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Public policy forums bring politics to business
by Sarah Cooper
May 20, 2010 | 5534 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
RENO — Business owners and employees gathered at the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce offices Wednesday morning for its monthly public policy forum to talk about government and the future of the state. Jonathon Denwood, the managing director of local Web design company Digital Delirium, was worried about health care. Gary MacDonald of human resources firm Nevada Association of Employers was concerned about Nevada’s financial future. Others in the small crowd worried about the future of education.

“The goal (of the public policy forums) is to have a more informed membership,” said chamber government relations director Tray Abney. “It is a tool to get the business community active in public affairs.”

Each month, the chamber invites a new politician, lawmaker or public policy framer to come discuss current issues. Wednesday, the speaker was Gov. Jim Gibbons, a man who is not only up for re-election, but who also has held office through conflict, intrigue and the one of the worst economic spells this generation of Nevadans has seen.

In the past months, the chamber has heard from each of the state’s gubernatorial candidates, finishing with Gibbons on Wednesday.

Next month, Abney said, the chamber will hear a presentation from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on congressional issues.

The monthly morning events are free to chamber members and occur on different days each month, Abney said.

The Sparks Chamber of Commerce has hosted similar events, welcoming the Nevada Mining Association and gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval in March and April.

“We gather as much information as we can provide and then leave it to our member’s civic responsibility to make a decision,” said Sparks Chamber of Commerce executive director Len Stevens.

Stevens added that the Sparks chamber will not be endorsing any candidates this election.

“We have always felt that we are a resource, not an endorser,” Stevens said.

The Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce will announce its endorsements following the results of the primary election, Abney said.

The Sparks Chamber will be announcing its own approach to election information in the coming weeks, according to Stevens, providing its own access to public policy makers.

“We want our members to know what decisions are being made, how they are made and how they can contribute to the process,” Stevens said.

The group of about 40 that filled the Reno Sparks Chamber conference room was interested in not only the political process, but more so the specific issues that affect their personal and professional lives.

“I am concerned about where the money is going to come from,” MacDonald said after Gibbons finished his remarks. “Above and beyond anything else, we have to keep business doors open.”

“That is your future,” Gibbons told the crowd of the state’s public policy direction. “You had better be engaged. You had better know what the stakes are.”

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