Local opinion columnists

Current tech renders junkets obsolete

By From page A8 | May 31, 2014

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 [email protected]

John Takeuchi


Discussion | 8 comments

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  • JagMay 31, 2014 - 7:30 am

    The problem is John most tax payers don’t look into things that deep and are not as informed as a very small percentage is so they just pay their taxes and go on their way, Can you imagine if we had school choice where if you wanted to send your child to a higher rated school but you had to pay a little extra? You would start asking what I am paying for. Where is this money going? How do I vote no to send 20 people on a trip? There would be so much more interest.

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  • S KMay 31, 2014 - 8:18 am

    I'd say start with the local elected school officials, administrators. Vote all the incumbents out that run for office.

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  • mike kirchubelMay 31, 2014 - 9:07 am

    I agree. Good article. Thank you.

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  • JagMay 31, 2014 - 3:40 pm

    Wow Mike I am shocked and happily surprised at your response,, Two thumbs up

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  • AlfMay 31, 2014 - 11:44 am

    Attend a conference by Skype? Influence people with a remote Powerpoint presentation? C'mon John, even you know that dog won't hunt. There is a difference between a business trip with a purpose and a junket. And while I agree with you that money is scarce and should be prudently spent, personal contact, networking and face to face meetings on important issues are still the way to get things done. Try it sometime. Pretty soon in your world, all business will take place on Facebook. Progress? Hardly.

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  • Jason KnowlesMay 31, 2014 - 8:10 pm

    Excellent points, Alf. As a teacher, when I go to these conferences, we don't just sit there and listen. They're highly interactive, energizing, and you can network with other professionals on a personal level. John is right that the experts can travel here, but many school districts do not have the physical space to conduct a conference with a thousand or so teachers at once.

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  • rlw895May 31, 2014 - 10:17 pm

    I'm against junkets too.

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  • rlw895May 31, 2014 - 10:21 pm

    Google "lavish corporate parties" and see if any of the companies in which you have investments are listed.

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