City enters into contracts with Chamber, Club

Special to the NEWS

city logoSan Benito City Commissioners unanimously agreed to approve contracts with the San Benito Chamber of Commerce and the Boys and Girls Club of San Benito during their regular city meeting Tuesday evening.

The city entered into said contracts Tuesday; however, the term for the Chamber ends by September 2013 whereas the club’s agreement ends one year later on April 15.

Under the terms of the contract with the Chamber, the City plans to develop a business support and retention program which will help promote local business and to help develop potential ones; organize a campaign to “promote, recruit and develop membership” of the Chamber; begin a program to educate members to help grow their business; help the City gather and sort data for planning strategies and for promotional guides and products; and for the executive director or a representative to attend the meetings of the Special Events Board.

The Chamber, however, has remained leaderless for nearly a year as former director Zeke Padilla stepped down from his post last July. According to Mayor Joe H. Hernandez, the matter of filling the director’s seat “will be looked into by the EDC and the (Special) Events Board at a later date.”

Also included in the contract is the agreement that the City will fund the Chamber a maximum amount of $29,400 from the general fund.

Also taken from the general fund will be $45,000 the city has agreed to fund the club to help maintain its operations, with $14,000 for the 2012-13 fiscal year and $31,000 allocated the 2013-14 year.

The club’s contract also states that the funds will be used to help organize team sports programs as well as for basic operations, not to mention assisting the city with information in relation to the development of Stookey Park. The contract stresses that this will be a one-time deal. Tommy Ramirez Jr., president of the Boys and Girls Club of San Benito Board of Directors, said that although he was pleased to receive the financial support of the city he hoped the club could depend on such support in the future as well.

“We’re happy, ecstatic even,” Ramirez said. “We’re quite comfortable with what they gave us. It’s just a matter of fulfilling the programs and keeping records and getting in touch with the commissioners. I just hope that after the year is finished, the commissioners will look things over and see about renewing the contract, because that is what we need. The club needs help from the city in order to run well.”

Hernandez believes the contracts are necessary for the city.

“They needed to be done,” he said. “The city needs to function smoothly, and now with these in place we hope the city can get better.

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    • WeThePeople on April 23, 2013 at 9:16 am
    • Reply

    Touché, Mr. Rodriguez! On the other hand, dig a little deeper, and you will find more that you don’t like.

  1. @WethePeople Thank you for your reply!

    Normally, I try not to reply to a posted comment by an individual via an alias, but here it goes!

    My initial “primary issue” with the operational concept of the Chamber of Commerce (the Chamber) was the lack of accountability on both the Chamber and the City of San Benito (City).
    That was the reason for my “Letter to the Editor” published on the January 27, 2013 issue of the San Benito News.

    The City was providing financial resources to the Chamber without demanding detail accountability and therefore the Chamber was not providing any accountability to the City.

    I don’t perceive that questioning the Mayor’s quote rises to the level of throwing the Mayor “under the bus” as you stated. I don’t know if you are unhappy because, per your definition, I threw the mayor “under the bus” or failed to also throw the City Manager, City Attorney, and the rest of the Commission “under the bus”.

    In regard to the “terms expiring” being absurd, my statement in my previous comment was “It was reported at the Commission meeting that the elected terms of the Board of Directors of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce have “expired””.

    I never mentioned that it was a member of the Commission who mentioned that the Chamber Board of Directors’ elected terms had expired. Actually, it was a member of the audience who, in my opinion, spoke on behalf of the Chamber. My issue with the Commission taking action on this contract was that not one member of the current Chamber Board of Directors appeared in person to address the City Commission.

    It was this individual who also stated that the members of the Board of Directors are “elected” by the “dues paying members” of the Chamber of Commerce, not the City Commission.

    The only person who spoke before the City Commission was a “former Board member” from years past who read a “prepared statement” requesting the continued funding from the City Commission.

    I don’t apologize for the fact that my comment disappoints you! I do apologize if my comment was not as eloquent or articulate as you would prefer.

    For your perusal, click The DRAFT contract between the San Benito Chamber of Commerce and the City of San Benito to read the contract as approved by the City Commission. Maybe then you will understand why I semi-support the move by the Commission. You might also understand my semi-support of this convoluted, hairbrained (FYI, the word is hare-brained) scheme, as you so eloquently described it!

    The contract is referred to as a “reimbursable contract”. It addresses my concerns as a tax-payer the issue of “Accountability” on both sides. It also addresses the issue of a “lack of a contract between parties, period”.

    However, I am still not satisfied with the Commission or Administration for not demanding an accounting of the $26,877.50 provided to the Chamber between August 2012 thru January 2013 when the Chamber was basically “non-existent”.

    • WeThePeople on April 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm
    • Reply

    I learned on Saturday from a reliable source that Chamber has not had a board meeting in almost a year, owes the IRS back taxes, and their tax returns have not been filed in a few years.
    The last year of their tax return that I can find online is 2009.
    Interesting reading …

    II wonder if the City will pay their back taxes? Surely the City wouldn’t give them money without checking all of this stuff out first?
    Good questions here for reporters.

    1. If you look at the IRS form 990, the Chamber of Commerce is a registered nonprofit 503 (c) (6).

      Ergo, they are tax-exempt. They must still file the form, but the Chamber does not pay taxes and contributions to the Chamber are not tax-deductible!

        • WeThePeople on April 22, 2013 at 6:44 pm
        • Reply

        You are partially wrong about the ‘exempt’.. Of course, a 501c6 status can exempt them from some taxes such as sales tax, but they are still required to pay Federal payroll taxes, (if they have employees), (which they did until a few months ago). According to my source, they did not file returns for several years, and are still behind.

  2. These entities cannot reamain at at stand still they need people with director/marketing skills to run the programs. Hire someone who is energetic has a proven track record in the field. It does appear at this point the two enities may or may not be able to fuction without the support of the city. Two important programs that serve the and oversee and support the youth and business of the city . I just hope they can function in the future with out spending alot of your tax payer dollars . Let’s take one step back to take three steps forward.

  3. I appreciate and support the City Commission’s effort to try and energize the Chamber of Commerce to revive it to benefit the San Benito business community which is in dire need of experienced business leadership.

    “According to Mayor Joe H. Hernandez, the matter of filling the director’s seat “will be looked into by the EDC and the (Special) Events Board at a later date.”

    I am not sure if Mayor Joe Hernandez was misquoted or he is just misinformed or I am misinterpreting his statement. The Chamber of Commerce is a separate (registered non-profit 501 (c)(6)) entity with no direct or indirect legal relationship with the City of San Benito.

    Neither the EDC (Economic Development Corporation) or the Special Events Board has the authority or responsibility to hire a director for the Chamber of Commerce. I recommend the Mayor read the contract again, more specifically the section titled “Independent Contractor”.

    The contract has been approved by the City Commission but will not be in “full force” until the Chamber becomes active again. It was reported at the Commission meeting that the elected terms of the Board of Directors of the San Benito Chamber of Commerce have “expired”.

      • WeThePeople on April 20, 2013 at 7:28 pm
      • Reply

      Exactly my point Mr. Rodriguez.
      Let me restate what I said: “That method may work for a while, but over time, they will remain unsustainable and never be more than a quasi-political organization favoring those in power that are more likely to subsidize their activities.” Does this not look like a political ploy to gain control of the Chamber by the City Commission, (or by the City Manager)?
      You stated: “The Chamber of Commerce is a separate (registered non-profit 501 (c)(6)) entity with no direct or indirect legal relationship with the City of San Benito.” I couldn’t agree more. They should remain that way without the policital influence!
      But before you throw the Mayor under the bus again for his quote, be reminded that it takes the City Manager, City Attorney and the rest of the Commission to support such a plan.
      As far as the Chamber members ‘terms expiring”, that is a bit absurd. How does a City government meddling in the private affairs of a membership driven organization tell them their terms have expired? Way out of line, any way you slice it.
      How could you, Mr. Rodriguez support such a convoluted, hairbrained scheme?? You disappoint.

    • WeThePeople on April 20, 2013 at 1:51 pm
    • Reply

    Should a city with such problems as ours continue to support the Chamber of Commerce? Or are there better ways to support ‘local’ businesses?
    Chamber supporters say that these government payments, (think taxpayers), help support economic development. Instead it appears they have been rationalizing their woes by saying they help sustain local businesses. Do they?
    The fact is that most of the Chamber’s activities have minimal impact on the local economy. The Chamber has been consistently out of touch with the people, while over the past 20 years have not been able to sustain themselves without taxpayer assistance.
    This begs the question as to what role the City should public entities play in supporting organizations whose purpose is to advance private-business interests? Should the Chamber receive a city subsidy when they can’t make it on their own? What is the real value?
    As Einstein said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
    Many Chambers of Commerce around the country reject public funding since they do not want to be at the mercy of political whims. We should also be reminded that the Chamber has their own membership-driven agenda, and may often come in conflict with what is good for the community. The Chamber membership votes on what they do with their monies, not the taxpayers.
    If we are to ever create a sustainable future for locally-owned San Benito businesses, we must change our way of thinking. A better way to subsidize the Chamber might be to match funds on a 70/30 basis. They raise the 70 and the taxpayers match 30. The way it is, they are raising little to nothing and expecting a handout. That method may work for a while, but over time, they will remain unsustainable and never be more than a quasi-political organization favoring those in power that are more likely to subsidize their activities.
    Citizens and public officials also need information on the performance on the use of any subsidy funding in order to hold decision makers accountable.
    If taxpayers are expected to fund such projects, shouldn’t the City and the Chamber also provide detailed public information on their productivity, performance, and costs as it relates to any of this funding?
    So far, a select few citizens, (those that favor these subsidies), have had their say. I believe there will be many more come with their opinions around election time.

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