City of Gustine, chamber work to strengthen partnership
GUSTINE – City officials are working with Chamber of Commerce leaders in an effort to address business concerns, build a stronger partnership and form a new group to continue Gustine’s Fourth of July fireworks tradition.
Mayor Dennis Brazil said the city hopes to open better lines of communication with the chamber, and will consider reinstating financial support to the merchant group as part of its 2014-15 budget deliberations.
“Since I’ve been here, I have not seen good communication and relationship between the city and the chamber,” Brazil told Mattos Newspapers. “We met with them to try to bridge that relationship.”
Chamber officials went before the City Council recently to announce that, due to financial constraints and a desire to refocus on serving the business community, the group would no longer sponsor events such as the July 4 fireworks show, its popular dinner-dance and a community breakfast at the Olde-Fashioned Christmas at home.
The chamber said it would focus more on its core mission of promoting the business community and addressing merchant concerns such as empty tree-wells and broken downtown sidewalks.
The announcement by the chamber was a wake-up call, Brazil acknowledged, and the city has taken those concerns to heart.
A sidewalk improvement program was already under way, he noted, and the city secured a $2,000 grant from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. which will be earmarked for downtown trees.
“We have started the process of developing an approved tree list for the city. Once that is in place, the new trees will be purchased and planted in the vacant tree wells,” Brazil noted.
The city and chamber will also host a meeting in January with business owners and downtown property owners, said Brazil and chamber President Kiersten La Fleur.
“We want to ask what they need from us, both the chamber and the city, so we can focus our efforts,” La Fleur explained.
She said the chamber is excited about the prospects of working more closely with the city.
“We want to come together to get things done,” La Fleur commented. “We have started, and are at a very good place right now. We are coming to a lot of agreements. We have a common goal. We want to bring in businesses, and to make the downtown look great.”
Continuing the July 4 fireworks show is a focus of that joint effort, Brazil said.
“We are starting conversations on how we can keep that event alive,” Brazil told Mattos Newspapers.
The mayor said he envisions a new coalition being formed to continue the fireworks – one in which the chamber is involved as well as partners such as businesses and service clubs.
“We want (the chamber) to remain a partner,” Brazil emphasized.
Chamber officials also want the fireworks tradition to continue, La Fleur said, and are willing to support that endeavor to the extent they can.
But, she reiterated, the chamber “does not want to be the primary fund-raiser, and we can’t back it financially if we don’t come up with the donations. We all want it to continue, but $20,000 is a lot of money to come up with.”
Brazil said meetings on forming a new fireworks group will begin in January.
In addition to enlisting additional organizations in Gustine, Brazil said, organizers may reach out to the Newman community as well with its fund-raising efforts.
“Both communities truly enjoy the fireworks show,” he pointed out.
Brazil and La Fleur said both organizations have agreed to have representatives regularly present at the other’s meetings, and have pledged to keep open lines of communications.
“Working together, we can do so much more toward accomplishing our goals as a city and as a chamber of commerce,” the mayor remarked. “We’re trying to promote small business growth, and the chamber is an important part of that. We are committed. We will re-establish this relationship, not to get it back to what it was but to get it far beyond what it was.”