Committe To Consider Removing CVB From Chamber
CITY HALL – As the City Council began discussions Tuesday of the performance audit of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce; Mayor Barry Brucker again renewed his call for the Conference and Visitors’ Bureau to be separated from the chamber.
By the end of the three-hour meeting, the mayor was joined by three other council members in approving the creation of a strategic plan committee to come back with recommendations for splitting off the CVB. Vice Mayor Frank Fenton said Tuesday he wasn’t prepared to call for the removal of the CVB.
“I believe the KH report findings that we are better off in the long run having an independent CVB,” Brucker said. “The bottom line is that I don’t blame (the chamber), I blame the mayor and city council for not applying businesslike protocols in the oversight of taxpayer dollars. The buck stops with us and not those of you sitting on the chamber board.”
Brucker said he couldn’t speak for previous councils, but given the information contained in the KH Consulting performance audit “it would be very difficult to take any other position than to eventually create an independent CVB.”
He urged his colleagues to support the creation of a guidance council including city officials, business owners and others to design a blueprint for what the CVB should look like in the future. Brucker added he wanted to implement policies to assure a “smooth” transition within the next 12 to 18 months.
Despite gaining support from three other council members for his plan, Fenton said he was “not ready to split up the chamber.”
He asked that the council’s Ad Hoc committee overseeing the audit should get more information and consider a long-range plan for the chamber. “Once that is done, I’ll be able to evaluate whether or not the chamber should be split,” Fenton said.
City Councilwoman Linda Briskman said the council could agree that “we are all getting what we want and that at the end of the day we will agree that an independent CVB is probably warranted.”
However, she was critical of an overdose of editorial comment personalizing the issue leading up to the council’s study session on Tuesday.
“That’s what dictated how (this issue) was covered in the press,” Briskman said. “We are all in this for the same reasons. We want to making our marketing effort successful and our brand strong.”
Both Councilwoman Nancy Krasne and Councilman Jimmy Delshad voiced their support for splitting off the CVB.
“I asked for this audit in January when I was mayor,” said Delshad. “I smelled something that I wasn’t comfortable with. I found an organization that was convoluted. Most of what KH said was already know to me.”
Delshad added residents need to know “where their money is going.”
Kranse commented that until the CVB becomes an independent entity, she wanted a governance board put in place to “watch over the money.”
Before the council began their debate supporters and the chamber’s chief executive spoke in favor of keeping the CVB with the organization.
Chamber CEO Dan Walsh told the five-member council that the CVB should remain a division of the chamber. He also said the chamber and its board welcomed the audit and it would ultimate lead to the organization delivering “better services.”
“We are open to working with the City to achieve that goal,” Walsh said.
He said the chamber was in agreement with many of the audit’s recommendations, especially in terms of developing a strategic plan.
Walsh added that a “strategic plan is central to the ongoing success of the chamber, Economic Development Division and CVB. We stand ready to work with the City to implement a strategic plan.”
David Streets, owner of Celebrity Vault gallery and chamber board member, credited the chamber for opening the door to make sure he was successful in Beverly Hills.
Street said in his two decades of involvement with chamber in New Orleans and Beverly Hills, this chamber is the most proactive in attracting business and keeping business in the City.
“It’s a winning combination,” he said. The chamber, CVB, EDD and City work together. Each are important in the union.”
By Chris Sieroty and Lee Barnathan