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The cost of Lodi City Council: Part 2

Each year, Lodi City Council members regularly travel across the state — and sometimes across the country. With few exceptions, the bills for hotels, flights and meals are picked up by taxpayers. Council members are largely free to choose flights, conferences and hotels on their own, with no oversight. Some say travel expenses can and should be reduced by using digital tools to connect and stay current.

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JoAnne Mounce, Lodi City Council member

“It is almost impossible to stay elsewhere (other) than the host hotel. You are running back and forth, and it just doesn’t make sense.”

Alan Nakanishi, Lodi City Council member

“For new council members, it’s good for them. It’s good for them to learn. So I can understand why they are important.”

Alan Nakanishi, Lodi City Councilman and Lodi ophthalmologist

“Lodi and Adventist Health will be a terrific combination. I know personally the quality of work Adventist Health does, and it is impressive.”

Alan Nakanishi, Lodi City Councilman

“As a city, we can ask General Mills if we wait to raise rates for two years, will they stay?”

Posted: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 12:00 am

Members of the Lodi City Council don’t just head to meetings on Pine Street in Lodi. They travel to Sacramento, Monterey and Washington, D.C., among other locales — and the expenses can be sizable.

Each council member has a travel budget of $2,900 per year. The mayor is allowed a slightly higher budget of $3,400. Essentially, they can choose where to go, where to eat, and where to stay, with virtually no checks or oversight. One member spent nearly $600 for a room at the W San Francisco Hotel, for example.

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Welcome to the discussion.

3 comments:

  • Todd Mallory posted at 5:22 pm on Wed, Mar 5, 2014.

    Todd Mallory Posts: 7

    I agree, the health & retirement benefits are not necessary. Did people run for these elected positions in the spirit of community service to improve "Liveable, Loveable Lodi" or to pad their retirement funds and get health benefits?

    As far as the conference, hotel, and travel by City Council members I have no problem with those expenses. What I do have a problem with was the article seeming so one sided. The theme seemed to be "The Council is spending money on fancy expensive conferences! With no oversight! The sky is falling!"

    Having attended many conferences & conventions as an attendee, exhibitor and panelist I know how expensive these industry events can cost a company, or city. What I had to laugh at was that the article did not bother to get any information from a professional Meeting & Conference Manager, the one who plan, organize, and execute these major events. Maybe speak to a local business person who attends such functions as a cost comparison and ask if these costs inline with the corporate world?

    Simply put, the article was weak journalism. The LNS dug through all of the expense reports and then threw them together saying this CC member went here and spent this & that. It is safe to say that most LNS subscribers have never attended a conference or convention, so they have no idea what these conferences cost to attend. Throwing out big numbers for a trip to Seattle will sound high but in reality the Meeting & Conference Manager has negotiated a discounted price for the rooms, meeting space, and meals. And speaking of meals, most conferences provide at least two meals a day during breakfast or lunch keynote speakers, breakout sessions, etc.

    Mr. Katzakian's $575 plus for two nights at the San Francisco W Hotel was a bargain. I support Ms. Mounce's statement that not staying at the host hotel does not make any sense if one is to truly get the most from a conference. And for the LNS to pull a generic hotel cost for Monterey in comparison to the Portola Inn was laughable. So, to save $44, the article suggests we put our elected council member up at a Days Inn or Best Western type hotel out on the freeway or the Marina/Seaside area? You'd then have to spend at least $20 to park down on Cannery Row for the day. Ridiculous.

    I'm all for investigative journalism of our elected officials, but the LNS missed the target with this arrow. I'd suggest by looking at the website for Meeting Professionals International, or MPI. There are well over a dozen firms in Sacramento who plan such conferences for the many "State Associations" who are based in the Capitol City to lobby state officials.

     
  • Josh Morgan posted at 3:37 pm on Tue, Mar 4, 2014.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 532

    Roy, I agree with you regarding health care and pension benefits. I have no problem with the stipend and California conferences. Perhaps the Mayor can represent the City when necessary in Washington DC. I've known several council members over the years and every one of them have put hours upon hours of work into their jobs. Most of them were not retired either. You couldn't pay me enough to put that kind of time in and deal with the BS.

     
  • roy bitz posted at 11:28 am on Tue, Mar 4, 2014.

    roy bitz Posts: 499

    I believe the council should eliminate the generous health care and pension benefits the city currently "gifts" them. Council members are part time elected volunteers and should not be treated as full time employees.
    What's done is done but I hope the council agrees these two benefits are inappropriate and will move to eliminate them while the departing members are still on board.
    Enough is enough.
    I think area travel and conference expenses are fine, however, I question the need for any council member to travel to to Washington on City business. Also, five days in the SanFrancisco W is a "junket" and should not be an authorized expense.

     
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