Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Open Letter to Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce

Clifford Brock
Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce
P.O. BOX 698
Barstow, CA 92312-0698

Dear President Brock:

I am contacting you for a policy statement regarding the Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce. I would like to clarify what the Chamber’s current position is in regard to it’s support for BarWest and the compacts they represent on behalf of Big Lagoon and Los Coyotes.

I am the past Vice President of the Grand Terrace Area Chamber of Commerce where I also served as their Treasure. I also sought and received funding from the City of Grand Terrace to launch a twelve page newsletter that was distributed to every house in the city. In that capacity, I was the publisher, editor, writer, advertising director and distribution agent. During my tenure on the Board of Directors, we took the chamber from a do-nothing ‘good ole boys club’ and transformed it into a vital organization for promoting the city’s image and well being.

During that same period, I was also a member and interacted with the chambers of commerce for Colton, San Bernardino, Loma Linda, Redlands, and Riverside. I mention this background as way of saying that I am not unfamiliar with the role and purpose of any chamber of commerce in promoting the business community and the image of the city that they represent.

In my opinion, Barwest is a corrupt developer from Detroit that is attempting the impossible and violating the Ancestral Rights of local tribes with established aboriginal lands in the Barstow region. In my opinion as a Political Scientist, the BarWest never stood a chance at success because of these factors.

In pursuit of a lucrative market, BarWest brought their pattern and practice of buying influence to Barstow. I believe that they understood all along that they had a slim chance and the only way that they could succeed is getting as many local leaders on board as they could.

I found it deeply disturbing that they were able to turn the Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce into a public relations firm for BarWest. At the time that the former President, Tim Silva, fell pawn to their efforts, I confronted Tim on that issue. I told him that the purpose of any chamber of commerce is to promote the business community as a whole and not one business against another competing interest.

At the time that the Barstow Area was allowed to become compromised, I suspected that President Silva had made a ‘deal’ for some personal gain in the process. Those suspicions were confirmed when it was widely rumored that BarWest had offered him a position on the Council in exchange for his support. I had numerous people involved with the Chamber who told me how furious and disappointed they were at Mr. Silva for “selling out the chamber.” Those same individuals refused to endorse the BarWest candidates because of that history.

What followed was Tim as President of the Chamber, making appearances at City Council meetings to ratify the Chamber’s exclusive support for BarWest. It was at one such occasion that I told Tim of my complete disagreement with the Chamber taking such a position. It is especially offensive when the Chamber is funded with $50k of tax payer’s money and cheap rent. I told Tim that if I were the Chemehuevi or any other business interest that was harmed in the process, I would be inclined to take legal action to sue the Chamber and the City in order to stop this practice.

What also followed was all of the various lobbying efforts on the part of the Chamber’s President up in Sacramento and locally here in Barstow. Last November, BarWest fulfilled it’s promise to get Tim and Julie elected to the City Council. We all know that Tom Shields masterminded that campaign and helped bank roll it through their PAC, Barstow Citizens for Real Economic Development (BCRED). We also know that now that they are on the Council, they continue to ratify the City’s support for BarWest and continue to disrespect and violate the Ancestral Rights of local tribes.

In pains me to say this but I was disheartened to see your involvement in the BarWest campaign to elect Tim and Julie. You strike me as a person who is professional in everything you do and maintains a high sense of values and ethics in the process. I believe a lot of good people got innocently caught up in the frenzy of enthusiasm for the BarWest projects. It is my hope that if and when they come to some of these realizations, they will retract their prior support in favor of a neutral position or one that favors legitimate Native American Ancestral Rights.

The nature of my inquiry herein, is to inquire as to the current position of the Chamber in regard to it‘s exclusive support for BarWest. As of this writing, the BarWest website, still caries the following post with a quote from Tim Silva as the “Chamber’s President”:

[ see ]

From the Barstow Chamber of Commerce

“I think that everyone will tell you that Barstow is struggling economically. The Barstow business community has overwhelmingly supported the Big Lagoon/Los Coyotes casino resort as the economic catalyst necessary for business growth and development. Mere anticipation of the casinos and resort has already generated opportunities and positive developments. The spin-off benefits of this project for Barstow are nearly limitless.”

Tim Silva,
President, Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau

Since you are not listed as the current President with your own quote, it begs the question as to what the Chamber’s current position is now. Has the position of the Chamber changed or does it remain the same as under the previous President? If the position has change, please explain how? If the Chamber’s position has NOT changed, is there any plans to consider that change? Whether there is a change or not, is this by a vote of the Board?

I can tell you for certain, that these issues are foremost in my decision not to get involved in the Barstow Area Chamber of Commerce. As a life long businessman, I have always valued the role of any chamber of commerce in networking and promoting the image of the city it represents.

I am open to discussing these issues in person or on the phone but I would really appreciate a response to my questions ‘for the record’ in writing. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter.

With respect,

Larry D. Halstead

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