It’s a sad day for the Lafayette Chamber—and for Lafayette. Today’s Advocate posts a short article outlining the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce’s legislative agenda. For those of us who’ve followed the changes at the chamber with some discomfort, today is the day our worst fears are realized.
It used to be that the local chambers of commerce were support groups for regional business and rabid boosters of their local communities. The community could count on its chamber for some serious, long-term planning that was in the community’s best interest. Practical decision-making, not politics, was the rule. What influence the chamber had was entirely due to the stature of its individual members in the community and their proven capabilities.
Our new chamber is a political organization and one that has devoted itself to a single faction in the ongoing political fragmentation in our country. It funds PACs and hires lobbyists so that its money, rather than the prestige of its members, shapes policy. This chamber, sadly, pushes elements of its faction of the national political agenda on our local community. It doesn’t support education at any level. It supports “workforce development” rather than education in universities. On the local level it pushes changes to governance that have the effect of minimizing the role of the citizen-voter in favor of “experts.” It will turn its lobbyists out to support an untested grading system for schools and teachers that, frankly, has no scientific basis—but which has the effect of promoting distrust of an objectively successful school system. The chamber declares its support of Common Core Standards—which the community is already rebelling against and whose implementation is so botched as to give even Bobby Jindal grounds for retreat. It supports charter schools in Lafayette Parish, something that our elected officials wisely decided we didn’t want, and is happy to go over the heads of the local community to drive its political agenda in Baton Rouge.
This is not your father’s chamber. I might have often disagreed with the gray beards of the old chamber but I had to respect the role they played in the community. This new corporate chamber with its PACs and lobbyists and nationalized political agenda? Not so much. I wonder how many members of the old chamber are left? And how do they feel about this shift?
A little Lagniappe for loyal PPEL readers:
The Chamber’s own high design version of its 2014 legislative agenda
And from our own files:
Corporate Education Isn’t Education, Part 1