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Chamber President Apologizes For Olivette's Decision To Split

Creve Coeur-Olivette Chamber board members addressed Olivette's City Council Tuesday night.

Olivette City Council members have already described their decision last month to cease the city's membership in the Creve Coeur-Olivette Chamber of Commerce like a married couple in trouble.

The metaphor resurfaced in several forms Tueday night when council members heard from the organization's President and a pair from the chamber's board of directors at a council work session.

Teresa Crossland, Kevin Rejent and Kathy Franklin wanted to hear what brought about the move, or as Crossland put it, get "an honest listening." They got an earful.

Mayor Arthur Merdinian said he was speechless, shocked and appalled that Chamber Executive Director Nancy Gray was unaware of the ballot issues the city of Olivette presented to voters last August, in an effort to improve city facilities and parks. Both measures failed before voters. "She had no idea what I was talking about," Merdinian said, calling it "beyond disappointing."

While making a point to indicate that it was not a personal issue, Merdinian repeated his earlier contention of a lack of confidence in the existing Chamber leadership, with concerns which predate Gray's tenure.

Councilman Leif Hauser pointed to the fact the Gray herself was not part of the Chamber contingent at the meeting. Crossland said Gray offered to come but that Crossland asked that she not participate.

Rejent said as far as the ballot question was concerned, one of the Chamber's goals is to be more active in advocating on issues and sharing that information with its members.

Crossland apologized for what had led to the decision to split, while both sides took care to point out that the decision is not a permanent one and that efforts would still be made to reach out to one another.  

"It's a separation, not a divorce," Councilwoman Missy Waldman said.

One piece of information chamber officials picked up at the meeting was a critique of the organization's literature in a separate presentation on economic development. It showed a lack of equity in describing what each of the cities had to offer.

Jeff Springer, the Chairman of the city's Economic Development Commission said he didn't think it was deliberate, but was indicative of a problem Olivette has in building a positive perception.

"People that are coming here have positive things to say," Springer said, pointing to Shane Co. and Sugar Fire Smokehouse as examples of businesses which have chosen to locate there. 

"We're not being great advocates," he said.

Scott Simon February 06, 2013 at 07:25 PM
I still scratch my head asking, "What was the Chamber thinking when having the Creve Coeur and Olivette State of the Cities" address in Maryland Heights last August? Would County Executive Dooley give the State of the County in St. Louis City, or vice versa, Mayor Slay's address in St. Louis County? Amazing.
James Baer (Editor) February 07, 2013 at 02:35 AM
Can't do it in Olivette. No place to meet, unless you count that run down community center?
Scott Simon February 07, 2013 at 02:19 PM
I haven't been to the community center in years. But there are churches with halls that could accomodate the meeting and lunch could be catered. It's done that way in many cities.

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