|604 Third Street (corner 3rd & E Street)|
The Davis Chamber of Commerce is a membership organization whose mission is to "promote, support, and advocate the general economic vitality of its membership and the quality of life for the community." It was formed in 1905 by a small group of Davisville business owners to lobby the Legislature of the State of California to place the new University of California Farm School here, rather than several other competing locations. Their efforts were successful in 1907 and to this day the Davis Chamber of Commerce has a close relationship with the University of California at Davis.
The Davis Chamber has a successful history of spinning off community organizations. The Davis Visitors Bureau, since expanded to become the Yolo County Visitors Bureau, was created by the Chamber to focus efforts that would welcome visitors to town. In 1989, the Davis Chamber led the effort to create the Davis Downtown Business Association in order to allow the Chamber to focus on a broader set of issues like economic development policies, business attraction and retention and redevelopment.
Chamber membership is voluntary. The Chamber has over 600 members, including professionals, individuals, retailers, and non-profits. Some are in the downtown area, and others are located in the greater Davis area and beyond. The Chamber states that it is "a vibrant business organization which reflects the vitality, education, community involvement, and quality of life characteristics of our locale."
The Davis Chamber of Commerce is not affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce or the California Chamber of Commerce.
Core Purposes of the Chamber
To help create a strong local economy
To promote the community
To provide networking opportunities
To represent the interests of business with government
The Chamber puts on an annual event Celebrate Davis on the 3rd Thursday in May at Community Park from 4:30 to 9:30 pm, with food and information booths from local businesses and non-profits, ending with a fireworks show. It also hosts Discover Davis, an event held early in the school year at the Wednesday Night Farmer's Market. Chamber of Commerce member businesses offer freebies, games, prizes, and information as a way to introduce themselves to students new to the city. The Chamber also hosts an annual black-tie Installation Dinner to celebrate their new Board of Directors and Chairman (which rotates yearly) in January. Additionally, the Chamber hosts a monthly luncheon and regular social mixers at member businesses that are all open to the public.
Like all Chambers of Commerce, the Davis Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary membership organization that exists to support its membership. The Davis Chamber of Commerce has a very diverse set of members that is unique in many ways that reflect the community at large. Many local non-profits utilize the Chamber's marketing tools and health care benefits. Until the 1990's, the organization was called the "Davis Area Chamber of Commerce". In 2012, its membership reflected Davis' regional attraction with members located from Sacramento to Fairfield with many in the surrounding rural areas.
The Chamber is sometimes confused with the Davis Downtown Business Association (DBBA); the DDBA was created by the Chamber but it is now an entirely separate organization. DDBA membership is mandatory, with fees from property and business owners who are in the business improvement district (BID). According to Don Shor, of the 84 downtown retailers, only 13 were members of the Davis Chamber as of April 2012. The Chamber's current membership directory can be found online and does not seem to agree with Mr. Shor's assertion. For example, many Chamber members are located downtown and do not ONLY sell merchandise, like Helmus Optometry which offers eye exams but also sells non-prescription sunglasses. [See my 06/13/2012 reply below; pending any further information from the executive director of the Chamber, my statement stands — DonShor.]Furthermore, a majority of downtown businesses are NOT retailers, but include hotels, restaurants, financial advisors, insurance agents, real estate agents, mortgage brokers and many other professional service providers.
2014 Board of Directors
Jennifer Nitzkowski — Chair — Carbahal & Company
Christina Blackman — Vice Chair — Yolo Federal Credit Union
Diane Archer — Treasurer — Tandem Properties
Justin Lowenthal — Secretary — Lowenthal, APC
Gregg Herrington — Immediate Past Chair — Yackzan Group
Members at Large
Mabel Salon — UC Davis Community Relations
Don Palm — Sacramento City College
Doby Fleeman — Davis ACE Hardware
Rebecca Brandt — PG&E
Christina Horne — Brooks Painting
Jane Millett — First Northern Bank
Jason Taormino — Coldwell Banker
Janet Wagner — Sutter Davis Hospital
Tamiko Gaines — HM.CLAUSE
Under the direction of the Chief Executive Officer, the Chamber has begun to take a more active role in Davis politics (although it has also played a role in the past). It has revived a Political Action Committee, or PAC, called the Davis ChamberPAC (aka Business Issues Committee). The stated purpose of the Davis ChamberPAC is "to support (or oppose) local, county or state ballot measures and candidates which impact the business environment in Davis." The Davis ChamberPAC was created by vote of the Board of Directors in December 1997, edited in 2003 to increase the maximum monetary contribution from $500 to $1000 and edited in February 2012 to broaden the scope of efforts to include support of candidates.
The sole funding source for the Chamber PAC is voluntary contributions by individual members of the Davis Chamber of Commerce. The Davis Chamber of Commerce is a legally distinct corporation, so no funds from Chambers' operating budget are used to support Davis Chamber PAC activities. Neither organization is affiliated with the US Chamber of Commerce or the California Chamber of Commerce.
The City of Davis has enacted campaign finance regulations that govern both candidates for office and committees formed to support/oppose candidates and/or measures. These regulations form a layer of more stringent regulations on top of the State of California's regulations as enforced by the Fair Political Practices Commission
The City of Davis does not allow individuals to donate more than $100 to any City Council candidate per candidacy period.1 Also, independent committees (aka Political Action Committees or PAC's) may not accept more than $100 from persons per candidacy period to be spent on independent expenditures or candidate expenditures2.
There are no municipal spending limits on campaigns for local ballot measures in Davis.
In order to ensure that the community understands how the Davis ChamberPAC operates, during the June 2012 Election it was dedicated to transparency and went above and beyond reporting regulations and disclosed all of their donations and expenditures every week.
Accusations of illegality in reference to the "co-mingling" of candidate contributions and ballot-measure contributions into a single pool may or may not have a legal basis, depending on one's interpretation of municipal laws. There are no regulations, local or state, about how General Purpose Committees should manage their internal accounting. As previously mentioned, there are local regulations about how much money may be spent on City Council candidates. The Davis ChamberPAC continues to follow these regulations and has received assurances from the Davis City Attorney and City Clerk that the current method of accounting for donation and expenditures is legal.
During the June 2012 Election the Davis ChamberPAC had many advertisements that simultaneously supported three candidates and one measure. To account for this shared expenditure, the cost of the advertisements are split between the candidates and the measure. The online advertisements purchased on The People's Vanguard of Davis, Patch.com and the door hangers were split evenly: 25% for the measure and 75% for the candidates. For the commercial ran on Comcast, the number of seconds that each candidate or measure was on-screen was counted and a percentage calculated to apportion the cost correctly. In this case, the measure received 31.66% and the candidates received 68.34% of the expenditure.
Ironically, the ChamberPAC denies that the 2010 "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision played any part in their recent actions. According to Kemble Pope, "Let's be very clear that the Davis Chamber PAC's ability to raise and spend money in this manner has absolutely nothing to do with the Citizens United ruling." This statement seems strange, given that the controversial landmark decision is probably the most reasonable justification for arguing that the PAC can safely ignore the local ordinance (by claiming it has been trumped). However, given that the vast majority of Americans disagree with the Supreme Court's decision, and that it could significantly alter the traditional Davis political climate, it is probably a wise PR move for the PAC not to mention it. Furthermore, nearly half of the country's states are currently trying to argue that the SCOTUS decision might not apply to elections on the state and local level.
Measure D is the Parks Renewal Tax, which the PAC (as well as most of the community) believes benefits many local businesses and the general Davis community. The proposition is the extension of the original Measure D of 2002 that passed with a whopping 79% of the vote. To most people, this would imply that an extension would not require any advertisements in order to gain support, even during an economically tough time.
In the May 20th, 2012 edition of the Davis Enterprise, the ChamberPAC released its first print advertisement. Although it is primarily an ad for the populist Measure D, it also includes the names of the PAC's endorsed candidates for city council. The ad states that the endorsed candidates support Measure D, while ignoring the fact that the other candidates support it as well. In an official public disclosure, the PAC claimed candidate expenditures of only about $40 on the nearly $600 ad.
The ChamberPAC has endorsed Stephen Souza, Dan Wolk, and Lucas Frerichs for the 2012 City Council Election. The Vanguard has questioned these endorsements, given that "[i]t was Stephen Souza who, on the brink of the economic collapse, insisted that the city had a balanced budget and a 15% reserve, despite at that time what was $13 million in deferred maintenance" and that "[i]t was Stephen Souza who helped pushed through not only the budget in 2009 by a 3-2 vote, but the series of MOUs in 2009 and 2010 that did little to change the status quo. He was the swing vote on all of those and went against the side of fiscal sustainability." Souza also actively promoted Second Street Crossing (the site of Target) in 2006, which some believe has harmed Davis businesses such as the now out-of-business Alphabet Moon.
Some members of the community have asked the ChamberPAC to provide a more detailed description of the internal voting process and how it led to the endorsement of the selected candidates. Specifically, the public would like to know which candidates each Chamber PAC member voted for and how this led to a collective decision. Thus far, it is unclear if a unanimous consensus was achieved or if there was even a formal voting process at all. According to Kemble Pope, "There was hours of discussion, dissent and arguing. We came to consensus on Frerichs, Wolk & Souza for a variety of reasons that have been stated over and over again."
The voting members of the ChamberPAC are: Steve Greenfield (a principal with a civil engineering firm), Kemble Pope (non-profit executive and consultant), Gregg Herrington (real estate developer), Michael Bisch (commercial real estate agent) and Tom Cross (property management). Janis Lott (downtown retailer) serves as a non-voting liaison from the DDBA.
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2005-05-18 11:53:45 Is DDBA a subset of the Chamber, or is it just the down town mafia? — ArlenAbraham
2007-09-09 00:50:17 DDBA is entirely separate from the Chamber. DDBA membership is mandatory, with fees from property and business owners who are in the business improvement district (BID). Chamber membership is city-wide and is voluntary. — DonShor
2005-05-18 15:18:24 It is interesting to note that the Government Relations Committee was the only community organization in the entire county that opposed Yolo County moving from PG&E over to SMUD. This was in opposition to every city and county government body in Yolo County that voted on this proposal. This now make sense with you see that a PG&E employee is on the Board of Directors and serves on the Government Relations Committee. Nevertheless, the Chamber of Commerce is a decent group of business leaders who do a lot for the community. — SharlaDaly
2009-08-07 18:09:35 DonShor, you are correct. Although we have regional members as well. For more information, please visit our website: www.davischamber.com. —ChristiSkibbins
2012-06-13 10:52:52 Regarding the recent edit by the Chamber executive director, here is a comparison of the members drawn from the membership directories of the DDBA and the Chamber respectively. Once they are cross-checked, an accurate number can be edited above and this comment can be removed. My tally shows 16 DDBA retailers who are in the Chamber, out of 84 DDBA retailers total. http://davismerchants.org/vanguard/DDBA%26Chamber.pdf —DonShor