• Alhambra State of the City Address ad in ‘Around Alhambra' March edition (Photo – Staff)

      Alhambra State of the City Address ad in ‘Around Alhambra’ March edition (Photo – Staff)

      ColoradoBoulveard.net recently wrote about how the City of Alhambra, through the local Chamber of Commerce, charges residents to attend its annual State of the City Address—and has been doing so for years. Since the publication of our article, the City of Alhambra has decided to hold a second, and free, State of the City Address for its residents.

      By Sean McMorris

      The free version of the State of the City address will be held at city hall in the City Council Chambers on April 22nd during the 7:00 PM portion of the regularly scheduled city council meeting. The Chamber sponsored State of the City Address, which requires an RSVP and imposes a $30 fee for lunch, will still take place on April 9th at 11:30 am.

      The $30 State of the City Address was advertised on the second page of the March 2019 Around Alhambra, the monthly Chamber publication that goes out to every residence and business in the city and is offered at city hall. City hall would not say if the free State of the City address would be advertised in the April Around Alhambra, but both events are now being promoted on the city’s website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts as well as the Alhambra Source‘s events page.

      The new city hall advert also states that those who want to attend the April 9th Chamber hosted State of the City address for free can, but they must RSVP, and if they want to eat then they must pay the $30 fee.

      Noticeably absent from the new flyer is any mention of County and State elected leaders. The March Around Alhambra newsletter issue advertised that the offices of Congresswoman Judy Chu, State Senator Susan Rubio, Assemblymember Ed Chau, and L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger would attend the April 9th event. Congresswoman Chu’s office confirmed that the Congresswoman would not be in attendance but noted that a representative is often sent in her stead to state of the city addresses. A spokesperson for Assemblyman Ed Chau’s office said that the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce did not have permission to put the Assemblyman’s name on the advertisement and they have requested that the Chamber remove his name from any advertising of the event. ColoradoBoulevard.net did not hear back from Senator Rubio’s and Kathryn Barger’s offices regarding the matter.

      Fee elicits strong response from community

      “I think it is a shame that the Alhambra Chamber is making the State of the City address an exclusive event for people who can pay $30 each for something that should be free to all of the public,” said former Alhambra City Councilman (2000-2004), Efren Moreno Jr. “It seems like another opportunity for businesses and developers to curry favor with the city council. This was never done when I was on the council,” Moreno Jr. added, “I would have objected to it.”

      Eric Sunada, president of the local nonprofit 501(c)(3) Grassroots Alhambra,[i] which advocates for government transparency, community outreach, and inclusionary policies, said, “The absurdity of having the Chamber of Commerce organize the State of the City address where attendance is limited to those who can pay is surpassed only by the idiocy and ineptitude of our leadership who saw nothing wrong with it.”

      In 2017, the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce accepted then a month later rescinded Grassroots Alhambra’s membership to the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce.

      There was similar strong response from our online readers. One commenter from our March 11 Editorial on the $30 State of the City address wrote, ” Disenfranchise much?” and another, “This is incredibly disappointing.” Janice H. wrote:

      The State of the City Address is for the residents of that city to hear what the City has done and what is being planned for the future. What resident is going to pay $300 for a table of their neighbors to hear that? It should be held in Council Chambers for the general public to attend and for free.

      Sunada does see a silver lining though. “After all these years,” he said, “it’s taken a newly elected mayor, Adele Andrade-Stadler, to bring some sanity back to the city.”

      New leadership, new ideas

      Andrade-Stadler, who was newly elected to the Alhambra City Council in November 2018, requested a free State of the City address shortly after she rotated in to the mayoral position on February 18th, 2019. She will be mayor for the next 9 months then Councilman Maza will rotate into the position.

      “I was invited and agreed to participate in the daytime event for several groups that meet during their lunch hour,” said Mayor Andrade-Stadler. “After some discussion about the content of the meeting, I requested an evening meeting at the library for our working families who may not have an opportunity to attend.” Mayor Andrade-Stadler added that “After discussions with city staff, the consensus was to have it at a regularly scheduled city council meeting to reach additional people via live streaming.”

      It is unknown if the city will revert back to a Chamber only State of the City address next year, continue to have two addresses, or cease Chamber involvement with the event entirely.

      A matter of contractual practice

      The city currently outsources the event to the Chamber and has done so for many years as one of the conditions in its promotional services contract with the city. There is no stipulation in the contract about charging for the event.

      The Alhambra Chamber of Commerce and the Alhambra Central Business District Association, which has the same address and executive director as the Alhambra Chamber of Commerce, receive about $300,000 annually in noncompetitive city contracts. This contractual relationship has lasted for over two decades. The City has never audited either organization to verify how city funds are being used.

      The Alhambra Chamber of Commerce declined to comment for this article.

      [i] The author is a board member of Grassroots Alhambra’s sister 501(c)(4) organization, Grassroots Alhambra in Action.

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      1. Cheryl A. Cabot says:

        Well done, Mayor Andrade-Stadler for bringing to the people of Alhambra, for free, what should always be a free and easily accessable State of the City address. And, well done Sean McMorris for exposing this outrageous behavior by the past City Council and the Chamber.

      2. Marin Rolando says:

        Local media to thank…good job on reporting this.

      3. Janice Helmer says:

        They should never have had the first one. Curious to know what the mayor did with the profits from that event.

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