Sometimes you have to wonder, do elected officials spend our tax dollars effectively?
Let’s look at a subject that we call “junkets” – trips for “education” or “making our case,” or some other reason – with the public paying the expenses.
City Council members regularly journey to nice destinations – Palm Springs and Monterey are popular – for various conferences: League of This-or-That; Association of Whatever. You get the idea.
Council members, county supervisors, or their surrogates make annual pilgrimages to Washington, D.C. to plead for money. Since these trips take months to set up, couldn’t they wait until the congressmen or senators come home on breaks? Could letters or phone calls do the job? Or could they just visit the legislator’s local office?
The Fairfield-Suisun School District spent more than $600,000 last year to send small groups of teachers and staffers to meetings all over the country. This year it’s on track to spend more than $500,000.
These travelers probably learn some useful things and probably share that with their stay-at-home peers. But isn’t there a way to gain and spread information at less cost?
The answer is, Yes.
Skype – among others – can create conferences wherever you want. PowerPoint can inform hundreds at a time. Any good information technology person can set these things up, saving most of what is now spent on travel. Everyone who might benefit from the information could get it.
Keep in mind, too, if they’re going to listen to lectures, most people can read much faster than a person speaks. Some can read hundreds of times faster. A 45-minute speech can be absorbed in five minutes. Get it in writing and you don’t even have to leave home.
Finally, if it’s essential to interact with the experts, it might cost less to have them come here and work with the local people, instead of sending a handful out of town.
We have spoken against such junkets for years. At one time – before technology presented options – those trips may have been useful. Today, what taxpayers want is a commitment to find ways to save money . . . money that can do a lot of good right here at home.
John Takeuchi is a resident of Fairfield and president of the Central Solano Citizen/Taxpayer Group. Reach him at John Takeuchi firstname.lastname@example.org.