Our View: Sending local officials to Washington does not make sense today

-A +A
Placer County supervisors Robert Weygandt, Jim Holmes and CEO Tom Miller are headed to Washington, D.C and local taxpayers are once again getting stuck with the bill. At the city of Auburn, however, the council decided not to send a representative this year on a separate but similar “Cap to Cap” trip with the Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce. “I’m concerned about the message it’s sending the public to spend taxpayer dollars to send somebody to do what we normally could (through representatives),” Councilman Kevin Hanley said Monday night. Hanley is right on in this assessment. The Journal reported on a $1,668 dinner that supervisors enjoyed at taxpayers’ expense during a previous lobbying trip to Washington. Thousands of readers swarmed to the story on the Journal’s Web site, Fifty-seven commented online and many others wrote letters to the editor expressing outrage at this extravagance. Our elected congressmen is a “U.S. Representative.” He is paid more than $150,000 annually plus numerous other benefits to represent our district. The idea that we have to pay to lobby McClintock when we are already paying him to represent us is ludicrous. It’s a sham. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are also already handsomely paid as our California senators. We should not have to pay to lobby them, either. Supervisor Jim Holmes justified the $1,600 dinner expenditure in the Journal article written by Jenifer Gee and published July 1, 2009. Holmes said the dinner was a “nice gesture” to thank then-Congressman John Doolittle for bringing home federal money, sometimes referred to as “pork,” for Placer County. Diane Hart, a Meadow Vista resident, said at the time she was saddened to see elected representatives waste that amount of taxpayer money on a dinner. “It’s extravagant, it’s ego-driven and it’s out of touch with people,” Hart said. Both Hart and Hanley are right. Taxpayers are tired of officials sending the message that it’s still OK to live high on the hog at our expense. McClintock comes back to the district regularly to visit with fifth-graders, among others. Perhaps instead of meeting with schoolchildren he could meet with local elected officials and help solve our wastewater treatment, traffic, school funding and myriad other issues? If Boxer and Feinstein cannot be bothered to come to Placer County, perhaps they could send one of their highly paid staff when they are in Northern California? Mayor Bridget Powers told the City Council that she supports the Cap-to-Cap program. “If you’re not sitting at the table, you’re forgotten,” Powers said. “I don’t think the expense is so outrageous to not send a representative from our community.” While the cost, reportedly $3,295 per delegate, isn’t a lot of money compared to trillion-dollar deficits, Hanley’s point remains valid. Our local, state and federal governments are in a severe financial crisis. Those elected to serve us should show by example how they are personally willing to help cut spending. That’s the “message” Hanley and many others are talking about. Former Mayor Mike Holmes is paying his own way. Good for him. But with today’s technology there are many ways to communicate cross-country. How about video-conferencing or inviting representatives to face-to-face meetings here? With e-mail, faxes, Facebook and myriad other communication methods, traveling en mass cross-country seems wasteful and old-fashioned. Doing business the same old way just isn’t cost-effective. County officials need to show they understand the frustration taxpayers feel. Changing the business-as-usual approach would be a good start.