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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Swapping Space

Tonight Lafayette's City Council will decide whether or not to approve a lease swapping agreement with the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber would move into vacated space in City Hall left by the Police Dept, and the City will get the Chamber's digs on South Public Road.

When this first was discussed on November 6 (election night) citizen Brian Herzfeld spoke in opposition to the whole deal; the perception of impropriety at least may be a violation of the city's ethics ordinance. I don't think it goes that far, and the City perceives the old town space it would gain as being a new option for community gatherings.

The Council can set up a legal, technically sound agreement. But the relationship with the Chamber will raise eyebrows in a way that may not be worth it politically. The whole set up will be described though the grapevine in less and less accurate, context-less ways: "Did you hear the Council gave the Chamber free rent in City Hall?" and all the presumably nefarious aspects of having business advocates so close to city staff. We'll see if they approve it; I hear that is likely.

Should Chambers of Commerce and a city have such a close relationship? Absolutely, especially in a town of Lafayette's size. Economic development concerns are going to be expressed to city staff and leadership wherever the Chamber is located, the terms of the lease aren't any kind of sweetheart deal, and showing support for the business community's collective efforts via the Chamber is a worthwhile effort. Take a look at the Chamber's membership. Is this a group of companies whose collective motives are at odds with Lafayette's small town feel?

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