At a time the City of Wichita is under severe budget pressure, shouldn’t unnecessary travel be the first place the city looks to save money?
At the August 18 meeting of the Wichita City Council, an agenda item was approved without discussion or presentation of any details other than what appear here: “Approval of travel expenses for Council Member Janet Miller and Kelly Harper, Wichita Area Sister Cities President, to attend the International Cities Conference in Paris, France and the Sister Cities Loire Festival in Orleans, France, September 21-27.”
It took several phone calls and emails, but I’ve learned that the estimated costs for this trip are $1,587 for Miller and $2,137 for Harper. That’s a total of $3,724.
And yes, the city is paying these expenses for Harper, a private citizen. Van Williams, the city’s public information officer, said that Harper, who will also serve as an interpreter, is leaving three days earlier to help prepare for the trip.
I’ve asked Miller several times to explain why this trip is a good idea. In an email message, I explained while that my nature is to be critical of expenditures like this, I’m willing to listen and learn. I asked if she could give me some insight or reasons as to why it is wise for the city to spend this money. Also, what are the benefits of the Sister Cities program?
But she won’t respond to email or telephone messages.
Council member Miller is aware of the budget pressures at city hall. At one time she suggested salary reductions as an alternative to layoffs and service cutbacks.
Travel — especially a junket like this — is an easy item to cut. Citizens need to demand an explanation as to why the city is paying for this trip.