Sometimes you get a refund you don't want. Nancy Couperus, Menlo Park commercial property owner and founding member of the Menlo Park Downtown Alliance, found herself in that awkward position after the Chamber of Commerce's downtown block party on Santa Cruz Avenue on June 23.
Chamber President Fran Dehn stopped by the Alliance's table as the party wound down, according to Ms. Couperus, and handed back $100 in an envelope, saying that since the association was considered a political group, it did not qualify to participate.
"I went home and scratched my head," said Ms. Couperus. "We thought it was a great opportunity to get information out to the public."
The Alliance consists of 64 business owners and 37 property owners who signed a petition opposing the city's development plan for downtown Menlo Park.
The chamber's application form for a table does not specify that participation is limited to local businesses. However, its website states, "Anyone with a Menlo Park business license is eligible to participate, as are nonprofit organizations who service the Menlo Park area."
The Bohannon Development Company championed its Gateway project at last year's block party, while the city of Menlo Park promoted its vision of downtown at this year's.
Since Ms. Couperus said she submitted the registration form weeks in advance, it's unclear why the chamber waited until after the party to revoke the registration. At a chamber meeting on June 29, she said the president told her that a temporary worker had processed the application and was not aware of the criteria.
Ms. Dehn did not respond to The Almanac's repeated requests for comment, telling her assistant that "she would be on the phone and unavailable."
According to Ms. Couperus, the chamber president did mention a "free speech" zone at the upcoming Aug. 11 block party and indicated the Alliance could be "there."
"But I don't know where 'there' is," Ms. Couperus said. "Having been fairly political in my life, I've noticed that free speech areas are not exactly in the middle of things."