Lockport Chamber of Commerce facing budget troubles, political brouhaha
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com January 23, 2013 4:12PM
Lead singer Tim Ruth (left) and local band Under D Influence perform during the Logjam music festival at the Homer Tree Service property in Lockport Friday, August 3, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 25, 2013 12:34PM
When Lockport Chamber of Commerce board members are seated Friday they’ll immediately be faced with the daunting task of digging the organization out of a $117,000 hole.
The red ink is so deep it has spilled onto the city’s mayoral race, forced the chamber’s executive director to donate her services, threatened the fate of Old Canal Days and cost New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann $10,000 out of his own pocket.
Most people seem to agree the chamber’s financial woes stem mostly from its first three-day rock concert series held in early August.
Logjam — which featured Eddie Money, Survivor and the Manzarek-Rogers Band — was hit with torrential rain one night and excessive heat the other two nights, chamber officials said.
That dampened demand for tickets and led to only $60,000 being raised when the budget projected $200,000 in revenue, said past board president T. Andrew Coyle in a Jan. 15 email to members. The concert series cost $180,000 to put on, instead of the projected $120,000, he added.
Baldermann, who created D&B Consulting when he stepped down as Chicago Ridge police chief in 2010, said it takes a while for a concert series to catch on. Though he disbanded D&B when he began work as superintendent of the Union School District on July 1, Baldermann said the chamber still owes him $20,000 for his services — $10,000 for consulting and $10,000 for performers’ hotel rooms and supplies, which he paid for.
“I did exactly what I was supposed to do,” Baldermann said. “It didn’t lose money because of me.”
Lockport Ald. Kelly Turner, who has been digging into the controversy for the past month or so, criticized the chamber for not making its financial records public.
While the chamber officials will allow records to be viewed on a computer screen, they will not release printouts, Turner said. Without a printout, the financial information cannot be closely scrutinized, he said.
The city council voted earlier this month to force the chamber to provide financial printouts by the Feb. 6 meeting or risk having Old Canal Days taken away from it. A 10-person volunteer committee has formed to plan the Old Canal Days festival if the paperwork isn’t produced, Turner said. The festival takes place in June so planning must begin now, he said.
The city provides office space and utilities for the chamber and has donated $75,000 in in-kind services for the past three years, Turner said.
“Even though it’s in kind, the taxpayers are still paying for that,” he said.
Turner also has been critical of chamber board member Steven Streit, who is Turner’s opponent in the mayoral race because incumbent Mayor Dev Trivedi isn’t seeking re-election. Turner said Streit hasn’t said “boo” publicly about the chamber’s deficit and that isn’t right for someone who wants to run the city.
“His only major board experience is on a board that failed miserably,” Turner said.
Turner said the chamber deficit and mayoral race link is more of a “collision” than a planned political strategy. And he urged the chamber to allow for more member input and to adopt a more businesslike attitude going forward.
Turner is part of a city council majority. Chamber board member and Ald. Peter Colarelli is in the minority. He said Turner is turning the chamber’s trouble’s into a “political hit piece” to gain an advantage over Streit.
Streit, who did not want to comment for this story, wasn’t on the chamber board when all of the Logjam decisions were approved, Colarelli said.
Also, Colarelli said the chamber is willing to open its books to any member and it has shared all financial information with the city’s administrator and financial director. The chamber doesn’t want to distribute printouts because they could be misused, he said.
Colarelli said Logjam was a “phenomenal event” that suffered some bad luck. He said the new board, which will meet Friday before the chamber’s State of the City luncheon, is going to work hard to revive the organization so it can continue to promote Lockport businesses.
And he complimented Campbell for sticking with the organization and manning the chamber office at 921 S. State St. even though she isn’t being paid and has been using her own cell phone to conduct business after the phones were disconnected.
“She could have pulled up stakes and taken off a long time ago,” Colarelli said.