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Santa Barbara Mayor, Chamber President Reflect on Modified State of City Breakfast

All appeared calm this week in Santa Barbara after the State of the City event was held on Friday.

Mayor Helene Schneider said she was pleased with the event, despite an initial move last year to remove the Chamber of Commerce as the event's host.

The State of the City event is an annual breakfast event, hosted by the Chamber of the Santa Barbara Region, and gives the mayor and other city officials the chance to talk about city highlights important to the business community.

But the event hit a snag last year when Schneider expressed concerns about the event's accessibility to the public, and said the city would be making a move to break with the business organization.

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

“We were ready to go with the event,” Chamber President Ken Oplinger told Noozhawk at the time. “We were very excited to be able to do it for the 15th year. She was very clear this wasn’t up for discussion. We’ll be stepping aside.”

Tickets to the event are normally $60 a piece and include breakfast at The Fess Parker DoubleTree Hotel.  

In February, it was announced that the Chamber would host the event after all, and would allow the public to attend free of charge during the presentation.

About 400 people paid for tickets this year, and several dozen people attended for free to listen to the presentation, which featured Schneider and City Administrator Paul Casey as speakers.

Helene Schneider

Schneider, who provided few details then about how the decision to part with the chamber was reached, said at the time that she wanted to offer free admission to the public.

But some speculated that the move was a jab at the chamber for supporting the Highway 101 widening project, which Schneider has taken issue with.

However, last week's event was carried off seemingly without a hitch.

Oplinger told Noozhawk earlier this week that the chamber was "pleased to open the mayor’s speech up to the public, and had a few dozen people attend for that purpose."

He said paid attendance to the event was on par with last year.

Moving forward, the chamber will be reaching out to the city next week to suggest dates for next year.

Ken Oplinger

Oplinger said the intention is to have a similar event in 2016, "but we want to discuss it with the city now so we can plan accordingly."

Schneider said she felt the event "went very well," and that she'd heard that more than 60 people RSVP'd to attend the presentation part of the event.

"The chamber did offer seats at tables to many of them, with other seats available theater-style for any overflow," Schneider said. "I heard that this aspect was a good way to create more inclusivity and transparency connected to the city’s largest presentation of the year."

She added that she had not had a chance to talk with chamber staff about how the logistics worked out, but said she looks "forward to that conversation."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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