, and if a business owner from Mt. Crested Butte was required to serve, rather than volunteering, they might not be as willing to participate.
Bond also said representation between the two towns is currently fairly balanced by the number of businesses in each town, as there are many more businesses in Crested Butte than in Mt. Crested Butte.
Matthews said the move would require changing the Chamber’s bylaws, which couldn’t happen overnight. “We can’t commit to that at this moment in time,” Matthews said, adding that the discussion of fair representation on the board was separate from the details of the service contract for the Visitor’s Center.
Council member Tom Steuer agreed it was a separate discussion, and said there wasn’t anything else the town could ask for in the service agreement. “If there aren’t any qualified or interested candidates, then so what,” Steuer said, adding that he felt the Chamber board currently does an excellent job representing both towns.
The Mt. Crested Butte Town Council approved the Chamber’s service contract six to one, with Kube voting against. 

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