David Barlavi | Is Chamber Turning Partisan?

Letters to the Editor
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During this election season, many organizations hold candidate forums, including for City Council. Last month, the Valley Industry Association held a nice City Council forum where all the candidates were invited. This month (Sept. 21), The Signal is having a larger City Council forum, where, again, all the candidates are invited. 

On Sept. 12, however, the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, which boasts of being “the largest business membership organization in the Santa Clarita Valley representing more than 65,000 member employees,” is having a City Council candidate forum where the only three liberal candidates are NOT invited. Of the total nine candidates running for City Council, four conservative and one right-leaning independent candidates are invited, but the three liberal candidates (plus one other conservative candidate) are not. Of the four conservative candidates who are invited, three are the incumbents. 

In our increasingly diverse city, with now a majority of Democrats as registered voters, the local SCV Chamber of Commerce has decided to hold its City Council candidate forum without a single Democratic candidate for City Council present.  

The chamber has responded that they have set campaign funding minimums for participants: 1) a candidate needs to have reported at least $20,000 in contributions by the end of June; and 2) a candidate needed to have at least $10,000 cash on hand at the end June. 

But historically, those minimums (above) are generally only reached by incumbents and wealthy Republicans. Any look at the campaign fundraising figures over the last few decades shows that Democrats running for City Council in Santa Clarita raise well under $10,000 by June. Republicans and incumbents, on the other hand, have easily reached the $50,000 to $60,000 range. Incumbents can also save some of their excess funds for their next run, where liberal candidates don’t have that luxury. That’s why the incumbents don’t like term limits, and why they’ve held their seats for decades. 

Now, you can say to yourself, “Hey, the chamber is a private organization. They can do whatever they want.” This is true. But shouldn’t the question also be: Is the chamber doing right by the community at large when they have election candidate forums that appear to only cater to one political party? Even internally, for their own membership, do they not have liberal-minded business members that want to feel represented? Is it a good business practice by the chamber to come off as so partisan?

If you’re a member of the SCV Chamber of Commerce, ask their leadership about this seemingly partisan bias in their candidate forum on Sept. 12. Then let the community know what the chamber’s response was. Do they continue to say they’re “innocent” and stand behind their forum rules, or will a more nuanced truth emerge?

For now, I’ll keep fighting for ordinary people from the sidelines.

David Barlavi

City Council candidate 

Santa Clarita

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