A sharply divided Santa Rosa City Council on Tuesday supported finding ways to fund a job creation effort by the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce.
A majority of council members praised the Building Economic Success Together program and vowed to find the $60,000 per year the chamber requested the city contribute toward it for five years.
"We all have a vested interest in what happens with our economy," Mayor Ernesto Olivares said. "We're not going to get anything done if we don't do it together. That's a fact."
But other council members took the chamber to task for its political activism, especially its activities in the 2010 City Council election and its plans — since abandoned — for the new program to keep a "scorecard" on politicians who support key business priorities.
"Until you get out of politics, you're not getting my support, because it looks bad," Gary Wysocky told chamber President Jonathan Coe.
Susan Gorin, whose rivals were supported by the chamber's political action committee last year, said she couldn't trust the BEST program would be completely apolitical, given its ties to the chamber.
"There are really good reasons why nonprofit organizations absolutely refrain from partisan activities, because it taints everything else that you do," Gorin said.
The council debate closely mirrored the comments of members of the public who addressed the council.
Supporters of the program noted it has worked elsewhere and the county is in urgent need of job growth.
Brett Martinez, president of Redwood Credit Union and a member of the BEST board of directors said his organization sees the financial stress people are under every day.