Politics: It’s good business to stay engaged

  • By: Scott Miller, Fresno Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman and Owner of Gazebo Gardens


Call me crazy if you must, but I love local politics.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of national and global politics as well, but it’s hard for individual voters to have an impact on policy at that level.  There are simply too many of us for us to all be able to have a chat with Joe Biden or John Boehner.  Nicolas Sarkozy has never even once returned one of my phone calls.  But that’s what is so great about local politics:  any of us can easily contact our council members, our mayor, our county supervisors, and even our assembly members just by picking up the phone or sending an email.  We can affect outcomes at those levels just by staying in touch.  In addition, during an election year like this one, any of us can actually help our favorite candidates get elected AND make sure that the issues most important to us get thoroughly discussed by all candidates leading up to the election.

That’s one of the many reasons I’m so excited to be Board Chair this year.  I get to spend a lot of time working on local politics – talking to candidates and elected officials about the issues experienced by local businesses.  I understand that for some people, this would be as pleasant as a root canal, but I love it.   If spending time on this stuff is not your idea of a good time, you can at least be confident that your Chamber is doing it on your behalf.

Our Chamber is always one of the most politically engaged Chambers in California, but during election years, we kick it into high gear. Every month, our Government Affairs Council (GAC) takes positions on business-related legislation at all levels of government. Our Government Outreach Committee (GOC) meets regularly with the mayor, council, and supervisors.  Chamber board and staff are present at most City Council and Board of Supervisors meetings, and we send delegations regularly toSacramentoandWashingtonD.C.to talk about our issues.  We even sponsor the San Joaquin Political Academy and Leadership Fresno to ensure that the leaders of tomorrow understand local business issues.  The Chamber always does these things to keep the voice of business strong in the ears of our elected officials.  In election years, the Chamber PAC gets very active in addition to these other programs.

Our PAC exists only to increase our membership’s ability to participate in the electoral process through: education, support of candidates and issues, and recruitment of candidates as appropriate. The Chamber PAC has its own board.  The bylaws dictate that it shall be comprised of members of the Chamber’s Executive Committee, as well as other members representing the various business categories that make up the Chamber’s membership (e.g. Agriculture, Retail, etc.).  Our current PAC Chair is Lorraine Salazar of Sal’s restaurants – who, in addition to the ability to make fantastic salsa, has a great deal of experience in both business and politics.

The PAC maintains its own bank accounts, and the money from membership dues does not co-mingle with PAC funds.  This program is funded 100% by member donations, so in the interest of good foreshadowing, I will admit that the final paragraph of this article will be a plea for you to send money.

As of this writing, which is a couple of weeks before printing, our PAC has been hard at work meeting with candidates and spending many hours trying to determine which of them will do the best job on behalf of our local businesses.  Some of these recommendations are easy, but in races where more than one candidate has a business background, it can be very difficult.  The PAC’s current list of endorsees includes incumbents Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Councilman Lee Brand as well as Debbie Poochigian for Supervisor, Bob Whalen for Assembly, Randy Reed for City Council, and Paul Caprioglio for City Council.  By The time you read this, there will be other endorsements.  And I believe that all of them deserve our help.

Local businesses simply can’t afford to be indifferent to local politics and it has absolutely nothing to do with partisanship.  Some candidates get it and some think that business is an endless source of funding to repair every mistake the government has ever made.   The Chamber PAC is really our local voice and lobbyist for choosing those candidates who will fight on behalf of business. So, please send a check if you can -FPPC # 820-784.  If sending a check is not an option this year, please consider volunteering for one of the business-friendly candidates.  You’ll be protecting your own business, and you might just end up loving local politics as much as I do.


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