Tony Iannelli, Director of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, would like a share of the local hotel tax. Hotel taxes are a scheme local municipalities came up with about 20 years ago to penalize visitors to the region. Tony wants a share to fund his own version of a Main Street Program. Scott Armstrong, writing on the Lehigh Valley Conservative Voice, responds;
Has the chamber raised the white flag on the notion that commerce is their business and taxing and spending is the state’s? Or is it that the leadership of the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce sees their organization as just another development bureaucracy deserving of tax payer support? Either way the idea that the “voice for business” now wants your tax dollars speaks to an unsettling reliance on public funding rather than private initiative for economic development. Hasn’t the chamber just undercut their own raison d’être with this request? Aren’t they supposed to be the voice and engine of the private business sector? Can they deny the obvious, that by their own action they appear to be merely another redundant and useless government development entity?
The local Chamber has indeed been a curious hybrid, business/public wise, for many years. Iannelli's weekly show on WFMZ, Business Doesn't Matter, seldom deals with business. Iannelli teamed up with Pawlowski in 2006 giving Lou Belleterri the famous Mystery Job. Like Lanta, they have had no dialogue with the majority of local merchants for many years, while remaining closely aligned with the Parking Authority. Both the Asian and Hispanic merchants have formed their own groups. Many of the Chamber's personnel have been active with the more progressive elements of the local Democratic Party. Although I have never attended one of his network meetings, I must assume Tony throws a good mixer.