Wednesday, November 16, 2011

2011-11-16 "Calistoga chamber says boycott has not hurt business" by Sean Scully from "Weekly Calistogan" newspaper
CALISTOGA — City businesses have seen no direct effect from the economic boycott declared by the Calistoga Police Officers Association to protest a new labor contract imposed by the city, the Chamber of Commerce says.
“We have had no impact, no evidence of that to this point,” Chamber Executive Director Chris Canning said Monday. “We have had nobody cancel a dinner reservation at a restaurant, nobody cancel a hotel room.”
The city had a busy weekend with the Napa Valley Film Festival in town, he said, and there is no measurable evidence that the boycott has reduced business at all since it was declared by CPOA head Mark Harden in an Oct. 27 letter published in The Weekly Calistogan.
Canning said, however, that the business community still takes the boycott threat seriously.
“As long as it’s still in effect, it’s an active issue,” he said. “It’s still out there with the potential to cause harm. And to us, it’s more of a matter of principle.”
City officials have received about 14 emails from people outside of Calistoga saying they will no longer visit the city, though they were received in the early days of the boycott, City Manager Richard Spitler said.
Even though there is no evidence that the boycott is actually hurting the town, he said, the protest should be ended.
“When you have a standing boycott, even though it appears to have fizzled, it is just not productive,” Spitler said.
Harden announced the boycott two weeks after the City Council imposed a new contract requiring officers to pay more for their health care and pension costs. The council acted after a state mediator failed to hash out an agreement between the city and officers.
Officers insist they are not protesting the benefit cuts, but rather the way in which the city conducted negotiations. They say the city rejected their offer to take a salary cut in return for a longevity bonus program to keep experienced officers on the force.
Spitler said that program would not have delivered the immediate savings the city needs to balance the budget.
The officers also complain about the city’s spending priorities, particularly operating the community pool and giving the Chamber of Commerce a $302,000 contract to promote tourism in Calistoga.
The boycott has not, however, gone over well with the business community, which flooded The Weekly Calistogan and Calistoga Tribune with angry letters denouncing the boycott.
Police Chief Jonathan Mills has called for the association to end the boycott, a position The Weekly Calistogan’s Editorial Board endorsed in the Nov. 10 edition.
The CPOA remains committed to the boycott, despite an angry reaction from business leaders, said Tim Cantillon, labor negotiator for the association.
Harden has refused to speak to the press since his initial letter. Cantillon said he is handling all of the public comment about the matter.
The association and the Chamber of Commerce have not met to discuss the boycott, Canning said.
“They have not made themselves available,” he said.
The association has referred the chamber to Cantillon, but Canning said the chamber will not contact him.
“That’s not where our issue lies; our issue is with our own CPOA,” he said. “We don’t feel the need to deal with the labor negotiator.”
Likewise, Spitler said he has not heard from the association since the boycott was declared.
“All I know is what I read in the paper,” he said.

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