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Cost versus benefit of annual trip to Washington, D.C., questioned

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Posted: Friday, March 31, 2006 10:00 pm

More than 60 local government and business leaders will fly to Washington, D.C., on Sunday for the San Joaquin Council of Government's sixth annual One Voice lobbying trip.

They will try to convince congressmen to send federal money here for 31 transportation projects in San Joaquin County. The trip runs through next Friday.

The trip in the past has raised concerns from some government leaders as being a waste of taxpayers' dollars.

"How do you know the trip is paying off?" Supervisor Steve Gutierrez said. "How do you know you wouldn't get the money anyway (if no one went)?"

The SJCOG pays the costs of its own representatives; the rest of directors have part of their costs covered. Everyone else, including family members and business officials, pays their own way.

The agency takes credit for $54 million steered to San Joaquin County, although there are no records kept to substantiate that claim.

"Plugging away for projects is a process," the agency's Executive Director Andrew Chesley said. "You are laying the foundation every year. The dividends may be paid back right away or they could take some time. But every year we go is a success."

Chesley said SJCOG's share of the cost for the trip would be about $45,000. Almost $18,000 of that will be paid by sponsors, he said. Among the largest sponsors for the trip are the Port of Stockton and Citigroup, and developers Richland Communities Inc., AKF Development and the Grupe Co.

The cost for the rest of the trip, excluding family members and business leaders, will be paid with tax money; either through SJCOG or city or county governments.

The county has the most projects that will be lobbied with four. Stockton and SJCOG have three projects each. Ripon has no projects.

The council of governments last fall tried to limit the number of projects and people going on the trip by creating a stricter selection process. Chesley said the number of projects this year is about the same as last year.

"We also thought we would have fewer people going but we have even more," he said.

Seventy-two people will go on the trip, but 17 of them are family members of the delegates.

The delegates include county supervisors Victor Mow, Leroy Ornellas and Jack Sieglock; Chesley, Tracy City Manager Dan Hobbs and Lodi councilman and supervisor candidate John Beckman.

The county is also sending County Public Works Director Tom Flinn, County Administrator Manual Lopez; Stockton Metropolitan Airport Director Barry Rondinella and Assistant County Counsel David Wooten.

"Each of us will be focused on different projects … at different meetings," Mow said. "It's about chasing the money and bringing back resources. People at the federal level need to know what our concerns are."

Congressmen Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, and Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, will send legislative aides Katrina Donahue and Nicole Goehring.

Developer Bill Filios and his wife, Susan, who is an SJCOG administrator, will also attend.

Lodi will lobby for $5 million to fix an interchange at highways 12 and 99, and about $2.3 million to build a municipal service center transit vehicle maintenance facility.

Tracy wants $3.5 million to widen Corral Hollow Road from Linne to Schulte roads, and $1.5 million to work on the interchange at Interstate 205 and MacArthur Road.

Contact reporter Roman Gokhman at romang@tracypress.com.

First published: Saturday, April 1, 2006

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1 comment:

  • posted at 4:25 pm on Sat, Apr 1, 2006.


    Hansen your wife should run for City Council. She has integrity, listens and keeps her mouth shut when appropriate, has had a real job,would waste tax payer money traveling to NCPA, APPA, the League, Washington DC, and so on. You've been feeding at the public trough to long.



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