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Kristen Amyx, president and CEO of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, outlines the chamber’s activities on behalf of area business and chamber-backed Goleta council candidates, at right, Don Gilman and Jean Blois. (Sonia Fernandez / Noozhawk photo)

The Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce board of directors called a news conference Friday to discuss the local economy and politics.

“Business supports business” was the theme as chamber president and CEO Kristen Amyx and board chairman Jim Knight addressed Goleta’s economic climate and how the chamber was working to enhance it.

“Everyone’s worried about their 2009 budgets,” Amyx said. “Everyone’s worried about keeping their jobs. Everyone wonders how they will keep all of their employees.”

The solution, she said, is being proactive about creating jobs, sustaining retail sales and protecting property values.

“Now is not the time for no growth,” she said. “We can’t afford it.”

With a phalanx of board members and business leaders behind them, Amyx and Knight also outlined the organization’s political advocacy. The chamber has long been active in local politics, particularly with respect to business and development matters. In 2006, the chamber was instrumental in the election of Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett and Councilmen Roger Aceves and Eric Onnen, the chamber-endorsed pro-business candidates who ousted Council members Cynthia Brock, Margaret Connell and Jack Hawxhurst.

This year, the chamber has endorsed City Councilwoman Jean Blois, a former chamber board chairwoman, and businessman Don Gilman in Tuesday’s council race. The Goleta Political Action Committee, the chamber’s political arm, has raised funds for their candidates’ campaigns. 

“PACs in general have been a tool of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce since the 1960s,” Knight said. “They’ve been around for quite some time.”

The PAC is also a closely regulated method of keeping campaign expenses separate from the chamber’s general finances, he noted.

To date, he said, the Goleta PAC has raised $32,000 from about 100 “mostly local” donors.

“To our knowledge, not one negative ad has come out of the Goleta PAC to support Don Gilman or Jean Blois,” said Knight, responding to charges that the chamber PAC is involved in a flurry of attacks on the race’s other two candidates, Connell and Planning Commissioner Ed Easton.

Another local PAC, one of at least a half-dozen operating in the council election on behalf of one side or another, has raised and spent at least $15,000 to air a 30-second ad blasting Connell and Easton. That PAC, the Coalition for a Healthier Goleta, has not filed its list of donors with the state.

Friday’s news conference also gave the chamber a chance to show solidarity in the face of the latest scathing criticism from the Santa Barbara News-Press. For more than a year, editorial writer Travis Armstrong has been attacking Amyx, the chamber and its participation in Goleta politics.

“In this time of economic and political uncertainty, the board of directors of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce wants to strongly restate our support of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce; our membership; our president and CEO, Kristen Amyx; and the staff,” said a statement from the chamber’s board.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at