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Chambers in the Council chamber

Wednesday, September 2, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano

Among the proposals on the City Council “budget concept menu” are two items concerning Austin’s chambers of commerce. Council Member Don Zimmerman has proposed removing the Economic Development Department’s funding for the chambers – which would save just over $1 million. Council Member Leslie Pool has a different proposition. Citing “general support for continuing funding for the chambers of commerce,” she has proposed “equalizing funding for the chambers of commerce at $225,000 per chamber.” Asked about the plans, Economic Development Director Kevin Johns said that he hoped Council would want to continue funding Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce programs that dealt with children, poverty and education. He also explained that the missions of the Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce, Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce all held slightly different missions, constituencies and focuses, and were “all incredibly valuable.” Zimmerman maintained his stance, making the point that there are other groups in Austin doing work similar to the chambers but that “they aren’t demanding any subsidies.” Johns replied, “Chambers of commerce are universally part of the public-private partnerships in every major city in the country. It is universally accepted that there is a role of government funding chambers of commerce, everywhere.”

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