Santa Clara Chamber Cancels Annual Event — Is the Ship Sinking?

By Robert Haugh

This year, the Santa Clara Chamber won’t hold its annual Outlook Event and “state of the city.” We’re not surprised.  Last year, we reported that the event was a bust.

Few people attended if you take out a couple tables of city staff. And Mayor Lisa Gillmor snubbed the Chamber by declining to attend. Instead, then-Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta gave a less than stellar speech.

A few months later, the Chamber’s president and CEO, Chris Horton, was let go suddenly. There wasn’t even a public announcement.  Nick Kaspar currently serves as interim director. But he may be the captain of a sinking ship.


But it’s not Kaspar’s fault. The Chamber boat has been taking on water for a couple years. In 2016, the Chamber PAC, which though isn’t an “official” part of the Chamber, is very much affiliated with the Chamber, made a lot of bonehead moves. They opposed incumbent council members who went on to win by huge margins.

They may be shooting themselves in the feet again. As we reported last summer, Chamber PAC member Andy Ratermann told a reliable source about a meeting with a political consulting firm, Clifford Moss, to lay the groundwork to run a slate of candidates for city council in 2018 and to recruit a challenger to Gillmor who is up for re-election.

Also in 2017, the Silicon Valley Organization (formerly the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce) started actively signing up Santa Clara businesses.

Caserta introduced the SVO to city staff and tried to line up money for them. They clearly saw an opportunity. Or smelled the Santa Clara Chamber’s blood in the water.

We’re also hearing a lot of rumblings these days in City Hall about the Chamber’s management of the Convention Center. No one seems to know why they got a huge increase in their management fee last year. Or what they actually do for the fee.

The Santa Clara Chamber’s “management fee” increased from $50,000 to $136,699 last year.

So it might be a good thing that the Chamber canceled its Outlook Event. They didn’t run it very well. But these days, people are adding up the Chamber’s screw-ups and asking a more important question: what does the Chamber do well?



  1. With all due respect to “Captain Miles?”, the statement that Miles Barber was “kicked out” of Mission City Community Fund is not accurate. I currently serve as secretary for the MCCF Board of Directors. The archives reflect that on December 11, 2013, Mr. Barber sent an email to the Board, submitting his resignation from the MCCF Board to be effective immediately. His resignation was accepted.

  2. I don’t think the SVO (formerly San Jose Chamber of Commerce) would be good for Santa Clara. Think about it – they will bow to their biggest constituency, the businesses of San Jose. I doubt they will advocate for Santa Clara. And look at who they (or rather, their PAC) considers their “wins” – San Jose career politicians : Liccardo, Chappe Jones, Khamis, Carrasco, Dev Davis.

    They spent $150K getting Chappie Jones elected to SJ District 1, who pretty much ignored Santa Clara’s concerns about urban villages on our borders. Didn’t even lift a pinky finger to allay concerns. You think they are going to think about what is best for Santa Clara? Be careful what you wish for.

  3. Obviously, Miles hasn’t figured out that he’s not really that good at what he does.

    Apparently, the Chamber hasn’t figured that out either.

    Let’s hope when SVO takes over they’ll have good and competent people.

  4. Robert,

    I don’t know what your gripe is with the Chamber of Commerce but once again you have no idea what you’re talking about. I wonder if you’ve ever heard of actually doing reporting? Here say and your incorrect opinions and speculations of things going on in Santa Clara are not considered reporting. You admitted to me last week that you have no idea how the Chamber management of the convention center works and here you are making an uninformed opinion of it. You gave an opinion of an event from last year that you didn’t even attend. If you want to do some real reporting, how about giving city hall a call and ask them why they’re not doing outlook this year and let us all know the real reason. Or better yet give the Chamber a call and find out about all of the great community work it’s been doing for the last year or so. Better yet give the chairman a call and find out exactly why the Chamber get’s a management fee to operate and run the Convention Center. It’s definitely not what you make it seem. How about actually talking to somebody about what’s really going on in this town for a change. I’m sorry Robert but you are destroying your own reputation as a “reporter”. I used to enjoy reading your articles and I respected what you were trying to do by starting another news source in Santa Clara. I’m personally unsubscribing from your newsletter and I recommend the same to anyone that wants actual facts about what’s going on in Santa Clara.

    • Thanks for your feedback and criticism. But I have to correct you.

      I write an opinion column. It’s clearly stated on the site. And anyone who understands journalism knows that a columnist like me mixes reporting and editorial.

      I can understand why you don’t like my opinions. You’re a Chamber director. I’ve offered you an opportunity to share your opinion in a column over a year ago. You haven’t done so. But the offer still stands. For the record, I offered Chris Horton a chance to do the same. He never took it either.

      You have a right to defend your organization. But I would hope your defense is better than saying I don’t know what I’m talking about. I’ve talked to a lot of people inside and outside City Hall. Most think the Chamber is really weak. The SVO thinks so, too. Maybe you could help your organization by doing some homework and getting an honest view. If not, you’re just putting your head in the sand. I hope other directors aren’t doing the same.

      But if you want to defend the Chamber, please write and answer this question: what does the Chamber do for its Convention Center management fee and is it actually worth $145k? or even $45k? If not, the city is wasting tax dollars. No one should want that including you.

      As for my opinion that last year’s Chamber event was a bust, I think the fact that it was canceled this year confirms it.

  5. If Miles Barber runs things like he runs the the Santa Clara Weekly I have no doubt he is the captain of a sinking ship.

    The “paper” if you can call it that is a joke. It’s the worst.It’s litter in my driveway.

    Thank God that he only seems to deliver once a month now. He should change the name to the “Santa Clara Monthly.”

    Or better yet how about the “Santa Clara Monthly B.S.That I Use For The Bottom of My Bird Cage.”

  6. It’s not Nick’s fault. It wasn’t Chris Horton’s fault either. Haven’t people noticed that everything Miles Barber touches turns to crap? He was kicked out of the Mission City Community Fund. He blew up Lou’s Mariani development and got fired. He led the Chamber PAC in 2016 to disastrous results and he’s doing it again. Miles has captained many a sinking ship and he’s doing it again.

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