Aspen’s chamber of commerce isn’t the first to sever ties with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over political differences. The chamber in Homer, Alaska, made national headlines when it canceled its membership.
But Auden Schendler, the Aspen Skiing Co.’s vice president of sustainability, believes the famous Rocky Mountain hamlet’s stature may bring more scrutiny to the U.S. Chamber’s right-wing agenda.
“Homer was a unique story, but Aspen is an even more high-profile town with often outsized influence,” Schendler said Thursday. “It’s the iconic ski town that often sets an example for others.”
At a retreat this week, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association’s board voted 11 to 1 to withdraw its membership from the national organization. Tension between Aspen’s chamber and the national one existed for years. The 680-member local chamber penned a letter to the national group in 2010 delineating its differences. But this year — which saw the driest winter in Aspen since the 1976-1977 season — politics are in overdrive thanks to the coming November general election. Several weeks ago, Aspen’s chamber began feeling pressure from Schendler and his Aspen Skiing Co. bosses, the mayor, a pair of county commissioners and residents who had had enough of the local chamber’s affiliation with the right-wing U.S. Chamber and its obstruction of solutions to climate change.
Aspen’s leaders initially said they would continue paying the $800 in annual dues because they considered it a good value in return for the services the national chamber provides. But with the chairlifts idle and Aspen’s streets clear of tourists after a warm winter brought the ski season to an early close, business leaders had more time to ponder the meaning of their memberships.
“After a substantive and productive debate, the board ultimately decided that because the ACRA’s mission is to be the unifying voice for and reflect the core values of our local business community and reflect their core values, it is important its own affiliations are in line with the city, the county, and the majority of business owners’ views,” according to minutes from the Aspen Chamber Resort Association retreat. “An association with the U.S. Chamber, which so vigorously opposes important energy reform, is out of that alignment.”
The local chamber’s recap continued: “Aspen’s economy is inextricably tied to the future of the global climate and all area entities have deeply embraced the idea of reducing our carbon footprint. With our resignation from the U.S. Chamber, the ACRA shows its solidarity with this position.” […]
Private businesses such as Nike and Apple dropped their memberships a few years ago to protest the U.S. Chamber’s efforts to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from tracking the emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases. For similar reasons, in 2009, San Francisco’s chamber of commerce — the 10th largest in the country — withdrew its membership from the U.S. Chamber’s federation partnership program but retained its membership with the U.S. Chamber. Since then, nearly 60 chambers have publicly denounced the U.S. Chamber’s politics or ended their membership. […]