Amblin' Alameda: PSBA
Amblin' Alameda: PSBA
The Park Street Business Association conducts a mixer for its members and guests the evening of the third Wednesday of each month. This is in line with the monthly mixers held by WABA (West Alameda Business Association) and GABA (Greater Alameda Business Association) and they pretty much all follow the same general format. Right after the work day is over, the members congregate at the current month's venue, a business that has lent its space for the meeting for the not inconsiderable benefit of introducing their space to the other members.
For June the mixer was held in Park Street Plaza, which used to be a furniture and bedding store but has now been re-invented as a mini-mall with several small, high quality businesses taking spaces within the building. The merchants arrived and began to mix with one another, fueled by an array of snacks and finger foods and soft drinks. Beer and wine were available at low cost. One meets the wildly eclectic members of a group which has chosen the life of entrepreneurial activity. Small business sets no requirements on its practitioners other than they be willing to work long hours and generally watch their nickels and dimes.
Merchants' associations are basically political entities, formed to afford a single voice in the chambers of government so that their interests may be protected. The voice - and it's a loud one - belongs to the executive director, Robb Ratto. Ratto, and his assistant and major domo, Stephanie Prothero, do the work of the association and meet with its board of directors on policy matters.
The mayor, Marie Gilmore, graced the meeting and brought the assemblage up to date on the various large projects going on around town with special attention paid to Alameda Point, which has been (mostly) turned over to the city. Questions were raised about traffic, but no meeting about the city is without traffic and parking questions.
It's not as if much - or any - work gets done at the mixers, but a feeling of camaraderie is encouraged and enabled and the news from City Hall is disseminated. There is a real value to the group meeting and getting to know each other. Contacts are made and developed and opinions on the issues that face the merchants are expressed.
This is the way civilization and democracy is built and advances. It has always been the merchant class that was interested in peace and security so businesses could operate and flourish. The Hanseatic League of the Middle Ages was the primary architect of a sort of peaceful Europe, and from that grew the city-Sstates and eventually the nation-states.
The merchants of Alameda are no longer the pioneers of peace, but they are an important civic institution. The merchants and their attitudes contribute a great deal to the atmosphere in which we all live. Merchants, by virtue of the nature of doing small business, (the customer is always right) are inherently tolerant, flexible and conservative. They support our schools and school kids, are civically active and basically cooperative.
Democracy lives in Alameda, very much through the agency of the business associations, which deserve our respect and thanks for the civic involvement they embody.