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In Reversal, Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce to Host State of City Breakfast After All

In a twist, the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce will be hosting the annual State of the City Breakfast after all.

Chamber President Ken Oplinger told Noozhawk on Monday that the organization would host the March 20 event after Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider reversed an earlier move to break long-standing ties with the business organization that typically hosts it.

The partnership is back on because the chamber is working to offer more access to the public — a concern Schneider had high on a list of reasons to change the event direction.

This year will mark the 15th time the Santa Barbara chamber has hosted the breakfast, which will be at the Fess Parker DoubleTree Resort and charge attendees $60 per person.

Before the mayor begins her presentation, the hotel will add some theater-style seating for others to come in and watch free of charge, Oplinger said.

Detailed pre-registration information will soon be available on the chamber’s website.

“The only difference from the year before is that the actual State of the City address will be open to the public,” he said. “It addresses the concern the mayor had and we sort of reviewed the logistics of that with the hotel.”

Schneider told the chamber in December that the city would handle the State of the City on its own in an effort to increase public participation by offering free admission.

At the time, the chamber had already secured the venue and more than $10,000 in sponsorships for the event.

According to Schneider, the actual event presentation outlining current municipal affairs wouldn’t change, but offering free admission would break down barriers. 

Oplinger said attendance data compiled by the chamber showed the 2014 State of the City address actually drew 25 percent more guests than past years with 450 people from the local business community.

Schneider could not be reached for comment Monday, but she spoke favorably about the partnership in a media announcement.

"I’m looking forward to this year’s collaboration with the chamber that will allow more of our community partners and the general public to attend the event at no cost," she said. "I encourage leaders of neighborhood groups, the nonprofit and government sectors, business leaders, and anyone with an interest in local government to attend this annual event."

Oplinger said he hopes the chamber will be able to continue hosting the event in the future, billed as the lone opportunity for the mayor to have the ear of the business community.

That could change this year, however, since Oplinger said the chamber is finalizing plans to host another event in September that would have a regional focus on issues facing the business community.

Schneider and other city and Santa Barbara County leaders would be present for a more interactive gathering, featuring a moderator and a critical look at issues.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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