I have to agree with those opposed to the spending of city money for a trip to Walldorf, Germany (Sister city trip upsets some in Astoria, The Daily Astorian, July 19).
What possible benefit to the taxpayers has been derived from such a junket? Keeping up good relations with a nebulous sister city seems noble at first blush, but the reality is that there is absolutely no tangible benefit.
The mayor says that the money came from the Promote Astoria Fund and no taxpayer money funded the trip. Just where does that fund come from? If the council has control over those funds in the name of the taxpayers, they have the duty to administer those funds in the best interest of the electorate, and clearly they failed to do so.
Bruce Conner owns the travel agency through which the trip was booked. It has been disclosed that the agency charged a fee for booking. What was not disclosed is any commissions paid to his agency by the airline.
The article states that they received the lowest possible fare. If the city paid Connors agency an additional fee to book the tickets, then clearly the lowest possible fare was not achieved. Has the City Council never heard of online booking sites or booking direct with the airline to avoid paying one of the trip participants a commission on his free trip?
Finally, if the council felt it just really had to take a trip using city funds, why not take a cruise that stops right here in the town they are elected to oversee? (Weve taken two cruises that stop here at our own expense, I should add). Have any of the council members done that? Its very different coming here as a passenger.
At least the council members would have been able to learn what it is like to be a passenger arriving on a ship into Astoria and evaluate the experience. Further, they could have spent time on board working with the cruise director and shore excursions desk to learn how to better serve and accommodate visitors from the ship to enhance their experience.
Those passengers spend money right here in Astoria on a regular basis. The citizens of Walldorf, Germany, do not.