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Milestones – Can We Get It Straight? – Opinion

Remember the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce? That was the organization which was recognized for a membership of “Who’s Who” in the city. Early on, the Chamber had powerful, positive and productive leadership in Betty Hangs and Steve Van Dorn for decades.

In 2010, came the decision by Governor Jerry Brown, telling cities that Sacramento was only “kidding” about the redevelopment property taxes the State had been allowing qualified cities to retain for over 50 years. Santa Clara had built its convention center, acquired the land under Great America and a host of revenue-producing properties with those funds, which Brown now declared belonged to “The State.”

With the governor’s power play, Chamber Chair of the Board Van Dorn left, and the Chamber struggled to find responsible leadership. While the Chamber was attempting to find a footing, Mayor Lisa Gillmor found it a perfect time to revive her 1990s attack on the Chamber, now with City Manager Deanna Santana as a lieutenant, and emasculate its major source of revenue, which was, their long-time management of the convention center. The Chamber was fired.


While the Chamber still operates, the power, punch and personnel that existed has petered out. The Chamber was forced to sell its building and in turn, move in with Chamber member Ding Ding TV.

One concern expressed by current and former members is the irresponsible left turn the Chamber has taken by spending proceeds from their building sale on salaries and tenant improvements rather than acquiring new members, preserving capital and growing the organization.

Current Chair of the Board Christian Pellecchia may be the primary mover behind the changing philosophy. It appears he has formed an alliance with none other than Mayor Gillmor. Sources have shared that Pellecchia has recently moved into District 3 and is planning a run against city council incumbent Karen Hardy and… get this…with Gillmor’s endorsement and support.

Now this is an interesting twist on a rather twisted and convoluted comedy of errors that Shakespeare might even laugh at. Get in bed with the lady who burns down your business? Proof again that politics makes strange bedfellows.

An observation. No, we never learn. Like a ship in the wind, we sail left, sometimes right and sometimes straight. So it is in Santa Clara, voters take us left, sometimes right and best of all, in time…get us straight.


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