Local Chamber veers off course - LancasterOnline: Editorials

Local Chamber veers off course

Font Size:
Default font size
Larger font size

Posted: Tuesday, December 7, 2010 8:58 am | Updated: 12:14 am, Thu Sep 12, 2013.

A series of things has us wondering whether the leadership of The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry, whose rank-and-file members are conservative by nature, has purposely decided to tilt to the left.

During the recent midterm elections &tstr; in which Democrats ultimately were handed their hats &tstr; the local Chamber broke with the U.S. Chamber over the U.S. Chamber's decision to actively support conservative candidates around the country and oppose Obamacare and other Democratic initiatives.

The U.S. Chamber was then, and is now, speaking for the business community it represents, which is predominantly conservative, if not always Republican in its politics. But that doesn't seem to matter to the local Chamber leadership.

The local Chamber's attempt to distance itself from the national office raised eyebrows among the more conservative members of our community.

Chamber President Tom Baldrige attempted to justify the break, saying, "The Lancaster Chamber is a member of the U.S. Chamber, but is a separate and independent entity. ... We are not a member of the U.S. Chamber's Political Action Committee, nor do we endorse the U.S. Chamber campaign-related media."

That U.S. Chamber "campaign-related media," of course, excoriated the Obama administration on health care, job creation and a whole host of issues important to the business community.

To many observers, the decision by Baldrige and the Chamber board to distance themselves in such a way amounted to tacit approval of controversial Obama administration policies.

Meanwhile, the local Chamber's stubborn support of the county Human Relations Commission &tstr; an agency that wisely was disbanded recently by county commissioners &tstr; seems to be further evidence of a shift to the left.

While acknowledging that the services the local HRC provides were identical to those provided by the state, the Chamber nonetheless tried to argue that the "level of service" would suffer.

This position represented the kind of nanny state that most conservatives doubtless would find offensive.

Thankfully, the Republican-led board of county commissioners saw the local HRC for what it is: well-meaning but a costly duplication of services at a time when local, state and national budgets are stretched to the point of breaking.

Going back to 2008, the local Chamber leadership's position on a home-rule charter &tstr; a proposal ultimately rejected by the voters &tstr; again raises the question as to whom it truly represents.

The proposed charter change represented a radical shift in power, away from the current three elected county commissioners and toward an unelected county administrator and five commissioners with diminished influence.

Such a change would have been antithetical to what Lancasterians expect of their county government, and they had the good sense to reject it.

Over the past decade, there have been three bondafide conservative icons who were keynote speakers at the Chamber's annual dinner &tstr; Margaret Thatcher, Steve Forbes and T. Boone Pickens.

But they have been outweighed by Bill Clinton and Madeleine Albright, feel-good entrepreneurs Christopher Gardner and Benjamin Zander, and liberal media members Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw.

The responsibility for this tilt to the left &tstr; real or perceived &tstr; rests with Chamber President Baldrige and his board of directors.

Both should recognize that they're doing things that run contrary to the priciples of the largely conservative business community they are supposed to represent.

A mid-course correction, at the very least, is the order of the day.