The Pellucid Perspective - October 2013 - (Page 9)

GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS Golf needs a voice in the regulatory process SCGA finds the right man, and the right results By Jim Dunlap T he golf industry has typically beamed with pride when the country’s chief executive admits to a liking for golf and is actually seen playing from time to time, but when it comes to other branches of government at all levels, the industry (like the U.S. today) has generally been a day late and a dollar short. The Southern California Golf Association is doing something about it, and found the right man for the job. Craig Kessler had been active in governmental affairs for many years before combining that background with his longtime love of golf to become the executive director of the Public Links Golf Association of Southern California. During his tenure in that role, Kessler represented the PLGA’s approximately 20,000 members, composed primarily of municipal courses in the Los Angeles area and their customers. Serving on numerous governmental, regional and community committees, he played a key role in helping to avert new water restrictions by L.A.’s Department of Water and Power which would have severely hampered local superintendents in their efforts to get sufficient water to keep turf alive. When the PLGA merged with the Southern California Golf Association (SCGA) in 2011, Kessler became that group’s Director of Governmental Affairs and gained a much louder voice with the combined SCGA membership of 160,000 members and 1,300 clubs. “We’ve been engaged in discussions about water and other similar issues for nearly 10 years prior to the merger, but most of us are not wired for political discussion and those kinds of things,” said SCGA Executive Director Kevin Heaney. “Craig did very well with Public Links in those areas, so we carved out that role for him. He has gone far beyond my expectations already. He’s gotten into offices and negotiated deals that nobody in our association would have been able to accomplish.” Earlier, Kessler and other industry lobbyists were successful in fending off (at least temporarily) a requirement that golf courses charge sales and service taxes on greens fees, private club fees and other transactions in California’s latest attempt to raise the state’s tax revenues. Most recently, Kessler spearheaded a push to have an “Alternative Means of Compliance” adjunct to upcoming water use reduction regulations by the city of San Diego and the city’s Public Utilities agency. The success of that effort will not only help San Diego’s golf courses avoid drastic water cutbacks, but also demonstrates the value of Kessler’s ability to avoid the them against us mentality that has destroyed other attempts by golf stakeholders to reach a mutually tolerable conclusion with various regulatory agencies and legislators. “You have to meet government halfway,” Kessler said. “The Katrina legislation [denying relief to specific forms of business which not only included massage parlors and strip clubs, but also golf courses and clubs] should have been a warning to the industry. Our goal should be to help legislators make laws that are as amenable to golf industry success as possible. We need to let [legislators] know we’re in the room, and that we’re involved, and we love ‘em.” “Craig is very good at understanding where to take a position to hopefully change something, and he’s also very good at anticipating what’s coming our way and preparing us ahead of time,” Heaney said. “You need someone who can see all the bills that are coming through the legislature so we can be sure that we’re ready.” Arthur Little, a successful businessman, philanthropist and former golf course owner, agrees that having someone in a role similar to Kessler’s is critical. As the owner of Province Lakes Golf Course in Maine for a number of years, Little and several other area course owners formed a coalition to lobby on behalf of theirs and other courses with the state government in Augusta, Maine. The ownership group eventually grew to nearly 50, and they employed Pete Webber, the executive director of Golf Maine, to be their eyes, ears and occasional mouth in Augusta. With Webber’s help, the owners eventually negotiated some changes in proposed water regulatory language that proved crucial to many courses. “You have to put a face to yourself, whether you’re talking about legislation or regulation,” Little said. “Once they know you and that you are involved and informed, people will call you while they’re thinking of what legislation they will propose.” “Golf is way behind in recognizing what other industries realize - that their fate is tied up in legislations, politics and the media,” Kessler said. “Advocacy is absolutely central in a democratic society. If you don’t have someone focused 365 days a year with their eye on the ball, things get lost until it’s too late.” While it may not be feasible for every local or regional golf association to employ someone like Kessler on a full-time basis, Heaney and Kessler both recommend that they do whatever possible to secure some sort of representation with the legislators and regulators who hold a good part of their constituencies’ fate in their hands. “On the other hand,” Heaney said, “the one downside to that is that it’s hard to find someone like Craig. All I know is that we’re glad to have him.” n The Pellucid PersPecTive 9 http://WWW.PELLUCIDCORP.COM

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Pellucid Perspective - October 2013

The Pellucid Perspective - October 2013
Are golf ’s nonprofit “emperors” fiddling while Rome burns?
Seniors in their golden years, but are you?
A new determinant on “weather” golfers play or not?
Golf needs a voice in the regulatory process
September golf weather impact: Positive month caps positive Q3
Established SF courses leap-frog larger markets
ClubCorp IPO shares priced lower than expected at opening, rise 10% in debut
The show must go on

The Pellucid Perspective - October 2013