Nov 17 2007
10:43 am

I'm sitting here looking at a bill for my membership in the Chamber of Commerce. It has a big blue 'PAST DUE" stamped on it...Like I am a bad person.

There's not much there about why I should support the Chamber or any of it's recent accomplishments for the betterment of our Citizens and taxpayers.

Now the folks at Roane Alliance are friends of mine and I like them...But...

Frankly, the Chamber has a legislative agenda I don't necessarily agree with. It's nicely worded but upon investigation it doesn't exactly support the working people in Roane County and I have to wonder if it is legal for our tax dollars to be paying for it. There is not one word about Roane County schools in the agenda and you'll remember the Commision voting to take the beer tax money away from our schools and give it to the Alliance, which then held it's Gala outside of Roane County.

Of course if, as Gerald Largen's column alludes, our tax dollars are subsidizing a bachelor pad for an Alliance member, then the Roane Alliance -Chamber of Commerce situation is much more incestuous than is at first apparent.

I also wonder if it may be a serious conflict of interest in the spending of Roane County tax revenues.

Perhaps a little financial audit would ease out minds and make us proud to be Chamber Members.

Whitescreek is not alone

Alothough I know folks in both groups, I never did join for the same kinds of reasons Whitescreek mentions. It just didn't seem like the most effective use of my limited funds.

Does the Chamber really receive tax dollars? Isn't it a private group? And a bachelor pad and beer money are news to me.

Having the Gala outside the county always seemed a little strange. It is as if our own supposed boosters were publicly announcing that Roane County is not good enough for a Gala.

If, as some say, we don't have a large enough or fancy enough venue for such a Gala, maybe it might look better to get a new Community Center, or to upgrade the county to attract such a venue, or in the meantime to scale down the Gala to match the rest of the county.

I am sure the folks in both organizations are all very nice, but from the outside looking in it's difficult to understand things sometimes. :(

Since I am not a member, I always figured what the groups did was none of my business. However, if they are getting tax dollars....

It would be nice to learn more.

-- OneTahiti

It's really a matter of getting the best bang per buck...

"Having the Gala outside the county always seemed a little strange. It is as if our own supposed boosters were publicly announcing that Roane County is not good enough for a Gala."

It really has absolutely nothing to do with Roane County being "not good enough." I'm right there with folks urging people to shop at home and shop in Roane. I want all possible business to be done in Roane County. I've shouted that message and beat that drum in this county since the 60s, 70s, and 80s. So I've been around it long enough to get a grasp on the realities involved. I've been a part of a business that suffered from people NOT shopping in Roane, and I've been part of arguing with people to get them to shop in Roane, to keep their business in Roane on a very up close and personal basis. I say all that to say that I hope nobody is gonns make the mistake of thinking I don't support keeping as much business as possible in Roane County.

The fact is all that activity in years past, and activity I have engaged in within the last few years have also given me a grasp on the reality that exists regardless of the things I'd ideally like to see. I've watched reality and idealism run into each other, and reality invariably comes out on top, although perhaps moved a bit in the right direction by idealism. I'm part of an organization right now that has to decide venues for conventions. We are pulled this way and that in deciding where to hold a statewide educational seminar and meeting. Organizations in one part of the state or the other will tell us they want us to come to their town next because of convenience; they're always having to go somewhere else. Others tell us we should have our meeting in their location because it's only fair - after all, it's been in X city 4 times in the last 6 years! Some of us look at the records we have of all recorded meetings over the years and look to see patterns of where the best attendance has been. After all - we're responsible to get the most out of our meeting expenditure bucks: we have to get the most people exposed to the educational material, the greatest number of people attending & participating, the greatest level of vendor participation, etc. And guess what? Fairness and convenience can't ultimately wind up being the deciding factors. Our responsibility to get our job done says we go with the reality. The reality of where we get the best results all the way around.

The same has to happen for the Roane Alliance Gala. The Gala is for two basic purposes: 1) getting people together for networking about progress for Roane County, and 2) getting people together who have the means and will put out their money to raise funds for the joint activities of the Roane Alliance.

And the reality is that sadly there is not a place inside Roane County that will fill that bill and give best bang per buck. Several locations inside and outside Roane County have been tried over the years, and it is held where they get the best results. And the fact is that they LONG for the day when there WILL be a place in Roane County to hold it! I challenge anyone to ask any participant if they would prefer to be able to hold the Roane Alliance Gala inside Roane County. I'll buy anybody that gets a negative answer the best dinner at an eatery of their choice inside Roane County. It ain't gonna happen.

For that to happen Roane County has to have a place that will have enough room - inside and outside - for entrance area, main dinner hall area, auction display area, etc. It will need to be able to provide food and drink of quality and types conducive to upscale people being willing to part with their money to raise funds. And it will need to be able to do that for the money that the Alliance can afford. In Roane County, RSCC has the room and possibly the logistical capabilities. But no beverage alcohol is allowed on the property. Whitestone might have the room (not sure about that) and certainly allows beverage alcohol. But affordable? Have you checked their pricing lately?

They WANT to have the Gala inside Roane County. But having a place to do it can't happen just because somebody decides they want it to be there. Much the same way community-wide high speed internet isn't going to happen in rural communities or small towns just because some government decides they want. They gotta pay for it and build it. Same goes for a venue for the Roane Alliance Gala.


Well, Anonymous...

I'm well aware that SOME wine served at the gala was donated. Never claimed otherwise. Other wine was available at the cash bars.

But my point wasn't about the wine or alcohol served. My point was about the overall expense of a big event at Whitestone.

I'm not saying they shouldn't charge what they charge - they have a tremendous investment in that wonderful place to recoup, and they're not a low overhead operation.

There's much more involved in the cost of a given venue than some donated wine.

BTW - I was very appreciative of the fact that that wine was donated. It was a valuable donation in support of the cause.


"There's much more involved

"There's much more involved in the cost of a given venue than some donated wine."

Maybe this Gala isn't as fun as I had hoped if the cost of the complimentary wine is not a major factor.

Just joking.

Hey, Mark!

It's not that the donated wine didn't help.

All to help lubricate the minds for the auctions to follow!

It was fun.


Oh yeah - I forgot...

"scale down the Gala to match the rest of the county."

My own experience and reality checks have amply demonstrated to me that you don't generate the required revenues at a fund raiser by scaling down. Scaling down may be politically correct or appeasing. But it will not contribute to a financially successful fund raising event.


Thanks, RB

Ths seems one case in which one must ask oneself which is more important, revenue or appearances? I'd heard the arguments about revenue before, and they make sense. However, having the Gala outside the county still does not look that good. One could argue that in a public relations / booster organization, appearances perhaps ought to trump revenue.

Still, I can understand wanting to maximize revenue from the Gala. I do wonder how much revenue is lost from the possibly many folks who don't give because they question the decision to outsource the Gala?

Anyway, whatever the groups do is fine with me as long as they are not misusing taxpayer money. :) :) :)

-- OneTahiti

Well, let me think about

Well, let me think about what the job of the Chamber and the Alliance might be?

I know...To Sell the rest of the world on what a great place Roane County is. So tell me again how having the Roane Gala 40 miles away contributes to that mission?

Actually, I think that's minor compared to an audited report on where the money comes from and where it goes. Since the Alliance is supported with tax money, there should be a public report, right?

I think it's a valid question, WC...

"I know...To Sell the rest of the world on what a great place Roane County is. So tell me again how having the Roane Gala 40 miles away contributes to that mission?"

Excellent question.

There are, with the Alliance as with any group, many aspects of fulfilling the mission. The overall mission takes several components to be actualized. One of them is money. And the more money that is generated by fund-raisers such as this is less money that has to come from governmental coffers. This helps bypass the need to dip into contributions from government.

So how does it contribute to the mission stated? By raising money that is required for the carrying out of said mission. And, to reiterate, the more money it raised (this touches on OneT's point, as well), the lower the demand on public dollars.

I can't see that as bad.


Venue: Two Birds, One Stone

It appears that the Kingston Riverboat needs passengers (navigate to Riverboat story since RCN site does not allow specific links). Why not book it for a night?

Of course, feel free to disregard: I have never (A) been to the Gala or (B) been on the riverboat.

That's an interesting thought, Mark.

Although the riverboat won't hold near the number that attends the gala. It sure is an interesting proposition to combine Alliance fund-raising event(s) with the possibility of using the boat and thereby supporting it simultaneously. Worthy of thought!

Disregard your comments? NAH!


Can't disagree there...


"I do wonder how much revenue is lost from the possibly many folks who don't give because they question the decision to outsource the Gala?"

Reasonable question. I don't know how they would figure that one out, tho. Any ideas for a valid methodology that would give actionable information to that question?


Maybe, RB :)

Hmmm, RB, you want ideas? :) Just off the top of my head, here's an administrative one that might be worth a try:

Maybe folks who like the fancy Gala could form a "Knoxville Friends of Roane County," which could itself hold a Gala to benefit the Roane Alliance etc.. Then the Alliance itself could announce their activities are in Roane County from now on, but have everyone invited to the fancy Knoxville Friends' Gala too. That way Roane County looks good--after all, even Knoxville folks like us and give us a big party every year! :)--while still keeping up appearances so that folks who objected to the outsourcing might gradually be wooed back into donating. It might be worth a try. :)

-- OneTahiti

Lordy, I love your logo, OneT!

It's so neat!

I don't object to your idea (as if my objections meant anything LOL!).

But the truth of the matter is that the Knoxville folks who attended were few and far between. It is mostly Roane County folks. I did happen to be there this year (first time) due to circumstances that surprised me. I was interested and had the opportunity, so I went. My disclaimer posted elsewhere is stil true, BTW :-)

It's Roane County folks by and large, getting together in a venue that, as I described, is not available in Roane County. Were it available in Roane County and could fulfill the needs I posted in another post, they would have no problem whatever with having it in Roane County.

I wondered about the issue you raised myself. But having been there, I can tell yo it is not a gang of Knoxville folks supporting Roane County.. It's Roane County folks and busineses for the most part,

So - it's a venue that is different. Not the attendee population.

Good ideas like this are what comes out of good discussions. I don't think this is the solution, but it is a new idea, and it possibly points to some other things that might be workable in the future. If enough people keep talking and trying to think of win-win solutions, who knows what could happen?


Thanks, RB

The logo is a miniatured version of a large image I made that is based on an old quilt pattern. In your honor I posted a slighter larger image. See: (link...)

About the Knoxville Friends: there is nothing to say they have to be from Knoxville. :) I had figured they would be the same as the Alliance folks, just under a different hat for appearance's sake. :) The difference between that plan and the current way would be purely administrative. Of course if there were any Knoxville folks who wanted to help with the Knoxville group, they would be welcome. :)

-- OneTahiti

OK - I gotcha now...

Yeah - I could say they'd welcome ANYBODY'S contribution - from Knoxville or elsewhere. The money spends the same :-)

Well, that gives me something to cogitate on!

And thanks again for the large image!


I agree!

It would be nice to learn more.

Let's see what Gerlad Largen comes up with in his next column.

But in the meantime, why shouldn't we get some hard financial info on the money the County gives to the Roane Alliance?

The Chamber and the Alliance are hopelessly entangled near as I can tell. Let's just ask for an audit.

Well, several things to inject here...

"But in the meantime, why shouldn't we get some hard financial info on the money the County gives to the Roane Alliance?"

Everything that might come from county coffers is in the county budget and is public record. It's neither hard to get nor clandestine in any way. I personally don't know how much money is involved. I do know that the Roane Alliance was born out of a cooperative agreement between the involved parties or agencies, each group contributing some to the overall consolidated operation so that each group wouldn't have to spend money to duplicate services or efforts. I'm thinking that's a progressive way to do things, helping to eliminate waste and improving cooperation - making sire all the horses are pulling the chariot in the same direction rather than each going their own, possibly counterproductive, direction.

"The Chamber and the Alliance are hopelessly entangled near as I can tell. Let's just ask for an audit."

Hopelessy entangled?? So the hope is that they should be separate again? Why? What is the evidence that such is better? They didn't get together by accident, and it wasn't done in secret, and it was generally hailed as a positive step toward intra-county cooperation to help get things accomplished more synergistically. Audit? What information has been asked for and denied? Is there evidence of misdeeds? Or just evidence of imperfection?

I must ask: How is any group of people ever going to be able to cooperate and do things - such as this group - and be free of being called to task simply because they chose a priority a critic wouldn't have chosen? Or be audited because they made choices or took actions a critic would have done differently? The only way not to be complained about is to do nothing, and then one will get complaints for doing nothing. Any active organization will be the object of complaints or disagreement with their actions.

But the way I look at it, they're doing something. No organization is perfect either in its goals or in its execution of its activities. And I find it much less taxing to sit outside an organization and complain about what it does and how it does it than it is to get inside an organization and exert my positive influence on it so it will do things better.

This is very hard for me. I'm truly sorry for being so contrary-sounding. And I'm sure I'm choosing my words clumsily. I know a good number of the people in all these organizations. And I know them well enough to know that they all recognize their own imperfections and the lack of perfection of their respective organizations. And I find it difficult not to bristle at even a hint that they are doing something that is less than honorable. Doing something that is less than perfect? Absolutely. Doing something that may be different from the way someone who sees another way as best? Without a doubt. But I'd really be upset if I thought they were being accused of less than honorable intent and actions.



I am not a member or employee of the Chamber of Commerce, Roane Alliance, or any organization that makes up the Alliance. I have no conflict of interest in making the statements I have made.

That is NOT to say I am against being a member, however!


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