Monday, March 18, 2013
Livin' high on the hog
From Today's Laredo Morning Times
City leaders visited Austin and spent about $80,000 for a four-night bi-annual legislative trip to lobby lawmakers in the interest of the community.
The Jan. 27 delegation visit also included several members of the private sector, who paid their own ways on the trip.
Among expenses was a $22,000 reception at the InterContinental Stephen F. Austin hotel.
Most attendees of the trip stayed at the InterContinental for about $240 dollars a night, barring a few exceptions.
General day-to-day expenses for city staffers and elected officials totaled about $12,000.
Most municipalities in the state send officials to the Capitol during the legislative session, said Teclo Garcia, governmental affairs liaison for the City of McAllen.
The City of McAllen paid for a delegation of six to attend meetings with lawmakers and state officials, but few stayed overnight for the trip.
Garcia said McAllen’s Chamber of Commerce typically organizes the event and many community and business leaders pay their own way.
“Our city manager is a tight- fisted guy,” Garcia said.
City Manager Carlos Villarreal said about 50 percent of expenses were paid for by private donors, including a $6,000 liquor tab.
Laredo Morning Times has not yet received a response to a request for a list of benefactors.
“I don’t drink, but it’s a reception, and … every day they have receptions in Washington, D.C. and in Austin,” Mayor Raul Salinas said. “This is nothing new.”
Salinas said though he recognizes other cities “do business differently,” he said face-to-face contact with agency heads and other officials often yields results when it comes to gleaning grants for infrastructure.
Purchases also included a mariachi band and about $6,000 in office supplies.