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According to a handout from the Coquille Chamber of Commerce, the City of Coquille may institute a requirement for business licenses with half the fees earned being directed to the chamber for “community marketing and promotions”. The other half of the as yet to be quantified fee will go to the city to pay for annual background checks.
Proposal: Advocate for a City of Coquille Business License Program.
1. Public safety – City would perform annual background checks on every business to vouch that each one is bona fide, has the proper credentials and is compliant with state and federal laws pertaining to their industry.
2. Business retention – The licensing program will provide a means to maintain the most complete list of active businesses in operation possible as a means for the Chamber to better serve its constituents.
3. Create a revenue stream for investing in business promotion and economic development.
1. Each business would apply for a business license from the City of Coquille each year.
2. The fee would be allocated between the City for running a background check and the Chamber for conducting community marketing and promotions.
3. Licenses would be mandated by City ordinance.
Coquille city manager, Ben Marchant has not responded to my email asking for clarification but according to witnesses at a chamber meeting last evening, many merchants are upset. Regarding the claim that licensing is a public safety issue it was pointed out that the city would merely be duplicating the work of the state regulatory agencies. One restaurant owner pointed out that in order to obtain a liquor license the state conducted a thorough background check. There is no explanation of what criteria might be used to deny a business license on the basis of results from a background check and some merchants believe the move is unnecessarily invasive.
The City of Coos Bay requires a business license and bases its fees structure upon the type and size of the business. The city “may request proof of possession of any license, certificates, or registrations that are required by state or federal laws to conduct the type of business listed on the business license application”, but does not require a background check. North Bend requires licenses for some activities but not a general business license.
The proposed ordinance and specified use of the fees toward the chamber’s marketing efforts implies a contractual relationship with the city and effectively forces membership in the organization if one is to do business in Coquille. My understanding is that some members of the city council may also be affiliate and/or associate members of the chamber without voting rights. Witnesses indicate the proposal was concocted by Marchant and Councilman Dave Chappelle and supported by Councilwoman Susan Heaton.
The council’s close relationship with the chamber offers the appearance of a conflict of interest but may not meet the legal definition. Nevertheless, any ordinance enacted by a governing body can be overturned by a referendum of the people.