The role of nonprofits in the Haines Chamber of Commerce remains in limbo following a vote on bylaws revisions Thursday.
Right now, nonprofits are given equal rights to for-profits in the Chamber. The new bylaws would have taken away a piece of that – allowing non-profits to be members and vote, but not to serve on the Chamber board of directors.
“This was how we felt to make both sides happy,” said Chamber board president Kyle Gray. “Are both sides going to be 100 percent happy? No, but that’s what a compromise is. We do feel nonprofits are an important piece of the economy. We’re not ever gonna say that’s not true. And because of that we think that we live in a town where that needs to represented at some level.”
But Gray says it seems the issue is so polarized that a compromise might not work out. At Thursday’s meeting, members present voted 14 to eight against the new bylaws. Gray says some people seemed to vote it down because they want the Chamber to be fully inclusive, and some voted it down because they want nonprofits completely excluded.
“There isn’t really a lot of middle ground. Most people think 100 percent full rights or 100 percent no rights at all. So how do we make both those pieces fit together?”
The Chamber board met Friday morning following the vote. Gray says they decided to form a committee that will try to find an answer to the nonprofits question.
“What we’re gonna do with the nonprofits at this point, I don’t know what that is, I don’t know what’s gonna come out of that. It might be nothing. We might end up proposing the exact same thing we have now.”
There was more to the proposed bylaws changes than clarifying nonprofits’ role. There were several housekeeping changes, such as allowing electronic voting. Gray says it’s clear now that those revisions need to be separated from the contentious nonprofits issue.
“We’re trying to [hone] in on what a chamber of commerce is really about and what role we really play in the community and what segment of that community we actually represent.”
The bylaws committee plans to meet Sept. 1. Gray says Chamber members who wants to offer input can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or the Chamber office at 766-2202.