Weâ€™ve heard from a few of the critics of what may be called â€œjunketsâ€ by Lincolnton City Council to a planning retreat at Blowing Rock and the National League of Citiesâ€™ annual congressional conference in Washington D.C. The bill for city staff and council members came to more than $17,000.
A couple of the inquiries we received raised the question â€œWhy didnâ€™t you write about it?â€ The news of the expenditures was first reported by another newspaper. Perhaps we should have checked on these expenses, simply as a matter of serving our watch-dog role. But the cityâ€™s weekend trip to Blowing Rock doesnâ€™t smack of excess and itâ€™s been going on for years without drawing much flak. It was a planning retreat, an exercise undertaken by cities, counties, government agencies and businesses everywhere. The trip to Washington D.C. was a well-intentioned idea designed to educate city officials on the latest in local government issues.. City officials could probably glean those same helpful ideas from regional conferences and meetings.
Itâ€™s easy to point to various budget items and say the city could have funded this or that if they had passed up the trips. We could certainly make a point here about the failure of the city to provide Gaston College financial help with a building expansion. But the fact is that the city of Lincolnton is not known to waste money. It hasnâ€™t passed on excessive taxes and it does a good job of providing services. We donâ€™t think our city squanders taxpayer money.This issue boils down to a policy question on funding planning retreats and educational field trips. Perhaps it is time to review these types of endeavors, weigh their effectiveness and determine if they should continue or if they can be accomplished at less expense. As any elected official should know, travel and hotel expenses are always going to draw some criticism, no matter how eloquent the justification. by Albert Dozier