Member surveys guide the policies and positions of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce.
The Lawrence Chamber of Commerce is a minidemocracy.
Each year, the more than 1,600 chamber members are surveyed for their opinions on various local and state issues.
Once those results are tallied and a formal statement has been made indicating the majority opinion, the member-nominated board of directors sets general policies for the year and makes official statements about the chamber's position on current issues.
"The purpose of our organization is to represent the membership," said Gary Toebben, chamber president. "When there doesn't appear to be a clear majority and when the board doesn't have a strong feeling one way or the other, typically the chamber will not take a position. Very seldom does the board take a position in opposition to the membership."
For the 1996 survey sent out last November, members were polled on their positions on issues including slot machines, school finance and highway funding, Toebben said. Based on the response, the board of directors decided last December on a position on those and other issues.
Some of the chamber's 1996 positions include:
- The chamber supports the legalization of slot machines at the three greyhound and horse racing tracks in Kansas. The Chamber does not support legalization of slot machines throughout the state.
- The chamber supports the creation and funding of a new, long-term comprehensive highway plan to address highway improvement projects after 1997.
- The chamber does not support a tax increase to finance state government. They support maintaining the current revenue base and controlling expenditures.
- The chamber supports the continued use of revenues from the state lottery and parimutuel racing to fund economic development programs. The chamber opposes diverting monies from the economic development initiatives fund for other uses.
- The chamber supports an increased emphasis on crime prevention. As a secondary plan, the chamber supports the construction of more prison space.
Toebben said almost 500 chamber members responded to this year's survey. He said that response rate -- 30 percent -- is a good one.
"Other chambers I've talked to say they're fortunate if they get a 15 percent response," Toebben said. "We get a very good response because our members know their opinions are valued and, I hope, because we ask some interesting questions."
Toebben said the chamber just sent out another survey asking members their opinions about concealed weapons and school financing. Once those results are tallied, Toebben said, the board would declare a position on those issues.
In addition to the annual surveys, Toebben said the chamber gets member input through individual comments and from the recommendations of issue task forces that are made up of various members. He said the surveys also help the chamber see how members think the organization is doing and give leaders ideas for task forces that may need to be formed.
This year, two new task forces will be formed to deal with issues members cited as community needs. One will address training of the work force, while the other will look into downtown parking needs, Toebben said.
In April, the chamber also will get more member input at its annual meeting.