November 5, 2007
In response to public pressure and media scrutiny, Charlottesville city councilor Kendra Hamilton has decided she will not make a publicly funded trip to Italy this week.
Hamilton made that announcement Monday night during the city council meeting.
She said she won't be leaving for sister city Poggio a Caiano on Wednesday. She said a public outcry made her rethink her plans. Many questioned why tax payers should pay for an overseas trip for a councilor not seeking reelection and out of office within weeks.
“I have decided I will not be traveling to Poggio on Wednesday, announced Hamilton.
A decision made under pressure from citizens who say this trip is a waste of tax payer dollars.
“Is this trip an unnecessary expense?” questioned Charlottesville resident Virginia Amos.
Other residents had encouraging words.
I'm here to level my disappointment at the recent criticism leveled at Mayor Brown, said resident Dan Rosenswagg. Another resident cheered, “You must go!”
Mayor David Brown and three school officials will still go making the trip from Charlottesville to sister city Paggio a Caiano at a cost to tax payers of about $1500 per person traveling.
“If it’s up to me to pay for this trip I am not going to do it. I have two kids in college. I am not going to do it. If the city values this they have to value making an occasional investment in travel,” said Mayor Brown.
City councilor Kevin Lynch sees it differently. He said, “My concern about the sister city program is that it has the potential to evolve into junkets for the city council
Hamilton now one city official who say she won't be caught in this controversial cross fire.
“I don't want to be a flag for people to wave and when I go to the people of Charlottesville next year as a private citizen of the sister city member committee and I start asking you for money, I expect you to open your wallets,” said Hamilton.
City councilors say they trip was never a secret. In fact, they have gone on trips like this before. But concede maybe they should have had more public discussion about their plans and in the future suggested public fundraising for additional trips.
City officials say the purpose of the trip is to celebrate the 30 year relationship between Charlottesville and its sister city and to explore ways to expand tourism and possibly build a school exchange program.
One school board member, Chairman Alvin Edwards says he will pay for his trip.