USHCC --> At last year's United States Hispanic Chamber Of Commerce (USHCC) convention in Los Angeles, after a boisterous open-microphone session in which the chamber was assailed and defended by its members, chairman-elect J.R. Gonzales stood up and proclaimed, "We hear you, and we have to fix the system."
Since declaring those words last October, Mr. Gonzales has made some progress on his promise. He has appointed a task force to examine electoral problems – a point of contention in Los Angeles – and implemented some of its recommendations. He has hired a chief financial officer for the organization. And he has maintained communication with the state chambers that form the backbone of the National Coalition of Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, a group of reform-minded chambers that banded together after the Los Angeles event.
The reshaping of the USHCC will get a real-world test on October 1–4, when the organization holds its annual convention in Phoenix. New rules for board elections include standardized deadlines for deter-mining if chambers are members in good standing, definition of which local chamber staff members can serve as delegates, clarifi-cation of "Hispanic trade organizations" qualified to participate, and adoption of a neutrality code for USHCC staff.
The changes reflect the work of a task force Mr. Gonzales commissioned last year. Headed by USHCC vice-chair Scott Flores and consisting of at least two people from each of the USHCC's six regions, the task force geared up quickly after the fireworks in Los Angeles.
It presented recommendations to the USHCC board in March.
"We took a very hard look at the credentialing process. We opened it up to members from all the different regions, and had a long discussion and debate," says Mr. Gonzales. "The end product is a more user-friendly credentialing process. It's probably longer than before, but it spells things out more clearly."
Several of the changes deal directly with the state chambers that organized the reform coalition. For example, at last year's convention, Chairman Ricardo Calderon of the Texas Association of Mexican American Chambers of Commerce (TAMACC) was disqualified as a board candidate because of ambiguities in the rules over whether his membership in a local versus a state chamber made him eligible. The new rules clearly state that a candidate must belong to a local chamber holding membership in the USHCC. Also, according to a draft of bylaw changes obtained by Hispanic Business, the rules contain a caveat that a member chamber can be terminated from the USHCC by a board vote if the member does not enhance the mission of, or have a good-faith interest in, the USHCC's goals.
For its part, the coalition has maintained communication with the USHCC, quietly working to further its agenda. A spokesperson for the group agrees that progress has been made during the past year, and now the organization is in a wait-and-see posture. That is consistent with statements by coalition chairman David Lizárraga that "we're here to help [the USHCC], to support it, join it, and fix it from within, but first to understand that this organization does need fixing" (see "Gonzales and Lizárraga Speak Out," January/February 2003 issue).
"I would have to say the USHCC board and credentialing [task force] took a lot of time to debate the issues," says Loretta Armenta, president of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce in New Mexico. "There has been progress in that, especially in the clarification of what is a Hispanic trade organization. Progress has also been made on the issue of who constitutes a voting delegate."
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