So it’s not exactly a clean slate when it holds a town hall meeting next Tuesday for business and citizen input. The meeting is 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. In addition, the Chamber already made a presentation to the City Council about its general plans.
Needless to say, there’s plenty of skepticism in town whether the Chamber really plans to listen to the input, or go on its own merry way. Others see the “restructuring” as just another small-town political power struggle. As far as listening to input, sometimes people get a vision formed in their minds and consider other ideas “interference.”
The real challenge for the Chamber is one of inclusion and whether the group can “bury the hatchet” about previous disagreements, many of them personality based.
The stakes are high: The Chamber needs more money to sustain itself, so it’s going to have to persuade more people to join and donate money at fundraisers. If it ticks them off (again), it won’t succeed. Experience and the ability to embrace diversity will count. Many people won’t join the Chamber until it works out its differences.
*Kathy Whittlesey does a good job managing the chamber’s day-to-day operations with a motivated corp of volunteers. They like working with her, and without them, the Chamber could not function. Few if anyone in the chamber have a better knowledge of the city’s history than Steve Cottrell, who is a regular contributor. Both are big assets with years of Chamber experience.
*The board has done a poor job of providing strategic direction to Kathy and her staff of volunteers. In some cases, there are signs of “all hat and no cattle” execution by the board. Not all board members live in Nevada City, either, and there’s concern about self-interest. Some also downplay the “sustainability movement” that has been so successful in the recession. The city’s Farmers Market is a shining example, a true “grassroots” community effort.
*Some board members have done a splendid job of alienating the community with their “my way or the highway” or name-calling approach, and I’m not talking about the so-called “dissidents.” They will need to mend fences to gain broader support. Some board members also were appointed, not elected, including officers.
*Business people such as Tom Coleman, Chuck Shea and Gary Stollery are not “dissidents” but contributors.
Tom’s National Hotel has brought much attention to town: through a recent article in the S.F. Chronicle and a Fox News national broadcast. (Tom has kept the National chugging along while the Holbrooke in Grass Valley is struggling). Chuck rode a horse-drawn carriage through town when another rider couldn’t show up consistently. Stollery’s bookstore is popular with customers including novelist and resident Monte Schulz.
Stollery also helped forge an advertising deal to draw visitors from outside our area to town – a badly needed strategy beyond Christmas shopping inserts in the local media. Shea also understands this, having organized a TV station tour of the town.
*Merchants in the 7 Hills business district complain they have been ignored at the expense of downtown merchants.
In short, it’s a tall order for the Chamber. Residents such as Karin Marinovich and Paul Matson are on the strategic planning committee. Can it succeed? It’s much too early to tell. The first step is “getting real” about the issues.
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