Probably because it involves a few thousand dollars in a $519 million budget, the Wichita City Council’s approval of members’ travel expenditures is usually treated as a formality. But one such item on today’s agenda deserves better — approval of expenses for Mayor Carl Brewer and the six other council members to attend the National League of Cities Congressional Cities Conference in Washington, D.C., March 12-16.
A city spokesman said the “upcoming travel expenses haven’t all been identified.” But when six members attended a Denver meeting late last year, costs totaled nearly $14,000.
Even if sending so many members to any conference is justifiable — and is it? — the need to send three particular members this time makes no sense. That’s because just 27 days after the conference, members Paul Gray, Sue Schlapp and Roger Smith will be replaced by new members.
Gray and Schlapp will leave the council because their two-term limits are up. Smith, chosen to fill in after Jim Skelton left to join the Sedgwick County Commission, is not a candidate. Brewer and Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell, up for reelection on April 5, also are scheduled to attend the D.C. conference, as are Lavonta Williams and Janet Miller.
All governing boards should curb junkets for members approaching the exits. Taxpayers should not have to subsidize the air travel, hotel rooms and networking and schmoozing of elected officials whose service is all but over.