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April 12, 2016


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The name of the association game (Chamber or otherwise) is membership recruitment and retention. If you can't point to concrete examples of how you have delivered value for the members, then it's tough to do either. And if you can't recruit and retain members, you cannot collect membership dues.

The Salem Chamber is no different. They've simply chosen political activism as their story to tell. Through endorsement of candidates and measures, they can trot out to their members and potential members all the "good things" they are doing for the membership. This doesn't mean I don't wish they chose a different way to provide value to their members, it's just the reality.

I’m not sure that the Fortune Magazine piece you reference actually provides any evidence showing Liberal leadership has any direct correlation to the performance of the economy. It seems to be saying that it's just coincidence. I could be wrong…

The Chamber’s political activity is a simply manifestation of the competing class interests at play in our city. As an advocacy group for the local ownership class they’re going to do whatever it takes to protect their class interests. While this may be shortsighted (for example, fighting the payroll tax for improved Cherriots service in the short term) it makes perfect sense. They are simply doing everything they can to protect business owners from increasing worker protections, environmental protections, and taxes that fund public services.I think Ashland’s Chamber is an outlier and reflects a much different approach to how to run a Chamber. Most local Chambers (and the national Chamber) are right-wing and politically active.

The point about Salem being more left-leaning than appears, I think, is a good one. I think the problem is mobilization. That is something the Chamber does very well. They have built a very strong network locally, obviously with local businesses, but also with ideologically aligned groups and individuals. The other factor is funding. Looking at the Cherriots measure that failed last year, the Chamber outspent Cherriots supporters 10-1 and they lied the entire time. Setting aside Oregon’s awful campaign finance rules the financial advantage that the Chamber holds can only be overcome by actual community organizing.

My understanding of 90’s and early 00’s Salem politics was that it was much more progressive. There was even a socialist councilman (Bill Smaldone). I don’t know what the shift was that led to a firmly entrenched right-wing majority but the fact that we had a progressive mayor and progressive councilmembers 15 or 20 years ago tells me that, with proper organizing, we can change the makeup of the City’s leadership.

I also think the way the City currently runs elections favors right-wing candidates. The primary election is essentially where we choose our City Council and Mayor. Primaries have very low turnout which absolutely favors conservative candidates. I don’t know why we have that system but it sucks.

Micah Davis: your diagnosis is right on. That's why a group of us has formed Progressive Salem — to organize the progressive majority in Salem to take our city back from the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, realtors and home builders. We have three candidates who we have endorsed for the Salem City Council in the May 17th election: Sally Cook (Ward 7), Cara Kaser (Ward 1), and Matt Ausec (Ward 5). If you live in one of those Wards I hope you will vote for a progressive. To learn more go to: .

Micah, I'll echo Jim's praise of your cogent comment. With this addition: there's a fourth progressive person running in the May 17 election, Mayor candidate Carole Smith. She's up against the Chamber of Commerce pick, Chuck Bennett.

If Carole and the three progressive City Council candidates win, those four City Council seats -- combined with the existing progressive councilor, Tom Andersen, will produce a five member Fresh Start majority.

So to see progressives return to power in Salem, voting for Smith, Kaser, Ausec, and Cook is necessary to get us there.

Well thanks for the comments Jim and Brian. I plan on supporting the Progressive Salem endorsed candidates in general. I live in Ward 3 so I am stuck with Nanke. It would be a major victory if we were able to have a Mayor and a majority of council-members that shared a more progressive vision for Salem.

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