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Regionalism retreat should have been a regional event

By Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

Leo Schell asks some valid questions concerning the 2014 Leaders Regional Retreat, a Joint Chamber of Commerce event for Junction City, Manhattan and Wamego.  The stated goal was promoting regionalism for the Flint Hills.

I fail to see how we promote regionalism by hosting a conference outside the region.  The city provides funds to the Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau to bring events to the city, and they then co-sponsor a major event each year in Overland Park?

The CVB and Chamber are concerned about metrics on how to measure success. The conference in Overland Park is a metric that measures failure of their primary mission. Simply have the conference in town; if it is in Overland Park again next year, the various local elected officials should refuse to attend.

This year the city sent four city commissioners — Mayor John Matta, Karen McCulloh, Usha Reddi and Rick Jankovich — plus seven city staff members to Overland Park. The total cost in city tax dollars will be roughly $2,900. The folks in attendance believe that networking is important, relationship-building is vital and that functions like the conference in Overland Park are beneficial. I believe the staff and commissioners in attendance are all well-intentioned, but I am convinced that the gains of the conference can be obtained by having it in the local area. 

The city spends an excessive amount of money on travel. In addition to the leader con-ference, the city sends staff and commissioners on a regular basis to National League of Cities conferences. Recently, the city spent $3,563 to send Commissioner Reddi and Deputy City Manager Jason Hilgers to Seattle and $4,902 to send the mayor, city manager and Commissioner Jankovich to the Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington, D.C.  In March a three-person dele-gation is headed to D.C. for another National League of Cities conference. 

It’s time to say “No” to needless travel; the money is better spent here in Manhattan. The city has many projects that should score higher on a priority scale than travel. If lobbying in D.C. and other locations is that important, then tangible results must be identified. At a mini-mum the number in attendance should be reduced.

Everyone seems to be on board with the general idea of reduction of the debt.  But as Leo Schell alluded, the rub is that some members of the City Commission will fence off certain expenditures — those are hands off, including travel funds. I believe everything must be evaluated.

The leaders conference should not be attended — it saves $2,900 for better priority items. I did not attend the conference this year.  I attended last year’s but at personal expense. I have not spent a single dime of taxpayers’ money on travel during my tenure on the commission.  It is about the debt: $272,219,028.

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