Sunday, May 05, 2019

Chamber President Responds - And I Reply To that

On May1 I posted a copy of an email I sent to Ann Smith-Tate, President of the Shawnee
Chamber of Commerce.  Just scroll down to see that.  Ms. Smith-Tate did reply and her reply (unedited) is shown below.  Her responses (in red) were interleaved with the original email, as such the complete item is posted.

I have also replied to her response.  That item is listed at the bottom of this post.

Original Email with Ms. Smith-Tate's response:


Please see my responses to your questions below.



From: Ray Erlichman
Sent: Wednesday, May 1, 2019 4:23 AM
To: Ann Smith-Tate

Subject: Chamber endorsement of proposed community center

Good morning Ann,

I  have a few questions concerning the recent endorsement of the chamber board for the proposed community center.

1.  In view of the money that the chamber receives from the city (actually that is taxpayer money, the city has no funds of its own) do you think it is ethically correct for the chamber to actually take sides on this issue?

Additionally, do you feel it is proper for the chamber to be a distributor of Vote Yes t-shirts and signs?

To be clear the Chamber of Commerce or its divisions do not receive any general fund allocations.  The EDC contract with the City is solely funded through the impact fees paid by Waste Management to the City of Shawnee for the express purposes of supporting economic development and infrastructure improvements in the city.  Visit Shawnee receives its funding from the transient guest tax which is fully paid by visitors staying in our hotels and is legislatively restricted by the state to be used to promote tourism.

Our board, which is comprised of community and business leaders, fully recognizes that ultimately the voters of Shawnee will determine the fate of this proposal, however they made the decision to endorse the measure because they felt it was important to address needs that have been identified through citizen surveys and provide a venue where citizens can access a variety of fitness and wellness activities such as the pool, indoor turf and court, classes, track and playgrounds.   Additionally it was discussed that the development of this community center aligns with the overall strategies of the board to enhance community development.  As such, the board of the chamber has historically weighed in on issues it felt were important to the future development of the community. This instance is no different.  

2.  What explanation does the chamber board have for its members who will wind up in a competitive situation with the proposed community center and would be funding that competition?

The chamber has members from a variety of industries including fitness and health. I’ve reached out to any members who have expressed concern from the Board’s endorsement and we’re working with them directly to address their challenges, that said it is important to note we also have members who fully support the initiative and see it as a compliment to their services.   As with all members, we will to strive provide the best value for their investment in our organization.

3.  The chamber board indicated that it thought the proposed community center would have a positive effect on neighboring businesses.  Which businesses do they feel will be positively affected?  Would the board support the addition of new businesses like Lenexa has, within close proximity to the community center?  Such businesses to include a major hotel, restaurants, retail and also the construction of modern upscale apartment complexes.  Many of those apartments have rental rates equal to or higher than many mortgages.  What would be the reaction of the residents of that area to that type of additional development?  Would the chamber support that?

We can’t speak specifically to future business developments or discuss current projects that are confidential in nature , however my years of experience in economic development have shown that an investment such as this  would have a major positive impact in any community.   It is believed that this amenity in our community will move Shawnee forward, especially in terms of the long-term vision for the “Valley of Champions.” The board will always be supportive of additional development and business expansion as that is the primary mission of our organization.

Since this item is of major importance to many residents of the city a copy of this email will be posted on my blog.  In all fairness, your reply will also be posted there.

Thank you for your time,

My Response this morning, 5/5/19
First, let me say thank you for your response.
It is noted that you did not answer the question about the Chamber distributing signs and t-shirts.
Now, let’s get to the meat of what I find to be a troubling comment of yours.  Your comment that no general fund allocations were used.  That is a  dance around the fact that any funds that come into the city’s coffers belong to the taxpayers, not the government.
So, let’s take it step by step.  The monies received from the hotel task have to be spent to attract tourism.  But those funds do NOT have to be spent with Visit Shawnee.  Shawnee can choose to enter into an agreement with virtually any organization that can provide the same services.
Now, let’s go to the impact fee paid by Waste Management.  I think it is time you got a true history lesson on that item.  I was there when it first came up, you were not.  Initially, the former city manager, Carol Gonzales wanted the entire impact fee to go to “Economic Development”.  Fortunately there was enough pushback at the time from the council where the monies were split 50/50 (approximately $1.5 million each) towards economic development and for street improvements.  Even with that split, the city still needed a designated sales tax increase for our streets.  There have been various suggestions over the years to change the split with more going to streets.  Ironically, that would be very easy to do.  How?  There is no ordinance, policy etc. setting the split.  The split was decided at a budget session of the council as a “will of the council”.  As such, the split can be changed at any time without having to go through any long drawn out processes.  There were many who voiced concerns that the “economic development” portion of the split would become a “slush fund”.  Did this concern become reality when monies from that fund were used to finance the various changes regarding the train whistle situations out west?  For the record, I did speak favorably at the council to using those funds for the B&B Theater project. 
The economic development funds do NOT have to be spent with the SEDC.  They can be spent with any organization that could provide the same services.  Maybe it is time to again push for a change in the split of the impact fee so that more can be accomplished for our street problems.
And maybe it is time to look for organizations to replace both the SEDC and Visit Shawnee to handle those functions.
Again, just because the monies paid to the Chamber do not come from the general fund does not mean that they are not city (taxpayer) monies.
I will keep my word, and your response will be posted without editing, on my blog.  Additionally, so will this reply to you