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I’d ask that all of you think about a somewhat non-traditional resolution for 2008. You won’t need to lose weight, start exercising or stop smoking with my suggestion, but those are all good things to do. Rather, I challenge you to resolve to get involved in the political process—it’s a resolution that can have a direct impact on the future of your business.

Our political process only works well when we are engaged, when we participate. We need to voice our opinions, go to public meetings, write letters to our elected officials, volunteer to help, support and vote for candidates we believe in, and, if you really want to get serious about this, run for office.

Where do you start? It really isn’t so hard. First you have to pay attention and keep up with what is happening. You can read the paper, get your news on the Internet or TV, whichever media works best for you, but I encourage you to use multiple sources, both traditional and otherwise, so you are hearing a range of perspectives.

I’d like to offer a couple of examples the Chamber has worked on recently, and in which your input would be important. The restructuring of Manual High School, the decision of where to locate a new school in the Woodruff attendance district, the 2008 budget for the City of Peoria, the proposal to establish a business license for businesses that collect motor fuel tax or restaurant tax Issues(as in the HRA taxes) and the funding for the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Of course, the Chamber also takes positions on issues at the federal and state levels, like the gross receipts tax, for example. There is a wide range of issues we watch, and it is likely that there is something on that list which either interests you or impacts your life or business.

It doesn’t take much time to do this, and on each of the issues listed above, the Chamber is here to help you get the information you need to become engaged. We share information with our members through newsletters, provide them with contact information on elected officials, let them know when key votes are going to take place and counsel individual members when they ask for assistance on issues. We also weigh in on these issues for the collective business community, which is an important part of our role as an advocate for businesses. But elected officials clearly care more about what individual business owners and employees have to say than what an umbrella organization like the Chamber says.

So make the resolution now. Decide you will find the time to make sure your voice, company and opinions are heard by city council members, school board members, county board members, and state and federal Senators and representatives. It is much easier than those traditional resolutions, and the impact you make in the community can be significant. IBI

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