Janet Miller’s junket should be canceled

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.

19 Comments

  • Give me a break…an interpreter? Everyone speaks English. This is an INTERNATIONAL conference.

    The trip is a warm fuzzy perk. And if they tell you it “promotes tourism” then I have a used clunker to sell you!
    How many sister cities does Wichita have? I suppose you could sell it as a ‘goodwill’ venture but personally I’d rather see the money spent on pot hole repair and feeding our homeless.

  • With the economy trying to round the corner to stability again and with her constituents struggling along in the wake of this economic disaster caused by Government she should indeed not be wasting taxpayer money to pleasure herself.

  • The City of Wichita has four Sister Cities: Two in Mexico; one in China and one in France. This is NOT a trip authorized between Wichita and Orleans, but a trip of the national sister cities organization that both Miller and Harper want to attend…ie: A JUNKET! Where is the media on this story? I guess is more important the story on Channel 10 about spilled coffee than a City Hall story about wasting taxpayers dollars when citizens, including City employees, are losing their jobs.

  • The Mayor and City Council members apply for a cash advance prior to their trips, instead of using their own funds and seeking reimbursement for their legal expenditures upon completion of an expense account. This method of reimbursement causes the recipient (elected officials) to fabricate more expenses or risk having to reimbursed the City (taxpayers) for the unused funds.
    Does anyone care that the City Council’s travel budget has more than doubled since 2007? Does anyone care that an overtime budget was also established in the Council’s offices during the last two years of this new administration?

  • Hi, I definitely don’t want to pay for our esteemed public servants to go to Europe on Vacation. As a taxpayer, it’s a waste of money, and as a citizen of Wichita KS, it’s a waste of time. Wichita needs to concentrate on improving the things that make Wichita a decent place to live and quit trying to be something it’s not (a tourist destination).

    Things to work on: 1. Parks, most of the parks are downtown. For example, the city needs to buy up some of the land in the far NE while the land is still vacant. 2. Traffic, leave every other road in the grid bordered by residences (Rock and Greenwich business, Webb should have been residential) so the RESIDENTS can actually drive to work quickly.

    Later
    Mike

  • There is no need for an interpreter on this trip because (a) is not an official City of Wichita visit, and (2) the sister cities always provide college students as interpreters, including our own students that are attending school there on exchanges.

  • I just wish these public officials would explain themselves. It irks me when they ignore people. Bob Weeks is a legitimate reporter and I think public officials need to treat him seriously as one.

  • Miller is one of seven City Council member. You should see the expense and travel reports for Sue Schlapp and Carl Brewer. They are one and two on the list. Miller just got there, but if she works hard she will catch up with Jeff Longwell and Lavonta Williams. Skelton and Gray need to travel and spend more since they are term-limited and will not face the electorate again.

  • What gain will the taxpayer obtain from these trips?
    What gain will the taxpayer obtain from dollars spent promoting tourism in Duh Da?
    NOTHING!
    Take that money and use it to cut my TAXES.

  • The Voters had very good choice last election and now must sleep in the bed they have made. Is there a little voter remorse? Former Mayor Mayans is correct the sister cities always provide college students as interpreters. But this is Council member Miller’s first trip, the fact that we are in a very difficult economic time doesn’t matter, taxpayeers money flows free and plus that what is more important than spending our hard earned dollar? Job’s, reduced spending, police and fire protection, roadway’s and drainage issues? Na not in Wichita.

  • It appears that Bob Week’s blog post and his testimony before the city council this morning has hit a “nerve” with several taxpaying citizens. Hopefully this event will motivate these same citizens to ferret out and make an effort to do something about all of the serious “spending problems” that are prevalent at city hall.

  • Bob,
    Thanks for expressing the concerns of long-suffering taxpayers.Did not hear one word about this misuse of our tax money on any local newscast;a total waste of OUR money.
    If they want to take a trip to Paris,let them go on their own dime!!!!That’s about all the good this trip will do the people of Wichita.

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