REDONDO BEACH — After weeks of harsh debate between the mayor and several City Council members, the council agreed this week to continue subsidizing the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce through 1989.
The council's action came just three weeks after Mayor Barbara J. Doerr vetoed a similar measure, objecting to a five-year commitment to subsidies. Doerr proposed that the council approve a one-year contract.
Ernie O'Dell, the chamber's interim executive director, said the council's action takes the chamber "out of the political embattlements from year to year" and should help it establish a better relationship with the council.
"It's public knowledge that there are some elected officials who don't see eye to eye with the chamber," O'Dell said.
$42,300 This Year
At the same time, O'Dell said the funding plan would allow the chamber to follow other such organizations and phase out its dependence on city money. The contract calls for an 80% reduction in subsidies between 1985 and 1989.
This year, the chamber received $42,300 from the city, or about one-fourth of its operating budget. Under the new contract, the chamber will receive $8,460 in 1989. Chamber officials said the 600-member organization will replace the city subsidies with membership dues and money from chamber-sponsored events.
"The chamber has been trying to be self-reliant for some period of time," said O'Dell. He said the chamber would seek no money from the city after 1989.
Doerr said she did not oppose subsidies for the chamber but rather the length and substance of the contract. The chamber, which requested the five-year agreement, has traditionally received one-year contracts.
Opponent: 'Railroad Job'
Three weeks ago, with Councilwoman Marcia Martin absent, Doerr was able to veto a similar move to grant a five-year contract because the council was able to muster only a 3-1 vote in favor of the agreement. It takes four votes to override a veto.
Monday night, with Martin present, the council supported the contract by a 4-1 vote. Only Councilman Ray C. Amys, who called the second effort to award the contract a "railroad job," voted against the agreement.
"I find dissatisfaction with the way the contract is written," Doerr said. "It does a disservice to the city and the chamber just to restate chamber goals." Doerr said the city should award a long-term contract only after the contract was rewritten to clearly identify what chamber functions the city deemed important.
Councilman Archie Snow acknowledged that the contract should specify what the city wants from the chamber. The council, with Doerr's support, unanimously approved a motion by Snow that calls for a list of priorities to be added to the contract.
The contract calls for the chamber to perform services ranging from promoting the city as a desirable place for visitors to providing information to firms that are considering moving to Redondo Beach.
The move away from continued subsidies reflects a nationwide trend by chambers to develop financial and political independence from municipalities, city and chamber officials said.
City Manager Timothy Casey said local chambers have been encouraged by state and national chamber organizations to "wean themselves away from city funding."
"One of the primary roles of chambers is to provide legislative information to its members and to be a legislative advocate on behalf of its members," Casey said. "It is hard to be an adversary in the legislative arena with the people that are providing part or much of your financial support."
Hermosa Rejected Subsidy
In recent years, several South Bay chambers have gained financial independence from city governments, a move Hermosa Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President William Fowler described as "tremendously important" in relations with that city.
Fowler said the Hermosa chamber could not aggressively oppose strict city parking regulations in the downtown when it was receiving nearly a third of its budget from the city. In the three years since ridding itself of city subsidies, he said, the chamber has fought successfully for more lenient parking enforcement.
"Because of the changes, the city has shown us that they lost $100,000 in revenue from parking tickets," he said. "If we had been receiving money from the city, we couldn't have stood up there and justified it."
Chart shows year-by-year funding from the City of Redondo Beach for the Chamber of Commerce.
Fiscal Year Amount 1965-66 $20,000 1966-67 21,200 1967-68 21,200 1968-69 5,100 1969-70 19,714 1970-71 10,100 1971-72 10,100 1972-73 10,100 1973-74 10,100 1974-75 10,000 1975-76 39,000 1976-77 39,000 1977-78 36,000 1978-79 20,000 1979-80 22,500 1980-81 36,000 1981-82 42,300 1982-83 42,300 1983-84 67,300 1984-85 42,300 1985-86* 35,532 1986-87 28,764 1987-88 21,996 1988-89 15,228 1989-90 8,460
* New five-year service contract begins. Source: Redondo Beach city manager's office.