I visited with a friend this week and was surprised to hear her say, “my friend told me the Chamber of Commerce voted for the project.”

The project, of course, is the Albion development at the corner of Lake and Forest – a project that has been divisive since it was first proposed.  The fourth of four high rise developments in our downtown area, this one challenged the community to consider just how much density and development it can swallow.  And, of course, there’s the park.  What additional damage would this high rise, coupled with the one right next to it, do to the neighboring park?

My friend – and her friends – happened to oppose the project.  And that’s okay.  Everyone is entitled to their voice and their opinion.

The Chamber, however, deliberately chooses to forgo having a voice and opinion.  On this project and any other issue.  By policy, we did not, do not and will not.

The Chamber’s mission is to connect businesses in the community to resources, information, government, consumers and each other.  We are committed to remaining nonpartisan.  We define “advocacy” as providing information so that business owners can make their own choices.

Our unwillingness to take a stand even as we try to be supportive is not common knowledge and might be confusing, it would seem.  As a business organization in a progressive community, we often find ourselves summarily labeled “pro business” or “the other side” on economic issues.

Some of this is due to inaccurate headlines, but much of it is related to the assumption that we are associated with the US Chamber of Commerce or the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. We are not.

As the local organization dedicated to community – not just the business community but the entire Oak Park and River Forest community – we are not affiliated with these national or state institutions.  Nor do we have a legislative agenda.  We represent a dynamic, diverse business group of businesses, with their own opinions, their own priorities.   Our members, many of whom are residents as well, make their own decisions.  

We are happy to pass them along, but we don’t presume to decide for them.

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Cathy Yen

Cathy Yen is the Executive Director of the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce.  She has lived in Oak Park for 21 years and done business locally, first as a retailer and then as a small business...