Friday, June 13, 2014

Participation is Needed to Help Protect Your Business

Oregon restaurant owners visit Rep. Greg Walden in D.C.
The past three months proved to be some of the most informative and rewarding times of my life. Despite the warnings of my friends, neighbors and fellow association managers, I ran for the position of City Councilman in Ward 4 in my home town of Salem. This position is a non-paid, part-time job with a four year term serving approximately 20,000 residents of the ward located in far south Salem. The election was decided last week in the primary election and I’m proud to say I won by just less than seven percent. As has been often said, watch what you’ve asked for and that is certainly appropriate now that I’ll be taking office in January 2015.

During the campaign I did on a small scale what I’ve watched state legislative candidates do for the past 31 years. I raised money, walked and knocked on doors introducing myself, participated in phone bank calling, appeared at six or seven public forums with my opponent, put up signs, appeared before a variety of groups seeking their endorsement, and got to meet many people living in the neighborhoods near me in south Salem. The rewarding part is that all the work resulted in a win making it worthwhile and productive personally and for everyone involved in the campaign.

The informative piece had to do with several things. I was saddened by the number of citizens who aren’t even registered to vote – roughly 50 percent of the ward. It bothers and intrigues me that people feel that it isn’t worth their time to even deal with elections, politics and issues. They’ve given up on the system and don’t care to participate. I also learned that most people are really very nice. I personally knocked on over 3,000 doors and only experienced four really rude receptions. Not a bad percentage there.

Even more troubling to me was the fact that only 40 percent of the registered voters in Ward 4 bothered to vote in the primary election, and that was high by far in Salem. Citywide, only 30 percent of the people voted. That means that 20 percent of the potential Ward 4 voters decided this election and we were a high water mark. In two of the other wards it was 10 percent of the voters making decisions! 80 percent of the people didn’t have enough belief in the system to participate. And with vote-by-mail it is even easier to do so in Oregon than most states. That lack of participation is a real problem for our society and one that needs to be solved if the state and nation is going to continue to move forward.

ORLA deals with the same types of participation levels when you look at our membership penetration rates. We currently have 30 pecent of the hospitality industry supporting our efforts, which benefit the entire industry. Part of ORLA’s mission is to represent the business interests in the political and public worlds of the hospitality industry in Oregon. Just like Ward 4, we have industry members with varying business and political philosophies when it comes to developing a position on issues that directly impact our industry. These issues include paid sick leave, the Affordable Care Act, lodging taxes and minimum wage increases. Right now the active 30 percent are deciding the industry’s position. ORLA needs the majority of the industry involved and supportive to truly be effective for the industry. Participating and supporting the efforts of the team of professionals representing you is a small investment in the well-being of your business. I invite you to be a part of the process and join ORLA to ensure your voice is heard and your business is protected. | Steve McCoid, President & CEO, ORLA

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